La Graciosa is often referred to as the eighth Canary Island. And with just 600 inhabitants, no roads and some seriously impressive beaches this arid little island is certainly a great destination for both day trippers and holiday makers alike.
La Graciosa already features on the itineraries of many Spanish and German visitors to Lanzarote. And it's a firm favourite with holiday makers from other Canary Islands, including Lanzaroteños.
But many British tourists usually opt to explore the larger neighbouring island of Fuerteventura instead. As there are no organised tours actively marketed to visitors from the UK.
But don’t let that put you off. As it´s simple to get to La Graciosa under your own steam and the island is well worth the visit. Thanks to the hugely impressive backdrop of the Famara massif which looms sentinel like above La Graciosa.
And an underdeveloped and relaxed feel that is reminiscent of Spain in the 1970´s when tourism was first taking off.
Treasure Island – the great children’s book written by Robert Louis Stevenson, is said to be based on an incident that took place in the 1760s on La Graciosa.
During the 18th Century, many ships and trading vessels bound for the West Indies would pass through the Rio Straits, which run between Lanzarote and Graciosa. On one occasion, a British ship dropped anchor there, laden with spoils from a battle at sea.
Not realising that a pirate galleon had trailed them, the sailors managed to reach land and bury their treasure before the buccaneers stormed ashore. However, the British crew was hopelessly outnumbered. They were soon captured and tortured by the pirates in order to force them to reveal the whereabouts of their hoard. But they stayed tight lipped and died without revealing their secret.
Unbeknown to the pirates though a cabin boy managed to escape, making his way over to Lanzarote, from where he managed to board a ship to England. He only revealed the secret location of the buried treasure on his deathbed.
Long John Silver
In Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale, the central character is a cook, namely the infamous Long John Silver, who lost one of his legs whilst serving on a ship commanded by an Admiral Hawke.
Historians have since uncovered an actual naval engagement, which took place just off Lanzarote in the 1760s. With a real life Admiral Hawke prominently involved in the encounter.
Under Admiral Hawke´s command, two galleons regularly patrolled the sea-lanes between the Canaries and the Azores (which included the Rio Strait between Lanzarote and Graciosa). Once, whilst attempting to capture a Spanish vessel in Lanzarote’s port, they attacked Arrecife. As historians point out, the crew had obviously acquired first-hand knowledge of the area by then!
In Treasure Island, Long John Silver applies for a job on the Hispanola, and the narrator tells us ‘he was certainly no stranger to the island’.
This means that it’s not too far-fetched to connect the Long John Silver of this great work of fiction – who had served under an Admiral Hawke – with the real life sailors who, by 1762, had acquired knowledge of the Canary Islands, sailing with a commander of the same name.
The only burning questions remain – is the treasure still buried on Graciosa? Or, when the cabin boy finally revealed his secret, who set sail for Graciosa, to retrieve it?
Ferries to La Graciosa run every day from the small port at Orzola in the north of the island. It is possible to get there by public bus but most visitors take their hire car which can be parked close to the ferry port.
It isn´t possible to book tickets in advance. So visitors can simply turn up on the day, buy their ticket and hop on. Allow around 10 minutes before departure. The cost of a return journey is €20 for adults and €11 for children.
The journey time is approximately 15 minutes and the ferries hold around 120 people. During the summer months (from July 1st) the service operates to the following timetable.
Orzola to La Graciosa
10.00 12.00 13.30 17.00 18.30
La Graciosa to Orzola
08.00 11.00 12.30 16.00 18.00
The ferries dock in the harbour and capital of the island Caleta del Sebo. Which is the only inhabited town on the island and home to all 600 local inhabitants.
Lineas Romero also operates a water taxi that collects and returns from Arrieta and Punta Mujeres for €15 return. Visit the Lineas Romero website for more information.
There are no proper roads on La Graciosa, only dirt tracks. So transportation is by 4×4 taxis only. Which can be found right by the harbour. These will take you on an island tour, which lasts around one hour, costs €40 (per jeep, not per person) and takes in all of the main sites. Note that the ride can be quite bumpy.
Alternatively the 4×4 drivers will transport you to the beach of your choice and pick you up at a pre-arranged time for €20.
To pre-book a taxi contact Miguel Guadalupe on (0034) 606 741 175 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit any of the islands beaches or beauty spots by boat by water taxi for just €8 per person. Available daily in the harbour area at Caleta del Sebo.
Can be hired for €10 per day from one of two shops, both of which are easily found in the harbour area at Caleta del Sebo.
It´s well worth noting that much of the terrain on the island is made up of soft sand so even mountain bikes can find it heavy going.
Many day trippers just turn up and head off to either the right or left of the port where there are beaches and coves to explore. Although the best beaches – such as Playa de las Conchas are a good 5km from the port.
There´s very little shade on the island thanks to the fact that there are no palms or trees outside Caleta del Sebo. So anyone planning a longer trek should note that this can be very arduous – not least as the island can be very hot in the summer months. There are no shops or bars outside of the capital either so take plenty of water.
La Graciosa´s beaches are the island's biggest attraction – and rightly so. As spots such as Playa de las Conchas and Playa de la Cocina rival anything in the Canaries for beauty. And are often devoid of other people – especially outside of the main summer holiday months.
There´s a nice little beach right next to the ferry port which is very inviting 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. Which has apparently resulted in a number of local children suffering eye and throat infections.
Keep walking on from here and head in the direction of Playa El Salado and Las Piconas which are just ten minutes further on.
Or head a little further for the beaches at Playa Francesa and Playa de la Cocina.
Turning right from the ferry port there´s plenty of little bays and small bays which are ideal for a dip.
The daddy of them all though is Playa de las Conchas. Often deserted during the morning and with great views out to the other islands that comprise the rest of the Chinijo Archipelago along with La Graciosa. Namely Montaña Clara, Alegranza and Roque del Oeste. If you only have time to visit one beach head for this one.
Places To Eat
Caleta del Sebo is home to all seven of the island’s restaurants. The most atmospheric is Cafe Meson La Tierra – which is just to the left of the ferry port and enjoys great views of the brightly coloured fishing boats moored in the harbour and the Famara massif. They serve a good value menu del dia every day of the week except Sundays for just €7.50. Along with well presented tapas dishes.
El Marinero is regarded by many locals as the best restaurant on the island, serving fresh fish and meat dishes. But on the downside it lacks outdoor seating and views. Located in the road running behind the main harbour. Telephone (0034) 928 842070 .
Places To Stay
Casa del Rio is British owned and enjoys some spectacular views from a shady terrace across El Rio to Lanzarote. Available for short or long term lets. Contact (0034) 619 694 601 for bookings and more information.