Up until recently only seven of the in total 13 islands that belong to Spain politically but lie just off the coast of Morocco were officially referred to as “Canary Islands”. Since the end of June however the smallest inhabited island of the group, La Graciosa, has been accepted as its own administrative unit making it the 8th Canary Island.
Gracefully lying in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean
Only about a kilometer off the shore of Lanzarote lies the tiny island of La Graciosa, “the graceful one”. Around it there are four even smaller islands, hardly more than rocks in the water. Together they all form the so called Chinijo Archipelago. With its already modest size of about 29 sqkm La Graciosa is still the biggest island of this archipelago. The most important difference to the rest of the island though is, that La Graciosa is inhabited. There are about 700 people living in the only proper small town of the island, called Caleta del Sebo.
So far La Graciosa and its inhabitants were under the administration of the commune Teguise in the bog neighbour island Lanzarote. As of the 26th of Juni 2018 however, the Spanish senate has officially made the island its own administrative unit. Meaning the number of the Canary Islands has changed from the former seven to now eight. It also means that El Hierro in the west is no longer the smallest island of the group. The reason for this decision was a petition by the inhabitants of La Graciosa and the party Grupo Parlamentario Popular that had been signed by about 4000 people. The island is now supposed to get its own administration office in Caleta del Sebo.
The smallest Canary Island: A portrait
If you have ever been up on the Mirador del Río on the northern cliffs of Lanzarote, you have probably already had a chance to see the small island with its sandy landscape and the four reddish-brown volcanoes towering out of the desert. The white houses of Caleta del Sebo and the harbor are clearly visible from here. If you take a closer look you can even spy the seconder tiny settlement of the island, Pedro Barba.
There is no airport on La Graciosa so the only way to get there is via Lanzarote. Ferries go a few times a day between the northern fishers’ village Órzola and the harbour of Caleta del Sebo. There are two companies whose ships cross the “Río” between both islands. As an adult you pay about 20€ for the roundtrip. During summer it is popular amongst Lanzarote’s tourists to do a daytrip to La Graciosa. It can definitely be worth is staying there a little longer though. If you are looking for the last place (technically) Europe that is untouched by mass tourism and offers ultimate quiescence you may have just found it here.
Time rests in Caleta del Sebo
Caleta del Sebo is where the entire life of the island is happening. All of the islands inhabitants live here and since it’s the harbour town this is also where almost every visitor disembarks onto the island. Because of this, the place has partially adapted to the first steps of tourism happening here. There are no paved streets between the cute little houses. Only paths of sand. There are however a few restaurants and cafés welcoming visitors.
Three supermarkets and a few small shops make for all the shopping opportunities on the island. One of the supermarkets has decided to open its doors even during the usually closed afternoon hours of the siesta to cater to tourists. Full streets are a seldomly viewed sight here. Time seems to rest in Caleta del Sebo and that makes for all the appeal of it.
A holiday on La Graciosa – ultimate peacefulness
If you decide to stay on the island a little longer than the usual daytrip you can expect a holiday in absolute peacefulness. Only you, the wind, the sea and the dusty landscape. Just like in the main town, there are no proper streets on any part of the island. Sandy roads connect the mayor points of interest and the only motorized vehicles are a few rovers owned by the locals. For a few bucks they will occasionally drive one or the other tourist to the farther beaches. The usual way to get around is by bicycle or by foot. The landscape might seem meagre, lacking vegetation but it holds its own fascination for hikes or biking trips. Just be sure to bring cover for your head and water along the way since shadow is hard to find.
The second settlement on La Graciosa is called Pedro Barba and lies in the northeast of the island. It is only inhabited during summer months though since all the houses are holiday homes, mostly for residents of the other Canary Islands. There are however a few houses available for rent to tourists here. The biggest appeal to stay here for a couple of days would be the beautiful beach just next to the place. Most of the beaches on La Graciosa are in fact quite intriguing.
Things to see on La Graciosa
On the other side of the island in the northwest lies La Playa de las Conchas, which can easily be called one of the most beautiful beaches on the Canaries. Pristine golden sand and the pure turquoise waves of the Atlantic are what awaits the visitors here. The theme of calmness and secludedness always continues on this island. A true paradise to everyone, who just wants to relax with sand under their soles and wind in their hair. If you ever get tired of all that there you might want to take a boat trip around the archipelago and get a guide to show you the diverse bird life and marine fauna.