4-Xtremes – Part 46: Magical moments on El Hierro

Series: 4-Xtremes – The World Tour

Driving on lava.

At the mercy of the forces of nature, yet colourful, remote and extremely fascinating. If you can handle the weather, you can discover lots on El Hierro, the smallest of the seven Canary Islands. Andrea and Mike did so with their Axor. This is their story.

Storm-tossed hotel, seemingly at the end of the world: El Hierro offers breathtaking accommodation – but the Kammermanns stuck to the living box of their Axor here too.


This year, we are on record course when it comes to ferry passages. That's what a Canary Islands expedition like the one we're currently doing with our Axor entails. Since the last article on RoadStars, our list has grown again by three crossings: from La Gomera to Tenerife, from Tenerife to El Hierro – and finally from El Hierro back to Tenerife.

But for now, let's stay on El Hierro, the smallest and most western Canary Island, which can only be reached by ferry via Tenerife. And while Tenerife is over 2,000 square kilometres, El Hierro is less than 270 square kilometres. In the Puerto de la Estaca, we roll ashore in the dark, spend the night at the harbour and are immediately fascinated by the rugged landscape the next morning. An impression that will deepen in the coming days: the blue of the Atlantic, the black lava stones, red, extinguished volcanic craters, lush green vegetation and in the midst, white houses – El Hierro is small and remote, but all the more spectacular and almost magical.


On narrow slopes or off-road: excursions on El Hierro are usually short but intense.
On narrow slopes or off-road: excursions on El Hierro are usually short but intense.
On narrow slopes or off-road: excursions on El Hierro are usually short but intense.
On narrow slopes or off-road: excursions on El Hierro are usually short but intense.
On narrow slopes or off-road: excursions on El Hierro are usually short but intense.
On narrow slopes or off-road: excursions on El Hierro are usually short but intense.
On narrow slopes or off-road: excursions on El Hierro are usually short but intense.
On narrow slopes or off-road: excursions on El Hierro are usually short but intense.
On narrow slopes or off-road: excursions on El Hierro are usually short but intense.
On narrow slopes or off-road: excursions on El Hierro are usually short but intense.
On narrow slopes or off-road: excursions on El Hierro are usually short but intense.
On narrow slopes or off-road: excursions on El Hierro are usually short but intense.
On narrow slopes or off-road: excursions on El Hierro are usually short but intense.
On narrow slopes or off-road: excursions on El Hierro are usually short but intense.
On narrow slopes or off-road: excursions on El Hierro are usually short but intense.
On narrow slopes or off-road: excursions on El Hierro are usually short but intense.
On narrow slopes or off-road: excursions on El Hierro are usually short but intense.
On narrow slopes or off-road: excursions on El Hierro are usually short but intense.
On narrow slopes or off-road: excursions on El Hierro are usually short but intense.
On narrow slopes or off-road: excursions on El Hierro are usually short but intense.
On narrow slopes or off-road: excursions on El Hierro are usually short but intense.
On narrow slopes or off-road: excursions on El Hierro are usually short but intense.

Metre-high waves.

Our first destination is the valley of El Golfo, formed as a result of landslides more than 15,000 years ago. Today, the valley is fertile and pineapples and bananas are cultivated here. And of course the Atlantic is close, and extremely wild. Waves, some metres high, hit the coast. A small house made of dark rock is particularly buffeted by waves around it: a small hotel. Can guests sleep well there?

At the far end of the valley, the previously two-lane road becomes narrow. But El Hierro is quite thinly populated and traffic is sparse. So there's no reason to get nervous. After a short journey, we reach the Arenas Blancas beach. "Blancas" – white – gives an indication of what is special about the island. After all, in most places one would rather highlight a black beach. But since everything on the island is made of lava, a white beach is an attraction. There is also a red beach here.



Powerful gusts.

On another excursion, we learn what "storm-tossed" means for El Hierro. We follow a narrow road zigzagging up the mountain when strong gusts of wind hit us. We seek refuge in a dormant volcanic crater and want to take pictures of how stormy it is. I, Andrea, can hardly stand up straight when taking pictures. Climbing back to the road, I have to hold on with every gust of wind. You can't see much of this in the pictures. But later we capture a juniper tree with the lens, which the regular downslope winds have bent so far that the crown touches the ground.

