Fuerteventura, Spain

Puerto del Rosario is the capital of Fuerteventura, the second largest of the Canary Islands, at the eastern end of the archipelago. In May 2009 the island was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.

Stroll León y Castillo and Primero de Mayo, and take in the myriad open-air artworks such as the giant snail sculpture of the harbor promenade. Nearby beaches include Playa Chica and Playa Blanca.

3,000 hours of sunshine each year bathe the beaches that wrap the 90 miles around its coast, ranging from those well served by shops and restaurants, to stretches of golden sand that are totally undeveloped. The beaches, along with the verdant volcanic landscapes, are a major reason the island is a designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. What’s more, the mix of trade winds and Atlantic Ocean swells offer the perfect mix for watersports enthusiasts. Fuerteventura is considered a windsurfer’s and kite surfer’s paradise.

Founded at the start of the fifteenth century by a Norman knight, Betancuria was the island’s capital until 1860 and remains one of the most significant historic areas in all the Canary Islands. Among its highlights are the church of Santa Maria de la Concepcion, with its distinctive square tower, the chapels of Santa Ines and Nuestra Señora de la Peña, and a Franciscan convent.

You could imagine how the island must have seemed to early arrivals, when you take to the waves aboard an authentic Spanish schooner with towering masts and ornate woodwork, a real glimpse into the maritime past.

The capital is a pleasant town to meander through at leisure, though more it often acts as a springboard into a wider perspective on the island. A visit to an aloe vera farm might be on the cards, telling the story of the medicinal plant that has been harvested in Fuerteventura for centuries.

The island is known for its “queso majorero,” a highly-prized goat milk cheese, and you can also visit the island’s cheesemakers.

Many visitors head to the northeast tip of the island and the Corralejo National Park, where the expanse of undulating dunes extends towards the Atlantic waves. Just offshore, Lobos Island makes a charming day trip, totally uninhabited and reached by catamaran.