The Canary Islands are the second most visited region in Spain. Second only to Catalonia in terms of popularity and comprising seven main islands which collectively attract over 9 million tourists a year.
There is however a little known eighth island in the archipelago, La Graciosa, which can only be reached by a short ferry hop from neighbouring Lanzarote. It is thought to have been the real life setting for Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel Treasure Island.
Visiting La Graciosa is much like stepping back in time. There are no roads, only sandy tracks. No cars, just a few 4×4 jeep taxis. And precious few other reminders of the outside world beyond. The local supermarket shelves are largely bereft of goods and there are five small restaurants servicing the community of 600 locals and a steady stream of intrepid day-trippers and in the know Spanish holidaymakers. So creating an underdeveloped and extremely relaxed environment that is reminiscent of southern Spain in the 1970s when tourism was first taking off there.
La Graciosa’s beaches are the islands biggest attractions and rightly so as spots such as Playa de las Conchas and Playa de la Cocina rival anything in the Canaries for beauty. They are often devoid of other people, especially outside of the main summer holiday months.
There’s an inviting, little beach right next to the ferry port but some locals advise against swimming here as it is located within the backwash of both the ferry and other diesel driven boats that service the island.
Better instead to head in the direction of Playa El Salado and Las Piconas which are just ten minutes away. Or keep walking a little further for the beaches at Playa Francesa and Playa de la Cocina.
But the daddy of them all is Playa de las Conchas. One of the most beautiful stretches of sand imaginable and with great views too out to the other tiny islets that comprise the rest of the Chinijo Archipelago. This beach is often deserted too — leaving those lucky enough to find themselves here to enjoy a real Robinson Crusoe experience.
Jeep taxis pick visitors up and drop them off at the beach of their choice throughout the day and return to pick them up at a pre-arranged time. They also offer forty-five minute tours of the island which feature some great views back to the imposing Famara massif range of cliffs on Lanzarote.
Alternatively it’s possible to hire mountain bikes back in Caleta del Sebo — although the dirt tracks that pass for roads on La Graciosa can make this a truly bone jarring experience.
There are a couple of pensiones and privately owned villas on the island for visitors seeking overnight accommodation. Such as Casa del Rio, a British owned property boasting spectacular views from a shady terrace across the Rio Straits back to Lanzarote. Available for short or long term lets. (Contact 0034 619 694 601 for bookings and more information.)
But the bulk of the La Graciosa’s visitors are Spanish — usually from the other Canary Islands that have long kept this little treasure of an island under their hats in order to preserve its tranquility intact.
Nick Ball is the editor of Lanzarote Guidebook where visitors can download a free guidebook and find out more about holidays in Lanzarote and La Graciosa.