A Travellerspoint blog

Summer in Mallorca

Mallorca, Spain


View Nov 2020 on margofiala's travel map.

Our last destination was Mallorca, the largest of Spain’s Balearic Islands. They are located off the east coast of Spain, so we flew from Lanzarote in the Canary Islands back to Barcelona, and then a short 50 minute flight to Mallorca. You can also take a long ferry from Barcelona (~8 hours), but we opted for the plane.

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We arrived in Mallorca to find a paddler’s paradise! In contrast to the “windy” season in the Canary Islands, it was the “still air” season in Mallorca, perfect for paddle boarding. Mallorca is known for its clear aquamarine water of the Mediterranean Sea, and it was stunning. With the temperature increasing (25–32C/77–90F), we put our hiking and touring gear away and paddle boarded as much as we could. It was truly some of the best scenery and conditions we had ever paddled in, and reminded us of paddling in Costa Brava.

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Most of these paddling trips were made possible by Hannah and Miguel at Mallorca SUP, who had top quality equipment (even carbon fiber paddles), great advise us on paddling routes and even transported us to some amazing starting locations. We loved their SUP pups too, Honey and Teddy.

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They had a marketing video produced while we were there, check it out (turn up your volume):

Port de Pollença was our home base and where we paddled from most days. The water was so blue and so clear, and the bay was very calm, Hannah took this video of us:

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Hannah suggested we do a sunrise paddle up the dramatic Cap de Formentor coastline. The water is warm even at 6:00 am! They dropped us at Formentor Beach, with the pups of course. It was one of those “experiences” we will never forget:

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All the caves and crevasses are so fun to explore on a paddle board:

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Cala de Sant Vicenç is the next cove over from Pollença to the west, not as protected from the open sea but very spectacular and amazingly calm on the day we went. Again, the water is just so clear and we have another video:

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Cala Alcanada is near Alcúdia, on the next bay east of Pollença:

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Port de Soller is about an hour drive on the northwest coast and was one of the only paddles we did without Hannah and Miguel, but they did tell us exactly where to go 😊:

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We had considered staying here, similar to Port de Pollença with a bay leading to the sea, but smaller:

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Many people we met in Spain had recommended Mallorca and given us advice on where to stay, etc. The most patient and helpful with all our questions was no doubt another Hannah from England, who is also a Spanish transplant. Fluent in Spanish, she teaches English, works winters in the Spanish Pyrenees (skiing - that’s where we met her two winters ago) and summers in Mallorca with her boyfriend Franco, a socorristo (lifeguard) and skier as well. Yes, a hard life! Her and Franco’s advice was so helpful and is why we found the perfect location for paddling and seeing the natural beauty of Mallorca. Thank you Hannah and Franco!

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Cala Agulla is where Franco works, so we had to paddle there as well. The water here is a more exposed to the open sea, so more work to paddle than we are used to. It was super fun and very scenic, but we were glad we were paddling with two lifeguards (Franco and his friend Tincho):

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We stayed in Port de Pollença, in the northern part of the island to get away from the more touristy centers (south and east coasts). We had a great view from our apartment and enjoyed the beach right in front of us:

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We celebrated Dean’s birthday on a boat cruise from Pollença Bay, exploring the capes on either side (Cap de Formentor and Cap des Pinar). The boat was owned by friends of Miguel, Raul and Oscar, and he made sure we toured all his favorite spots. Hannah (skier) joined us for the day and Oscar made sure we had a super fun day! Dean sends a big thank you to Margo’s family for a great birthday gift:

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We were cruising up the Cape with steep cliffs dropping dramatically into the water and with the clear water you could see them continuing underneath. Oscar stopped the boat, pointed to a cliff, and said, “this is it, go here” and motioned to the water. All we could see was blue water and the cliff, but we did as we were told and jumped in! We swam to the cliff, dipped under the edge, and it opened into a large, brilliant cave that was literally glowing from the sunlight reflecting on the white sand below. It was so cool! Oscar’s father had discovered the cave years ago when he was a child. There were no tour boats, just us, what an experience!

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The drive to Sa Calobra on the northwest coast is an island highlight called “The Snake“and another nail bitter drive. It winds through the Tramuntana mountains down 12 kms to the sea.

