We decided on a Winter sun holiday to Fuerteventura in mid-November to chill out and relax, we also we hired a car for a week to explore the island’s best bits. Fuerteventura’s climate makes it an ideal all year round destination because temperatures don’t often fall below 21ºC making it similar to Florida, it’s nicknamed ‘The island of eternal spring’. The year round sunshine and loads of bargain flights from the UK makes it easy for thousands of Brits, like us to escape the dreary British winter weather.
Fuerteventura is the second biggest of the Canary Islands (after Tenerife) and the closest of the Canaries to Africa. Fuerteventura means ‘Strong Winds’ because of its exposure to the constant North East trade winds throughout the year. Unlike neighbouring Gran Canaria it doesn’t have a tropical landscape, instead Fuerteventura is arid and desert like, you won’t see many trees or much vegetation, just the aloe vera cactus which thrives in the wild on the island.
Fuerteventura is rich in sea life – turtles, sperm whales and dolphins are some of the most important marine animals here, in 2009 UNESCO declared Fuerteventura a Biosphere Reserve.
The resort of Corralejo
Fuerteventura has two main resorts – Corralejo on the North East tip (popular with us Brits) and Morro Jable in the south (popular with Germans). Corralejo pronounced ‘Coral-echo’ is very touristy, a lively resort with lots of bars, restaurants and the usual tourist-tat shops and popular with families. On Saturdays there’s a flea market at the El Campanario Shopping Center. From the harbour you can catch a boat to the nearby small uninhabited island of Los Lobos or go a little further to the neighbouring island of Lanzarote for a day trip. Fuerteventura is a duty free island, we took advantage of this and bought some excellent priced aftershave in Corralejo, the staff we incredibly helpful to make sure we got the best prices too.
We stayed just outside of Corralejo at the Bahiazul Villas in a villa with a private heated pool, which was just lovely and very chic, the first time we’ve ever had our own pool staying in a hotel complex. We loved the design and Garth thought the pool looked like a David Hockney painting. We’d seen offers for this place come up on regularly on the internet so we finally managed to bag a really good one out of season.
Parque Natural de Corralejo & Grandes Playas
Just before you arrive at Corralejo you will drive through 6 miles of desert like sand dunes at the protected Parque Natural de Corralejo. A beautiful expanse of long and soft sand dunes as far as the eye can, it looks like the neighbouring Sahara Desert. Be warned the sand can get very hot in the summer.
The beach here is called Grandes Playas and is enormous and the best part of this beach are the quiet areas just off the dunes away from the 2 luxury resort hotels in the distance which are a bit of an eye-sore. The water is gorgeous – bright turquoise and the water crystal clear, the quieter areas have a mix of families, couples and naturists.
The warm Saharan winds from Africa on Fuerteventura’s East coast make it perfect for water sports – surfing, wind surfing and kite-surfing are especially popular, so much so the World Kite Surfing Championships are held every August. We stopped off to watch the kite-surfers who are amazing! especially when they appear to jump miles into the air!
Fuerteventura’s Volcanic Centre
Drive inland to the middle of Fuerteventura and you’ll discover the island’s amazing volcanic centre. Huge peaks of extinct volcanoes and old lavascapes make an impressive lunar looking landscape, it reminded us of Iceland. The terrain is popular with hikers wanting a challenge, that’s not us!
Get on the road and head up the Tegu Mountain to Morro Velosa (Mirador De Morro Velosa) for one of the best scenic viewpoints on Fuerteventura. Inside the lookout building you can learn about the geology of the island. Apparently this is one of the best places on the island for stargazing, however not sure we would fancy that (sometimes hairy) mountain edge drive at night! Note it’s closed on Mondays, but don’t worry the viewpoint at the Guise and Ayose Statues just before you enter Morro Velosa is equally as good. When you’re done taking photos drive onto nearby Betancuria.
The Old Town Of Betancuria
Betancuria is the island’s former capital (until 1834) It’s very compact and easy to do in an hour or so. It’s traditional and picturesque with white washed homes and cactus filled pretty gardens. The star attraction is the 17th century Cathedral Iglesia de Santa María Betancuria, which costs 1.5 Euros to enter.
It’s a sleepy place where we wandered around the cobbled streets, there’s some nice craft shops and cafes. We stopped for lunch and tried various Canarian tapas dishes including Fuerteventura’s famous local goats cheese – Queso Majorero.
Betancuria View Point
Another great viewpoint after you leave Betancuria is Mirador Las Peñitas where you’ll see farmer’s fields – a green oasis in the middle of the desert. You may even see some cute chipmunks (Barbary Squirrels) the local government ask tourists not to feed them food as they don’t want their population to grow.
