Why Holiday on Fuerteventura

Fuerteventura: Go fly a kite.

If you fancy turning your holiday in Fuerteventura into a soar-away success, then take a tip from Ray Smith...and go fly a kite.

A kiter since he was six (he's now 71) Ray hasn't missed the island's annual kite festival for the last 12 years.

And, at this year's event, it wasn't hard to see why - with the beautiful blue skies above him, soft white sand between his toes and the Atlantic Ocean lapping the shore just yards away.

Only a handful of kiters saw the start of the festival 22 years ago. Now scores of them from all over Europe make the trip to La Playa del Burro on a magnificent stretch of protected dunes.

Fuerteventura takes its name from the warm westerly winds blowing across it from the Sahara, just 60 miles away across the sea.

So it's hardly surprising that kites in every shade of colour and in all shapes and sizes are able to take to the air with the greatest of ease.

Hundreds of people flock to the four-day event, where children are handed free kites to join the fun.

"It's always lovely to see their happy little faces," said Ray, from Elland in West Yorkshire. "Flying kites is great fun and this sort of experience might encourage them to take it up. I always have a great time here."

But for Ray it's not just about the kite- flying. He is devoted to all-things-Fuerteventura.

So what's the appeal?

Well, don't judge the book by its cover. On the drive from the airport, first impressions are of a stark, dramatic, lunar landscape created by volcanic eruptions. Don't worry, the last was more than 7,000 years ago.

In parts there is even a Martian feel as black rock merges with copper coloured rock, reddened by geothermal heat. Take my word, it's breathtaking, particularly at sunset.

The "Moon and Mars" mix occurs all over the island, the second largest in the Canaries. But it struck us most forcibly at villages such as Tuineje, Antigua, La Ampuyenta and Casilla del Angel, where we made impromptu stops in our hire car simply to enjoy the amazing views.

Despite being a mainly parched, barren island, Fuerteventura grows on you. Unlike its neighbours, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria and Tenerife, it's more of a place to switch off and unwind rather than party. Of course you can let your hair down big-style. But it's more lager-lite than lager lout.

Families, in particular, will find lots to see and do. Attractions range from the Baku Water Park in Corralejo and the Oasis Park Zoo in La Lajita, to camel riding, golf, top- quality shopping, whale and dolphin watch cruises, submarine trips, and boat rides to the small, but perfectly formed, uninhabited island of Lobos.

Culture vultures can turn to museums, craft centres, old windmills, churches and historic villages. And I would urge them to include Tindaya, a hauntingly beautiful mountain regarded as sacred by the island's original inhabitants.

Strangest oddity is the fast disintegrating wreck of the American Star, a huge liner that ran aground in a deserted cove at Ajuy 15 years ago. But, beware, it's a tricky drive to find the location.

The rapidly developing resort of Caleta de Fuste, only a short drive from the airport, is the biggest marker that the island aims to be a major player in European tourism.

Popular with British holidaymakers, it has everything from shops and restaurants to busy nightlife - and plenty of room to expand.

Yet it still has a cosy feel, and its horseshoe-shaped beach, fringed by sunbeds and multi-coloured umbrellas, has acres of space.

We stopped here for lunch at the Puerto Castillo restaurant (about £4.20 for a full English breakfast) where a mixture of holidaymakers from Birmingham, Oldham, Manchester, and Yorkshire, sang Happy Birthday to the youngest in the group. It was loud, but happy, harmless...and totally infectious.

Corralejo, where ferries leave for Lanzarote, has Fuerteventura's liveliest nightlife with a mixture of bars, restaurants, live music venues and shops.

Built around an old fishing village, it has a tree-lined main street and alleyways stretching down to the beach.

Also in the nort h of the island, the delightful fishing village of El Cotillo is a "must-see". Its beaches and beautiful sheltered lagoons are honeypots for swimmers and watersports lovers. Grab a spot of lunch at La Vaca Azul (The Blue Cow) which enjoys a wonderful setting on the old harbour wall.

If you don't mind testing your driving skills, head into the mountains to the former capital, Betancuria, conquered by Frenchman Jean de Bethencourt in 1405. It was Sod's Law that a coach was heading down the steepest section of road just as I was driving up. Only the coach driver's skill saved me from having to reverse hundreds of yards back to a passing place.

We were staying at the Riu Palace Tres Islas Hotel, near to Corralejo. If location is everything, this was unbeatable. On one side a dazzling, white sandy beach and dunes roll away into the distance. On the other, is the equally stunning Flag Beach, looking across to Lobos island and Lanzarote. I'll never forget walking here at sunset.

Without a doubt, Fuerteventura's biggest attraction is its magnificent, unspoiled beaches - more than 150 of them.

Watersports enthusiasts fly in from around the world to indulge their passion for everything from scuba diving and snorkelling to paragliding, windsurfing and kite-boarding, and plain, old swimming.

Then there's the sunshine - three thousand hours of it every year. That's over eight hours a day, every day! 


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