I have spent years wondering about Isla de Lobos, from where I live in Lanzarote. Having now seen all of the seven Canary Islands, I hadn’t been to this islet, which is one of the closest of all. How different could it be?
A short break in Fuerteventura gave us the perfect opportunity to check it out.
The island’s name is derived from the sea lions that were its main inhabitants, but they were almost entirely wiped out by sailors and colonists some 500 years ago, for their meat, skins and fat.
Isla de Lobos covers only 4.5 sq. km, lies just 3 km from Corralejo in Fuerteventura and 8km from Playa Blanca in Lanzarote. Getting to Lobos from Corralejo is surprisingly easy. There are numerous water taxi companies offering day trips from a line of kiosks on the harbourfront. The price for adults is 15€, with a 20% discount for residents. Private charters are available from Lanzarote, though they are usually packages that include food, drink, activities, etc and are more highly priced.
It’s essential to take everything else you need as there are no shops on Lobos. Take at least 1 L of water per person. There is no shade on the island so take lots of sun protection, a hat and an umbrella if you planning a day on the beach. Remember to pack a snorkel too, so you can discover its underwater paradise.
If you’re thinking of completing the 12.8 km trail around the island as I was, then wear a good pair of walking shoes or mountain boots, with flip-flops in your bag for later. To see the whole island takes between three to four hours, so go as early as possible to avoid the hotter afternoon sun.
After a short wait at the harbour, we were soon speeding across the shallow (max. 30 m deep) Bocayna Strait. I loved the adrenaline rush of the water taxi experience, though it may not be such a good idea for those with a back problem. The boat rises up and down as it coasts over the waves, which I imagine would be more intense with larger swells.
The larger ferry operators also run trips on larger boats, which is an alternative for those who would rather a calmer crossing. The price is the same, and the journey takes around 15 minutes.
The water taxi took less than four minutes to reach the gorgeous turquoise waters that surround the island. They were so tempting, I had to stop myself from jumping overboard right then!
Slowly the boat pulled into the harbour and we disembarked onto the jetty. There is only one place to eat on Lobos, so you either bring your own packed lunch, or book into the island’s only restaurant – Chiringuito Antoñito - as soon as you arrive.
The restaurant is the first thing you see as you get off the boat. You can choose from paella or fresh fish, which comes with Canarian potatoes, mojo and bread. We had left it a bit late, arriving at 11.30 on a summer’s day, and there were no bookings available for the rest of the day. Thankfully, we were kindly offered a take-away option.
There are two possible routes out of El Puertito: the left track leads you past Playa de la Concha and eventually to Montaña de la Cadera; the right-hand track leads you towards the lighthouse, El Faro de Martiño. We decided to climb the mountain first, and see the lighthouse afterwards.
On leaving El Puertito you can see a number of small rustic houses which are used by local fisherman over the weekends. There’s a small hill just past the restaurant which gives you a lovely view of the area from above.
Take note of the recycling bins provided just outside El Puertito. Keep hold of any rubbish you may produce and take it here before leaving the island.
Lobos was declared a Natural Park in 1982, and despite being a desert island, is home to 130 plant species. These include Limunium ovalifolium which is endemic to this island. The paths are very well marked, restricted to limit human impact, and you are urged to stick to them to help preserve the island’s flora and fauna.
As we headed towards our first destination, Montaña de la Caldera, we came across the wonderful Playa de la Concha. Many others had set up for the day, under umbrellas and bathing in the calm crystal waters. It is one of the few where bathing is permitted on the island. We were tempted to abandon mission and head to the beach, but decided to leave it until after our trek, and we continued on our trail.
Montaña de la Caldera is only 127 m high, not much in comparison to other volcanoes I had climbed. But it was hot and I was relieved to get to the top, and I was glad I’d brought a hat. The path was well marked though quite steep. Don’t do this in sandals, there is quite a lot of loose gravel so good shoes are a must.
The views from the top are awesome and make the climb worthwhile; the power of nature takes your breath away. Photos could never do justice to this amazing sensation and panoramic view, but one can only try!
As you turn in a complete 360-degree rotation, you see the yellow sands of the Dunas de Corralejo Natural Park on one side. On the other lie the beaches of Papagayo in Lanzarote, backed by a dramatic volcanic backdrop. It-s a truly awesome sight.
In addition to being a Natural Park, Isla de Lobos was also declared an SPA (Special Protection Area for birds) in 1994. La Caldera is the name given to the side of this volcano that slopes down abruptly to the sea, and is the main nesting area on the island. Some species you may see here include the herring gull, Cinderella shearwater, the storm petrel or the yellow-legged gull.
The lighthouse sits on the northernmost tip of Lobos. It was opened in 1865 and is one of the oldest in the Canaries. Lighthouse keeper Antonio Martiño and his family lived there, as the island’s only residents, until it became automated in the 1968.
Curiously, the original light was powered by olive oil and had a range of nine miles. This was later replaced by paraffin, then acetylene some time afterwards, in order to extend its range. Today the lighthouse is automatic and runs on solar panels.
If you do have a picnic then the northern side of the lighthouse offers welcome shade for taking a break.
The 3.5 km walk back towards the port area is a change of scenery from the previous volcanic landscape. The path takes you towards Las Lagunitas, an area aptly names for its small lakes. This is also a good area for birding, offering information boards and a hut for birdwatching.
There is also a wide variety of fauna around this area, although somewhat drier in the summer season. I made a mental note to return during the springtime, when it will be in its full splendour.
There wasn’t out soul in sight. This is the perfect way to disconnect from the daily grind: immerse yourself in the pure nature of a desert island paradise.
Eventually we made it back to El Puertito, although later than we imagined. Luckily there was still time to cool off in those mesmerizing blue natural pools. It felt like the best dip of my life, and I ‘m sure my body sizzled as I submerged myself in the sea. Heaven on earth!
We ate our take-away fresh fish on one of the purpose-built tables in the visitor centre, where there is also a vending machine and interesting information about the island.
Sadly, it was already time to get our boat back. What a fantastic first-time Lobos experience! There will definitely be a ‘next time,’ and now that I’ve seen the whole island, it will be to spend the entire day on the beach!