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Fun-packed family resorts, a year-round sub-tropical climate and awe-inspiring volcanic landscapes have kept the Canary Islands on the map of the greatest travel destinations of the world for decades. But whilst Tenerife and Lanzarote seem to steal all the limelight with their buzzing beach life and all-night party venues, there are other destinations that remind you what holidays are really about. Escape to the island of Fuerteventura for instance, and you will be guaranteed an unhurried pace of life you will never want to leave behind. For stress relief, relaxation and me-time, it does not get any better than Fuerteventura's sumptuous hotels, laid-back resorts and endless deserted beaches.
Fuerteventura lies around 60 miles off the West Coast of Africa and is the most easterly of the Canaries. At 62 miles long by between 3 and 18 miles wide, its size makes it easy to travel anywhere and back in the same day, making it an ideal destination for independent touring. On the south-east coast just before the start of the Jandia peninsula lies the resort of Tarajalejo, a small town that has so far remained untouched by the spoils of mass tourism. Having grown up around a traditional fishing village, there is still a very endearing Spanish feel to the town although new accommodation in the form of luxury hotels and beachside apartments as well as individual villas have begun to spring up in recent years.
Tarajalejo is just one part of a resort area that extends along the coast and includes Las Playitas, Gran Tarajal to the east and Costa Calma to the south. Although the main beach at Tarajalejo is of black sand and pebbles, there are many other blue flag alternatives within easy reach which are ideal for bathing and swimming, and at Sotovento further south lies one of the finest beaches in the world, with plenty of watersports on offer. There is even more activity around the beach of Costa Calma, which is enjoyed by windsurfers, swimmers, joggers and sun-worshippers alike. The resort has been tastefully developed around the old hamlet of Canada del Rio and now offers a good selection of shops and restaurants as well as a lively Sunday market. At its centre lies a peaceful wooded area of green belt which has become a haven for native birdlife.
Gran Tarajal is the second largest town on the island and at just a short drive from Tarajalejo, it is ideal for enjoying a day out with a good selection of shops and bars, as well as beachside restaurants with lashings of fresh seafood on the menu. Built around a busy port, the town maintains an authentic Canarian feel and its sweeping bay and wide seafront promenade is ideal for evening strolls. For animal lovers, the Oasis park zoo and safari park at nearby Lajita promises fun-packed entertainment for the whole family with colourful parrot shows and exotic camel rides, whilst the botanical gardens are the perfect place to enjoy a walk amongst an array of tropical plants and cacti.
Although Fuerteventura's public transport system is cheap and reliable with comfortable buses in service, getting around the island easily can prove problematic as departures can be infrequent and timetables are only available at the main terminals. Hiring a car on the other hand is a great way to explore the hidden nooks and crannies of the island at your own pace and the availability of cheap fuel makes it an extremely cost-effective option.
The interior landscapes of Fuerteventura, whilst considered by some as barren and uninteresting, actually make some of the most fascinating driving trips in the Canary Islands, particularly if you prefer to avoid the usual tourist traps and savour the sense of freedom provided by empty roads that lead you off the beaten track. If you are lucky enough to pick up a four wheel drive vehicle, be sure to head south from Tarajalejo and check out the wild and windswept beaches of Barlovento and Cofete, havens of solitude that are completely untouched by tourism. Whilst at Cofete, pay a visit to the eerie Villa Winter, a deserted celebrity-style villa that stands isolated at the foot of the mountains, hiding a mysterious secret.
How ever you decide to divide up your time during your Tarajalejo holiday, you are certain to savour the sense of well-being that comes from taking it easy here, and the feeling that you can allow time to simply pass by in a more laid-back fashion. With budget flights now available via Easyjet from Stansted to Fuerteventura, and a growing selection of good quality self-catering accommodation on offer in Tarajalejo, there is no reason why this year should not be the right time to design your perfect relaxing break in the sun.