Traditional Windmills of Fuerteventura
Dotted all over the island you’ll spot old windmills – the icon of Fuerteventura. They were once used to make ‘Gofio’ flour 200 years ago. Gofio is a Canarian flour made from roasted grains – wheat or maize. We drove through the small village of Lajares which has two windmills close to each other if you want to easily photograph some.
El Cotillo was our favourite place on Fuerteventura. It’s one of those charming old sleepy seaside villages that feels more like Greece than Spain with its signature blue and white painted buildings. It has a pretty harbour that has character and feels laid back. The best thing are the harbour restaurants serving the freshest catches of the day. Grab a seat on the terrace at one of the best – La Vaca Azal a Fuerteventura institution.
A former fishing town, El Cotillo was an important port on the trade route between Maderia and Fuerteventura. It has a small ‘castle’ – Torre del Tostón built in the 1700s, this defence tower had cannons to protect the coast against pirates.
El Cotillo’s Beach & Lagoons
A very short drive North of El Cotillo (or a leisurely walk) are some beautiful clear water lagoons and a white sandy beach at Playa De Los Lagos. The black volcanic rocks set against the white sand make it a spectacular setting. People have made natural wind breaker walls from loose volcanic rocks, so if you’re lucky grab one of these spots to escape the wind if you plan on spending all day on the beach.
Keep walking and you’ll reach the beach of Playa Chica which had some amazing kite displays. It’s the biggest of the beaches here so gets a bit busier. The kites people were flying were really impressive, all shapes and colours, our favourite was the giant octopus! Kite flying on Fuerteventura is so popular they even host their own annual International Kite Festival.
Caleta del Marrajo
Drive a little further North of El Cotillo towards the Faro lighthouse and there are even more stunning lagoons at Caleta del Marrajo. These little lagoons is where the water gets trapped in low tide, lovely small beaches of fine white sand, black lava rocks and crystal clear turquoise waters makes this place perfect! It’s more remote so there’s less people – a mix of naturists and clothed people nobody seemed bothered either way.
Local Food & Mini Salty Jacket Potatoes
Fuerteventura is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean so seafood is everywhere, Vieja (Parrot Fish) is the most common fish on the island. Whilst the main meat here is goat, as they are pretty much the only animals on the island, you’ll find goat stew – Puchero Canario on menus.
Of course staple Spanish tapas dishes are on menus, however you will see local tapas dishes including:
- Papas Arrugadas – mini salty jacket potatoes served with Mojo Verde (green sauce) or Mojo Picón (spicy red sauce)
- Majorero Cheese – local cheese made from goats milk, there’s also a smoked version which has a buttery texture and a nutty taste.
- Gofio Amasado – A dish served on all the Canary Islands – a weird oily dough slice, that’s sweet and salty
Fuerteventura is one of the best places in the world for dark skies. The island has no pollution, the skies are often cloud free and has low light pollution because of the small population (75,000 people). It means skies are really dark and perfect for photographers wishing to capture starry night photos. In recognition of this Fuerteventura received the Starlight Reserve Certificate in 2015.
We decided to drive all the way South and go right off the beaten path to see Cofete Beach, named as one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe by Tripadvisor. You won’t find many people here on this incredibly wild and unspoilt beach. It’s remote and windy but that’s the attraction. It’s too dangerous to swim here because of currents and the height of the waves.
It’s quite a journey to get there and is not for the faint hearted. Cofete really is right off the beaten track, and the only way to get there is via a long dirt track, and we mean really long – 13 miles, so factor in lots of time to get there, a 4×4 might be better than our Nissan Micra we hired! Make sure to take in the breathtaking view of Cofete and stop at the small observation spot before you descend to the beach. Sadly we didn’t make it down to the beach as we left it too late in the day and were worried about driving all the way back in Corralejo in the dark (It takes 2.5 hours to drive from one end of the island to the other)
There’s no doubt one of the main attraction of Fuerteventura are the beaches, they come in all sizes and there’s over 150 of them spread across 120 miles of rugged coastline. What really struck us was how unspoilt they are, so you won’t be short of options or fighting for space. The sand also comes in all colours too – white, gold and black.
Phil and Garth’s Top 5 Fuerteventura Tips
- Tip #1: Take beach umbrellas for some shade if you’re heading to the remote lagoons.
- Tip #2: Jump on a water taxi to Lobos Island – an excellent spot for snorkelling.
- Tip #3: On beaches – green & yellow flags means it’s safe to swim, a red flag means it’s not safe.
- Tip #4: The rainy season is October to March. We only had a couple of rainy days in November.
- Tip #5: Tap water isn’t recommended for drinking, so buy cheap water at the supermarket instead.