Fuerteventura can be loosely translated as ‘Strong Winds’ or a corruption of French Forte Aventure (‘Great Adventure’) is one of the Canary Islands, in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa, politically part of Spain.It is the second largest of the Canary Islands, after Tenerife and was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO on 26 May 2009. The first settlers are believed to have arrived here from North Africa – the word Mahorero (Majorero) or Maho is still used today to describe the people of Fuerteventura and comes from the ancient word ‘mahos’ meaning a type of goatskin shoe worn by the original inhabitants.The climate on Fuerteventura is pleasant throughout the year. The island is also often referred to as the island of eternal spring. The island is home to one of the two surviving populations of the threatened Canarian Egyptian Vulture. It is also inhabited by many wild dogs and cats. On the barren, rocky land there are Barbary ground squirrels and geckos. Fuerteventura also hosts several migratory and nesting birds. The island has significant populations of the collared dove, common swifts and several finch species especially in the vicinity of holiday developments.
The economy of Fuerteventura is mainly based on tourism. Primary tourist areas are located around the existing towns of Corralejo in the north and Morro Jable in Jandia, plus the purely tourist development of Caleta de Fuste, south of Puerto del Rosario. Other main industries are fishing and agriculture (cereals and vegetables). The famous Majorero cheese is locally made from the milk of the indigenous majorera goat.
While having fully developed tourist facilities, the island has not experienced the over development found on some other islands and consequently caters for visitors attracted by its rugged natural beauty. The summer Trade Winds and winter swells of the Atlantic make this a year-round surfers’ paradise, with more exposed areas on the north and west shores such as Corralejo and El Cotillo proving most popular. Wind surfing takes places at locations around the island. Sailors, scuba divers and big-game fishermen are all drawn to these clear blue Atlantic waters where whales, dolphins, marlin and turtles are all common sights. With many hills present throughout the Island, hikers are also attracted to this Island. Excellent sandy beaches are found in many locations. Western beaches, such as those around El Cotillo, can experience strong surf. The beaches adjoining the extensive sand dunes east of Corralejo are popular, as are the more protected extensive sandy shores of the Playa de Sotavento de Jandia on the southeastern coast between Costa Calma and the Morro Jable. Naked sun bathing and swimming are the norm on beaches away from inhabited areas. Much of the interior, with its large plains, lavascapes and volcanic mountains, consists of protected areas, although there are organised tours and vehicular access across them.
Sites of interest include Corralejo and El Jable to the north which are made up of fine sand dunes whilst the south is filled with long beaches and remote bays. The constant winds blowing onto the beaches provide a paradise for windsurfing. Surfing is common on the west and north coasts where there are large waves. Windsurfing is common around Corralejo and Playas de Sotavento and wave sailing (windsurfing on the waves) on the coast along the northern half of the island. El Cotillo is a small fishing village in the north-west of the Island famous for a very long beach to the south of the village and few very calm beaches to the north. The northern beaches frequented by snorkeling enthusiasts and sun worshipers alike are referred to as lakes by the locals.
At Cofete on the western side of Jandía a remote and imposing house – Villa Winter – looks out to sea across wide and generally empty beaches. It was reputedly built by a Mr Winter on land given by Generalisimo Franco. Despite being one of the most beautiful part of Fuerteventura Cofete has very little touristic facilities.
For a time, the beaches were home to a popular accidental attraction. On 18 January 1994 the once-beautiful and proud United States Lines ocean liner SS American Star (former America, USS West Point, Australis) was beached in Playa de Garcey during a severe storm. Within a year, it broke in two and later lost its back half. By 2007 the rest of the severely deteriorated ship had collapsed onto its port side, gradually keeling over further and almost completely submerged. By 2008-2012, most of the remains finally slipped below the surface.
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