The lesser known of the Canary Islands


Fuerteventura.  Still the least known of the Canary Islands, the Spanish owned archipelago off of the coast of north-west Africa.  Tell someone that is where you are going it will still be a 50/50 that you will receive something of a blank look, or polite nod.  Tenerife, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria are much more well-known and that is with good reason; they have been tourist spots since the 70’s, many more tourists go there and also many more British citizens live on those islands too.   I actually went to Fuerteventura the best part of two decades ago, my first ‘adult’ holiday and it remains a favoured spot for myself for a little bit of winter vitamin D.   Not that the days are overtly long in the winter period, the sun rises at a similar time to the UK and has lost its strength by 4pm and it is totally dark by 6pm.  But, the bleak mid-winter of Britain it is not.  Far from it.

The package tour reigns supreme in Fuerteventura, just as it does in many other tourist destination.  It is possible to fly independently, unlike when I first visited in the late 90’s as EasyJet and Ryanair now fly from various UK airports direct.   Many hotels and resorts are now the all-inclusive option, which has had a serious dent on the economy and vibe of the island in the eyes of so many.  There are only really three resort towns on Fuerteventura.  Corralejo, in the north almost within touching distance of the south of Lanzarote and then Costa Caletta in the ‘middle’ (just a ten minute hop away from the airport) and then Jandia in the south.  The latter is more popular with the German tourists, Caletta with the British and Corralejo, which is the original tourist town on the island and bigger than both put together is a mixture of all that visit.

Corralejo has actually grown beyond all recognition from the resort of 20 years ago.  The Harbour, which was used more for fishing then – as it had been for hundreds of years prior to the coming of the TUI jet – is now a collection of restaurants almost reminiscent of Padstow in Cornwall whilst on the other hand, the main shopping street has been lengthened and widened to the point that it almost resembles something from Las Vegas.   It is louder, more brash than anywhere else on Fuerteventura but still nowhere near the level of Playa Del Ingles in Gran Canaria for instance!   This is helped by the fact that the lavish building work that took place in Tenerife for example, the high rise hotels and so on are not permitted on Fuerteventura.  When the Spanish started to develop the island in the late 1980’s they set a law that no building could be more than three stories high.  Thus what you now have is hotel “complexes” that sprawl outwards rather than upwards.

Not far to the west of Corralejo, there is the quiet and non-tourist town of El Cotillo, that was once earmarked as a new hot-spot, similar to that of its neighbour to the east, but instead is based more around property and time shares. It actually has a very Cornish feel to it – especially with the rugged outlook from the top of the town.   Further south and west, beyond the capital of Puerto Del Rosario and the airport, Gran Tarajal is the biggest non-tourist town.   The island is home to 100,000 residents and they don’t really want to hang with Herman from Hamburg or Martin from Manchester and it is this little town, with a black sand beach where they come.  Again to compare with other places I had visited, it reminds me a lot of Napier in New Zealand.  Granted there are probably not a huge number of people who have seen both towns to make this comparison, so you will have to take my word for it!

Despite being a 90 minute drive, or coach ride from the airport, I do prefer to stay in the south.  Jandia has long and sandy golden beaches, it is (slightly) less windy than other parts of Fuerteventura and, as above, is quieter than Corralejo.   However, there are drawbacks.  If you are wishing to wander a vibrant town (such as Corralejo still is) then Jandia is alas, not so.  Yes there are some great places to eat, and dance here and the neighbouring fishing village of Morro Jable is very quaint but in terms of turning it into a Corralejo of the south is failing; largely down to the coming of the all-inclusive.  With well over 3000 bedrooms on offer in Jandia with the all-in option of food, drink and entertainment many simply stay on site.   Many eateries and shops that did occupy the main strip in the town and other commercial centres have gone.  Why would people eat out if they have already “paid” to do so at their hotel?  A double edged sword if ever there was one.

But do remember; there is more to the Canaries than Tenerife et al….

Gran Tarajal - a non-tourist seaside town on the east coast of the island
The north west coast of Fuerteventura
The original part of Corralejo, this is one of the towns beaches
Corralejo - the 'main strip' of shops and eateries
Direct for the Sahara - blown by the wind
The desert like landscape of the north of the island
Jandia - a quiet resort