There's a new Canary Island: Nine fascinating facts about La Graciosa
Looking to escape the crowds in the Canaries? The newest island is home to just 721 souls...
Tenerife, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura have a new little sister, La Graciosa, the most recent addition to the Canary Islands family.
Spain’s General Commission of the Autonomous of the Senate has agreed that the tiny rock outcrop, home to no paved roads and just 721 residents, can become the eighth official Canary Island, earning itself its own “legal personality”.
Should the decision have you pondering a trip to this 11 square mile nugget of Spain, here are a few things you might need to know.
1. Its beautiful beaches are empty
“The real gems of La Graciosa are its incredibly empty beaches, such as Playa de las Conchas (furthest from the harbour and arguably the best) and Playa de la Cocina, where near-white sand and aquamarine waters make up for the lack of any tourism infrastructure,” says Joe Cawley, who knows the Canary Islands like the back of his hand. Telegraph Travel’s Spain expert Annie Bennett said there are “just fabulous beaches and a handful of idyllic waterside fish restaurants”. Playa de El Salado is perhaps the best known, over a mile long and home to a campsite.
2. It inspired Treasure Island
The story goes that pirates used the island for shelter from the tempestuous Atlantic Ocean. In the 1760s it is said that a British crew was followed to La Graciosa by a pirate galleon and so, fearing their booty would be captured, buried their gold somewhere on the island, refusing, despite torture, to reveal its location. The story, including evidence found of an Admiral Hawke in the area in the 18th century, bears more than a coincidental resemblance to Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel. Some say the treasure is still buried there today.
3. There are no cars - or roads
Trails across the island are not paved and more like dirt tracks, best to be navigated by foot, rented bike or clapped-out jeep taxi, which are allowed on the island.
4. It can only be reached by sea
So it’s hardly surprising that the island lacks an airport. Visitors must fly to neighbouring Lanzarote then take the half-hour ferry from Orzola.
5. It was created by volcanoes
As part of the Chinijo Archipelago, a series of islands and islets much smaller than the main Canary Islands, La Graciosa has gained Unesco World Heritage status, thanks to the protected Parque Natural del Archipielago Chinijo, established in 1986 (Lanzarote is also included). The geopark helps preserve the environment of the flora and fauna of the islands, as well as birdlife, but was principally created thanks to the islands’ curious volcanic creation - built almost entirely of basaltic materials during three volcanic stages. Unesco says the region is “an authentic outdoor museum”.
6. It is ripe for hiking and cycling
Hiking, trail running and cycling are all available across the arid isle. Because of its protected status, it’s best to stick to the paths. The Canary Islands tourist board highlights three routes, taking in craggy mountains, white sand beaches and hidden coves. The island’s circular route is 20 miles and best completed on a mountain bike. Keep an eye out for views of the island’s tallest peak, Las Agudas, which rises to 266 metres and is popular with hikers. Surfing and kiteboarding are also available.
7. Accommodation is scarce - but you can camp
Though most visitors to the island are day-trippers, the best way to experience the solitary way of life is, according to Joe Cawley, to be one of the few who stay for longer. “To do La Graciosa full justice and sink into a pleasantly vegetative state, a week in one of the basic pensions or apartments is a must,” he says. “Caleta del Sebo is the settlement (one of two; the other is Casas de Pedro Barba) that greets you after a 25-minute boat ride from Orzola in Lanzarote. This motley collection of whitewashed houses and bar/restaurants is connected by streets of sand, and is home to most of the island’s 500 people.” Camping is also available, on Playa de El Salado.
8. Someonce once wanted to build a casino there
There has been a long campaign for La Graciosa to become an official Canary Island, some residents are concerned that any influx of visitors (it currently gets just 25,000 annual tourists), will put strain on the island’s limited infrastructure and spoil its untouched beauty. Investors once plotted to build a casino on the island and link it by cable car to Lanzarote but, rather unsurprisingly, the idea did not get much further than the drawing board.
9. It has some of Europe's best diving
La Graciosa is home to the largest protected marine area in Europe. “Thanks to the diversity of its sea fauna, its spectacular depths are home to unique beauty in all its diving spots, among which there are some suitable for all levels of diving experience,” says the Canary Island tourist board.
Read more:The Secret Canary Island: A holiday paradise beyond the brochures