Today, Greenwich is generally associated with the prime meridian, but this was not always the case. In fact, before Greenwich, this meridian was known as the original prime meridian since the times of ancient Greece.
The idea of using the westernmost point in the world for the zero meridian is an old concept, with evidence dating back to the days of Ptolemy. This westernmost point was located at the semi-mythical Islands of the Blessed, which was believed to be the Canary Islands.
This meridian was later made official by France in 1634 under the rule of King Louis XIII. However, there was a problem. France did not actually use this location for calculating the meridian, and instead just decreed that it was 20 degrees west of Paris.
Other countries disagreed and a squabble ensued. The Netherlands drew the meridian through Tenerife, Britain used Greenwich, and most other countries used their own capital. Eventually, the title of prime meridian was given to Greenwich at the 1884 International Meridian Conference, however, the decision did have detractors.
The Hierro meridian was all but forgotten after the decision but not by the people of the island. Whoever visits the location today will find a large monument commemorating the location. A sign below the monument reads: “Punta de Orchilla El Hierro / The westernmost Spanish land. This monument was raised in memory of the meridian of El Hierro, origin of longitudes in the cartography of various European countries until the mid-19th century. Captaincy General of the Canary Islands May 17, 1982.”
Know Before You Go
On the way to the Faro de Orchilla, so follow the signs towards that until you see signs for the meridian.
Eventually the main road splits and you will have to follow a dirt road that is marked as for 4x4s only. The monument is about 20 minutes walking from there, it's not a hard walk but do bring some water.