Things to Do in Fuerteventura
When it comes to remoteness and volcanic landscapes, the Canary Islands are good at making you feel like you’re a world away. And the barely-a-village, bayside Majanicho only adds to that magic. It will have you feeling like you’re on an expedition on the face of the moon – albeit one that includes surf-worthy beaches and an ocean.
Located along the northern coast of Fuerteventura, Majanicho is—at least for now—less a village than it is a collection of somewhat ramshackle houses cuddled up around the watery finger of a bay. Don’t expect to find restaurants or shops here, and rather just a rocky coast, and crystal-blue waters filled with the occasional dinghy used for fishing. And then, of course, there are the surfers -- from windsurfers to kiteboarders and just regular old surfers – who know that these secluded waters offer up some great opportunities to catch either waves or wind.
Fuerteventura might seem like enough of an island paradise, but it isn’t the only one that you’ll want to be conquering in this part of the Canaries: just 2 kilometers off shore sits a tiny islet that is a worthy destination unto itself. Called Lobos Island, the volcanic land mass spans 1.8 square miles and gets its name from the large population of monk seals (also called sea wolves) that used to live here.
Although the island’s formation dates back to thousands of years ago, 1405 marks the first recorded presence of man, when Jean de Béthencourt used it as a resupply station during his conquest of Fuerteventura. Since those times, it has remained virtually uninhabited, with a lighthouse keeper having lived there until 1968, after which the illuminated beacon became automated. Today, and since 1982, Lobos Island has been classified as a nature reserve, noted for its abundance of vegetation species (over 130 different kinds), and its bird population.
The Canary Islands sit just 70 miles off the coast of western Africa, but the setting of Fuerteventura’s Corralejo Dunes National Park might have you thinking you’re a lot closer. Indeed, this beachside nature reserve covers almost 3,000 hectares of sandy dune-filled landscape, and will give you the sensation that you’re visiting the Canaries’ continental neighbor as opposed to a beachy archipelago.
Though the undulating white sands are surely reminiscent of the desert, the granules in Corralejo Dunes Natural Park are in fact actually made up of tiny little pieces of shells and mollusks as opposed to anything rocky. And it’s not all just about the dunes in these parts, either, as these mountains of sand give way to the bright blue ocean, and plenty of opportunities for enjoying the sun and sea. Even better? Don’t expect to see the built-up shorelines that you might find at other popular Fuerteventura beach destinations.
Though tourism has made its mark on many of Fuerteventura’s beaches and fishing towns, there are a few that have yet to fully feel its effects – and El Cotillo is no doubt one of them. While it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a destination for the masses, for now it remains a sweet former fishing village with idyllic shores ideal for all water lovers. Located on the northwestern side of the island, El Cotillo has a laidback village vibe that’s hardly fancy, but still exudes a certain charm nonetheless. The town sidles up against the ocean, where you’ll find a rippled coastline complete with a selection of different kinds of beaches. Family’s can park themselves in the sand to the north along La Concha, which is protected on both sides, ensuring calm waters. On the other hand, those in search of both wind and waves will want to travel south to the long stretch of beach situated just beyond town.
A trip to the Canary Islands is already an adventure, but a trip to Oasis Park Fuerteventura is more like a wild, animal-filled safari. This zoo-meets-botanical garden occupies a pocket of land in the southern part of the island, and allows visitors to encounter nature in new and thrilling ways that they probably never have before.
Committed to conservation and research, Oasis Park Fuerteventura began as a plant nursery, the roots of which you can still see today in the botanical garden that features thousands of tropical plants, ranging from cacti to succulents. But it’s probably not the plants that will excite you or your family the most, but instead the park’s resident animals. Specializing in Savannah animals, Oasis Park is home to 3,000 critters of 250 species, including everything from hippos to elephants, giraffes, zebras and more.
Fuerteventura isn’t all beaches and volcanic landscape—history and culture are highlights too, best discovered in the island’s most historic village, Betancuria. Named after the French explorer Jean de Béthencourt, who founded the town (and conquered the island), Betancuria served as Fuerteventura’s capital until the late 1800s. It was selected as such in hopes that its inland location would be protected from pirates; unfortunately that wasn’t quite the case, as almost the entire village was virtually destroyed in the 1500s (and later rebuilt, of course).
Expect to find a quintessential Canarian pueblo here, including whitewashed buildings set upon the backdrop of a volcanic landscape. A visit here doesn’t just promise a charming town either: you can learn more about the region’s inhabitants and history with a trip to the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography. Also of note is the Santa Maria Church, with its humble white exterior, and lavishly baroque interior altar.
If you’re looking to get a dose Fuerteventuran culture, then look no further than the inland village of Pájara, located in the central part of the island. Nestled up against Betancuria Natural Park, Pájara is where you’ll find whitewashed-building-lined streets, a famous church, and heaps of classic Canarian charm.
Indeed, it’s that church, though, that draws many a visitor to this interior town. Called Ermita de Nuestra Señora de la Regla, the holy building dates back to the late 1600s and is noted for its ornate and gilt altar (which allegedly came from Mexico) and elaborate façade that some speculate, with good reason, has Aztec influences (after all, Spaniards returned from the Americas with more than just corn and potatoes). Apart from its main sight, the church, Pájara’s sweet streets are worth a walk around. It’s a village where you can get a sense of days gone by as locals shoot the breeze in the pueblo’s main square, the wind rustles in the palm trees.
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