Exploring la Graciosa: the hidden gem of Canary Islands

by Sebastiano
6 minutes read

If you ask one of the inhabitants of the Canary Islands what, according to them, is the most beautiful island in the archipelago, you’ll be surprised by the answer. It’s not Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, or Tenerife. The island that stands above all others is undoubtedly La Graciosa.

Located north of Lanzarote, separated from it by a stretch of sea known as El Rio, La Graciosa is a hidden gem of the Canary Islands. It is part of the Chinijo Archipelago, along with the tiny islands of Montaña Clara, Roque del Este, Roque del Oeste, and Alegranza.

Recently, it gained administrative independence, officially becoming one of the inhabited islands of the Canaries. This little piece of land is a pearl still largely undiscovered by mass tourism. Here, you can see fishermen returning at dawn, there’s no asphalt, and the air exudes a sense of freedom.

The island is a wild desert, with small plants growing on volcanic rocks shaped by the dry winds blowing from the Atlantic Ocean. The fauna is limited, with wild rabbits and small farm animals sharing space with the island’s residents.

La Graciosa has two main inhabited centers: Caleta de Sebo, where you’ll find essential tourist services, and Pedro Barba, a private tourist oasis. These two centers are home to most of the island’s approximately seven hundred inhabitants, mainly fishermen. At the harbor, you’ll find a tourist center, a supermarket, a pharmacy (with limited hours), and a small church dedicated to the island’s patron saint.

You can explore this desert on two wheels by renting a bicycle for a few euros. An alternative is to call a jeep taxi, operated by some residents who make the journey more comfortable for tired tourists, taking them from one beach to another.

La Graciosa offers two loop trails. The northern loop is dominated by Montaña Bermeja (Red Mountain), while the slightly smaller southern loop leads to Montaña Amarilla (Yellow Mountain). On both routes, the roads are mostly unpaved and fade away to give space to untouched nature. However, the two peaks will serve as your reference points.

About 5 km north of the port, you’ll find Playa de Las Conchas (Shell Beach), a little paradise away from the tourist crowds. The view that greets you is breathtaking: the deep blue of the ocean, the red earth with the volcano chimney in the background, smooth black lava rock at both ends of the beach, and fine golden sand.

It’s no wonder some consider it the most beautiful beach in all of the Canary Islands. However, keep in mind that swimming here requires caution due to strong currents, often choppy waters, and the steep shoreline plunging into the Atlantic Ocean.

The anticipation of a wonderful view and the priceless feeling of purity and freedom make this beach an absolute must-visit.

Moving south, you’ll encounter Montaña Amarilla (Yellow Mountain), standing at 172 meters, dominating the coast. Its open crater overlooks the Bay of La Cocina.

You can take a short hike to the volcano’s summit, from where you can admire Lanzarote to the southwest, with the imposing Risco de Famara and the landscape dominated by the Montañas del Fuego to the south. To the northeast, the islands of the Chinijo Archipelago seem to float in the ocean, while La Graciosa itself extends to the northeast.

On the coast, you’ll find Playa de la Cocina, Playa Montaña Amarilla, and Playa La Francesa. The first two beaches are located at the foot of Montaña Amarilla, and the crystal-clear sea is surrounded by yellow and red lava rock, while the turquoise color of the water dazzles the eyes.

La Cocina Beach is particularly sheltered from strong currents, thanks to the current that separates the northwestern coast of Lanzarote from the southern stretch of La Graciosa. This makes it ideal for swimming, and the water is exceptionally clear.

About ten minutes from La Cocina, you’ll find one of La Graciosa’s most frequented beaches, La Francesa Beach. If you’re seeking a quieter and more pristine environment, you might want to look elsewhere, as this beach is often visited by catamarans and tourists looking for relaxation.

How to Get to La Graciosa

The only way to reach this desert paradise is by sea. Ferries depart from the northern tip of Lanzarote, specifically from the port of Orzola. In just thirty minutes of sailing, you’ll reach the charming village of Caleta de Sebo.

The ferries are operated by two main operators: Biosfera Express and Lineas Maritimas Romero. Departures are approximately every hour, with the first ferry at 10:00 AM and the last return at 4:00 PM in winter and 6:00 PM in summer.

If you plan to stay in Orzola and its surroundings for more than one day, keep in mind that purchasing a ferry ticket the evening before for the next day can get you a 20% discount (these are open tickets not tied to a specific time, only to the chosen day).

Where to Stay in La Graciosa

My advice is to spend at least one night on the island, immersed in absolute silence and enjoying an authentic island sunset. However, the island doesn’t offer many accommodation options. You won’t find hotels, but rather holiday homes and small apartments in Caleta de Sebo.

Here are some of the best accommodation options in La Graciosa:

  • Samsara Home: This property offers a perfect location to walk to La Francesa and Montagna Amarilla beaches. The front-sea terrace provides a spectacular view of El Rio and the Bay of Famara.
  • Apartamento Cuesta del Salado: This apartment offers self-catering accommodations with a fully equipped kitchen and a balcony with mountain views.
  • El Ancla: Located right on the beachfront, this accommodation features a splendid terrace with panoramic views.
  • Apartamento Graciosamar: This property offers bicycle rental service and is situated in an ideal area for hiking and cycling.

Of course, all these properties offer WiFi access to keep you connected.

For the more adventurous, there’s also a campsite, Acampada: Playa del Salado, located between the village and Montaña Amarilla. Although the campsite is basic and sandy, a short 15-minute walk will take you back to Caleta de Sebo.

So, if you’re planning a trip to the Canary Islands and are undecided about which island to visit, seriously consider La Graciosa. It’s a unique place, a desert paradise that offers an unforgettable experience of pure beauty and freedom.

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