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Treasure Island – Exploring La Graciosa

 

Harbour, La Graciosa, Canary Islands

Caleta del Sebo Harbour, La Graciosa

Lanzarote is an ideal base for exploring other islands in the Canaries chain, as it is just a short distance from both Fuerteventura and the smaller, lesser known island of La Graciosa. Part of the Chinijo archipelago which also includes the uninhabited islands of Alegranza, Roque del Oeste, Montaña Clara and Roque del Este.

The 8th Canary Island

La Graciosa is often referred to as the 8th Canary Island – as although administratively part of Lanzarote it is a world away in terms of atmosphere. As visiting here is a little like stepping back in time to an environment that seems totally untouched by so called modern day progress – for example there are no cars or tarmac roads and the island population amounts to only around 600 residents.

Inca Gold and Long John Silver

La Graciosa is also steeped in history, as it is rumoured to be the real life setting for the Robert Louis Stevenson classic Treasure Island. Certainly there was an enormous amount of piratical activity taking place in the waters around both Lanzarote and La Graciosa during the 17th and 18th centuries – as the Canaries were an important trading hub between the Spanish empire in the New World and the mother country in the Old.

In particular the transportation of Inca silver and gold caught the attention of privateers (or pirates depending on your nationality and point of view) such as Drake and Raleigh. Along with other raiders of various nationalities, including buccaneers from nearby Africa.

Guarding the Rio Straits

La Graciosa’s strategic importance was apparent once again during the late 19th century when the Spanish built a gun battery on top of the Famara massif, overlooking the Rio Straits which separate Lanzarote from the smaller island. As the country entered into what proved to be a near ruinous conflict with the United States which cost Spain many of its most valuable and prized colonial assets, such as the Philippines.

Today that gun battery is the Mirador Del Rio – one of César Manrique´s many creations – which is usually the spot where most visitors to Lanzarote gain their first glimpse of La Graciosa. As the Mirador was specifically constructed to make the most of the incredible views down to the island from height of some 460 metres.

Caleta del Sebo – Island Capital

La Graciosa survives on fishing and tourism and the islands population is solely concentrated in the islands picturesque ‘capital´ of Caleta del Sebo – which is where the ferry from Lanzarote´s northern port of Orzola docks throughout the day. The harbour area here is particularly attractive and there are a couple of bars and restaurants on the sea front here which are great for just watching the world go by at a serene and leisurely pace. The views back to Lanzarote are also pretty impressive – especially when the evening light casts a shade of pink onto the towering rock wall of the Famara massif.

The only other conurbation on the island is a small cluster of holiday homes at Pedro Barba, which lies along the coastline from Caleta del Sebo. Many of these properties are owned by wealthy Canarians and only ever see use for a few weeks per year.

Beach Lovers Paradise

Today, La Graciosa´s real treasures are its amazing and unspoilt beaches. There´s a small beach in Caleta del Sebo right by the ferry port, but many locals don’t like bathing there as they believe that the water is a little contaminated by diesel spills from the boats anchored in the harbour. Best instead to keep walking out of the village to the west to check out the beaches of Playa El Salado, Las Piconas, Playa Francesa and Playa de la Cocina, all of which are very unspoiled.

The real star of the show here though is the golden sandy beach at Playa de las Conchas, which is on the opposite shore of the island to Caleta del Sebo and which can only be reached by 4×4 taxi, mountain bike or a long and dusty walk.

Getting to La Graciosa

A day trip to La Graciosa is a real favourite with guests booking any of our rural villas in the north of the island. The ferry from Orzola runs daily at 10.00 12.00 13.30 17.00 18.30 and returns from La Graciosa at 08.00 11.00 12.30 16.00 18.00 and costs €15 return. You can book tickets in advance by visiting the Lineas Romero website, or turn up and pay on the day.

In many ways a visit to La Graciosa provides an insight into how life on Lanzarote must have been lived before the advent of international travel and if you´re a serious beach lover it’s well worth making the hop, as the sands here are rightly regarded as some of the best in the Canaries.

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