In the northwest of El Hierro is the magnificent municipality of La Frontera. Unique to its grand landscape is the sky-high natural wall that separates it from the rest of the island. And refusing to be outshined is its fertile valley that serves as the island’s very own fruit basket.
There’s plenty of fancy words that come to mind when thinking of such a magnificent expanse. But, what sums it all up is its title as one of the best destinations for nature lovers. To be in a paradisiacal archipelago and earn that label is hard work for other places. But for the Canaries’ last frontier, it comes easy.
- A Municipality’s Biography
- Why Explore La Frontera
- Getting to La Frontera and Going Around
- Where to Stay
- Food in the Frontier
- Explore La Frontera, Explore Nature
A Municipality’s Biography
A huge part of La Frontera is the El Golfo Valley. It was believed to be part of a gigantic crater, with the other half submerged in the Atlantic, because of its semicircle shape. Only a myth from the olden days, the real story of its creation is far less dramatic. The valley itself was, in fact, an eroded section of the towering wall that now surrounds it. Although not unusual, its beauty is extraordinary.
Another fascinating part of its history is the story behind its name. Many centuries ago, Europeans considered it the land at the very edge of the world. That, too, was proven to be false, but the name stuck, and it has been called “La Frontera” ever since.
Its more recent years remained to be very ‘interesting.’ The municipality was a lot bigger before 2007 when the towns of El Pinar and La Restinga were still part of it. However, a dispute over a religious festivity in 2005. The discord led to the creation of the third municipality, El Pinar de El Hierro. Theistic concerns are not taken lightly here.
Why Explore La Frontera
Having most of the municipality as part of the Frontera Rural Park comes with significant benefits. Tourists can explore untouched enchanting forests and see endless astonishing vistas. They can experience total countryside immersion in complete tranquility. And, best of all, they can admire nature at its most natural and beautiful state.
The towns and hamlets in La Frontera should also not be dismissed. After all, what good is a vacation if one didn’t connect with the locals? Visitors should try the famous cheesecake, smoked cheese, and excellent local wine. And how about the pineapples and other fruit produce? What makes them so naturally sweet and tasty? The most exceptional thing they can do, though, is to feel what it’s like to co-exist with nature in peace. It’s something the residents have done so for quite a long time.
Frontera Rural Park and Natural Reserve of Mencáfete
With such natural magnificence, hiking is absolutely the best way to explore La Frontera. And, it’s not the type to shy away from attention. So, within its lovely landscape are trails and viewpoints that showcase its beauty.
As mentioned, Frontera Rural Park makes up most of the municipality. Also inside the park is the fascinating Natural Reserve of Mencáfete. Here, tourists can walk into enthralling forests of iconic wind-twisted junipers. They can also observe flora and fauna endemic to the island. Never miss the endangered ‘cabezón herreño’ while traversing the terrain. Not only is its kind rare, but it’s also such a charming and an unforgettable sight.
There are so many things and views to marvel at that one article wouldn’t be enough to mention everything. The countless discussions and write-ups praising its splendor, though, are quite an invitation. So, when in El Hierro, don’t pass up on a Frontera Rural Park experience.
Guinea Eco-Museum and Center for Recovery of the El Hierro Giant Lizard
For an educational tour, visit the Guinea Eco-Museum at the foot of Risco de Tibataje. The open-air exhibition shows how Bimbaches, the early inhabitants of the island, lived and how their homes evolved from the pre-Hispanic era up to the 20th century. From cave homes to stone and hay houses, the site displays the architectural history of El Hierro. It also realistically depicts authentic traditional furnishings as well as crops in the vicinity.
Also on the site is the Center for Recovery of the El Hierro Giant Lizard. In 1974, a few of these once thought to be extinct were found in La Fuga de Gorreta. Since then, efforts to breed and reintroduce it to its natural habitat have been in full throttle. Sadly, it remains to be the most endangered in Europe and the fifth lizard in danger of extinction in the world.
