Only 60 miles (100km) separates the island of Fuerteventura, second largest in the Canary Islands, from the continent of Africa, and this sunny island shares the same latitude (and therefore similar weather conditions) with the renowned holiday destinations of Florida and Mexico.
Unlike those bustling resort-ridden vacation stations though, much of Fuerteventura is relatively undiscovered, with more than 150 idyllic sandy beaches only sparsely populated and many seldom visited at all. The name of the island comes from the strong trade winds, which have made it a popular stop for windsurfing and kite surfing enthusiasts.
The island has an arid volcanic landscape, and apart from the beautiful beaches and a handful of developed tourist areas, not much to recommend it in the way of tourist amenities or attractions. This has kept the mega resorts and mass summer package-holiday trade at bay, but Fuerteventura does have a fair share of day trippers from the resorts of Lanzarote and Gran Canaria who come seeking a respite from the crowds.
Fuerteventura is the ultimate Canary Islands destination for those wanting to get away from civilization and crowds and enjoy a sleepy, sunny holiday. The island's two main resort towns are Corralejo and Caleta del Fuste. Fuerteventura is easily accessible from the other islands in the archipelago by ferry or air. The Fuerteventura airport is situated close to the island's capital of Puerto del Rosario.
Only recently capitalising on the tourist trade, the streets in charming Puerto del Rosario have been resurfaced and the harbour promenade rebuilt. The main street provides some good souvenir shops and the old harbour area features some attractive examples of Canarian architecture. The home of exiled poet Miguel de Unamuno, which has been turned into a museum, is situated in the harbour area. There are two beaches in Puerto del Rosario: Playa Blancal, to the south, has Blue Flag status and is home to some surf schools, but the currents can get dangerously strong; and Playa Chica, right in town, is a small but popular beach with good facilities. A great excursion from the town is a trip inland to Tefia, where the Ecomuseo La Alcogida can be found: an open-air 'village' made of restored, abandoned buildings, which give visitors an idea of the hard life the locals used to live, scraping out an existence from the land. Some traditionally clad artisans work in the village, making handicrafts.
The old town of Betancuria was founded in 1405 and was the first capital of Fuerteventura. The town enjoys a fantastic location, offering attractive views of the hilly terrain and winding river below. In the town are several beautiful buildings and churches worth visiting, including the Church of Iglesia de Santa Maria de Betancuria and the convent of San Buenaventura. The Casa Museo Arquebiologico has some interesting artefacts including fertility idols and farming tools that reflect the earliest history of the island. The town was built primarily to defend against pirate attacks and in 1593 it was all but destroyed by pirates and then slowly rebuilt. There are various shops and stalls in Betancuria that sell some of the best handcrafts and local produce on Fuerteventura. One of the best places to get a feel for the folk culture and handicrafts of the region is the Centro Insular de Artesania, located next to the museum on the main road. The peaceful and sleepy old town seldom hosts tourists and accommodation is limited, but it makes for a very popular and worthwhile excursion, providing insight into the history and culture of the Canary Islands.
On the east coast of Fuerteventura, the little fishing village of La Lajita has been put on the tourist map because it offers one of the island's main attractions: the Oasis de Los Cammelos. Usually called the Fuerteventura Oasis Park, the zoo is home to more than 3,000 animals, including giraffes, camels, hippos, elephants, flamingos, lemurs, and more. The park is big and features nature trails winding around the enclosures. The only botanical garden in Fuerteventura, it showcases indigenous and tropical flora. There are parrot shows, birds of prey shows, sea lion shows, and reptile shows, as well as horse rides and camel safaris. The lemurs are a highlight and, for a little extra, visitors can stroll through their enclosure and interact with the friendly animals. It is possible to buy food to give the various animals at the entrance. There is a petting zoo and playground area designed for small children too. Visitors can relax under the palm trees at the zoo's bar or try out one of the restaurants. Every Sunday there is a fresh produce and craft market at the park.
Historic buildings from between the 17th and mid-19th centuries remain in the village of La Oliva, which people can still visit. The Governor's townhouse (Casa de los Coroneles) has been restored and is open to the public, boasting some intricate woodwork. Also in the centre of the village is the pretty church of Parroquiade Nuestra Seiiora de Candelaria, with a square bell tower and finely carved wooden door. The interior of the church features a painting of the Last Judgement, a Baroque altar painting by Juan de Miranda, and some wonderful trompe l'oeil work. The village also has an art centre exhibiting the work of Canarian artists (Centro de Arte Canario Casa Mane). The somewhat desolate and barren natural landscape of the interior gives way dramatically to the bright turquoise water of the sea, and the beaches around La Oliva are very pretty. The water tends to be calm, making it a good swimming destination. Many tourists find it worth their while to spend some time in La Oliva and a number of fun outdoor activities are available, including sailing and mountain biking jaunts, and excursions into the Parque Natural de Corralejo.
You won't need to go far on Fuerteventura to find a perfect beach, even if you are intent on seeking out solitude from holidaymakers. The best are found around Jandia on the southern tip of the island. Juan Gomez is one of these, with an enticing stretch of golden sand and reached by turning off the Morro Jable-Punta de Jandia Road. In the same section of the island is the pebbly black volcanic beach of La Pared, while right next door is the beach of Viejo Rey, a long stretch of golden sand flanked by dunes. Giniginamar is recommended for peace and quiet, surrounded by palm trees and other indigenous plants. If you're looking for a family-friendly beach, the southern Costa Calma is a great option because the conditions are ideal for safe swimming and the facilities are good. For remote beaches tourists can hire a 4x4 and explore the tracks leading to the sea on the west coast. Nudism is tolerated on all the island's beaches.
