Fuerteventura, a destination between reality and fiction

Fuerteventura, in the Canary Islands, is rugged, arid, wild, often solitary, and always dazzling (literally, because the archipelago enjoys 4,800 hours of sunshine a year). Yet it is not a dream, no matter how much its landscape might make us believe we are in a far-off land or our own particular paradise. What makes Fuerteventura so special that film production companies from all over the world travel to it in search of locations? The answer lies in the hands of the Canary Islands Film Commission, who have been working for years to make the requests of these production companies a reality.

From “Star Wars” to “Allies”: one island with infinite locations

The land of the Majos (or Maxos), the indigenous people who populated its lands, has been a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in its entirety since 2009 and a Starlight Reserve since 2017. Fuerteventura is a volcanic jewel just 100 km from the African coast and the second largest island of the Canary archipelago, 100 km long and 25 km wide at its widest points, with a total of 150 km of magnificent beaches that you will never forget. 

In the last decade, film directors such as Ridley Scott, Robert Zemeckis and Ron Howard have chosen the island to recreate iconic locations such as ancient Egypt in Exodus: Gods and Kings and Wonder Woman 1984, North Africa in Allies and the planet Savareen in Han Solo: A Star Wars Story. Get ready, because in this review of film locations you can spend some of your best time on the beach.

The spectacular beach of Cofete, the setting of Ridley Scott’s Exodus / Canary Islands Film

Actor Christian Bale stepped into the shoes of Moses (his wife, Sephora, was portrayed by Spanish actress María Valverde) under Scott’s orders to represent his flight from Egypt in Fuerteventura. The epic blockbuster Exodus: Gods and Kings focused its natural settings mainly (and with the help of physical sets and digital image processing) on the kilometre-long beach of Cofete, the Risco del Paso and Punta de Jandía (all in the south of the island) and El Cotillo (in the north), one of the most family-friendly coastal areas that is a favourite among locals for its services.

Hundreds of extras and animals were needed to shoot the opening scene of the Red Sea, making the quiet beaches of this area extraordinary. When it became known that Scott would be shooting on the island, there were long queues for casting extras and the job offers posted by the production team (drivers, bricklayers, electricians, cooks, and so on) were quickly snapped up. The film (which also shot in the Tabernas desert in Almeria) boasted a 43-million-euro budget for shooting in Spain. The film was initially estimated to have a 10-million-euro economic impact in Spain, but the local press reported that the film brought in 19.5 million euros to the Canary Islands, one of the best examples of the benefits of filming in the region. 

Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard landed on Fuerteventura with Zemeckis to shoot some of the scenes for Allies. The Los Arrabales caldera (in Tuineje), a volcanic area included in hiking routes in the protected landscape of Malpaís Grande, a farm in Lajares (La Oliva), and the magnificent dunes of the Corralejo Natural Park, in the north of the island, were used to recreate North Africa for this romantic drama set in the Second World War.

Fuerteventura boasts the most versatile beaches in cinema

Crossing the road that divides the dunes of Corralejo, shaped by the trade winds, in the northeast of Fuerteventura, is a can’t-miss experience on your first visit to the island. On the other side you will find nine kilometres of large beaches with coarse sand, which is nothing more than the result of shell erosion, and crystal-clear turquoise waters. Did you know that these dunes were turned into an Egyptian desert in Wonder Woman 1984? Gal Gadot herself passed through here, strutting her stuff. There must be something about these dunes that reminds us of the land of the pharaohs since they were also used by Ridley Scott for Exodus.

The dunes of Corralejo, the backdrop for screen tourism / Travel Inspirers

Since Egypt is a bit far away, a visit to Corralejo will do the trick. Remember that you can only walk in the designated areas and that you will have to leave your car in the car parks available. Opposite, you will see the uninhabited islet of Lobos, with the remains of an ancient Roman settlement. It is another dreamlike natural park that you can reach by boat from the town of Corralejo.

Also in the north, but more to the west, the fishing village of El Cotillo is a favourite with families, both for its beaches, such as La Concha, which is protected by a volcanic reef, and because it is easy to enjoy the local cuisine.

On the Jandía peninsula in the south of Fuerteventura, which boasts the Jandía natural park, we can find Cofete beach which is, without a doubt, one of the island’s treasures (and one of the most cinematographic locations), both for its length (12 kilometres) and for the absence of houses and for the wild nature that surrounds it, the Jandía mountains. To get there you have to drive along an unpaved, 10-kilometre road that requires a suitable vehicle. It is well worth the journey. It was in this area that Ron Howard set part of the scenes of Han Solo. Both the Natural Park of Jandía and the Sicasumbre overlook were used as locations for the journey of the Millennium Falcon to the planet Savareen.

Han Solo was filmed in Jandía / Canary Islands Film

Remaining in Jandía, Sotavento is actually made up of five beaches (La Barca, Risco del Paso, Mirador, Malnombre, and Los Canarios) which can be explored at low tide. There are 10 kilometres of fine sand and crystal-clear waters in one of the most popular   areas on the island. It is also ideal for enjoying sports such as windsurfing and kitesurfing. Following the coast northwards, the beach of Costa Calma lies close to the village of La Lajita.

For the infinitely curious traveller, the island offers a bit of everything, an ancestral Fuerteventura, a food-lover’s Fuerteventura, and much more.

And, of course, volcanoes

The island’s volcanoes will also sweep you away to other worlds. Inland, in the northern half of the island, Montaña Tindaya, a sacred site for the Majos, stands alone in the flat, reddish landscape and preserves more than 300 engraved footprints made by the indigenous people on its stone. You can make this visit from El Cotillo. Two other volcanoes are the caldera of Gayría, near Tiscamanita (not to be confused with the caldera of Los Arrabales de from Allies), in the central part of the island, and Cardón mountain, in the south, another one of Fuerteventura’s impressive landscapes.

Betancuria, the island’s first capital / Travel Inspirers

Also inland, in the western half of the island, lies the historical site of the town of Betancuria, founded in 1404 by the Norman conqueror Jean de Bethencourt. It was the island’s first capital until the title passed to the current capital, Puerto del Rosario, in 1860. To finish your tour of the Fuerteventura that goes back to prehistoric times, on the coast of the municipality of Pájara, you can visit the Ajuy caves, a place that allows you to travel 70 million years back in time to find the oldest rocks in the Canary Islands. 

Any day spent on the beach or playing sports deserves a healthy helping of Canarian cuisine: fish such as parrotfish and fried moray eel, limpets with green mojo sauce, pork or kid meat, papas arrugás, also with green or red mojo sauce, vegetable stew, and more. Of course, we can’t forget Majorero cheese, which has a protected designation of origin.

Cinema brings Fuerteventura to the screen, but if you dare to strip its landscapes of lighting, actors, extras and even digitalisation, the real Fuerteventura will be your own film. So, take the leap and experience what you see on screen firsthand!

By Carmela Fernández (1,000 places to see by Paco Nadal)

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