Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Fuerteventura Facts, Introducing the Island I lived On

Fuerteventura is the second largest Canary Island, yet it only takes 3hrs to drive from the northern tip to the southern tip. If you hire a car, you can pretty much get anywhere- even Cofete. The island was declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 2009. I lived there from 2005- 2009 working all sorts of jobs including DJing, waitressing, and estate agent. The resort I lived in was El Castillo (The Castle, in English) & it was a popular tourist destination.

Me at La Pared 


History

The first settler's on the island were called 'Maho', to this day the islands natives are known as Majorero, and the Maho's lived in caves. I actually know a Canarian who lives in a cave on the coast, he has no electricity, harpoons his own fish and has a smoke house to 'cook' them. The island became separated into two kingdoms by it's founders Guize and Ayose, and the wall separating the island can be seen near La Pared to this day. The kingdoms were Maxorata in the North and Jandía in the south. 

The conquest began in 15th century led by Jean de Bethencourt, giving his name to the former capital of the island, Betancuria. Puerto de Cabras became the capital in the 19th century, and is now known as Puerto del Rosario but is still the capital today (with less than 30,000 people living there). The island has been self-governing since 1912. It joined with Lanzarote and Gran Canaria to create the province of Las Palmas del Canarias.

Iglesia Matriz de la Concepción
Source
Along the coast, particularly around Caleta de Fuste, you'll find loads of old castles and forts. These were built to protect against pirate invasions, and Berber invasions, as it is the closest island to the African coast. To this day people still make the treacherous journey from Morocco to Fuerteventura on rafts, and even when I lived there, people had been swept up on the rocks near my home one day when their raft collapsed! 

The islands first airport was built on the road out of Puerto del Rosario in the 1940s, known as Los Estancos. The terminal building stands to this day, and the runway would have gone across the road. It was abandoned because of it's height and the winds causing problems with landing. Whilst I was there the terminal was used for a place to house displaced illegal immigrants, and more recently became an art exhibition. 

Tourism arrived in the 1960's with the building of the current airport at El Matorral and the first tourist hotels. Nowadays the island relies on tourism. Other industry includes farming, most popular products are goat, as the meat is eaten by the locals, and it's cheese which is protected by denomination here. 

Destinations

Caleta de Fuste (El Castillo)

View of El Castillo town beach
A friend of mine has lived here for 20 years and can remember What It Was Like Before. Before Chipmunk Mountain (where I lived) was built on, and before Barceló hotel arrived. The resort has always been a tourist resort. Although it was also part of the fortification of the island, it takes its name from the castles found along the coast. Most notably that on the edge of the town beach. There are other forts along the new beaches, too. The beaches in Caleta are the safest on the island as they've been built in coves to be so, and great for families, however these beaches are man made & sand is brought down from the north each spring to cover the beaches rocks. 

From Caleta you can get the bus to Puerto del Rosario, it goes every half an hour from 6am- midnight, except 3,30pm when they have lunch. Puerto del Rosario is the capital, it has a great shopping centre attracting locals and expats alike. It is also common for the young people living in Caleta to go out in Rosario at the weekend. If you've hired a car you can drive to Betancuria, the old capital and visit it's churches. It's about a 40 minute drive from Caleta de Fuste. 

One of Caleta's beaches


Corralejo

The oldest, and largest resort popular with English tourists. This is the first place on the island we visited. Back in the days when the road through town was a dust track. The town has grown so much since I first visited. Whilst I lived there, they spent a lot of money regenerating the Old Town. There is music nightly in the old town square, and if you walk along the main street these days there are now several comercial centre's as well as hotels and bars lining the main strip. 

The beginning of the biosfera 
The town lies 2 kilometre's north of the biosphere, Parque Nacional de Grandes Playa- with the exception of 2 hotels built on the sand dunes before the biosfera was designated, the sand dunes remain empty. Feel free to run around and explore the dunes- it's quite an idea to hire a bike and cycle along the back of the beach where the sand is compact. 

If you're into surfing, then Corralejo is a great spot to stay, you can also book surf trips or lessons through 7 Island Surf school.The school is run by Tom & Sara, who have lived on the island for 15 years, and I've known them since I was a teenager. I'd highly recommend checking them out. 

