Travel Spain – A First-Timer’s Guide to Fuerteventura

This travel guide is full of information and travel inspiration for first-time visitors to Fuerteventura in Spain. Serenity, space, freedom, untouched nature… all attributes one wouldn't expect when talking about Fuerteventura. I find all of this and more. Fuerteventura is after Tenerife the second-largest island of the Canary Islands. The island in the Atlantic Ocean covers an area of 1659.74 square kilometres. One look at the landscape and you instantly feel the closeness to North Africa. To reach the Moroccan coast is a skip and a jump of a mere 120 kilometres. The island enjoys 300 days of sunshine per year. That certainly sounds like Fuerteventura is one of the sunniest places in the world. Sunshine is a true drawcard for many.

A First Timer's Guide to Fuerteventura

98,000 people call Fuerteventura home. Archaeologists concluded that the island was visited thousands of years ago by Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans. These days, every year, more than eight million foreigners visit the Canary Islands. Fuerteventura is dependent on tourism. It is popular with all the ones who appreciate a stay at an all-inclusive resort. At the airport, I overheard a woman telling another "It is heaven. It is stress-free. They make sure we get to sit at the same table for breakfast during our 14 days stay." I nearly gasped out loud. Some of the coastal areas are built-up entirely with large hotels. In 1973, the first international flights arrived at the airport of Fuerteventura. Today, more than 40 different airlines from 102 destinations come to Fuerteventura.

Fuerteventura - All about the small things

Mass tourism is a fact you must accept when visiting Fuerteventura. Some feel more comfortable when everything is as they know it; it is what some want. No doubt, we are all tourists after all. If you look for something tranquil and away from the crowds, stay in a small town. In Lajares, surfers and lifestyle-conscious meet, as in urbanites looking for a sea change, travel nomads, and the free-spirited.

There are so many small things one can enjoy in Fuerteventura and they are all far removed from mass tourism. One morning, I saw this cactus in bloom as I drove off to start the day with a cortado at a café in the village. I stopped, jumped out of the car and took a quick photo. Marvellous find I thought. An hour later I had to return since I forgot to take my bikini. Right. Guess what had happened. The cactus wasn't in bloom anymore. Whoops, I felt so lucky. Priceless being somewhere at the right moment. No idea what this cactus is called though. It looks magical.

Cactus in bloom. White colour. In front of  green plants and white houses

Fuerteventura - one of over 700 UNESCO Biosphere Reserves

The climate is very arid, there are hardly any trees. At times it feels as if being on the moon. Hard to imagine that the volcanic activity can be traced back to more than 20 million years. It looks as if most people prefer to hang out on a beach near their hotel resort. That is ideal, it means that most of the time you are going to have Fuerteventura all for yourself.

There are over 700 UNESCO recognized biosphere reserves worldwide (as of now). The island of Fuerteventura is one of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. “The western coastline stretches over 100 kilometres and is free of human intervention. The island contains a rich fossil record, distributed among 50 paleontological sites of global importance. Fuerteventura has a significant range of biodiversity. It is home to approximately 644 species of vascular plants alone. Fossils of extinct fauna species also provide historical evidence of rich diversity.”

Collection of succulents. Arid landscape.

Visit Fuerteventura: You won’t meet too many humans along the way

Walk along rugged cliffs. See the largest desert and semi-desert in Europe. Look at the swell, often higher than the horizon. Admire the white foam of waves hitting black lava beaches. Search for palm oases in the neverland of the interior. Drive through seemingly uninhabited tiny villages and find abandoned convents. Find windmills on lonely hilltops. Listen to the wind in the desert. Enjoy the eerie peacefulness of an abandoned monastery complex. Meet adorable Barbary ground squirrels. Have lunch in colourful gardens of remote country inns. Visit lighthouses. Go swimming at wild, endless beaches or try one of the innumerable little bays. Hike along the beach and inhale the smell of the Atlantic Ocean. Hike through a volcanic landscape and over lava fields. Take photos of powder-fine 20 meters high dunes. Look at street art in fishing villages. Chat to locals. Get your daily dose of Vitamin D. Drink cortado. Slow down.

Cactus in front of a weathered white cottage with a wooden antique door.

