Ibiza and Formentera Travel Guide

Ibiza and Formentera Travel Guide

Seductive wild child of the Balearic Islands where neon-painted debauchery plays out nightly to the tunes of the world’s most famous DJs – Ibiza’s reputation indisputably precedes it. And while ‘nightlife capital of the Mediterranean’ is not a moniker to be sniffed at, this spirited little island can also appeal to the more sophisticated side of you. Just wait until off-season (or any time before noon when the revellers with their fishbowl hangovers reawaken) to discover enchanting pine-tree dappled beaches strewn with secluded coves, protected hiking and nature spots just moments from the intriguing history of the UNESCO-prized Old Town. When the temptation of booze-fuelled boat cruises subsides, catch a boat to Formentera, Ibiza’s chilled out little sister, for off-grid hippy vibes amid turquoise blue waters and pristine natural surroundings. Dealing an impressive one-two punch, these contrasting lands have risen to near-mythic status as the perfect joint gaycation destination. Wondering what to see in Ibiza and Formentera? Read Mr Hudson’s Ibiza travel guide to find out more.

The best hotels in Ibiza and Formentera

The mesmerising sea views from the rooftop terrace (or in select suites) of the eco-friendly Aguas de Ibiza set the tone for an invigorating stay at this spa hotel located in the marina of sleepy Santa Eulàlia. The laid-back vibe throughout the hotel is unusual for party-centric Ibiza but most welcome for visitors who appreciate exquisite modern design, upscale dining and select spa services away from the dance clubs. And as an added bonus, Aguas uses up to 35 percent less energy than neighbouring hotels – making it the fashionable choice for conscientious travellers.

Also in Santa Eulàlia, albeit situated next to the infamous Nikki Beach, ME Ibiza is a sprawling, white-hued haven of chic ultra-modernity. The space consists of 205 rooms, three pool areas and indulgent spa treatments. Convenient extras include Range Rovers (white ones, of course) for shopping excursions, daily yoga sessions and a boat for visits to neighbouring Formentera. Catering to both the retreat-seeking discerning set as well as to spirited merrymakers on holiday, this sleek hotel provides an excellent port of call.

The Rooftop

ME Ibiza The Rooftop

If an intimate boutique setting (just 24 rooms) in a decidedly rural setting is more your speed, Agrotourismo Atzaró, a luxurious converted farmhouse with a focus on holistic sustainability, is the haven for you. The décor reflects Ibiza through and through: white-walled, woods and plush furnishing, with head to toe windows for viewing spectacular sunsets from all angles. Spa services abound, but the star attraction is the sizable pool surrounded by a comfy lounge area and Jacuzzi. Zen-sational to the core, you just might never want to leave.

Meanwhile in Formentera, usually known for eschewing the exclusive accommodation options found in extravagant Ibiza, you’ll find the exclusive Hotel Es Marès, an elegant 4-star establishment designed with natural woods and stone, which are characteristic to the area. All rooms are minimalist and tasteful with individual eclectic touches (Wow! Look at that bathtub!), which makes each one unique. The spa, featuring aromatic full-body pampering and an invigorating circuit, is tiled with tiny stones that reflect a golden hue, giving the sensation of warmth and serenity.

Hotel es Marès Formentera | Photo: Hotel es Marès

Hotel es Marès Formentera | Photo: Hotel es Marès

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Recommended hotels in Ibiza and Formentera
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Things to do in Ibiza and Formentera

While it’s hard to deny that the majority of vacationers come to the Balearic Isles to engage in festive hedonism or to lie supine on white sand, there are myriad Ibiza points of interest that aren’t alcohol or house music related. Surrounded by azure waters and calm waves as it is, aquatic exploration is always a good idea while in the region. With its well-seasoned tourism industry, Ibiza is home to many companies offering blue tours around some of the most stunning spots of pine-lined coastline and coves. These tours are available to any budget, from your standard (yet memorable) booze cruise to a more luxury chartered cruise. Alternatively, if salty speed is your thing – hire a jet ski.

Beauty as above so below; for Ibiza’s subtropical climate has helped create a gorgeous underwater scene, complete with crystal clear, balmy waters and flamenco-coloured marine life. While you’re down there, why not take an Open Water Scuba Diver course. The full course typically lasts four days and on completion, you’ll earn your international diving licence. As well as practical and theoretical training, all students enjoy four open water dives, exploring the gorgeous terrain and marine ecology that surrounds the Margarita Islands, Es Vedra or the Cala D’Hort National Park.

