Off Lanzarote’s northern tip is the paradisiacal island of La Graciosa. Glorious volcanoes on deep slumber embellish its vast golden sand desert. Galloping towards its stunning shoreline is the world’s most crystalline waters. Pristine, natural, and marvelous, it is a destination that is reminiscent of the old Canaries.

Red Mountain in La Graciosa
A stunning view of the ‘Red Mountain’ – ©nito500

The Story of a Desert Island

Some historical records suggest that Jean Bethencourt conquered La Graciosa before venturing to Lanzarote in 1402, potentially making the desert islet the first Canarian island under the Castile crown. However, regardless of this claim’s accuracy, it is widely acknowledged that La Graciosa is the last inhabited island in the archipelago.

During the 19th century, La Graciosa garnered significant attention in the business sector, particularly in fishing and salting. Reports even suggest that the U.S. government expressed interest in purchasing the island from Spain for these economic purposes. Ultimately, the entrepreneur Ramón de Silva Ferro obtained authorization to establish facilities for fishing, salting, and fish product manufacturing. To kickstart operations, workers were recruited from Lanzarote.

Regrettably, the venture faced adversity and declared bankruptcy after a mere two years. Subsequently, the facilities were divided among the workers, giving rise to the first settlement of La Graciosa, known as Casas de Pedro Barba.

Why Visit La Graciosa

For many, the initial glimpse of La Graciosa is often from Mirador del Rio. The islet’s undeniable beauty is captivating, even when observed from above El Risco de Famara. The enchanting views prompt many to journey across the narrow strait of El Rio to explore this tranquil and charming destination. The allure of La Graciosa, evident from afar, becomes an irresistible invitation for those seeking a picturesque escape.

The Seaport and the Settlements

Caleta de Sebo

Upon arriving, visitors are warmly welcomed by Caleta de Sebo, the capital and largest settlement of the island. The unblemished alabaster harbor town, specked with a teeny bit of hue, is dreamy. Even the docked boats are mostly of the same color. And truth be told, white never looked this handsome.

The village retains an unspoiled, authentic Canarian feel with its unpaved streets and pathways. This charm is not lost on tourists, who are often drawn back by the islet’s genuine atmosphere. Despite its simplicity, Caleta de Sebo is well-equipped with essential amenities, including a bakery, DIY shop, small supermarkets, a nightclub, and a selection of bars and restaurants, providing a balance of comfort and leisure.

Caleta de Sebo
Take a walk and explore Caleta de Sebo – ©emzet70

Alongside rows of whitewashed houses with either blue or green windows and doors is the Nuestra Señora del Carmen church. This charming parish is a feast for the eyes, and its appeal extends beyond the exterior. Stepping inside, visitors are treated to glimpses of the town’s rich seafaring heritage, exemplified by unique elements such as the main altarpiece, ingeniously designed in the shape of a boat, and the Eucharistic table, intriguingly supported by an anchor. Should you find the wooden door open, seize the chance to step inside and explore the unique and symbolic interior.

Casas de Pedro Barba

Despite being the smaller of the two settlements on the island, Casas de Pedro Barba is the older one. Originating from its humble beginnings in fishing and salting, the facilities here have been charmingly converted into lovely abodes. However, unlike the bustling Caleta de Sebo, this community experienced little growth. Nowadays, these homes are primarily occupied during the summer months, lending a seasonal rhythm to the settlement’s life.

Sleeping Volcanoes

La Graciosa shares its volcanic origins with the rest of the Canary Islands, boasting four dormant volcanoes that add a unique charm to its desert landscape. While not towering in height, these geological wonders are strikingly well-placed, almost as though arranged by design.

At the heart of the islet are Las Agujas Grandes and Las Agujas Chicas, the tallest of the volcanic quartet, reaching heights of 266 and 257 meters, respectively. To the north, adjacent to the stunning Playa de Las Conchas, sits Montaña Bermeja. True to its name, which translates to “scarlet,” it boasts a distinctive red cone that dramatically contrasts with its ochre surroundings. At the island’s southern extremity lies Montaña Amarilla. Straddling both land and sea, this volcano captivates onlookers with its striking amber hue, especially from the vantage points of Playa de la Cocina and Playa Francesa.

Beaches

La Graciosa is the epitome of natural splendor. As part of the Chinijo Archipelago’s nature and marine reserves, the islet boasts a landscape and aquatic environment of exceptional beauty. Those fortunate enough to experience these dual wonders simultaneously are truly blessed. Picture yourself reclining on the soft, golden sands, with the majestic volcano in view and the mesmerizing greenish-blue waters stretching before you. Here, the shoreline remains uncluttered by parasols and sunbeds, offering a serene escape where only a handful of awestruck wanderers share in this tranquil, unspoiled paradise.