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After the amazing drive, Sa Calobra is a stunning spot where the steep rocky cliffs of the gorge meet the sea. It has a pedestrian tunnel between the two stoney beach areas and is a popular boating destination as well:

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Cala Tuent is one cove over:

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Prior to our sunrise paddle up Cap Formentor, we also drove to the lighthouse at the end of the cap and enjoyed the views from the Mirador Es Colomer:

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On the way back we hiked into Cala Figueres for a swim:

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Miguel said his favorite cala (cove) was a short 20 min hike away, Cala Boquer. It was very beautiful but took us about an hour to get to, so either we are slow, or Miguel is very optimistic!

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One bay over, Alcúdia is quite developed probably due to the long stretch of sugar-like sand:

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We met Hannah and Franco for dinner one night at a finca (estate) restaurant near the town of Artà, which is visible from all around with its hilltop castle:

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The northwestern coast of Mallorca is rugged, dramatic and has some lovely little towns to visit. I am lucky that Dean likes driving these precarious roads that connect the villages. Our first stop was Banyalbufar:

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Then we stopped at Valdemossa for shopping and lunch. This pretty little town is known for being a favorite home of Chopin’s:

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Then continued onto the lovely Deià, home of “La Residencia”, a palatial hotel that was calling our name (maybe next trip?):

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And Cala de Deia:

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My dad plays tennis and is a big fan, so he wanted us to check out Rafa Nadal’s training center in Manacor, where he is from. Rafa Nadal is one of the best tennis players in the world and has won 20 grand slam men’s single tournaments, which is an all-time record. His training center was equally impressive:

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Foodie alert! We really enjoyed Abbaco, a restaurant in Port de Pollença on the water front, it was one of our favorites (grilled avocado, crispy prawns with satay sauce, nigiri sushi and rolls):

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We also had a great meal at an Italian restaurant in Port de Pollença called Moll de Bellagio (burrata, tomato and prosciutto salad, seafood pasta, roasted lamb shoulder):

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Mallorca also produces some world class wines. We visited the Mortitx Winery near Pollença, as we had driven by their vines several times. It is a small production, grows all their own grapes and is set in an amazing valley in the Tramuntana mountains. Great growing conditions with cool nights and warm humid sunny days, makes for a great wine:

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We spent a few days at the beginning of our trip in Palma, the capital of the Balearic Islands. It is a very colorful city this time of year with lots of flowers blooming. Here is the placa right outside our hotel:

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We have visited several Arab baths in mainland Spain, but clearly the Moors were here too and built a beautiful garden as well:

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The main tourist sites in the city are the Palma Cathedral and the Palau de l’Almudaina (Palace), right beside each other. The Spanish are always protesting something, and the story goes that the land between the sea and the cathedral was slated for a large parking garage, but the public disagreed, protested loudly and in this case were successful. The land is now the “Parc del la Mar”, with water reflecting both buildings and providing a walkway to the sea. It is a very pleasant to stroll around when touring the old city, much nicer than a garage!

Cathedral:
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Palace:
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Park:
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Castell de Bellver provides a great lookout over the city and Palma Bay. As seems typical, this castle built in the 1400s as a grand home and strategic lookout, then used as a prison and is now a museum:

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Toque restaurant, by the marina was a great find. Owned and run by Belgians, we laughed about the name, which Canadians use to keep their head warm but is a chef’s hat here (Belgian succotash, grilled skate fish, beef tartare):

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The journey home: Palma/Barcelona/Istanbul/Chicago/Denver; certainly not the most direct route but we needed to exit the EU from Spain to get that magic stamp in our passport for our visa, so that is what we did. We spent a few fun hours in Barcelona and overnighted in Istanbul at the hotel at their fancy new airport, so it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. We made it home safe and sound:

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The dogs of Mallorca, starring SUP pups Honey and Teddy. The other SUP pup we met was Bongo in Port de Soller. Bongo runs the marketing side of the business, check out Dean’s T-shirt.

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Next stop: Colorado for now, with a quick trip to Canada to see family. Til next time!

Posted by margofiala 00:15 Archived in Spain Comments (3)

Lanzarote - Lava & Grapes

Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain


View Nov 2020 on margofiala's travel map.

