One of the best aspects of the Canary Islands are all of the more hidden secrets, that you will be unlikely to have read about in mainstream travel magazines or newspapers back home. An example of this, is that although yes there are seven main islands, this amazing Atlantic archipelago also includes a number of smaller islands and islets. One of these is the gorgeous island of La Graciosa which I can guarantee you will absolutely love exploring. It is almost certainly unlike anywhere else you have been in the world, even compared to the other Canary Islands!
It is located to the North of Lanzarote and is part of the Chinijo Archipelago, a collection of islands and islets that are much smaller than the main Canary Islands. Since 1986 the archipelago has been part of a protected UNESCO national park, ‘Parque natural del Archipiélago Chinijo’. This was created to protect the unique flora and fauna and wide variety of birdlife that can be found. In addition to this, the water which surrounds La Graciosa houses two of the only marine and fishing reserves in the Canary Islands. Clearly La Graciosa is a destination worth protecting and visiting!
Last summer I was invited by the excellent Eco Insider Tours on their day excursion to La Graciosa to explore the hidden treasures of the island. If you enjoy the peace and quiet of Lanzarote, then you will love La Graciosa with its even more laid back lifestyle. You can’t really expect anything else with a resident population of under 700 people! It is the only one of the islands of the Chinijo Archipelago that is inhabited with just two settlements on the island, Caleta de Sebo which is permanently inhabited and Casas de Pedro Barba, formerly a fishing village but now used only as a summer residence.
I met up with the company team and other excursion guests in the small fishing town of Orzola in the north of Lanzarote in the morning ready to catch our ferry. Once aboard we sailed across the strait of El Río, so named because of its resemblance to a river. Luckily the water was calm and we had a wonderfully pleasant 20 minute journey taking in the beautiful Famara cliffs of Northern Lanzarote on route.
Once you arrive at the port at Caleta de Sebo and step off the ferry, it feels like arriving in a different age. I had been to La Graciosa before on several occasions but was once again amazed by how relaxed the island felt, even compared to Lanzarote which is certainly not a fast paced place. In addition to the tiny population and relatively low number of tourists, the biggest factor contributing to this tranquility is the fact that there are no paved roads or traffic on the island. In fact this is one of the few places in Europe where this is the case. There are streets but these are sandy and the only motorised vehicles you will find are a very small number of 4x4 cars for special purposes like tours. To get around otherwise, locals and tourists either walk or ride bikes. Strolling around these sandy streets really feels special because it is so unique and unlike life elsewhere.
Most of the excursion group opted to head off eastwards along the coast on the one hour walk between Caleta de Sebo and Casas de Pedro Barba. Some of us opted instead to spend time in Caleta de Sebo taking in the tranquil way of life there, before being picked up later in a Land Rover to meet the others. The village is so pleasant to wander around with everyone relaxed and happy. If you have ever walked around a city surrounded by people, noise, cars, here in La Graciosa you will feel like you are in a different world. It is one of those rare places where you can switch off from stress and go at your own pace, rather than feeling rushed. This is true for much of the Canary Islands, but here this feeling of calm is even greater.
Everything on La Graciosa feels miniaturised like the tiny Museo Chinijo which is billed as the smallest museum in the world. I’d wandered around that last time but took a look around the mini village market which has about 6 stalls. Here you will find clothing, jewellery and some lovely hand-made items so I bought a few presents for family. From there I headed to a cafe for a coffee and enjoyed hearing the locals chatting away in Spanish with their Canarian accent. Afterwards I headed to beach for some sunbathing and a swim as the weather was gorgeous. From the beach you can clearly see the spectacular Famara cliffs across El Río rising out of the beautiful blue waters. With the sun beaming down, boats bobbing in the port and this incredible vista, it felt like I was in paradise. At that point the name Graciosa, translated to graceful, made absolutely perfect sense, and there was no other place I would rather have been.
After relaxing at the beach though, it was time to meet our driver and head off in the Land Rover to meet the rest of the group. It felt like a real adventure setting off on the bumpy, sandy roads along the coast to the other settlement. Along the way I chatted to our friendly driver. Interestingly he was the only German living on the island, so he said everyone there knew of him. I guess on La Graciosa he was a bit of a local celebrity! The settlement of Casas de Pedro Barba is just a small collection of houses by the sea, but was incredibly picturesque with a gorgeous little beach and palm trees lining the houses. We stopped to take some photos then got into two vehicles to head off on a drive around some of the the island.
Like the other Canary Islands, La Graciosa is a volcanic island, but is also relatively flat and very arid as it receives almost no rainfall all year. Despite the lack of rainfall there are still tough plants like bushes and some animals like lizards. Life always seems to find a way! As we drove around the bumpy terrain we stopped off at different points of interest such as an incredible natural bridge formed from lava. With the waves rushing in and crashing under this bridge, this was an incredible natural feature!
From there we drove further around to the other side of the island to stop off at Las Conchas beach which is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and spectacular in all of the Canary Islands. This large beach has perfect golden sand, few people and incredibly blue water with waves crashing onto the shore. The backdrop is also stunning because you can see out towards the neighbouring Isla de Montaña Clara. Be cautious as the current is strong and the waves huge so don’t try swimming out far. If you go to La Graciosa though, you should definitely head to Las Conchas!
After marvelling at the beauty of this paradise and taking plenty of photographs, it was time to get in the cars for the drive back to Caleta de Sebo. On a previous occasion I have walked this route which takes quite a long time, especially in the heat, but it had still been worth it to see that beach! Once at the village again we all sat down for a delicious traditional Canarian lunch with plenty of wine, tapas and fish. This was perfect as we were were all feeling very hungry. Once again we were in a perfect spot looking out at the boats and cliffs of Famara across the water. You couldn’t ask for a better lunchtime view!
Feeling satisfied after our lunch and an amazing day in La Graciosa with Eco Insider Tours we got back on the ferry for the short trip back to Lanzarote, sailing along the strait, past the incredible cliffs and into the port of Orzola. I would recommend this excursion to anyone who wants to try something unique and different in the Canary Islands. You will learn a lot from the tour leaders, see some stunning sights and return to Lanzarote feeling even more relaxed!