From Corralejo you can take the ferries or catamaran's to Lanzarote (the catamaran takes a mere 12 minutes) or to the islet Los Lobos, island of the sea wolves (AKA sea lions, and there are tons of them, it is awesome). The island is more or less deserted. Some Canarian's spend their summer there, and there is a restaurant on the island, too. It's got beautiful lagoons and wildlife, and is definitely worth a trip across to. 

Costa Calma

Towards the south of the island; where the north attracts mostly British tourists, the south attracts mainly German tourists. The beaches here are all spectacular, and each summer the Wind Surfing World Championship is held off Sotavento beach (just out of town). It's a fifteen minute drive from Costa Calma to the island's only zoo. Oasis Park is a small zoo that takes a couple of hours to walk around. They've rescued animals, including an ape named Felipa, and look after them the best they can. Costa Calma is also on the narrowest stretch of the island. The beach on the other side of this stretch, and the east of the island, is La Pared. This place is frequented by locals and their dogs, all year around. The waves are also prime surfing, absolutely huge. 

One of the sea lions at Oasis Park, La Lajita
Jandía

The southern most resort, Jandia has a gorgeous beach who's dunes go on forever. It's a great place to relax, and you can explore the southern tip of the island from here. If you drive south you hit a dirt track, which takes you to the most beautiful part of the island, Cofete. It's lack of infrastructure means that a lot of tourists don't attempt to drive down here, but it's worth it. In Cofete there is a strange villa. It's subject to many conspiracy theories, too. It was built by Gustav Winter, and is known as Villa Winter. It's believed by many to be the house that Hitler hid in, other theories say people were brought here and experimented on and tortured, though these are just theories. 


Villa Winter
Villa Winter, source

Have you visited Fuerteventura, did you see any of these places?

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18 comments:

  1. Wow, how fortunate you were to live in paradise! I'd love to learn to surf in the azure waters!

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    1. It would be perfect right- why didn't I take the opportunity whilst it was there?!

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  2. I've never been but would love to go. Seems like a very quaint, historical & enjoyable place to visit. :-)

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    1. It can be, you just need to look in the right places ;) it's definitely the best of all the Canary Islands

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  3. Whoohoo surf school! That's on my bucket list because my one hungover lesson in Ireland was fun but didn't amount to much ;) maybe this will be the one :)

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    1. I want to travel with you, Hannah! Hungover seems to come up a lot in your stories ;) Plus it'll be a ton warmer than Ireland :)

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  4. Wow, what I would give to live on an island! True paradise!

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    1. It really is. I am torn about writing an Expat Life post.... because it looks gorgeous, buuut it can be super hard trying to make a living.

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  5. Wow, that villa is believed by many to be the house that Hitler was hiding in? That certainly puts an interesting twist on such a paradise sounding place!!

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    1. Yup, there are tons of different theories, even that it was used to torture people brought down from concentration camps and the such like. Who knows, tho' and also it has to with General Franco, is another rumour.

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  6. Fuerteventura looks like a great destination rich full of history and a great place to head out and explore the historic ruins and hidden gems to be found. Plus you can always head back to one of the gorgeous beaches after a long day exploring!

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    1. Yeah, if you know where to look on any of the Canary Islands there's tons of fascinating stuff to see and do, it's just getting people out of their resorts that's the battle!

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  7. Lovely looking place! I've heard amazing things about the Canary Islands and I'd love to visit them all now. It may be about time I learn how to surf!

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    1. It would for sure be the perfect place to learn! It's got great waves for sure :)

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  8. You pictures look lovely although it is a place that has never rally attracted my attention, maybe because of all of the horror stories and video clips I see of big tourist areas. Perhaps I would be better suited to the Jandia area if I visited. Definitely food for thought!

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    1. I agree entirely Tam, even where I lived was a tourist resort (tho' we lived on the other side of the road), I think Tenerife is where most of the bad reputation comes from, a lot of people move from Tenerife to Fuerteventura when they've had enough of that lifestyle. I think it's somewhere you need to dig and find those awesome places, which is good in one way because then the time is all yours.

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  9. I visited the Canary Islands when I was 9 months old. Well, at least that is what my mother told me. Your post definitely makes me want to return.

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