Fuerteventura is closely bound up with the sea. Its first inhabitants were thought to have been slaves brought to the island from Mauretania in the first two millennia BC to harvest lichens used to make dyes. Their descendants lived more or less undisturbed until pirates and explorers from the European mainland first landed here in the 12th and 13th centuries. Finally claimed for Spain by Jean de Béthencourt in 1405 the island then became an important staging post for ships on the voyage to the New World. In the following centuries waves of both immigration and emigration brought in many cultural influences, and today the island has its own distinctive identity; the Majoreros, as islanders still call themselves, are proud of their long tradition of being a resolute, independent and capable people.
Food and drink on Fuerteventura
"Our products are all locally grown and are fresh and healthy - our fish and meat could not be more so..."
Award-winning chef Marcos Guiterrez Vera
Locally grown vegetables are rich in flavour and the goats' milk and meat are renowned for their flavour and quality. The waters around the island teem with fish, and the rocky coast provides many kinds of shellfish. The cuisine of the island is simple - but the ingredients are of the best quality - producing a winning combination.
Some dishes to try:
in all forms - from rich stews to tender grilled kid chops - try the gofio escaldado - stock thickened with toasted corn flour and kid meat.
- this speciality of the island is made from toasted corn and wheat flour. In the past when bread was a luxury eaten only at special occasions gofio would have been a staple for every meal. Mixed with milk it was served at breakfast ; blended with fish or meat stock and vegetables it would have provided the base for the main meal of the day, before being served again with milk for supper. Today it is used to thicken and flavour soups, stocks and stews. Try the Escaldon de Gofio de caldo de pescado - a rich fish stew made with gofio and vegetables.
- Most dishes are accompanied by these tiny delicious potatoes cooked in very salty water and then baked for a few minutes and eaten whole in their wrinkled skins.
- sauces made from olive oil, vinegar, herbs, and a selection of spices are served with every meal. The red mojo is made using peppers and can be very spicy for everyone has their own recipe. Green mojo is based on parsley or coriander and is mostly eaten with fish dishes.
of all kind are on the menu - but try the Vieja - a parrot fish which is common around the islands. The cheapest fish on the menu, it has one of the best flavours and a firm white flesh.
Sea bass and bream too are often on the menu - with tuna and some times swordfish depending on availability. But you can always be assured that the fish will be fresh - for the sea is never far away here.
The variety of seafood is extraordinary, from prawns to massive mussels, crabs, and lobster. The paella of Fuerteventura with fresh natural ingredients is of excellent quality and is always reasonably priced.
The goats cheese of Fuerteventura (Queso Majorero) is sought after in the Canaries and the Spanish mainland. The goat milk from which the Queso Majorero is made is renowned for its high fat content and thick creamy texture. The cheese is often served sprinkled with olive oil, or with gofio - the toasted corn flour contrasting smoothly with the crisp taste of the cheese. Natural sea salt, produced in the traditional way in salt pans along the eastern coast at Las Salinas is often mixed into the cheese in the production process - giving it a distinctive flavour.
Many small restaurants in the country areas are family run and pride themselves on the simple excellence of their cuisine. When on the coast have the ultimate Fuerteventura experience of lunch in a cofradia - the fishermen's cooperative where the catch is landed and auctioned each day.
Here the fish will have been landed hours before, and prices are very reasonable. Where better to sit in the shade with a cold beer or chilled glass of white wine overlooking the port as boats return from fishing.
Gran Tarajal Cofradia, Recinto Portuario de Gran Tarajal, Tarajal (Tel: 928162074)
El Horno restaurant, Carretera general 91, Villaverde (Tel: 928 868671)
Café Marcos Gastronomy bar, Carratera General, Villaverde (Tel: 0928868285)
El Verrol Cafeteria, c.León Castillo, Puerto del Rosario (Tel: 928 530 345)
La Flor de Antgua Restaurant, c. Obispo 43, Antigua (Tel: 928878168)
El Chinchorro Bar, Plaza Cirilo López 5, Morro Jable
Chef Marcos Gutierrez on Fuerteventura cuisine
"The cuisine of Fuerteventura is based on fish, and goat really. It's a very healthy sort of cooking - we use many herbs" [2:37]
Fuerteventura museum trail
There are excellent museums and interpretation centres throughout Fuerteventura which cover all aspects of life in the island.
At the Alcogida Eco-Museum a typical country hamlet has been restored to its hey day in the early part of this century. Weavers, a stone mason, a tinsmith and a potter are working on site in the collection of houses which give an insight into the simple living conditions of only two generations ago. Villagers then relied on their own skills to provide most of their needs. The houses of stone and thatch are surrounded by stone walled corrals complete with donkeys and camels which were used to pull ploughs and transport produce until only 50 years ago.
At the Cueva del Llano Centro de Interpretacion, an extraordinary tunnel made by rapid flowing lava stretches far underground - the vivid remnant of an eruption which took place many millions before One of the largest lava tubes in the northern hemisphere, you can walk for nearly a kilometre through the still darkness, the arching walls still bearing the marks of the rapid flow of molten rock. There is also a permanent resident to the tube, a tiny blind spider which is endemic to the cave.
The Museo de la Sal at Las Salinas - complete with the skeleton of a sperm whale - is set above salt pans close to the sea which are lined with blinding white piles of salt crystals in the strong sun.
Inside a display tells of the importance of salt to Fuerteventura when it was the sole means of preserving food and was used as a currency to barter for goods.
At the Molinos de Antigua another restored windmill stands in a visitors centre.
Here permanent and touring exhibitions are popular with islanders - and include displays of artefacts and bones of the earliest Majoreros on the island dating back more than a thousand years. There is also a craftwork shop with locally made items- from distinctive pottery of red clay mixed with volcanic soil to woven baskets and panama hats. Proceeds go directly to the artisans who made the articles on display.
At Los Molinos in the pretty village of Tefia a working windmill - one of the few survivors of the hundreds which once dotted the landscape here - grinds gofio, the toasted meal of corn and wheat.
At the top of the tower, miller Jorge Rodriguez will explain the process of toasting and then grinding the corn as the huge sails outside spin slowly in the strong trade wind. You can taste the freshly ground gofio - the fine flour that pours out from the wooden chute beneath the grind stones.
At the Museo de Pesca Tradicional on the lovely windswept point of Punta Tostón near the fishing village of Cotillo the fishing museum has a vivid display of video, photographs, and recordings set in the lighthouse keeper's restored home. You can listen to the wife of a fisherman describing life on the coast two generations ago at a time when money was scarce and when fish was used to barter. Above the museum stand two light houses, the oldest built in 1897. From the tower there are wonderful views across the reefs to the high breaking rollers of the Atlantic.
Augustin Martinez Garcia on the history of Fuerteventura
"We have such an enormous potential here for sustainable high quality tourism" [2:59]