We feel like we saved the best for last, but each of the Canary Islands are so unique it is really hard to say. Lanzarote has great wine, long beaches and amazing food, all in a dramatic volcanic setting. And we found an awesome place to stay in Haria. Hard to beat this island, checks all the boxes and then some. We will definitely be back, maybe combined with a trip to Morocco.

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We loved our pad! Marcus and Heidi, our hosts, put the “a” in amazing and it is one of the best places we have stayed in our travels…and we have stayed a lot of places. Casa Palmera is a large house split into 3 completely separate suites. We stayed in the main house, there was a penthouse above us and another apartment beside us that the owners live in. It was like coming home, very nicely decorated, spacious, super comfortable and every detail thought of. We certainly didn’t need a three bedroom house, but it was nice to have space to spread out after months of apartment living to enjoy just being at home. It also has a large patio and garden area with a pool and great views of the valley. We really didn’t want to leave and extended our time there twice, in the end staying for just over two weeks.

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Click this link for more pictures, you will be tempted to go for a visit! 😊 : http://casitapalmera.com/

Best of all was their pets! Bob, Flossy, Chester and Luka. We so enjoyed having animals around the house, it’s been a long time!

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Plus 10 chickens (The Spice Girls). Dean got his fill of eggs! He even fed the chickens when Marcus and Heidi were away for a short trip and herded them back into the chicken coop when they escaped a few times. He kept asking them to stand still so he could count and make sure there was 10. Did he miss his calling?

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Just before we left, they rescued two kittens, Cagney and Lacey, to help with mouse duty. (Chester and Luka had retired from active duty.)

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We were about a 5 minute walk from lovely Haria, a town in northern Lanzarote. Lots of greenery and palm trees in this valley and town, almost like an oasis:

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Tasting the fruits of volcanic vines was a definite highlight of this island - both seeing how the grapes were grown and drinking the final product. Forget nice orderly rows of vines on trellises, instead a single vine is planted in a circular depressions in the black volcanic soil and a small crescent shaped stone wall is built around it for wind protection. There is little rain here and no irrigation, the plants survive from condensation of the sea mist in a few valleys on the island. Lots of work and pretty low productivity. It sure tasted good though, most are dry white wines (Malvasia grapes) with a distinct “minerally” taste that is so refreshing, great on a hot day.

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We visited three vineyards - Rubicon, Tablera and El Grifo:

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We didn’t get to visit Yaiza, but it was definitely a favorite beverage in their distinctive blue bottle (that is hopefully coming home with us):

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Cesar Manrique, born in Lanzarote, was an artist and environmentalist who created beautiful art but also made a substantial contribution to the island by establishing architectural standards for the island that maintained Lanzarote’s traditional architecture design. He also created some amazing facilities on the island using lava rock that are truly one of a kind. Many of his creations were closed due to Covid but we did manage to see a few. His legacy lives on as there are no high rise developments on the island and the white pueblos with green or blue trim give the island a very clean island feel.

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We had met a young American couple in La Gomera that were married on Lanzarote (pre-Covid) and had a “destination wedding” at Jameos de Agua. Her photos were stunning, so we had to go look for ourselves. It’s a signature Cesar Manrique’s creation, wonderfully combining black lava rock with white and aquamarine blue in a lava tube...yes, really.... and features I an underground concert hall, restaurant & salt lake. It was amazing to see what Cesar created from a 5000 year old volcanic cavern:

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The lava tube forming Jameos de Agua is about 7 kms long, and another section of it was developed for visitors to see the caves that were created as the lava rushed done to the sea and the top layers cooled to form a roof. Another amazing creation, called “Cuevo de Los Verdes”:

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Cesar Manrique out did himself with the creation of “Mirador del Rio”, an amazing lookout point over the north part of the island looking out to Isla Graciosa. It was originally a gun battery built in the late 1800’s, but Cesar had a different vision:

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Remember I said this island checks all the boxes? How about a coastal hike to a beautiful deserted beach? And not only one beach but your choice from 4-5 lovely coves (one had people so we skipped that one!) Playa Blanca is a main tourist center on the south coast, but right beside it is a natural park, protecting the beautiful Papagayo promontory from development. We hiked from Playa Blanca to Papaguya (about 8 km round trip) and picked our favorite beach:

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Famara is another one of Lanzarote’s most beautiful, undeveloped beaches, with the cliffs of Risco de Famara in the background. Known for its consistent waves and wind, this is a surfing and kite surfing mecca. It was just “over the top” from Haria, where we were staying, so one more curvy mountain pass road, but well worth it. On the way was a great mirador (lookout).

