Some of Fuerteventura's towering sand dunes blew in from the Sahara Desert, 96 km (60 miles) away, and indeed it's not hard to imagine Fuerteventura as a detached piece of Africa. Despite being the second-largest Canary Island by area, Fuerteventura’s population only reaches 115,000. Tourism arrived relatively late on the island, compared to Gran Canaria and Lanzarote, and it’s still a comparatively minor tourist destination. Visitors come mainly to enjoy the stunning white beaches and to windsurf; there's little else to do. The two main resort areas are at the island's far north and south ends: Corralejo, across from Lanzarote, known for its miles of protected dunes, and the Jandía peninsula with dozens of long beaches, respectively. Fuerteventura didn’t fully escape the Spanish construction boom of the early 2000s, but it remains a relatively unspoiled island and has been a UNESCO biosphere reserve since 2009.

Prior to being conquered in the early 15th century by French crusaders, the island was inhabited by a tribal people called the Maxos with roots in North Africa; at the time of the colonists' arrival, the Maxos were split between two kingdoms, Jandía, in the south, and Maxorata, in the north. A stone wall, remnants of which have survived to the present, divided the two areas. The Catholic Monarchs claimed sovereignty over Fuerteventura in 1476 but were met with dozens of pirate attacks in the following decades, which led them to decree the construction of several fortifications along the coast, some of which are still visible today. The island was largely dismissed by Spaniards as a desert wasteland until famed novelist Miguel de Unamuno chronicled his exile there in the 1920s under Primo de Rivera's reign—contrary to the dictator's wishes, Unamuno found Fuerteventura rather paradisiacal and would come to appreciate its "eternal springtime" temperatures and "naked hills that look like camels' humps."

Like Lanzarote, Fuerteventura is often windy, especially during the summer, when the northeast trade winds blow hard for days at a time. It’s also one of the hottest islands in the summer, and its winters are warm and dry.

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