What to do this summer on La Graciosa
Sandy streets? Ocean views and a 700-metre vertical cliff? Crystal-clear waters? A three-hour trip from the peninsula? Um, excuse me?
Yes, La Graciosa is that divine island whose existence you doubt when you see the photos on Instagram.
We’re giving you five powerful reasons to wake up on this 27-square-kilometre island that made the front page of The New York Times a few days ago.
Head for the largest Marine Reserve in Europe
Let’s get situated: the island of La Graciosa is 30 minutes away from Lanzarote by boat. It’s part of the Parque Natural del Archipiélago Chinijo (Chinijo Archipelago Natural Park) and of the biggest Marine Reserve in Europe – a veritable jewel of biodiversity.
Although it offers neither sweet nor gentle waters, ‘El Río’ (The River) is what we call the arm of sea that separates the Lanzarote coast from the La Graciosa coast. These waters have been navigated by traders, explorers and pirates for centuries.
Your trip starts at the Órzola dock, a village in the north of Lanzarote that connects to La Graciosa with several ferries. You won’t have any problem organizing your escape to La Graciosa because in summer the shipping companies provide transport every half hour, but it’s best to book online.
The route offers privileged views of Punta Fariones, a lava monolith topped by a small cylindrical tower that signals to boats the location of the northernmost tip of Lanzarote with its white beacon light.
We arrive at the first non-continental European land that the famous naturalist Humboldt set foot on. Do you want to explore it with your canine friend? Great, because the ferry accepts dogs both on deck and in the passenger lounge, as long as you keep them on a leash.
La Graciosa was recognized as the eighth island of the Canary archipelago in 2008. It has no asphalted roads, so you have three options for moving around: walking its trails, renting a bike, or using a taxi-jeep. Never leave the marked path: you could be stepping on a unique protected species found nowhere else in the world.
Trails that end in coves straight out of the movies
The best part of walking on La Graciosa is finishing your hike in one of these four coves:
- La Cocina: a small cove sheltered by Montaña Amarilla, a volcano that lives up to its name with its endless range of ochres, golds and yolk-yellows that contrast with the cinematic blue of the water. You get the feeling of being in the most remote and beautiful place in the world.
- La Laja (Caleta del Sebo): perfect for a dip in calm waters before eating a freshly caught fish in one of its restaurants, just a few metres from your towel. Very close to the camping area of the Bahía del Salado.
- La Francesa: ideal for snorkelling or relaxing on an inflatable with the awe-inspiring views of the Risco de Famara before you.
- Las Conchas: seeing this cove from the top of Montaña Bermeja (a beautiful trail) makes you long to dive into its beautiful but dangerous waters (watch out for the current). From here you will have a very corsair-like view of the neighbouring uninhabited island of Alegranza.
Take this opportunity to get to know the immense marine wealth of these waters. Equipped with a simple diving mask and a snorkel you will be able to see a lot of fish near the shore. Here we call this pleasant activity margullar. Another option is to rent a kayak or circumnavigate the island on board a catamaran that will anchor in its most privileged spots.
On La Graciosa you will find more than twenty spots to immerse yourself, including areas with caves, incredible geological formations and banks of grunt, zebra seabreams, lesser amberjack, groupers and lobsters. Lately, the peaceful angel shark has been frequenting the waters of La Graciosa. In short, this is the perfect place for a diving baptism or for taking an improvers course.
Birds, hats and an overpowering landscape
Pedro Barba, a few kilometres from Caleta del Sebo, is today a secluded tourist accommodation centre, with no noise or distraction other than the amazing wildlife found in the tidal pools, the panoramic walks along the coast or the entertainment offered close to its small dock. The village, which once housed a small salt fish factory and fishermen’s houses, is named after a Knight from Seville who came to Lanzarote to investigate the poor government exercised by Maciot de Bethencourt, the nephew of the Norman nobleman who had been granted the right to rule the Canary Islands after 1402.
You will see the men and women of La Graciosa wearing a hat that might look like it’s made of wheat straw, but it isn’t. It’s the result of a traditional craft made with the heart of a species of palm tree (palmito). Each white stick is cleaned with a damp cloth and torn to be later plaited. This meticulous craft, which is handed down from generation to generation, can only be done during the maresía, when the island’s air is loaded with marine humidity.
Don’t expect to find big peaks (the highest is the Aguja Grande at 267 metres), but instead a minimalist and astonishing volcanic landscape. The view from the top of Montaña Amarilla evokes pirates, magic and primal feelings.
It’s a good idea to put a pair of binoculars in your backpack (or the telephoto lens on your camera equipment) because you are in a Special Protection Area for birds. You’ll see shrikes, Eurasian bullfinches, European storm petrels, as well as other petrels.
As the writer Ignacio Aldecoa said in 1961: “I have discovered paradise“. La Graciosa is the dream escape, the calm for every nerve, the parenthesis we all need from the noisy world.
Take care of her just like she will take care of you. 🙂