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The Timanfaya National Park protects a large part of the island (102 sq kms), that erupted between 1730-36, a relatively recent occurrence from a geological perspective. There are only two ways to access the park, either a bus tour or a 9 hour one way hike that has to be booked months in advance and, given it is one way, you need transport at the other end - which was closed due to Covid, so on the bus we went! (Don’t overthink that a hike in fresh air was closed but the bus tour was running during an airborne pandemic....). Luckily it wasn’t busy and we got seats right at the front, the views were astounding, as was the fact there was a paved road through this land of swirling, twisting, folded mounds of solidified lava, another Cesar Manrique “intervention”.

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The restaurant/tour bus center cooks food from the heat of the volcano:

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Back in the day, camels were used for transporting many things on Lanzarote, including grapes. Now used for tourists, we didn’t partake but it was cool to see them in this setting:

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Puerto del Carmen is usually a very busy tourist area and has some great beaches. We didn’t love all the British and German signs, but could see why it is a favorite holiday spot for them:

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The best part about visiting a British tourist destination is the plethora of Indian food restaurants! (Samosa Chat, Vegetable pakora, Tandoori roti)

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Punta de las Mujeres is right beside Arrieta, a seaside village we considered staying in, known for its rugged coastline and “natural swimming pools”.

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More hiking - we enjoy the thrill of hiking to the top of volcanoes and looking in! This was the jaunt up to Caldera Blanca, a good trudge through black lava rock (no choice but to stay on the path or get no where), then up the side of the volcano. A little windy at the top but at least Dean didn’t have to hang onto me:

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Our favorite restaurant in Haria, walking distance from our “ home away from home” was Puerto de Verde (The Green Door). We were there a few times, so of course Dean knew all the waiters, the owner and owner's family....is anyone surprised? We felt like regulars. (Candied local soft white cheese with sardines - sounds terrible but tastes delicious, tuna tataki, lamb roast with veggies, mango cream)

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Arricefe is the capital of Lanzarote and is where the airport is, so a major center. It also has a pretty coastline and we enjoyed some meals and sightseeing there. I suspect it was the only water we saw calm enough for paddle boarding but we never got a chance to do try it out:

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Playa Caleton Blanco is a cool, lagoon style beach near where we stayed. My sister Leesa would have been there for hours going through all the tide pools. It was very interesting, especially with the wind protection:

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On the southwest coast, is the small fishing village of El Golfo. Known for its waterfront seafood restaurants and dramatic coastline, including the famous green lake that Rachel Welsh poised by (in a fur bikini) in a 1960’s movie “One Million Years BC”, called Charco de los Clicos. We enjoyed a great lunch and exploring the coastline:

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Another Cesar Manrique creation, a cactus garden built into lava rock that was shaped into a coliseum. So cool, where did this guy get his ideas?

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We were lucky to see some of the cacti in bloom:

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And some were just very unique:

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A few agaves sprinkled in:

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On the north end of the island, is the town of Orzola, where small ferries depart for Isla Graciosa, the eighth Canary Island that is inhabited (slightly). We went over on a morning ferry and spent the day there, hiking and beaching. This is the island you can see from Mirador del Rio. We felt like we had the island to ourselves:

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Our favorite furry friends were of course Bob and Flossy, our resident dogs. Seeing their wagging tails each day brought a smile to our faces. Pinta is a winery dog we made friends with that greets everyone that arrives! She loves the warm volcano stones and the great food they serve, good thing she has a slim build:

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Next stop: Mallorca!

Posted by margofiala 07:10 Archived in Spain Comments (3)

Fuerteventura - Beaches, Dunes & WIND!

Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain


View Nov 2020 on margofiala's travel map.

The journey continues! We took a ferry from La Gomera back to Tenerife and a short flight to Fuerteventura (50 mins), arriving in Puerto del Rosario. Even though the islands look close together, it’s actually quite a ways to Fuertaventura from Tenerife, so the ferry options were quite long (12+ hours).

