This January I was lucky enough to be able to escape the doom and gloom (both the weather and the continual strikes) of the UK for a short while and head to the comparable warmth of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands.
I almost went to Fuerteventura two years ago; I was all packed with my Covid test done when a ‘variant of concern’ arrived on our shores and Spain promptly slammed their borders shut.
In a week where Covid testing was reintroduced for travellers from China, I do rather fear we may be on the slippery slope back towards those kinds of travel restrictions. Best I get in quick with a little trip to soothe me through January, I thought.
A spot of Geography
The Canary Islands belong to Spain but are situated off the coast of North Africa. This gives them a winter climate advantage over mainland Europe.
Millions of years ago, volcanoes erupted in the Atlantic forming the Canary Island. Fuerteventura is the oldest of the islands, thought to date back to a volcanic eruption some 20 million years ago. The Berber people inhabited these islands originally, until the 15th century when Spain took ownership
Fuerteventura is less developed than its more famous neighbouring islands, but there is an airport making it more developed than islands like La Gomera, for example, where you have to rely on the ferry to get in.
I stayed on the outskirts of Corralejo, in the North of the island. Corralejo is a resort, with all that entails. It is very touristy. I was relieved that I’d chosen to stay further out, nearer to the beach and the National Park.
I thought about hiring a car but in the end decided I could manage quite well without it. I’m sure there are plenty of interesting nooks and crannies that I could have tracked down with a car, but for a shorter break this was fine for me.
There are two bus routes that go through Corralejo: the number 8 goes to El Cotillo on the East coast and the number 6 goes to Peurto del Rosario (the capital) via Parque Hollandes and the beaches. For anything else there are taxis and you can walk to many things, depending how much you like walking.
What to do in Corralejo without a car
The obvious one is the beaches.
There are a few beaches in the town itself if you’re staying in Corralejo, however since I was staying a short distance out I tended to go to the collection of beaches known as the Grandes Playas, which is a long stretch of sand topped off with some sand dunes. This stretches on for some 10 kilometres, ruined only by the presence of two ugly RUI monstrosity hotels. (The RUI actually had a pretty good deal going and I was tempted, if only for the fact that if I were staying in it at least I wouldn’t be forced to look at it. However in the end I was lured away to the privacy of having my own apartment and somewhere to prepare food).
My personal favourite thing I did: Take the ferry to Isla los Lobos, just 15 minutes across the bay. I loved Lobos. It takes around 15-20 minutes to get there (from the port) and you can hike all around the island, to the lighthouse and back, taking in all the interesting landscapes and wildlife, leaving just a short time to cool off in the sea before the ferry back (and trust me I did cool off; water temperatures in January are only just about bearable).
Sand Dunes national Park
I saw a lot of people exploring the dunes by dune buggy, which looked a lot of fun. However when I enquired there was a single supplement, pushing the price for one person higher than I wanted to pay.
Instead I went on a jeep tour, with someone else driving, which was almost as good. However when I got back I did regret not gritting my teeth and paying the supplement; it really did look good.
Visit El Cotillo on the east coast.
Bus number 8 takes you there, using an enjoyable circular route through the interior, in about an hour. Note, face masks are still obligatory on Spanish buses. I’d forgotten and it was only when I saw everyone else putting on their masks as the bus approached that I remembered. This meant I had to go home, look for my face mask and come back for the later bus.
Visit Playa El Hierro.
Yes another beach but this one is colloquially known as popcorn beach, due to the pebbles that look like popcorn. The pebbles are actually calcareous algae that take millions of years to form. The algae is becoming depleted due to people taking them home (you shouldn’t do it; there are notices reminding you to leave them for other people to enjoy). Note: its quite a trek to popcorn beach if you are doing it on foot.
Climb Bayuyo Volcano
It’s not too tough a climb. I was tired because I’d walked there from Corralejo, but if you have a car you can drive right up until the last little bit.
(this is not a personal recommendation – I hate shopping – but good to bear in mind if you get a wet and/or windy day).
There are plenty of shops in the town if that’s your thing. Expect the usual suspects: Spanish fashion brands Mango, Zara etc. I’m not a shopping aficionado so just walked past them on my way to something (to me) more interesting.
There is a craft market on Thursdays and Sundays at El Campanerio. Expect the usual jewellery/pictures/souvenirs but I spent an enjoyable hour or so there. There are some great breakfast/lunch spots to enjoy whilst you’re there.
Eating and Drinking
I’m not a bar-bunny so can’t recommend drinking holes, although there are plenty. The area around Music Square is a nice place to go and enjoy a drink whilst listening to some live music, although it is very touristy and I only went once. There’s only so much of loud people who’ve been drinking since breakfast time that I can take.
However I can recommend: Artesian ice cream. There’s also a fro-yo shop in the town, in case your ice-cream needs haven’t been met here.
Fish / seafood is popular in the restaurants around town. I met a lot of people with stories to tell about becoming sick after eating seafood here, but I wouldn’t let that put you off. I enjoyed some delicious seafood and I was fine.
La Esquinita de Corralejo, does delicious Poke bowls. I went because it was convenient to where I was staying and kept going back because the food was very good and at a good price.
Some notes on the Canary Islands as a destination
This is not my first trip to the Canaries, although it is my first time in Fuerteventura. This was not my dream destination when I arranged to take January off; I had been planning a longer backpacking trip further afield.
However the whole cost of living crisis, which has seen longer distance flights soar in price and my available money dwindle to nothing, left me needing to adapt my expectations a little.
Rather than do nothing I decided that 12 days in the sunshine with lots of healthy exercise and space to think and plan out my next move would be a good use of my meagre holiday allowance.
It is what it is. It doesn’t have so much to offer culturally but you can escape the resort-y beer – for – breakfast and English menus with a bit of planning.
I brought the whole trip in at around £1300, which was a little higher than I wanted but not so terrible. This included flights, getting to and from the airports, a nice little one-bed apartment with some outside space (I’ve been craving outside space after being cooped up in my little attic at home) and all my food and excursions. I could’ve cut down my food bill be getting everything from Lidl (it was a bit of a trek so I used the local shop instead) and I could’ve cut my flight in half by only taking an under-the-seat bag (the bag I put in the overhead locker paid more for its ticket than I did).