By visiting the sanctuary, tourists not only have an enriching and meaningful tour. They also get to meet the team working nonstop for the giant lizard’s population growth.
Virgen de Los Reyes hermitage
In 1546, the image of “the Virgin of the Kings” arrived in El Hierro. Although first housed in a cave, a shrine deemed worthy of the holy statue was eventually built in 1577. Since then, it has been the island’s patron saint.
The Virgen de Los Reyes hermitage is majestic white suggesting purity. The abbey, hemmed in a wall, has a single nave with a side bell tower. It’s neither big nor small, but the area is most definitely wide enough for a little walk. Sprawled on a hilltop in La Dehesa, it stands out from everything that encompasses it. It also has a scenic view of the lowlands, surrounding mountains, and even the vast azure ocean. Simply, it’s a striking piece of architecture in an incredibly picturesque setting.
For an unforgettable experience, tourists can join the Bajada de la Virgen de Los Reyes or the Descent of the Virgin of the Kings held every four years on the first Saturday of July. The centuries-old pilgrimage has been bringing together thousands of locals since 1745. And, it is without a single doubt the most important religious ceremony on the island.
From its captivating all-white hermitage on top of the mountain, the almost five-century-old image makes its 43-kilometer journey to the capital Valverde. The festivity introduces visitors to the locals and their beloved tradition. It also affords them a great view of the island and a closer look at the lovely juniper trees that are abundant in the area.
A three-kilometer hike or drive on a dirt road with pretty good surface leads to the dramatic beauty of El Sabinar. Tourists travel here for the natural environment that is hard to find anywhere else. The seemingly endless Atlantic hardly comes second to any panorama. In this case, though, it does.
Surrounded by a rope barrier is the symbol of El Hierro – the wind-twisted juniper tree of El Sabinar. It is an iconic spectacle featured in countless ads and brochures of the island. And, although the forest has plenty of these gnarled trees, this one is the most breathtaking.
The wind-twisted junipers are a strange yet mesmerizing sight. These marvels, set amidst a heart-stopping seascape in the background, the scenery is easily one of the most photographed in El Hierro.
La Frontera is but a small municipality in the tiniest island in the Canaries. Although modest in size, fantastic sceneries abound. In fact, it has three viewpoints to showcase its natural charm.
All three vantage points are of stone masonry with either wood or tree branch railings. They are also found in areas where the beauty of La Frontera is on full display. Remember though, an early morning hike may sound like a good idea, but it can be misty around that time. As such, be prepared for a surreal experience.
Mirador de Bascos
Situated on top of an enormous cliff is the most popular of the three viewpoints. Mirador de Bascos overlooks the entire El Golfo Valley and its awe-inspiring crescent-shaped coast. It’s on this spot that gave birth to the myth about the valley being a crater, with half of it hidden underwater. Although it’s proven by science otherwise, it certainly is convincing from Basque viewpoint.
Most people think that La Frontera is merely a massive mountain with sleepy towns at its foot. Of course, there is more to the municipality as can be seen from the other viewpoints.
Mirador de Lomo Negro
For an unusual volcanic landform, Mirador de Lomo Negro is the best one in La Frontera. Feast on the intriguing yellow rock that protrudes from the mountain slope. Its bright hue is a result of the rapid cooling of the magma when it came into contact with seawater. Completing the vista is the rugged coastline and the Atlantic Ocean.
Mirador de Jinama
The Mirador de Jinama is in the middle section of the cliff towering over the valley. It, too, has a remarkable panorama of El Golfo and the sea. What makes it unique from the other viewpoints though is the trail that leads to it.
Some parts of the three-hour long hike are difficult. Nonetheless, it is also gratifying. An ancient trail used until the 60s passes through the green hills and old grazing areas. The views of the flora along the path are also divine. Tourists willing to break a sweat for spectacular vistas shouldn’t pass up on this one.
Natural Seawater Pools
Although there’s scarcity of beaches in El Hierro, it doesn’t mean it can’t offer fun in the waters. For a one-of-a-kind sea experience without the fear of getting swept by big waves, try La Frontera’s natural pools.