We visit a special place in the southwest of the island: Punta de la Orchilla. Until the late 19th century, it widely defined the prime meridian, i.e. the 0 degree longitude for numerous nautical charts. It was not until 1884 that Greenwich prevailed as the prime meridian at the instigation of England's maritime power. What remains is a modest monument.


Prime meridian and bizarrely shaped juniper trees: El Hierro has a lot of surprises in store.
Prime meridian and bizarrely shaped juniper trees: El Hierro has a lot of surprises in store.
Prime meridian and bizarrely shaped juniper trees: El Hierro has a lot of surprises in store.
Prime meridian and bizarrely shaped juniper trees: El Hierro has a lot of surprises in store.
Prime meridian and bizarrely shaped juniper trees: El Hierro has a lot of surprises in store.
Prime meridian and bizarrely shaped juniper trees: El Hierro has a lot of surprises in store.
Prime meridian and bizarrely shaped juniper trees: El Hierro has a lot of surprises in store.
Prime meridian and bizarrely shaped juniper trees: El Hierro has a lot of surprises in store.
Prime meridian and bizarrely shaped juniper trees: El Hierro has a lot of surprises in store.
Prime meridian and bizarrely shaped juniper trees: El Hierro has a lot of surprises in store.
Prime meridian and bizarrely shaped juniper trees: El Hierro has a lot of surprises in store.
Prime meridian and bizarrely shaped juniper trees: El Hierro has a lot of surprises in store.
Prime meridian and bizarrely shaped juniper trees: El Hierro has a lot of surprises in store.
Prime meridian and bizarrely shaped juniper trees: El Hierro has a lot of surprises in store.
Prime meridian and bizarrely shaped juniper trees: El Hierro has a lot of surprises in store.
Prime meridian and bizarrely shaped juniper trees: El Hierro has a lot of surprises in store.

Unpaved roads.

A track leads there, signposted "Sólo 4×4" – "only with all-wheel drive". For the first time in a long while, we are reducing the pressure in our tyres from 6 to 3.5 bar. Although we've driven through lava fields in the days before, it feels much more adventurous on an unpaved track. As we explore the area, we discover a lava canal as smooth as a slide, we can't resist...

From here we drive upwards, the highest point of El Hierro is about 1,500 metres above sea level. On the road, things get really narrow – on a section that runs parallel to a steep slope. But somehow there's always a way: pull in the mirrors, drive slowly – and the passenger holds her breath as she looks out the side window into the abyss. The summit is suspended in cloud cover. We drive on very carefully, because a vehicle could be coming our way. But we remain on our own. In general, we encounter only one truck on the island, but the same one several times. It's the garbage truck whose path we cross in different places. In the end, the guys in the cab even wave to us.


Huge rocks.

In La Restinga, a village on the southern tip of the island, we stock up and do our laundry. A little outside, we find a place by a steep wall. But we quickly put the plan to spend the night here on hold: signs warn of falling rocks and there are boulders next to the road, as big as our cab. But not even that can spoil the impression: El Hierro is our new favourite island.

Before moving on, we return to the El Golfo valley and spend the last night on the rugged lava coast. When we board the ferry to Tenerife the next morning, our Axor is covered in a thick crust of salt. That's why, after arriving on the largest of the Canary Islands, it's time to find a car wash that our truck can fit into. We search for a while until we're successful. But it's worth it, because we want to reach the next destinations with a clean chassis.


4-Xtremes – The World Tour.

An unparalleled journey.

Andrea and Mike Kammermann have been on tour in their Axor for three years. "4-Xtremes – The World Tour" is the motto of the journey that the two Swiss nationals embarked on in mid-2020 and which they share with the RoadStars community. Keep up to date and don't miss out on any of the stunning destinations visited by the adventurous pair.

You can find all the parts from the “4-Xtremes – The World Tour” series here.


Photos: 4-Xtremes

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