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Spain’s Paradors have run into some competition with the Avanti Lifestyle Hotel in Corralejo, this is definitely a great place to stay!

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The hotel has a Michelin rated “Restaurante Rompeolas”, where we enjoyed dinner one night (Fried Canary Island cheeses, Caprese salad, Cod with cheese and truffle, Grilled sea bass with Canary potatoes and pomegranate salad):

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If we had known Fuerteventura meant “strong wind” in Spanish and that May through August was windy season, we may have given this beautiful island a miss. It’s a good thing we didn’t know, as we loved the island, especially the north. We had been warned that this island could be very busy with tourists, but one of the silver linings of Covid is there are very few tourists and we stayed in the north which is less developed.

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Sand dunes cover a good bit of the island, and they are always cleaning the highways of sand the way we plow snow at home. The car rental agency warned us of getting stuck in sand and we saw people endlessly sweeping sand away – such a different way of life. The Parque Natural de Corralejo is a preserve for some of the largest sand dunes on the island and some beautiful beaches.

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We loved Playa Larga best of the dunes beaches, and so many kite surfers!

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El Cotillo is a former fishing village that has become a renowned surfing, kite surfing and wind surfing destination. It is near where we were staying and instead of just driving over, we decided to bike there. Anyways, remember the name of the island? Strong wind? And sand dunes? Put those two together and you have the story of our bike ride. It was so windy I was literally going backwards at times, and I have sand embedded in every pore of my body. It was 20 kms one way, beautiful views, gorgeous aqua marine water, surfers, and kiters along the way….and lots of sand. Our rental mountain bikes were in decent shape, but my butt will never be the same. Fine, white sand…beautiful unless you are trying to cycle through it. We finally made it, 3 hours one way, had lunch and rode back…into the wind both ways with all the ins and outs of the rugged coastline.

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We DROVE back in our lovely rental car on another day to enjoy the beach there, Playa La Concha:

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The most exciting part of any hike is getting to the top, right? Well, times that by ten when you hike a volcano. The Caldera de Hondo is a volcano near Corralejo where we stayed. It was our first real volcano hike, meaning you are walking through jagged, uneven black lava rock and when you get to the top to look in, it is jaw dropping. (The aerial shot is compliments of the local tourist agency.)

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Everywhere you look, there are volcanoes on the island:

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The south west peninsula of the island is protected, called the Parque Natural de Jandia. It is an incredibly rugged, natural, undeveloped finger of land characterized by fingers of lava descending to the ocean. Quite by accident we heard about an organization in Morro Jable trying to reestablish Loggerhead turtles on Fuerteventura after almost a hundred year absence. They also rescue injured turtles found on the island, rehabilitate them and return them to the sea. It was closed due to Covid to visitors, but the helpful staff/volunteers at “Centro de Recuperacion y Conservacion de tortugas marinas de Fuerteventura” took these pictures for us. We donated and enjoyed seeing flippers and the occasional head pop up:

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Playa de Cofete is a wild beautiful beach on the other side of Jandia, with a bit of a tricky road to get there, but not too bad (relatively speaking). This is where they are trying to reestablish the turtles, so are monitoring the activity on the beach closely. It is beautiful and feels like you are at the end of the earth:

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A lonely lighthouse sits at tip of the island, “Faro de Jandia”, overlooking the clearest blue water, what turtle wouldn’t want to come here?

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On our way back to our hotel (at the other end of the island, about an hour drive), we passed several “Maui quality” beaches on the Jandia Peninsula, largely deserted. Here is one is called Playa de Sotavento, it just went on forever:

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Just off the north end of Fuerteventura is Lobos Island, an easy day trip from Correlejo with frequent water taxis and small ferries providing transportation for the 15 min jaunt to the island. I had imagined paddle boarding out there when I was researching the island – HA! That was before I knew what Fuerteventura meant. Power boats even cancel trips on windy days, so we took the water taxi. I felt a little like I was on a ski boat with my old roommate and long time friend Garry Peterson – slamming on the waves to get there. Anyways we made it fine, enjoyed hiking around the island and some beach time. The color of the water was stunning and the bay we swam in is completely protected from the big waves – like a natural swimming pool.