Tourists have two fantastic options – Charco Azul and La Maceta. Both have rock barriers protecting the natural basins from harsh waves. For relaxation and sunbathing, there are decks nearby. In late afternoons, when waters are much rougher, visitors can try to bodysurf in the pools. As an option, brave souls can also try cave snorkeling in Charco Azul.
Pozo de La Salud
Among the most visited spots in El Hierro is a well. Before dismissing it as a traditional water reservoir, know that Pozo de La Salud is anything but ordinary. Called the “Well of Health,” it has a colorful history of healing people who drank or bathe in its water. From its location, the surrounding scenery is also a sight for sore eyes.
The immense Atlantic dazzles like an endless silk embroidered with diamonds. From afar, it seems calm. But the waves crashing on the foot of the cliff says otherwise. Not to be left unnoticed is the mountain behind the well. It is imposing yet serene.
It could be the rich past of the place, or maybe the panoramas around. Or, it might as well be the hotel beside it. Whatever it is, tourists keep arriving and many come back for more.
Getting to La Frontera and Going Around
El Hierro has an efficient public transport system which services the municipality. From the capital Valverde, bus line 3 takes visitors to La Frontera. On regular days, buses depart at 08:00, 10:30, 13:10, 15:30, 18:00, and 21:30. On weekends and holidays, buses depart at 08:00, 10:30, 13:30, 18:30, and 21:30.
Visitors can take bus 4 and 12 to see different places within the municipality.
Bus line 4 pass through every town in La Frontera. During regular working days, it departs Sabinosa at 06:50 and 14:00, and Frontera Terminal at 13:40. On Saturdays, the bus leaves Sabinosa at 06:50. Bus line 12, on the other hand, has a single trip that departs at 22:00 and only stops at Sabinosa and Pozo de La Salud from the Frontera Terminal.
Where to Stay
Although day trips to La Frontera are prevalent, a day isn’t enough to see its many natural wonders. Stay for at least a few days. If there is any regret, it is not having enough time to see all the sights and natural wonders that the municipality has to offer.
See La Frontera’s reinvigorating sights, hike its captivating trails, and get immersed its rich culture. To experience all these, one must stay for a couple of days or even longer. And, with gorgeous vistas right outside the hotel windows, that’s not a bad idea at all.
Smallest Hotel in the World
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is the smallest hotel in the world with only four rooms. Of course, that is just one of the labels and titles attached to Punta Grande Hotel. For many of its guests, it is the best hotel in El Hierro.
Locals refer to it as the old hotel on a rock. That is because it is on top of a natural breakwater. As such, it offers a one-for-the-books experience. From the property, guests can watch the raging Atlantic waves crash barely 10 feet below the ship-like hotel window. In fact, on days when the waters are calm, some guests even tried fishing from their room. Because of the quirky nautical theme decors, taking photos is instinctive.
Punta Grande Hotel is not for those who like huge spaces. But it is perfect for guests craving for great views and an extraordinary experience. After all, it isn’t one of the highest rated hotels on the island for nothing.
Hotel with a Health Spa
Among El Hierro’s most well-known accommodations is Hotel Balneario Pozo de la Salud. The sights around this property are mind-blowing. They are also the primary reason why the “Well of Health” is so popular.
The building’s traditional facade complements the surrounding astonishing natural environment. A contemporary and vibrant interior suit its modern amenities and services.
Guests can try the hotel’s spa which offers clinical, aesthetic and relaxation treatments. They can also enjoy the hot tub, outdoor pool, children’s playground, and sun terrace. What’s more, all their rooms either have a glorious mountain or splendid sea view.
Hotel on a Hill
Standing on a hill in El Golfo Valley is Hotel Ida Inés. It overlooks the magnificent coast and mountains. Aside from the vistas, many of their guests rave about the warm and friendly manager and staff of the hotel.
