Chinijo Archipelago: the Unknown Natural Paradise of Canary Islands

Julia Campos
Julia Campos

To look for minimalism while travelling is not just a trend, it’s an option. For some travellers there is the same amount of life in 42nd Street than in a little cove of Chinijo Archipelago. The biggest surprises appear in the lesser known places. These 5 tiny islands, located north of Lanzarote, do not show all the magnificence that they hide at first.

In order to find out, you will have to come and explore.

The only way to get there is by embarking on a ferry from the Órzola port, a little village in the north of Lanzarote. The boat will take you to La Graciosa in just 15 minutes. This is the only inhabited island of the archipelago. Over 90% of its territory is still immaculate. If you want to go over the island barefoot, you can do so on its streets covered in sand. There aren’t any paved roads on the island.

Isla de La Graciosa

La Graciosa Island

From there, it is easy to see the rest of the archipelago. The biggest Marine Reserve of Europe is settled around this area. There are more than 70,000 hectares of crystal-clear waters to enjoy the fauna.

Nattule recommends 3 dive spots you should not miss in Chinijo, plus 2 alternatives out of the water. Here are the 5:

1. Montaña Amarilla

The Montaña Amarilla Volcano rises up by la Cocina Beach, a tiny cove of turquoise waters, located southwest of La Graciosa.

From Caleta de Sebo, one of the two villages of the island (the only one with accomodations available), there are several different paths leading to this area where you can walk or bike along.

The easiest way to get there is by boat, specially if you are carrying your diving equipment.

Playa de la Cocina

La Cocina Beach © César García

Next to the beach, we find a cape called Punta del Pobre. Close to it, there is a small reef running perpendicular from the coastline. In some areas, it goes down to about 20 meters deep.

Between the rock chips that form this vertical wall, you will see a wide variety of fishes. Among others, you will find red mullets, barred hogfish and slipper lobsters. If you are an expert diver and get to the base of the small reef, you may be able to see how the water filtrations affect the sand in the deep waters. Another gift from mother nature in La Graciosa.

Fondos marinos de La Graciosa

Bottom of the sea in La Graciosa © Jairo Díaz

2. Alegranza

Alegranza is the second largest island of the archipelago and is the most northern point of the whole area. The island is uninhabited, so it is a paradise for birds.

In order to dive in its waters, you need an authorization issued by the Canarian Government, and you need to dock your boat at a certain distance. If you want to walk on its beaches, you will need authorization from the island owner, and you must not cross its boundaries.

When approaching by boat, the first thing you will notice will be the magnitude of the Caldera Volcano, whose 1.3 kilometer crater occupies a large area of the island.

Isla de Alegranza desde Lanzarote

Alegranza Island from Lanzarote

If you go scuba-diving there, you can consider yourself privileged. Since fishing is forbbiden in the area, fishes reproduce easily. You will find a large number of them and a wide variety. The shallow areas are a beehive of life, where seaweed formations harbor lots of fish species, sea urchins and starfishes.

Wrasses like the ornate wrasse and barred hogfish, as well as a type of parrot fish with attractive colors, are quite abundant here. Near the sandy depths you will also find red mullets looking for food with its tactil barbels.

Alegranza is a unique shelter for many seabirds, like the Bulwer’s petrel and different species of storm petrels. Along with Cory’s shearwater, they form numerous colonies taking advantage of the cavities and rocky formations to nest there during summer months.

Aves marinas en el archipiélago Chinijo

Seabirds in Chinijo Archipelago © Ulises Viera

Some lesser known raptors may be seen, like the owl and the kestrel, some of which have endemic subspecies living on the Canary Islands.

3. El Canal

Twenty five meters deep, between the island of Alegranza and the Roque del Oeste Islet, we find a continental platform that goes 40 meters deep. Its cavities harbor a large number of animals.

If you dive there you will see groupers, island groupers and greater amberjacks. In the depths surrounding the islet, we also find ballan wrasses, which are very difficult to see in other areas of the archipelago.

Red, white and yellow gorgonians add color to this amazing marine landscape.

Montaña Clara, Roque del Oeste y Alegranza

Montaña Clara, Roque del Oeste and Alegranza © Jesús Salcines

4. Montaña Clara

Canarian waters are known for harboring a great number of cetacean, that you will be able to see during a pleasant boat ride.

Boat tours depart from the Órzola port. The tours are very complete, and cover almost the whole archipelago. The boats head first to Alegranza, to then turn towards the little island of Montaña Clara. This islet of volcanic origin is known for its yellowish color, given by the tuffs that compose it.

Montaña Clara desde La Graciosa

Montaña Clara from La Graciosa © Alessandro Bovo

Like in Alegranza, the island is a private property and you will need authorization to visit it.

Along the journey, you will sail among pilot whales and different dolphin species, like the bottlenose dolphin, the common dolphin or the striped dolphin. Pygmy sperm whales are common but difficult to see. Even killer whales have been seen here.

5. Haría

In addition to the paths in La Graciosa Island, there are many other routes to walk or bike in the north of Lanzarote. They are mainly in the Haría and Famara area, one of the bushy territories of the island.

You can walk around the quaint villages of Guinate and Máguez, or go visit the mirador del Río, a natural balcony with amazing views. From there, you can spot a multitude of birds, many of which are protected species. Just like in Alegranza, some of those birds have found here one of the few only places that they will nest in the whole world.

Parapente en el macizo de Famara

Paragliding in the mountain range of Famara

You’ll be able to observe Cory’s shearwater and the amazing osprey, known locally as guincho. Another interesting bird to watch is the Egyptian vulture, known locally as guirre. Just like in Alegranza, this spot is one of the last ones where you can find barbary falcons, Eleonora’s falcon and the scant Canarian raven.

In addition to birds, you may also see reptiles like the Atlantic lizard and the East Canary gecko.

Halcón de Eleonora

Eleonora’s falcon © Ignacio Luque

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A solitary person will not choose Tokyo for their holidays. Those travellers who don’t enjoy crowded places will find the Chinijo Archipelago suitable for them. These 5 islands are the perfect option for those adressing nature informally without neglecting the due respect. If you think big, come and check out these tiny islands.

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