- Calle Roberto Roldán.
- Tel: 928 87 82 41.
Lying just 100 km (60 miles) off the Atlantic coast of Morocco, leaf-shaped Fuerteventura is continually battered by coastal winds. It is the second largest of the Canary Islands after Tenerife, and the most sparsely populated: its 69,500 inhabitants are outnumbered by goats. The island used to be densely wooded, but European settlers cut down the timber for shipbuilding; the dry climate and the goats have since reduced the vegetation to parched scrub. It is so dry that water has to be shipped over from the mainland. The only significant revenue is tourism, but the tourist industry is still in its infancy compared with the other main islands. However, visitors are increasing in number as thousands of sun-worshippers flock to more than 150 splendid beaches. The island is popular with water sports fans and naturists.
Costa Calma, Morro Jable.
(jetfoil) from Gran Canaria.
Centro Comercial Cosmo, Local 88, Tel: 928 54 07 76 .
Excellent beaches of pale sand fringe the elongated Jandía Peninsula in the south of Fuerteventura. A string of urbanizaciones (apartment complexes) now takes up much of the peninsula’s sheltered east coast (Sotavento).
Costa Calma , a burgeoning cluster of modern complexes, offers the most interesting beaches with long stretches of fine sand interrupted by low cliffs and coves. Morro Jable , a fishing village now swamped by new developments, lies at the southern end of a vast, glittering strand. Beyond Morro Jable, the access road dwindles away into a potholed track leading towards the lonely lighthouse at Punta de Jandía.
Expanses of deserted sand, accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicle, line the westerly, windward coast (Barlovento) – too exposed for all but the hardiest beach lovers. Some of the island’s best subtropical marine life can be found in this area, however, making it popular with skin divers.
From 1938 to the early 1960s, Jandía belonged to a German entrepreneur and was out of bounds to locals. Even today, rumours of spies, submarines and secret Nazi bases still circulate.
C/ Juan de Bethancourt 6, Tel: 928 87 80 92 .
San Buenaventura (14 Jul), Romería de La Peña (3rd Sat of Sep).
Inland, rugged peaks of extinct volcanoes, separated by wide plains, present a scene of austere grandeur. Scattered, stark villages and obsolete windmills occupy the lowlands, which are occasionally fertile enough to nurture a few crops or palm trees. Beyond, devoid of vegetation, the hills form stark outlines. From a distance they appear brown and grey, but up close the rocks glow with an astonishing range of mauves, pinks and ochres. The richness of colour in this interior wilderness is at its most striking at sunset, when a leisurely drive can reveal some breathtaking scenes.
Betancuria, built in a valley surrounded by mountains in the centre of the island, is named after Jean de Béthencourt, Fuerteventura’s 15th-century conqueror, who moved his capital inland to thwart pirates. Nestling in the mountains, this peaceful oasis is now the island’s prettiest village. The Iglesia de Santa María contains gilded altars, decorated beams and sacred relics. The Museo Arqueológico houses many local artifacts.
To the south, the village of Pájara boasts a 17th-century church with a curiously decorated doorway. Its design of serpents and strange beasts is believed to be of Aztec influence. Inside, the twin aisles both contain statues: one of a radiant Madonna and Child in white and silver, the other a Virgen de los Dolores in black.
La Oliva , to the north, was the site of the Spanish military headquarters until the 19th century. The Casa de los Coroneles (House of the Colonels) is a faded yellow mansion with a grand façade and hundreds of windows. Inside it has coffered ceilings. The fortified church and the arts centre displaying works of Canary Islands artists are also worth a visit.
Calle Juan Ramón Soto Morales 10, El Castillo, Tel: 928 16 32 86 .
Día del Carmen (16 Jul), Nuestra Señora de Antigua (8 Sep).
South of Puerto del Rosario about halfway down the eastern coast, lies Caleta de Fuste. The attractive low-rise, self-catering holiday centres surround a horseshoe bay of soft, gently shelving sand. The largest complex, El Castillo, takes its name from an 18th-century watchtower situated by the harbour.
There are many water sports facilities, including diving and windsurfing schools, as well as the Pueblo Majorero, an attractive “village” of shops and restaurants around a central plaza near the beach. These features make Caleta de Fuste one of Fuerteventura’s most relaxed and pleasant resorts.
Avenida de la Constitución 5, Tel: 928 53 08 44 .
El Rosario (7 Oct).
Fuerteventura’s administrative capital was founded in 1797. Originally known as Puerto de Cabras (Goats’ Harbour), after a nearby gorge that was once used for watering goats, it was rechristened to smarten up its image in 1957. The only large port on Fuerteventura, Puerto del Rosario is the base for inter-island ferries and a busy fishing industry. The town is also enlivened by the presence of the Spanish Foreign Legion, which occupies large barracks here.
Avenida Marítima 2, Tel: 928 86 62 35 .
Mon & Fri.
Día del Carmen (16 Jul).
This much-expanded fishing village is now (together with the Jandía Peninsula) one of the island’s two most important resorts. Its main attraction is a belt of glorious sand dunes stretching to the south, resembling the Sahara in places, and protected as a nature reserve. This designation arrived too late, however, to prevent the construction of two obtrusive hotels right on the beach.
The rest of the resort, mostly consisting of apartments and hotels, spills out from the town centre. The port area is lively, with busy fish restaurants and an efficient 40-minute ferry service to Lanzarote.
Offshore is the tiny Isla de los Lobos, named after the once abundant monk seals (lobos marinos) . Today, scuba divers, snorkellers, sport fishers and surfers claim the clear waters. Glass-bottomed cruise boats take less adventurous excursionists to the island for barbecues and swimming trips.
A beach, near Corralejo
When Europeans first arrived in the Canary Islands in the late 14th century, they discovered a tall, white-skinned race, who lived in caves and later in small settlements around the edges of barren lava fields. Guanche was the name of one tribe on Tenerife, but it came to be used as the European name for all the indigenous tribes on the islands, and it is the one that has remained. The origins of the Guanches are still unclear, but it is probable that they arrived on the islands in the 1st or 2nd century BC from Berber North Africa. Within 100 years of European arrival the Guanches had been subdued and virtually exterminated by the ruthless conquistadors. Very few traces of their culture remain today.