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Dogs, donkeys and squirrels? Lots of wildlife on Fuerteventura:

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Adios Fuerteventura, till next time. A short 30 minute ferry ride to our next stop: Lanzarote

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Posted by margofiala 22:50 Archived in Spain Comments (4)

La Gomera - A Hiker’s Paradise

La Gomera, Canary Islands, Spain


View Nov 2020 on margofiala's travel map.

La Gomera is a smaller island west of Tenerife, a short 50 minute ferry ride. It is a very different island in many ways, exceptionally green and a hiker’s paradise with a small town feel. They have zero Covid infections and are proud of it! (We had to show our negative Covid test to come here.)

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You can clearly see La Gomera from Tenerife and vice versa, you can see Tenerife from La Gomera, especially the high peak of Teide. We felt like we were always taking pictures of the island on the horizon.

Tenerife with Mt Teide:
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La Gomera:
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Time for another Parador! I really felt like I was at Fantasy Island here. The Parador at San Sebastián de la Gomera is a tropical paradise and feels like a plantation with subtropical gardens and a pool with a view of the Atlantic. It is a 15th century Canarian mansion converted to a hotel, who could ask for more?

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We weren’t the only ones staying there!

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The largest town is San Sebastián, where the ferry comes in and where we stayed at the parador. It is a busy little town with a large port and historically where Christopher Columbus rested and repaired one of his ships before sailing to America.

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News flash: the last ice age didn’t make it here! Really. So, La Gomera is home to an ancient forest that supposedly covered much of the Mediterranean millions of years ago. Hiking through the “laurasilva” forest is surreal, there is moss everywhere, even on the tips of trees and it has a very quiet hush feel. The forest is very lush, dense and damp, as the heavy canopy provides a rooftop to the forest and it is frequently raining or misting. There are ferns and moss everywhere. The entire area is a national park (Parque Nacional de Garajonay):

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I found some sweet peas blooming, my Grandma Stevens would be happy!

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We also hiked to the highest point of the island, called Alto de Garajonay. It was in a cloud to start but gradually cleared enough to get a few glimpses of the neighboring islands, Tenerife and El Hierro. The island is covered with paths from pre-highway/car times when locals walked everywhere on the island. Now many people travel here from all over the world to walk these well marked trails.

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One day we drove up the east side of the island through many banana plantations, papaya’s, grapes and other lush vegetation on terraces, and visited the remote towns of Hermigua and Vallehermoso. The deep ravines and lush greenery were amazing. We felt like we were in another world, imagine living this far away from everything!

Bananas:
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Papayas and grapes:
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The lush landscape:
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The roads were a bit crazy but not as nail biting as Tenerife. This is the road leaving Hermigua:

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And coming back to San Sebastián:

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The roads make it a favorite for motor bikers (just for you John!):

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The west side of the island is more frequented by tourists heading for Valle Gran Rey. Dryer and with beaches, it has more of a vacation destination feel, although some people looked like they came 20 years ago and forgot to go home...

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We had lunch there at “Restaurante Abisinia” with an awesome bottle of wine made on Tenerife, recommended by Carlos (see next section). We enjoyed a goat cheese salad, wasabi tuna and grilled amberjack with Canarian potatoes:

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The tropical flowers were truly amazing:

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We didn’t have any beach time here, but the black sand coast was very dramatic against the blue water:

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We met Ruffo and Lea hiking, and then again at an outdoor restaurant. Their parents, Carolina and Carlos, work in the booze business so Dean enjoyed a long chat over a picnic lunch learning about how the business works here. Lea is super attached to Carlos and won’t let him out of her sight.

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Adios La Gomera! Next stop: Fuerteventura

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Posted by margofiala 20:45 Archived in Spain Comments (3)

Tenerife - Volcanoes & Whales

Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain


View Nov 2020 on margofiala's travel map.

Where are the Canaries anyways? Spain’s Canary Islands are closer to Africa than Europe, just off the west coast of Morocco, but only a 3.5 hr flight from Barcelona. We had heard lots about this mysterious group of islands and wanted to see them for ourselves. The earliest known residents are believed to have been Guanches from North Africa, but after many conquests and battles the islands became Spanish in the late 1400’s. There are eight inhabited islands in the Canaries, and several uninhabited as well. We choose 4 islands to visit: Tenerife, La Gomera, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. We started at Tenerife, the largest island, as there are direct flights from Barcelona. (Covid note: Currently the Canaries have a very low Covid infection rate and are open for tourists who provide a negative Covid test on entry. La Gomera actually has zero cases at this point!)

