1.There is a magic mountain
Tindaya Mountain (Montana Tindaya) is situated in the north-east of the island close to La Oliva. The 400-metre-high mountain is the earliest formation of Fuerteventura from the first volcanic eruption, 20 million years ago. The early inhabitants believed Tindaya was sacred and had magical properties. There are a variety of tombs and religious symbols in the centre of the mountain which are believed to have been left by the majoreros. The most curious of the hieroglyphics is what has been called ‘podomorphs’. In essence, feet like! There are over 300 of these engravings on the mountain.
To this day, the area is bathed with a special aura and the landscape is said to be impregnated with a sense of peace and mystery. Local legends still believe witches are in conversation with the mountain. This writer doesn’t know if that’s true, but she very much hopes it is!
2. Miguel de Unamuno was banished to Fuerteventura
The isolated location of Fuerteventura means it’s a great place to escape…but was also used to exile dissenters. In 1924, when Miguel de Unamuno a prominent Spanish essayist, novelist, poet, playwright, philosopher, professor of Greek and Classics and late rector at the University of Salamanca, disagreed with the dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera, he was banished to Fuerteventura.
Miguel de Unamuno said of his time on the island, ‘For me Fuerteventura was an oasis where my spirit drank reviving waters and from where I left refreshed and fortified to continue my journey across the deserted civilisation.’
The house in Puerto del Rosario where Miguel de Unamuno lived during exile is now a museum.
3. Caleta de Fuste is named after a rotting boat!
Caleta de Fuste, a popular resort located close to the airport, was built to cater for the huge demand of tourists who started coming to Fuerteventura. The area is well known for it’s white sandy crescent shaped beach, world class golf resorts and top hotels. For many years a shipwreck of an old Arab-style cargo boat lay in the bay. The name Caleta de Fuste means ‘bay of the fishing boat’.
4. There’s a secret Nazi base
*Conspiracy theory alert*
Over the years there has been much controversy surrounding ‘Villa Winter’, a grandiose turreted house, allegedly built in 1937 by Gustav Winter, a prominent German engineer – who if stories are to be believed – was wanted for questioning by the Allies as a suspected Nazi, and who was never handed over by the Spanish authorities.
Villa Winter sits in a remote location at the end of a very long, very dusty track where there is nothing but mountains, sea and sand. Idyllic, you may think. Sinister, is the claim.
Separating fact from fiction is tricky. Apparently, in 1939 Franco and Hitler agreed to turn Jandia Peninsular into a military zone, Winter was the man employed to do the job. The land around Cofete was given to Winter, where he built the habour at Morro Jable, a church, a school and started the main road, and built Villa Winter, locals say in 1937, documents say in 1946.
Why? has always been the question.
And this is where the fun starts (again!), because Gustav’s life, like the house he left behind (and never lived in), is shrouded in mystery. People claim Winter raised the money from Hermann Göring, one of the most powerful figures in the Nazi Party. The tower turret is alleged to have had an an electric lantern, similar to a lighthouse, so they could signal German U-boats and the villa was actually a secret submarine base. It’s also claimed underneath the house is a fissure in the rocks leading to a subterranean tunnel to the sea. And more recently, allegations have arose purporting the tunnels and rooms under the house were used as cells and gas chambers.
5. The Capital was renamed without the consent of the locals
In the 1800s the main port of Fuerteventura was called locally ‘Puerto Del Cabras’. This literally means: ‘The Port of Goats’, which makes sense given they were one of the main exports. In 1834, the port town took over from La Oliva to become the capital and in 1956 the name was changed – without the consent of the locals – to the more tourist friendly, and attractive ‘Puerto del Rosario’ which means ‘rosary port’. The church in the centre of town is dedicated to it’s patron saint, Nuestra Senora del Rosario: Our Lady of the Rosary.
6. Nelson lost the Battle for Fuerteventura
In 1595, Sir Walter Raleigh launched assaults on Tenerife and Fuerteventura, both met with little success. The English, however, wanted to add the Canary Islands to their list of colonial acquisitions – and so over the next couple of centuries tried again and again.
Enter Horatio Nelson, one of the legendary figures of British naval history. His aim was to occupy all of the islands and make them British territory, the archipelago’s strategic location made it an ideal platform in the Atlantic for basing and refueling His Majesty’s fleet
Given the underwhelming resources of Santa Cruz, Tenerife – The Canarians had less than half as many military personnel as the English admiral – Nelson was confident. However, he didn’t anticipate ‘El Tigre’ a mammoth gun forged in Seville. Many British sailors perished under the cannon fire (and a shot from ‘El Tigre’ removed one of Nelson’s arms), but after fierce hand-to-hand fighting by those few English who managed to enter the city, the English survivors later surrendered.
Gutierrez and Samuel Hood, a leading officer of Nelson’s fleet, agreed the surrender. One of the stipulations being: the British Navy would never again attack the islands.
7. The island looks like a sperm whale
Ok, so maybe at a push…but still, I bet you remember the shape of the island tomorrow!