Fuerteventura: Where the desert meets the sea

It’s that time of year in Zürich when typically the blue summer sky begins to fade and settle into a dismal shade of gray.  The air is cool but not cold enough for snow. Rain and clouds are constant fixtures on the five day forecast. While this year’s weather has been better than usual, there’s still no better time to travel south where the air is still warm and beaches abound.

And so we were off to the Canary Islands a Spanish archipelago located off the southern coast of Morocco. I imagined sunbathing and sipping sangria against a backdrop of golden dunes, pristine beaches and a craggly volcanic landscape. Perhaps this would provide an opportunity to practice speaking Spanish and take up a new hobby like paddle boarding?

I will fully admit this was a last minute vacation and we cut our usual planning short.  We hastily selected a family friendly hotel on Fuerteventura, the least developed island of the archipelago.  To say that our hotel was a family friendly destination would be an understatement.  It literally felt like a summer camp that happened to have a concierge. While we were traveling with a baby in tow, we were not quite prepared for the chorus of whining that accompanied every meal, nor the Disney World type entertainment that interrupted otherwise quiet afternoons.

I also discovered that Fuerteventura is the least inhabited island for good reason. It’s a vast, dry desert island with no fresh water in sight. As we drove around the island taking in the arid landscape I couldn’t help but think that humans were just not meant to populate this land.  If Tom Hanks’ character in Castaway landed here, he wouldn’t last a week.  That is unless he crashed into one of the few tourist villages where strip malls, billboards and over-the-top resorts contrast starkly with the island’s barren interior.


Fuerteventura landscape

Yes, Fuerteventura was far from what I imagined, however, I would be remiss to not appreciate it’s raw, natural beauty where resorts and tourist shops have yet to dominate.  The undeveloped coastline with long stretches of wild beaches and rocky cliffs descending into an unforgiving surf is spectacular,  surely contributing to its declaration as a Unesco Biosphere Reserve in 2009.

The geological history of the island is equally fascinating dating back to a volcanic eruption 20 million years ago. Centuries of erosion have softened the mountainous landscape, all the while differentiated striations of rock along the coast reveal multiple ancient lava flows.

While I didn’t get around to paddle boarding, opportunities to sail catamarans, kite board and surf in the islands various beaches and lagoons abound. And, lastly, who could not appreciate the nearly perfect climate all year long lending it the nickname “the island of eternal spring.”

So while our last minute trip to Fuerteventura wasn’t exactly my dream vacation, if you’re a beach buff, water sports fanatic or geology geek, it might be yours. Just be sure to choose your hotel carefully.




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