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The 'original' Canary Island

Lauren Thackray Puente, 09 March, 2018
Inntravel’s Lauren Thackray Puente recently escaped the British winter for a week in sunny Fuerteventura. Here, she spells out what most impressed her about the ‘island of eternal spring’.

Food (always a good starting point!):
They may not sound too tempting, but ‘wrinkled potatoes’ are one of the most delicious – and traditional – dishes that you’ll find in the Canaries. Known locally as papas arrugadas  or papas bonitas , these small potatoes are boiled in heavily salted water (with the skins still attached), then baked in the oven until dry and wrinkly on the outside and soft on the inside. On Fuerteventura, they are usually served with mojo picón, a spicy sauce made with olive oil, garlic, paprika, cumin, and vinegar.

Undulating walking terrain:
Walking in the Canaries can often be quite challenging, especially on some of the archipelago’s more rugged, mountainous isles like La Gomera, Gran Canaria and El Hierro. But you don’t have to be super fit to enjoy a walking holiday on Fuerteventura – some of the most enjoyable routes include leisurely strolls on long sandy beaches, or along one the island’s many scenic coastal paths.

El Cotillo:
This small fishing village in the north west of the island is surrounded by beautiful beaches and a strikingly rugged coastline. The strong, aggressive waves that pound El Cotillo’s shores make it a popular surfing and windsurfing destination, and with a suitably laid-back, bohemian atmosphere, it’s the perfect place to linger over a long lunch – and watch the surfers do their thing!

Reservoir (embalse):
The largest expanse of water on the island is the Embalse de Los Molinos. The valleys surrounding the reservoir are popular spots for bird watchers, with swifts, grey herons, kestrels, South African shelducks and even the occasional egret gracing the skies above!

This ‘sacred mountain’ is situated in the north east of Fuerteventura. At just 400m high, it’s no Matterhorn but it does really stand out against the island’s otherwise flat landscape. It’s also home to an important collection of ancient cave art.

Eat cheese (yes, we’re back to food!):
Goats rule on Fuerteventura, so it’s not surprising that the island’s most famous cheese is made from goat’s milk (leche de cabra). The cheeses range from fresco  (or tierno), to semi-curado and curado. Fresco is a much blander cheese, while semi-curado  is matured for 20-60 days and has a tangy taste. Curado is the best choice for serious cheese addicts – matured for over 60 days, its taste is perhaps best described as ‘unforgettable’!

Viento  ('wind'):
It’s no secret that it can be a little breezy on Fuerteventura – it is known as the “Windy Island”, after all – but then without the gusts, the island wouldn’t have so many picturesque windmills (and my tan wouldn’t have developed quite so quickly!).

This relatively remote beach is located about six kilometres south of El Cotillo and can only be reached by a dirt road or on foot. Another surfer’s paradise and one of my favourite places on the whole island! Somewhere to sit back and let the world pass you by…

Nudist beaches:
It’s impossible to visit Fuerteventura and miss the vast golden beaches that have made the island famous, but it’s also almost  impossible to miss those who take everything off in pursuit of that all-over body tan! The dunes around Corralejo in the north are the nudists’ favourite haunt, but southern Jandia is not for the body-shy either! Don’t worry, though – if nudist beaches aren’t your thing (they’re not mine!), then there are plenty of smaller, quieter coves and beaches where clothes are allowed!

Top places to visit:

Betancuria: the island’s former capital is now a bustling town with lots of lovely, traditional shops and restaurants. Set in a lush, deep green valley next to a dried-up river bed, it’s popular with day trippers.
Ajuy caves: a short coastal path leads from the small village of Ajuy to the most mind-blowing caves – once a secret hideout for pirates!
Isla de los Lobos: a visit to this tiny, unspoiled island is a must for any traveller to Fuerteventura. At just 6km long, it’s easy to explore on foot, and only 15 minutes from the mainland!

Uncover some furry friends (no, not the goats):
A single pair of Barbary ground squirrels were brought to Fuerteventura from Africa as pets in 1965, but they escaped and quickly adapted to their new-found freedom. There are now approximately 300,000 squirrels living on the island – all keen for a bite of your bocadillo  (sandwich)!

Fuerteventura’s burnt amber landscapes are certainly distinctive, but ‘red’ also stands for the numerous GR131 waymarks that cover the island. The popular GR131 begins in the north on La Isla de Lobos, before jumping across to Corralejo and then extending all the way to the island’s southern tip. A fantastic network of walking routes!

Aloe vera:
The island boasts few plants, but it does have the perfect climate for growing aloe vera, and is consequently home to endless fields of this spiky plant! As you explore Fuerteventura, you will often pass an aloe vera factory or museum, where you can learn about the plant’s benefits – it’s great in products such as shower gel, shampoo and perfume, but, more importantly in Fuerteventura, it also provides essential sun protection!
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