Is Fuerteventura Iceland’s Twin? Travel On The Canary Islands

Betancuria

Betancuria

By Regina Winkle-Bryan

I recently traveled to Iceland, and though you wouldn’t think that Iceland and Fuerteventura would resemble each other, I was struck by their similarities. Iceland has a volcanic landscape, as does Fuerteventura. Both offer harsh, rugged vistas and virgin beaches reached by 4x4s. Both are islands. Both are in the Atlantic Ocean. Neither have many trees or fauna. And on both, it is not uncommon to find yourself driving past vast expanses of lava rock. Call me crazy, but I felt like Fuerteventura was the yang to Iceland’s yin.

Iceland in the spring

Iceland in the spring

Clearly, there are also many difference between these two islands as well. The weather for one. I visited Iceland in the spring and wore a fluffy down jacket. During my spring trip to Fuerteventura I wore sandals, a tank-top and sunscreen (which did not stop me from getting a sunburn). Fuerteventura is one of those sweet-spots on the planet where it’s always sunny, always warm. It never gets too hot, or too cold.

Betancuria, Fuerteventura

Betancuria, Fuerteventura

But maybe I should back up for a minute. Are some of you wondering where Fuerteventura is? Fair enough. It doesn’t have the same reputation as other Spanish islands, like Ibiza or Mallorca. Fuerteventura is part of the Spanish Canary Islands. There are seven of them (more if you count minor islands) located just off the western coast of Africa near Morocco. If we’re talking geography, these islands are African. If we’re talking politics, they are Spanish. In a way, the Canaries are the best of both worlds: a little bit of Africa but with tapas. As we drove around I kept thinking that I could be in Morocco, but that I was actually in Spain.

Most of the landscape is like this - Fuerteventura

Most of the landscape is like this – Fuerteventura

There are about 90,000 people living on Fuerteventura, many of them making a living from tourists or goats. While the Canary Islands don’t get many North American visitors, they are popular destinations for Northern Europeans. Indeed, many Northern Europeans live on or have holiday homes on Fuerteventura. Why don’t many Americans make it over to the Canaries? I’m not really sure. Maybe they are just too far away, a three-and-a half-hour plane ride from Barcelona. Or maybe after coming all the way from California or Ohio, Americans want to focus on the ‘biggies’ – Seville, Barcelona, Madrid, etc.

Goats on Fuerteventura

Goats on Fuerteventura

But why not add Fuerteventura or Lanzarote onto a Spain visit, especially in the winter when most of Spain is cold? If you’re coming from the US (or anywhere else) in off-season, see the ‘biggies’ and then hop on down to the Canary Islands and get a tan before heading back to New York. And with inexpensive flights on RyanAir (beware with these guys) or on Iberia, it’s sort of a no-brainer. Even in high-season (summer) Fuerteventura is the ‘it’ spot for surfing, wind surfing and kite surfing in Spain.

Travel Tips-

Beaches:

Fuerteventura is famous for its beaches; from powder white to black sand, the island has it all. I enjoyed the tiny coves north of El Cotillo around Punta de Barra but before Faro del Tostón. People say that Playa de Cofete is the island’s most heavenly beach, but I didn’t go there because I would have needed a 4×4, and all I had was a Dacia Sandero. I also checked out Gran Tarajal which seemed quite sheltered from the constant winds that rip over Fuerteventura. It seemed like a good place for swimming, though the town was not as pretty as Cotillo.

Beaches near Cotillo

Beaches near Cotillo

Inland:

Due to its lovely beaches, many visitors never go inland on Fuerteventura. Big mistake. Make sure to get over to Betancuria, named after Jean de Bethencourt, a Frenchman employed by the Spanish to aid in conquering the island in the 1400s (there were native people living on the islands when the Spanish and French arrived – not much is left of them). Among chalk-white buildings palm trees and geraniums flourish in this oasis. Betancuria was the first capital of the Canary Islands, and it was here that the archipelago’s first monastery and cathedral were built.

Betancuria cross

Betancuria cross

Betancuria

Betancuria

Food:

It would be an error not to rent a car on Fuerteventura (and all the better if it’s 4×4 as many of the roads are dirt). As you drive around the island make sure to hit the brakes when you see signs that say ‘Vendo Queso’ or ‘Cheese for Sale’. Many small goat farms make their own cheese, and this is one of the top products on the island. Visit La Villa de Betancuria for an aged goat cheese that will knock your socks off (Llano de Santa Catalina s/n – just outside of Betancuria).

Cheese of Fuerteventura

Cheese of Fuerteventura

Goat Milk Liquor

Goat Milk Liquor

Hotel:

Hotel Elba Palace Golf

Hotel Elba Palace Golf

I stayed at Hotel Elba Palace Golf, situated right in the middle of the island near Caleta de Fuste. I don’t play golf but I did enjoy the deluxe rooms at Elba, the pool (where ducks occasionally joined me for a swim), the spa down the road, the piano bar with nightly live music, and the restaurant which serves local dishes and a wide selection of Spanish wines.

More on booking here: web

Hotel Elba Palace Golf Patio

Hotel Elba Palace Golf Patio

Car:

Unlike most of my jaunts, I did not book a car ahead of time. Upon arriving at the Puerto del Rosario airport I walked over to Top Car and rented my Dacia for three days for about $75 total. Not a bad deal. I was visiting during shoulder-season, so if you’re going in high-season you’ll want to book ahead of time.

Have you been to the Canary Islands? If so, which ones? Which island should I visit next?

Beaches near Cotillo

Beaches near Cotillo

**Note that I was a guest of Hotel Elba Palace Golf. It was a great place and I am pleased to be able to review it for our site. If you want lux, Elba is the spot.

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6 Comments

  1. Posted April 20, 2013 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Glad to see you found some of the best places to visit! Elba golf is lovely isn’t it? That is where we had our wedding reception ;)

  2. admin
    Posted April 29, 2013 at 2:36 am | Permalink

    Wow, nice place for a reception. Yes, we really liked Elba Palace. Very tranquil.

  3. Monica Spadavecchia
    Posted May 7, 2013 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    In my opinion Fuerteventura is fantastic!

  4. admin
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    Hi Monica. I liked it too. Like no other place I’ve been in Spain.

    Regina

  5. Posted March 21, 2014 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Just reread this in light of my current sojourn, and can tell you that you don’t need a 4×4 to get to Cofete!! I did it in my old van, and there were several ordinary cars parked there at the bar when I arrived! Mind you, it was a bit bumpy, and I did find a couple of screws on the floor of the back of the car afterwards! It is a quite unique place. They tell me it will never be developed because it’s a protected area (then they shrug their shoulders as if to say, “But things might change!”), and when I saw that long stretch of beach with barely a soul on it, it reminde me of scenes from “Endless Summer.”
    Linda recently posted…Cork: Random Thoughts & Happy MemoriesMy Profile

  6. admin
    Posted March 23, 2014 at 3:23 am | Permalink

    That’s good to know. Maybe we were told that to keep us and our rental car, away!

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