Wide arid landscape under a blue sky.

Travel Spain – A First-Timer’s Guide to Fuerteventura

Here comes inspiration for what to do, see and eat in Fuerteventura.

Breakfast – the Spanish way

Order a cortado (espresso with a dollop of hot milk froth) and Pan con tomate (toasted white bread with grated tomato, garlic and olive oil). You probably want to order an almond croissant also…. and have a second cortado.

Two slices of toasted bread with grated tomatoes on a white plate next to a cup of coffee.

Visit Lighthouses – where Fuerteventura shines bright

A lighthouse a day keeps the doctor away… or as the saying goes. There are five lighthouses in Fuerteventura, one for each day of the week.

Entallada Lighthouse on the east coast of Fuerteventura

You find the active La Entallada Lighthouse, constructed in 1955, on the east coast. The lighthouse with its three squared towers was built with stone sourced from the island. Its building style and material used make it a striking piece of architecture to look at.

It sits high on a cliff. One has to drive up from the nearby village of Las Playitas in Tuineje over a rather steep and winding narrow road. If you aren't a fan of heights the drive is thrilling (only a little bit). The view over the ocean and the strong winds you are going to experience are well worth the little scare.

Coordinates La Entallada Lighthouse: 28.230412°N 13.948550°W

El Tostón Lighthouse – Original one opened in 1897

This is a beautiful little lighthouse away from the (not too far away) crowds in El Cotillo. Being at a point far in the north of Fuerteventura, and only five kilometres away from the next town, still, it feels as if you are at the end of the world. The active Tostón Lighthouse stands at the La Bocayna strait that separates Fuerteventura from the nearby island of Lanzarote. The lighthouse is dressed in red and white bands; there is another tower in beige and a third one in dark red. The scenic views over the Atlantic from here are magnificent. The beauty of this place is that there is nothing there, it is a great place to reflect and relax. Walk along the coast towards Majanicho. There are many small bays where you can go swimming.

Coordinates El Tostón Lighthouse: 28.715561°N 14.013810°W

Two colourfull lighthouses. Arid landscape. A long stretched path that leads to a lighthouse in the distance.

Corralejo Natural Park - 2.5 by 10.5 kilometres of wilderness

Visit the Corralejo Natural Park, 2.5 by 10.5 kilometres in size. Experience its stunning desert beauty. Walk along the Atlantic coast. Experience large soft dunes, picturesque sand drifts, and the volcanic landscape in red and ochre. It is a breathtakingly gorgeous contrast between the deep blue ocean on one side and the rough rocky landscape on the other. Hike the Montaña Roja, and you feel once more as if walking on the moon. Bring enough water, walking boots, wear a hat and sunscreen. Carry a towel in case you would want to go swimming on these wild and endless beaches. Please ask for swimming conditions first (see whether there are lifeguards on duty).

Be prepared to have to look at all sorts of penii (you read that right, that is plural for penis). Penises would do it too. There is no avoiding them since many guys are literally 'manspreading' in the dunes. One look into the wrong direction, and bang, one can’t help it. The landscape, the beaches are breathtakingly beautiful. The region remains in most places beautifully deserted. Probably the reason why there are so many nudists. Not entirely the case, you find nudists at pretty much every beach on Fuerteventura. Over the course of the day, the colour of the dunes, the rocks, the sky and the water changes. Simply magical.

Even castles made of sand, fall into the sea, eventually (Jimi Hendrix). We are slowly running out of sand. Did you know that sand is scarce? Experts warn that the demand for sand and gravel has risen dramatically. We need sand for so many different things. Without sand, there is no ceramics, glass, computers, streets, or properties. We use so much more sand (from the sea) than nature can reproduce. Remember your geography lessons at school? Sand is the result of the slow, millennia-long erosion of mountains. Dredging such high quantities of sand from seabeds affects coastal areas and oceans. Microorganisms and animals, and habitats are destroyed. According to the UN Environmental Program estimates, three out of four beaches worldwide are disappearing. A couple took around 40 kilograms of sand from a beach in Sardinia this summer. They now face a few years in jail (google it, it was big news this summer). That is a rather long vacation in Italy, I wonder whether they are going to spend it in a shared cell? What I am saying is, that the time of sand stealing is well and truly over for everybody of us.