The Nearest Beaches

Opting to stay in the vicinity of Caleta de Sebo is a wise choice for many visitors. Head to Playa La Laja, conveniently situated next to the harbor, to enjoy some beach time just steps away. While relatively small, this beach, like its counterparts on the island, boasts exceptional golden sand, offering an ideal spot for leisure. If you prefer a more secluded coastal experience near the settlement, explore Playa El Salado, west of Caleta de Sebo, or go farther south for the tranquil shores of Las Piconas.

Playa del Salado La Graciosa
One of the many beaches in Isla La Graciosa – © simonaflamigni

Choices for Surfers

Spread at the foot of the ochre-hued Montaña Amarilla, situated in the southern part of the island, are three magnificent surfing spots – Playa Francesa, Playa Montaña Amarilla (also known as Playa La Cocina), and Playa de la Cocina. The first is highly recommended for beginners, offering a gentle introduction to the sport, while the latter is better suited for more seasoned surfers. As for the middle beach, Playa Montaña Amarilla serves as a tranquil naturist haven with splendid waves. Another renowned spot for avid wave enthusiasts is Bajo del Corral, located on the western side of La Graciosa. The optimal season for surfing in La Graciosa typically spans from October through the end of April.

The Best of the Best

Recognized as one of the Canary Islands’ most pristine and enchanting beaches, Playa de Las Conchas, located northwest of La Graciosa, is the island’s crowning jewel. This 610-meter stretch of coastline is an unspoiled paradise, boasting magnificent white sand that is as breathtaking in reality as it is in photographs. It is the ideal destination for those seeking to bask in the sun, embrace the unadulterated beauty of nature, and revel in the serene melody of tranquility.

Other Attractions

Between Caleta del Sebo and Casas de Pedro Barba, cocooned by rocks and reachable only on foot, lies the hidden gem, Playa Barranco de Los Conejo. It may be tiny, but it is an image of calm draped in white sand. Further to the north is the volcanic rock arch of Los Arcos. This natural wonder serves as a unique vantage point where tourists can observe the rhythmic dance of the seawater as it flows in and out of the formation’s corridor.

Getting to Isla La Graciosa

To reach La Graciosa from other Canary Islands, the most common and straightforward method is to first travel to Lanzarote. Once on Lanzarote, visitors typically head to the northern town of Órzola. From Órzola, regular ferry services are provided by companies like Lineas Romero and Biosfera Express, which offer a short and scenic crossing to La Graciosa, arriving at the island’s main settlement, Caleta de Sebo.

For vacationers staying in other parts of the island, a convenient alternative bypasses the need to travel to Órzola. From several Lanzarote ports, visitors may arrange to be picked up by a water taxi that will take them straight to La Graciosa. This personalized service provides a more direct route to the island and includes the return journey, making it a flexible option for visitors staying outside Orzola. Plus, it saves time and adds an element of exclusivity and convenience to the trip.

Going Around the Desert Island

Holidaymakers have several options for exploring La Graciosa, including reaching the farthest parts of this small and relatively undeveloped island. Here are the most popular ways to get around:

Bicycle Rentals: Due to its small size and relatively flat terrain, La Graciosa is an ideal place for cycling. There are several places in Caleta de Sebo where visitors can rent bikes. This mode of transportation is perfect for accessing various beaches and viewing points across the island.

Walking/Hiking: For those who prefer to explore on foot, La Graciosa offers numerous trails that are well-suited for hiking. It’s a great way to experience the island’s natural beauty at a leisurely pace.

4×4 Taxis: There are 4×4 taxis available on the island that can take visitors to different locations, including remote beaches and viewpoints. This is a convenient option for those who want to avoid biking or hiking long distances, especially during hotter months.

Boat Trips/Water Taxis: Some areas of the island, especially remote beaches and coves, are best accessed by sea. Local operators in Caleta de Sebo offer water taxis or boat trips around the island. This is an excellent way to see the coastline from a different perspective and to visit beaches that are otherwise inaccessible by land.

Kayaking: For the more adventurous, kayaking is another way to explore the coastline of La Graciosa. This allows visitors to reach secluded spots and enjoy the islet’s natural beauty from the water.