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On Tenerife we stayed in a seaside apartment with outstanding views of the cliffs of Los Gigantus on the west side of the island. You really couldn’t be any closer. The Acantilados de Los Gigantus (Cliffs of the Giants) soar 600m/1968ft out of the water and are so dramatically black in contrast to the blue sky and ocean - they change color with the light and provide huge wind protection for the area. It was great to wake up to them every morning and watch the colors change with the sunset.

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Los Gigantus also forms the border of the protected marine reserve that runs between Tenerife and the neighboring island of La Gomera. Apparently this channel is a year-round favorite hangout whales and dolphins (but especially March - June) - it felt similar to the channel between Maui and Lanai where we see the humpbacks and spinner dolphins in winter time. Our whale and dolphin watching tour (Whale Wise EcoTours) was definitely a highlight of our visit to this island. Mercedes was the marine biologist onboard and was a wealth of information about the pilot whales, bright whales and bottle nose dolphins we saw. (She also had a cute dog on board named Shini.) It’s a small world, she spent 7 years on Vancouver Island between Victoria and Sooke Harbor studying whales. They had a photographer on board taking pictures for a whale study and they shared them with us, so enjoy!

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The dolphins were camera shy:

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I celebrated my birthday at Sauco, a wonderful seaside restaurant with my honey! Thanks for all the emails and calls I got! (Seafood salad, seared tuna, grilled sea bass)

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The highest point in Tenerife and dominating the skyline from all vantages, even other islands, is El Teide. At 3718m/12,198ft. It is the highest mountain in Spain, (almost a fourteener in Colorado!), here is a distant and close up view:

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The whole area around it is a national park and it’s easy to see why - an extraordinary, lunar-like landscape with bizarre rock formations. We drove up early for a cable car ride to the top, hoping for a clear day to see the other islands. Not perfectly clear and a bit chilly at the top (see the snow?), but stayed warm enough to do a short hike at the top:

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How these plants grow in these conditions is beyond me! It is called a Red Tajinaste, and blooms in its second year. (Lisa R., I got seeds for us!)

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Just down the road from the cable car is the Rocques de Garcia area, which Lonely Planet calls “a freak show of twisted lava pinnacles”. We hiked for a couple hours and saw some of the weirdest rock formations I have ever seen, all resulting from solidified streams of magma and old volcanic dykes eroding overtime.

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I had this great idea to drive to the most northwestern point on Tenerife (Punta de Teno) - supposedly one of the most scenic points on the island and completely undeveloped except for a lighthouse - great sunsets, huge waves and tall mountains. On the way there, in fact only about 5 kms in of a 30 km drive, is the small town of Masca, set dramatically on the mountainside, overlooking a deep canyon leading to the sea. So, of course the plan is to stop there and then continue on to the point and of course, drive back to our apartment. So here is the road:

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And here is our standard transmission rental car (that Dean chose by the way!)

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Winding narrow roads, really steep cliff drop offs and no guard rails (I don’t consider small intermittent concrete blocks much of a deterrent!), all in a little car that had seen better days (ie. do the brakes even work?) By the time we got to Masca, I was a wreck and wanted no more of it! So we visited Masca and I closed my eyes all the way back - no Punta de Teno for me! The fact it is undeveloped and beautiful should have been a clue...

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The black sand beach called La Playa Arena was our favorite!

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El Medino is a world-class spot for kitesurfing, so we decided to check it out. Wow, lots of kite surfers...

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Puerto de la Cruz is a town on the northern coast of Tenerife. This side of the island is not as dry as the south nor as touristy. The town used to be a spa destination in the Victorian days and has a lovely promenade in front of the sea.

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We visited a botanical garden there as well:

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Generally speaking, Canaries architecture looks very colonial (picture the buildings in Fantasy Island - “the plane, the plane!”). However they are really into wooden balconies, which add a different dimension.

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We loved our whale watching trip even more because of Shini, the captain’s one year old pup:

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There is a lot more geckos than perros here:

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Next stop: La Gomera, a short 50 minute ferry ride away.

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Posted by margofiala 11:24 Archived in Spain Comments (6)

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