The property is simple but has all the essentials for a comfortable stay. It is located in a peaceful area close to the town. Rooms are clean, spacious, and equipped with TV, telephone, and a kettle. There’s also a rooftop swimming pool where guests can relax while admiring the sights.
Apartment Surrounded by Vineyards
Sublime mountain views await guests of Apartamentos Los Verodes. The property, surrounded by vineyards, also has a mini-golf course, a sun terrace with barbecue, and a communal laundry which room guests can use for free.
All their apartments are spacious and well-equipped. Each unit has a living room with a sofa, a fan, and a flat-screen TV. There’s also a microwave, fridge, oven and coffee maker in the kitchenette.
Lush valleys, high cliffs, and forests encompass the complex. Thus, hiking and cycling are one of the ideal activities in the area. Car and bike rentals (with a discount) are also available so tourists can go around the island.
Food in the Frontier
A tourist spot isn’t much of a destination if it lacks excellent restaurants. Does enjoying a delicious meal while appreciating incredible views as the cool breeze gently blows your hair sounds familiar? It probably does because that’s exactly how many would imagine a perfect vacation. The good news is that it’s precisely what La Frontera offers.
Seafood lovers should not miss Garanones Restaurant when in La Frontera. It is one of the best and most popular in this part of the island. Because it’s only a few minutes’ walk away from the bus stop, even people from other municipalities come here.
The restaurant is not only known for their customer service. More importantly, they serve quality and tasty dishes. Going above and beyond reasonable expectations, they even ask for the diners’ taste and preference for preparation. And, if they think guests may like something that’s not on the menu, they’d offer it too. All their seafood dishes are a must-try, but the most popular one is Chipirones. For desserts, Lemon Soufflé with Caramel and Chocolate Mousse is a great choice.
Homestyle Venezuelan and Spanish Cooking
For excellent home-style cooked meals, guests cannot go wrong with Bar Joapira Restaurant. In charge of the kitchen are three lovely Venezuelan ladies. Each dish that comes out is cooked to perfection, full of flavors and tasty.
The bread with mojo served while customers wait for their orders is a sign of the delights to come. Their best vegetable dishes are Chickpeas, Canary Potatoes with Mojo Sauce, and Arrugadas. For seafood, try Calamares, Chiperones, Octopus Salad, and Pescado a La Plancha con Papas. Meat eaters shouldn’t pass on Carne Fiesta and Pork Chop. Pair any of the dishes with guava juice for one heavenly gastronomic experience.
Best Place for a Coffee Date
With one spectacular spot after another, tourists need coffee to keep them going. And, if they are around Tigaday, a stop at La Casa Abajo Restaurant is called for and highly recommended. It’s a casual cafe that offers the best coffee and tastiest light meals in town.
All their coffees are outstanding, but the espresso steals the show every time. Pair it with a sandwich and relax by the counter or the family area.
Vegetarian-Friendly with Fantastic View
As the name suggests, the sight of the sun setting from Sunset La Maceta Restaurant is stunning. Whatever the time of the day though, the seascape fronting it is bewitching. From the deck or through full-size glass windows indoor, an enamoring view of the sea surrounds customers.
The restaurant has an extensive menu, but it’s especially famous for vegetarian dishes and drinks. Their Papas Arrugadas served with Aioli, Coriander Oil, and Peppery Dijon (aside from the usual Mojo Sauce) is a must-try. Grilled Vegetable Plate and Iberico Stack are also highly recommended.
Explore La Frontera, Explore Nature
In many parts of the Canaries, the development keeps continuing. From sleepy villages to tourist resorts, the transformation never seems to stop. Amidst the boom in tourism, La Frontera has remained almost untouched.
Instead of clusters of enormous buildings, there are fruit-bearing trees. There is also none of the magnificent hotels that seem to litter other parts of the Canaries. Instead, charming old houses open their doors to the growing number of wanderers.
For an extraordinary rural adventure, head northwest of El Hierro. Explore La Frontera, explore nature and experience the best it has to give.