A perfect day out for the whole family, Baku contains a water park with gentle slides, animal features, and shallow pools for young children. The Parque Europa opens in the evening, offering a range of entertainment. Attractions like the Big Jacuzzi, the lazy river, and the wave pool will appeal to those who shy away from the more thrilling rides. As well as an infant play area, there is also a mini golf course if the family needs a break from the water for an hour or two as well as a food kiosk. On week days, between 9am and 2pm, there is a craft market set up in this area where visitors can browse for souvenirs from the Canary Islands and even the nearby shores of Africa. For simple fun in the sun, the Baku Water Park is a great attraction. Check out the website for details on the free bus to the park which services Castillo, Jandia, and Costa Calma on certain days.
This rustic little village has plenty of charm and character for those looking for a quiet getaway and gorgeous beaches. El Cotillo has a rich history, and was previously a smuggler's harbour used by Fuerteventurans shipping goods off to Gran Canaria where the prices were better. The 18th century tower of Fortaleza del Tostón overlooks the town from the cliffs to the south of the harbour, while the Museum of Traditional Fishing is housed in the old lighthouse. The main attraction of a visit to El Cotillo is indisputably the coastline, which boasts spectacular beaches and lagoons, providing calm, sheltered swimming spots and long sandy stretches for walking and sunbathing. As there are rock pools and the water stays shallow for a few metres, the beaches are great for kids. Some nudity is common on the beaches, but there are so many secluded coves and so much space that it should be easy to find some privacy. It is also a good destination for surfers, with some decent waves and even a surf school. There are some pleasant bars and restaurants close to the shore, but no sun loungers or umbrellas to hire.
Fuerteventura has a glorious climate all year with temperatures rarely dropping below 63°F (17°C) and often rising above 82°F (28°C) during the day. Gentle sea breezes keep the island from being too hot and extreme temperatures are rare.
During the winter months, December to February, average temperatures range between 59°F (15°C) and 72°F (22°C). In the peak summer months, from June to August, average temperatures range between 68°F (20°C) and 82°F (28°C).
Rainfall in the summer months is almost non-existent, but showers are possible between October and April. Over the winter months, travellers will need a sweater and light trousers for evenings and possibly the odd rare cloudy day. Any other time of year, visitors will only need the bare essentials such as shorts and T-shirts.
Occasionally, sand-laden winds blow across Fuerteventura from the Sahara and can cause a rise in temperature and poor visibility. The best and most popular time to visit Fuerteventura is between May and September, but the mild climate makes the island a wonderful holiday destination all year.
Due to a special agreement with the European Union, the entire Canary Islands are a duty-free area which means that shopping for alcohol, tobacco, perfume, and much more are popular pastimes for visitors to Fuerteventura.
Although the island doesn't have the same concentration of shops as the more developed Canarian destinations, like Gran Canaria and Tenerife, there are still some decent shopping venues in the tourist centres of Fuerteventura.
The main resort town of Caleta de Fuste has the enormous Atlantico shopping centre with the usual chain stores found in large European cities. The resort of Puerto del Rosario has the island's largest shopping centre - Las Rotondas - with over 100,000 square feet (30,000 square metres) of retail space.
Away from the glitzy, generic world of the shopping malls are the markets where Fuerteventura reveals some of its personality. The markets of Corralejo, Caleta, Morro Jable, and Costa Calma are worth browsing for fresh produce, pottery, and textiles.
Shopping centres on Fuerteventura tend to have tiny entrances to combat the strong dusty winds which blow through town, so don't be fooled by small doors! You should bring your passport with you when paying by credit or debit card. Shops tend to open from 10am to 10pm, with smaller stores closing over lunch for siesta.
There are very few transport options available on the island of Fuerteventura. Public transport is limited to buses, which operate across the island. Buses serving Nuevo Horizonte, Corralejo, Caleta de Fuste, Morro Jable, and Costa Calma run most frequently. For other routes, passengers should consult a timetable. Those who plan on using buses regularly during their stay should invest in a 'BTF Bono' card.
Taxis are available on the island and can be found at most busy locations or pre-booked ahead of time. As taxi travel can become quite expensive, travellers should consider the option of hiring a car in Fuerteventura, as this will not only save money but gives one the freedom to explore the island at a more leisurely pace. There are lots of car hire companies with offices at the airport.
Fuerteventura is famous for its gorgeous beaches, ranging from stretches of white sands in the south, to the odd black sand beaches in the north. There are also charming little villages and harbours to enjoy, and a laidback ambiance that characterises the entire island.
Fuerteventura does not have the glamorous nightlife or high-end attractions of some other Balearic destinations, but those coming here to enjoy its wholesome charms will not be disappointed.
Puerto del Rosario is the main town of Fuerteventura, and the most popular resorts are Correlejo and Caleta del Fuste. But to really experience local charm travellers should head to rustic little villages like El Cotillo and La Oliva, or the historic old town of Betancuria.
The island's regular winds make it a good destination for water sports like windsurfing and kite surfing, and other fun activities include glass-bottomed boat adventures and camel rides on the beach. Families travelling with kids should try out the Baku Water Park and Fuerteventura Oasis Park.
Car hire is good value and most visitors tend to rent a vehicle by the week to get around Fuerteventura at their leisure. Public transport is decent though, with reliable and cheap buses, and ferries which are useful for getting from one side of the island to the other. If you are going to use buses regularly during your visit invest in a Tarjeta Dinero, a bus discount card.
No direct flights from Heathrow to this Destination