Holiday Rentals

La Graciosa offers a range of accommodation options catering to different budgets. For a budget-friendly option, explore rental sites such as Airbnb. These platforms often have a variety of highly rated yet affordable accommodations, including private rooms, apartments, or small houses. Always be sure to read recent reviews and check the location to ensure it’s convenient for your planned activities on the island.

Now, let’s consider mid-range and higher-end options:

Mid-Range Option

Apartamentos Los Marineros are self-catering apartments located in Caleta de Sebo. They offer more space and amenities than a hostel, including a kitchen and living area, making them an excellent option for families or friend groups. The apartments are well-equipped and close to local shops and restaurants.

Higher-End Option

The seafront Evita Beach Apartamentos is ideal for those seeking a more luxurious experience. Boasting stylish apartments with modern amenities and beautiful design, these apartments provide comfort and elegance, often featuring terraces or balconies where you can watch boats come in and out of the harbor. They are also well-situated for easy access to the beaches and other attractions on the island.

It’s important to book accommodations well in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, as options on this small island can fill up quickly. Additionally, staying in Caleta de Sebo is usually recommended as it is the main hub on the island, offering convenient access to restaurants, shops, ferry connections, and rental services.

Dining Options

In Caleta de Sebo, the sole hub of commercial activity on La Graciosa, a modest yet impressive selection of restaurants has emerged. These establishments have adeptly honed their culinary skills in Mediterranean, Spanish, and Canarian cuisines. Particularly noteworthy are their seafood offerings and the ‘fish of the day,’ which are consistently delightful and showcase the local catch. Additionally, the strategic location of most eateries along the harbor affords diners the luxury of savoring their meals while soaking in the breathtaking views of the El Rio Strait and the imposing Risco de Famara cliffs on the mainland of Lanzarote.

Restaurante Girasol

This charming restaurant offers an enchanting dining experience for seafood lovers, boasting a menu rich in authentic Canarian flavors. Its culinary delights include the “parrillada de pescado,” a mixed grilled seafood platter celebrating the ocean’s bounty, and “arròs negre,” a traditional squid ink paella for tantalizing the taste buds. For those who enjoy hearty meals, the “arroz caldoso,” a lusciously soupy rice dish, is a standout choice. Additionally, their “paella de mariscos” is a feast for the senses, brimming with various seafood and bursting with rich, savory flavors. The restaurant’s cozy and inviting atmosphere, coupled with its friendly service, makes each meal a delightful experience.

Restaurante El Veril

Located just beside the prior, Restaurante El Veril prides itself on traditional culinary preparations that bring out the rich, authentic flavors of the sea. Among its specialties are the “arroz caldoso,” a sumptuously soupy rice dish, and “papas arrugadas,” a Canary Islands classic featuring wrinkled potatoes served with a tangy mojo sauce. The “fideuá” offers a delightful twist on traditional paella, substituting rice with short noodles to create a unique texture and taste. Another highlight is the “cazuela de pulpo, gambas y champiñones,” a hearty casserole that combines tender octopus, succulent prawns, and earthy mushrooms. Guests can enjoy these culinary delights on the restaurant’s terrace, which boasts a splendid view of the picturesque harbor, providing the perfect backdrop for a relaxing lunch or dinner.

Casa Enriqueta

Casa Enriqueta elevates the dining scene in La Graciosa by offering a refined and innovative take on traditional Spanish and Canarian cuisine. Among its signature offerings, the “ensalada de la casa” (house salad) is a fresh and vibrant starter, while the “arròs negre” (squid ink paella) and the indulgent “arroz caldoso con bogavante” (soupy rice dish with lobster) present a visually striking and flavor-rich main course. The “cazuela de pulpo, gambas y champiñones” impresses with its harmonious blend of octopus, prawns, and mushrooms, while the grilled scallops, known as “zamburiñas,” showcase local flavors expertly grilled to perfection.

A highlight of the dessert menu is the exquisite “tarta de queso” – a cheesecake crafted from goats’ cheese, offering a delightful and unique interpretation of a traditional Canarian treat. Beyond the culinary delights, Casa Enriqueta provides an intimate setting, enhancing the dining experience, and its attentive service ensures that every moment of your special evening is memorable.

The Eighth Canary Island

La Graciosa, frequently called the eighth Canary Island, resonates with a unique charm that extends far beyond its unofficial title. It is the jewel of the archipelago, untouched by the waves of ‘growth’ that have transformed its counterparts. In its enduring natural beauty, La Graciosa emerges as a pristine testament to the timeless allure of the Canary Islands.