Stones. Rock formations. Dunes. A red volcano at the end of a tarred road.

The Barbary Ground Squirrel – simply adorable

The Barbary Ground Squirrel (Atlantoxerus getulus) is simply adorable. You might meet them pretty much everywhere on the island, and lots of them. They live colonially in burrows. The cute little fellas are endemic to Western Sahara, Algeria and Morocco and have (sort of only recently) been introduced into the Canary Islands. They thrive in dry shrubland, temperate grassland and rocky areas. Rumours have it they were brought to Fuerteventura by legionnaires from the African continent. It apparently started with three couples, but they got lost and they did what everyone would have done. This led to today's count of more than 20,000 of them. Please do not feed them. Wildlife is wildlife.

Barbary Ground Squirrels climbing over rock formations. Arid landscape.

The Convento de San Buenaventura

As I pick up my rental car at the airport, the woman tells me that “you have to visit the town of Betancuria. It is the prettiest place in Fuerteventura.” On a little hike outside of town, I find ruins of a Franciscan monastery. Seven monks started building the Convento de San Buenaventura in 1416. It grew over the years. Two hundred years later it got damaged heavily during a pirate attack. It lies abandoned since the 19th century.

The remnants of pointed arches, round arches, thick outer walls, and the chancel are still here. Standing inside the monastery, nothing shields you from the sun. One can look straight into the blue sky above. I notice that somebody must have started some renovation works. It sits in the middle of a garden full of succulents. There is a small chapel next door. The only creature I meet during my hour-long visit is a hare. The silence is powerful. The only sound I hear is the wind. This is a fantastic place for the soul who loves spending time alone.

Entrance doors and archways of an abandoned monastery under a blue sky

Six archways of an abandoned monastery under a blue sky

Have a little wander through Betancuria in the afternoon, the tour groups are gone by then.

Information: Convento de San Buenaventura, Calle Pdte. Hormiga, 13, 35637 Betancuria, Las Palmas, Spain.

Entrance doors, a dark wooden balcony, palm trees, a white church tower, a cat in a Spanish village.

The Clean Ocean Project Fuerteventura

The Clean Ocean Project is an NGO founded in 2000. They aim to protect oceans and beaches. Their focus lies on how to avoid plastic pollution of the ocean. They follow a pretty straight forward approach. The Clean Ocean Project believes that everybody is part of the problem - and the solution. They challenge everyone to do their bit.

We all know that recycling and reusing goods are fantastic ideas. We also know by now that it is even better to stop buying and using plastic. They organize regular beach clean-ups and also projects to inform and educate about the situation. Two notable initiatives are Stop Sucking and the Plastic Bag Ban.

For the initiative Stop Sucking, they visit local bars and restaurants. They ask establishments to stop using plastic straws and provide information about alternatives. The places that agree receive a wooden sign, stating that they don’t offer plastic straws. They also want to change the attitude of shops offering plastic bags.

I won't use straws. I use a cotton bag when I go shopping. When I go to the beach, I pick up pieces of rubbish and discard these. It is so simple. Everyone can do their bit. Don’t be a keyboard activist and start acting. Read Travel – Everyday life - Repeat: Living Green at Home and Elsewhere for more inspiration.

Visit one of the Clean Ocean Project shops in Lajares (c/los quemados s/n, 35650 Lajares, Las Palmas, Spain) or El Cotillo (Calle del Muelle de Pescadores, 11, 35650 El Cotillo, Las Palmas, Spain) and visit their website to learn more about their work.

A wall mural of a human and a surfboard made from light blue plastic rubbish.

The white facade of a shop with an open entrance door.

Stargazing in Fuerteventura

You find the perfect conditions to look at the night sky and its stars since there is almost no light pollution in Fuerteventura. Make your way to the south of Fuerteventura, to a town called Pájara. The Sicasumbre viewing point is a fabulous place to view the skies. Another fantastic viewing point is Morro Velosa, in the central-western region of Fuerteventura, near the town of Betancuria.

A tiny road in an arid landscape.

