Pico de la Zarza, also known as Pico de Jandia or simply Jandia, is the highest mountain on Fuerteventura, second largest, but also second lowest of the Canary Islands. At an elevation of only 812m it might seem like a minor bump but if you consider that these 812m rise directly from the beaches in the north of the Jandia Peninsula the name "mountain" gets its justification.
Like everything on the Canaries, Pico de la Zarza, is of volcanic origin, a background it hides rather well. There is little - if any - volcanic cinder around and basalt, which is omnipresent elsewhere is missing here. Still, choss on the south slopes and the horrible quality of the north face reveal the origin: Pico de la Zarza is the remnant of something larger and bigger. Very much larger and bigger indeed.
Fuerteventura is the oldest of the Canary Islands. First volcanic eruptions might have occurred as early as 70 million years ago and the island broke the surface of the sea 20 million years ago. In the following ages three giant stratovolcanoes (not unlike Teide on Tenerife) with elevations around 4000m were piled up very quickly. So quickly indeed, that all of them collapsed (which is not unusual for the Canaries where there is a long history of giant landslides). The remainders of two of these volcanoes are still around today, the Betancuria Range in the centre of the Island and the Jandia Chain in the very south.
And it is the latter chain of which Pico de la Zarza is the highpoint of. Seen from the south it is but a broad backed bump , the culmination point of a long, broad ridge. The ascent route follows the ridge and 95% of it follows a dirt road which only ends at the base of the summit structure. A fence (!!) ensures that the summit area stays clear of goats as there are some rare plants to be found up there.
The north face is a completely different matter. Here the mountain - in fact the whole chain - drops to the pristine beaches of Cofete and Barlovento. Vertical or overhanging for the topmost 200m - 300m the faces turn into steep slopes only to run out right above the sea. Thanks to the common high and humid winds around noon quite often clouds form around the summit of Pico de la Zarza. Air currents can become very strong, especially on the north face, where they blow upwards with incredible speeds. The big ravens, which frequent the summits of the Jandia Chain have developed a sport using them for the most incredible in-flight manoeuvres.
Though there are ferries from the Spanish mainland to the Canary Islands, they take more than 24h for the trip. Therefore almost all visitors go by plane. Every travel agency in Europe offers flights, hotel rooms, apartments, rental cars etc. so that reaching the Canaries is rather a matter of money than opportunity. During the summer season flight fares can be reasonable but during the Easter and Christmas holidays you have to be prepared for additional fees of 500€ per person.
Fuerteventura has its own airport south of the capital Puerto del Rosario close to the center of the island. There are public bus lines but – like on all the islands – they don't run too regularly. If you plan to stay on your own, better take a rental car right at the airport.
The trailhead for Pico de la Zarza is near the lighthouse Faro de Morro Jable on the eastern outskirts of the tourist town. There is a big parking lot near the Hotel Ventura, right beside the main road FV-2, which runs all the way from Puerto de Rosario to Morro Jable.
Pico de la Zarza is part of the Parque Natural de Jandia. Usually the well known restrictions for natural parks should apply and indeed you are requested to stay on trails and not damage vegetation or wild life in any way. Moreover, many sea-birds breed in the park so that the restrictions appear to make sense.
Yet, everywhere you can see dirt roads criss-crossing the protected ground and it is not unusual to encounter beach buggies speeding through the fragile environment of the desert of El Jable. Likewise, SUVs drive all the way to the base of the summit section of Pico de la Zarza so that the usefulness of the natural park can be questioned. On the other hand, without restrictions you would probably find a hotel on the very summit of the mountain.
For holiday homes, hotels or apartments either consult your nearest travel office, or – search for lodgings on Google. There are several sites on the web, dedicated to rent privately owned houses or apartments. Prices are generally a bit less expensive than for tour operators but you don't have as much security.
Fuerteventura is usually swept by fierce north-western trade winds. Though they deposit their humidity on almost all of the other Canary Islands, Fuerteventura (as well as Lanzarote is simply too low to form a decent obstacle. Therefore the climate is very arid. However, winds regularly are pretty strong,, especially on the mountaintops. It pays to take warm wind-stopping clothes with you. On the Jandia Chain, of which Pico de la Zarza is a part there are strong thermic conditions as well. The winds are forced to rise rapidly across the steep north faces of the chain, which causes some sort of "elevator effect". Big birds like full grown ravens use it for incredible flight maneuvers. In addition these conditions often lead to clouded mountaintops during the second half of the day. Therefore never start to late on your climb to the mountain.
For some time of the year, eastern winds prevail, which almost always carry clouds of Sahara dust with them. Usually this means reduced visibility but in some occasions "Kalima" occurs. Fierce storms take up the dust from the Sahara and sweep it across the islands. In these times visibility is nil and sometimes even airplanes have to be grounded.
Maps & Books
Kompass Map WK240
Kompass is the only company known to me which offers GPS digital Maps. In addition for those of you with Garmin GPS receivers there is a map source map set of all Canary islands out there.
- Islas Canarias
Map Source custom map
By Manfred Pepper
My recommendation is a guidebook by Rother Verlag, available in German. The book is an excellent hiking guide covering all the interesting areas of the island. Since it comes with small maps for each excursion it might even be used without a map to support them.