Watch the Atlantic Ocean – Poetry on the beach in Ajuy

The several metre-high waves roll out over the black volcanic sand on the beach. It is windy. Wave after wave breaks on the beach. It is a wilderness of seawater. I know that the waves are huge when I can’t see the horizon as they roll towards me standing on the beach. Bring enough time to just sit on the beach and watch the Atlantic Ocean. Ajuy is a fishing village in the west of Fuerteventura. This afternoon with its waves is like poetry, the rhythm is deeply touching. Stay late and watch how the sun dives into the ocean, unhurriedly but passionately.

Waves, a black lava beach, a cafe with people, cubic houses and colourful fisherboats. Cactus. Fishermen next to their boat.

Calderón Hondo – What does it take to climb a volcano?

You already see this volcano, that emerged about 50,000 years ago, from the centre of Lajares. Simply follow the main road until you reach a small football stadium and from there follow the sign towards Majanicho. Drive on for a few hundred metres and park at the walking path. The return walk from the parking ground takes roughly two to three hours. You have two options. If you walk the path to the right, in front of the crater, that is the easier walk, whereas the one to the left becomes a little bit of a climb. You reach the highest point of the walk at 278 meters. Wear sturdy shoes regardless of which path you plan to follow.

Information: Calderón Hondo, Lajares, La Oliva, Spain. Free. Do not feed the Barbary Ground Squirrels.

Village with white cubic houses in front of a volcano. Arid landscape.

Picture perfect swimming beaches in Fuerteventura

-Risco del Paso. The beach Risco del Paso is in the south of Fuerteventura. The seemingly endless space is framed by the blue of the ocean and sky and the white beige of the large sand dunes and beach. Depending on the tides the scenery changes completely. You get two for one here. High tide creates a lake with a sandbank in its middle. Comes low tide, the lagoon disappears, and the area becomes one gigantic sea of sand. This is a beach walkers dream. Risco del Paso is a true spectacle. The beauty of the scenery might leave you speechless.

Information: Risco del Paso, 35626 Jandia, Las Palmas, Spain. Bring your own food and water and have a picnic on the beach. There is no shade. It might be a good idea to bring a sun umbrella or sunshade sail. Parking is right on the beach.

-Caleta del Marrajo. The beach Caleta del Marrajo is in the north of Fuerteventura. There is hardly anyone here, you probably end up being almost all alone. Way back in the past black lava flowed into the ocean and formed little bays. These are ideal for swimming. Park at the nearby El Tostón lighthouse and walk along the shore to find your perfect spot.

Information: Bring food and water. There is no shade. There are no toilet facilities. It might be a good idea to bring a sun umbrella or sunshade sail. Parking is at El Tostón lighthouse. Coordinates: 28.715561°N 14.013810°W

-El Cotillo Beach and La Playa del Aljibe de la Cueva. The beaches El Cotillo Beach and La Playa del Aljibe de la Cueva form one long beautiful stretch of beach. You park at the edge of the cliffs after you followed a gravel road from the town of El Cotillo. Walk down the slopes and find your spot. This should be easy, since there is so much space.

Information: Bring food and water. There is no shade. There are no toilet facilities. It might be a good idea to bring a sun umbrella or sunshade sail. Parking is on the cliffs.

Three different beaches.

Street Art in Fuerteventura

There is some street art to be found in a few places on the island. It is obviously not as widespread as it is in Madrid or London. Look closely and you are going to find the most amazing pieces of art.

A collection of wall murals.

Vegetarian Friendly Food in Fuerteventura


Vegetarian friendly places in El Cotillo

-La Vaca Azul. I highly recommend the grilled vegetables. Book in advance and ask for a table with a view. Come twilight, the sky turns a light purple. La Vaca Azul, Calle Requena 9 Muelle Viejo, 35650 El Cotillo, La Oliva, Fuerteventura Spain. Phone +34 928 53 86 85.

-Olivo Corso. Go for vegetarian tapas, as in for example Pimientos de Padrón and potatoes. For dessert, I highly recommend the Gofio Mousse. Gofio is a flour made from roasted ground grain. Olivo Corso. Calle Mallorquin 34, 35560 El Cotillo, La Oliva, Fuerteventura, Spain. Phone +34 928 53 89 22.

Vegetarian friendly places in Lajares

-La Cancela. It is busy for a reason. Pizzas are of great quality. Book in advance. La Cancela, 2 Calle Central, Lajares, La Oliva, Fuerteventura, Spain. Phone +34 928 86 85 68.

-Pastelo. Go for breakfast and/or coffee and cake. Pastelo, Calle Coronel Gonzalez Del Hierro Lajares, 35650 Corralejo, La Oliva, Fuerteventura Spain.

-Agua Tiki Bar Lajares. A bit away from the main road, with a view of the stunning volcano scenery. Excellent for lunch. Also, try the freshly prepared juices. Agua Tiki Bar Lajares, Calle Majanicho 31, 35650 Lajares, La Oliva, Fuerteventura, Spain.

-Pasteleria El Goloso de Lajares. Good for breakfast, lunch, and/or coffee and cake. It is busy, there is a rooftop terrace. Pasteleria El Goloso de Lajares, Calle Coronel Latherta Gonzalez Hierro | Lajares, 35650 Lajares, La Oliva, Fuerteventura, Spain.

-La Paneteca. Good for breakfast, lunch, and/or coffee and cake/snacks. La Paneteca, Calle Coronel Latherta Gonzalez Hierro | Lajares, 35650 Lajares, La Oliva, Fuerteventura, Spain.

Vegetarian friendly places in Corralejo

-Rompeolas Restaurante. Designed in white and blue, this place feels so inviting. Go for the Vegetarian Paella. On arrival, guests get served a glass of sparkling wine. Book in advance. Rompeolas Restaurante, Calle Delfin 1 Avenida Maritima de Corralejo | Muelle Chico, 35660 Corralejo, La Oliva, Fuerteventura, Spain. Phone +34 928 85 41 52.

-Calu. Book in advance. Ask for a table with a view. Go for the vegetarian pasta that is on offer on the day (truffle and pear in my case). Calu, Avenida Maritima 42, 35660 Corralejo, La Oliva, Fuerteventura Spain. Phone +34 604 13 79 10.

Vegetarian friendly places in Betancuria and La Vega de Rio Palma

-Casa de la Naturaleza. You find this country-style restaurant in the most beautiful scenery. Order vegetarian tapas. Casa de la Naturaleza, Calle San Juan Torcaz, s/n, 14700 La Vega de Rio Palma, Las Palmas, Spain. Phone +34 928 17 54 64.

-La Sombra. A lovely place where you sit under palm trees. Order a crepe with prickly pear cactus jam and a cortado. La Sombra, Calle Alcalde Carmelo Silvera, 35637, Betancuria, Fuerteventura, Spain. Phone +34 605 24 95 89.
Toasted slices of bread. Cheese, tomatoes, olives and jam. Prickly pear on a cactus. Grilled peppers sprinkled with salt.

Collection of restaurants and their interiors in different styles and colours.

As I said in the beginning. Serenity, space, freedom, untouched nature… all attributes you find plenty of in Fuerteventura.

Visa requirements for Spain

You can apply for the Spain Schengen Visa, as a Member State of the EU Spain is a member state of the Schengen Area. Visitors from the Schengen countries do not need a passport or visa, only a valid an ID-card or passport. Visit this website to see whether you need a Visa to visit Spain.

How to get to Fuerteventura

Public transport: Catch a ferry from neighbouring islands Teneriffa, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote.

By plane: Most European airports offer direct flights to Fuerteventura. El Matorral Airport is near Puerto Rosario, the capital of the island. This is the cultural and social centre, almost 40% of the locals live in the capital.

Best Time To Visit Fuerteventura

Temperatures on Fuerteventura are pleasant all year round and rarely rise above 30 degrees Celsius in summer (June, July and August). And then there is the Calima: At times the wind can be as hot and dusty as in the Sahara 100 kilometres away.

Spain – Currency and how to pay

Spain is a member of the European Union. The official currency in Spain is the Euro. Exchange money on arrival at the airport, or get some cash at an ATM. You can pay in cash still almost everywhere (some shops/restaurants/cafes will only accept cash). Credit cards are widely accepted.
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