Photo: Adrian RF

Photo: Adrian RF

A celebrity-endorsed activity also featured in the erotic drama Lucia y el sexo, visitors can just head to a beach to smear natural mud over their bodies

Back on land and over to the south west of the island is a cluster of protected areas known collectively as the Western Inlets and comprised of idyllic stretches of sandy shoreline crowned by the iconic Es Vedra mountain in land. There are ten inlets in total but top offerings include Cala d’Hort, Cap Llentrisca I Sa Talaia Natural Park, Es Vedranell and Els Illots de Ponent Nature Reserve for bird watching, dolphin spotting and beach lounging. History buffs can also search here for Punic-Roman settlement ruins or take a stroll around La Torres des Savinar, a long-standing lighthouse. Serenity is high on the list of things to do in Ibiza, and what better way to reflect on the previous night’s shenanigans than a morning yoga session right on the beach. This service is offered by Amante Ibiza who also provides a complimentary post-workout breakfast buffet.

To relieve sunburn while purging the Jägerbomb toxins from your bloodstream, an Ibiza mud bath is said to be the ultimate cure-all. A celebrity-endorsed activity also featured in the erotic drama Lucia y el sexo, visitors can just head to a beach to smear natural mud over their bodies. Sa Caleta beach bordered by high cliffs is home to reddish mud, while Cala Xarraca in San Juan is where you can find clay. If tarnishing your trunks sounds like a drag, on Aigües Blanques in Santa Eulalia feel free to strip off entirely in good company. Return to luxury and cleanse the mud from your crack with a visit to La Posidonia Spa based at Hacienda Na Xamena hotel. Founded and built in the 70s by a Belgian hippie couple within a peaceful north-west nature preserve, this white palace features oriental and Balinese stylings with Buddhist leanings. The hotel’s spa is its key point of interest, most notably the cascadas suspendidas (or stair-step hot tubs) which are perched cliff-side affording spectacular panoramas of the ocean and powdery shores.

Ibiza Sunset

Ibiza Sunset

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Recommended experiences in Ibiza and Formentera
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Cala Comte | Photo: Michael Baccin

Cala Comte | Photo: Michael Baccin

Of the Mr Hudson-approved things to do in Formentera, a visit to the Cap de Barbaria Lighthouse tops the list for its world-class sunsets

Things to see in Ibiza and Formentera

If you’re sticking with Ibiza any longer than a few days, you’ll want to find the best beaches to suit you. While all are gay-friendly, the only “official” gay beach is Es Cavallet, featuring tanned hunks skimpily clad in fashionable beachwear… or, sometimes, nothing at all. Figueretas is also worth a mention in our Ibiza gay scene guide, popular among gays thanks to nearby Chaos gay bar and the Cenit hotel. Some other mixed spots for you and your birthday suit include Las Salinas, just past the main stretch of Sa Trinxa and Cala Conta. For ultimate seclusion, however, you might consider the rather more hard-to-reach Aguas Blancas.

Punta Galera is not a common feature in most Ibiza travel guides due to its tricky access and lack of signposting. However, because of this, you’ll easily find yourself as the sole proprietor of its impressive rock plate cove where you can laze nude and enjoy the crystal-clear waters (though jellyfish may be with you). The sunset at Punta Galera is particularly outstanding and a chill place to enjoy a picnic or pre-packed bubbly. For bigger eats, Las Puertas del Cielo, aptly, The Gates of Heaven, is a Cliffside restaurant within the picturesque hippy enclave of Sa Penya Esbarrada, where you can enjoy unbeatable sundown views alongside traditional Balearic cuisine.

Of the Mr Hudson-approved things to do in Formentera, a visit to the Cap de Barbaria Lighthouse tops the list for its world-class sunsets (and Sa Cova Foradada lookout cave) at the southern-most tip of the Balearic Islands. Hugely popular for good reason is Illetes Beach, frequently ranked as one of Europe’s best beaches. Dock your yacht here early in the morning to discover the stripped-back, wood-built beachfront and enjoy life’s simple things. While Formentera’s influx of hippies and legendary musicians in the 60s and 70s is but a distant memory, the island still has its flower-power tendencies, most on show at La Mola Hippy Market where handmade crafts and local organic produce is sold.

Photo: Miguel Bruna

Photo: Miguel Bruna

For a pleasurable experience of a different sort, book a meal at the charming Aubergine, a 400-year-old restored country house featuring splendid organic produce grown in situ

Where to eat in Ibiza and Formentera

Traditionally, cuisine from the Balearic Islands was predominately seafood and seasonal produce thanks to a long-thriving fishing industry and an abundance of quality crops. Over the years an equally successful farming industry developed, ultimately introducing a varied assortment of flavours and influences for tantalizing taste sensations and often, spectacular views to boot.

Luxuriously posh but with a casual (read: all white, on-trend) groove, the cliff-side Cotton Beach Club serves trendy Asian flavours with a Mediterranean touch, though the killer sunset views from its rooftop location are enough to warrant a visit. For a pleasurable experience of a different sort, book a meal at the charming Aubergine, a 400-year-old restored country house featuring splendid organic produce grown in situ, plus a gallery and shop. For a fabulous evening trek to the other side of the globe, Bambuddha is a gorgeous restaurant resembling an Asian temple; complete with stone statues, bamboo covered walls and beautifully presented dishes. In Formentera, where dining takes on a decidedly lower key tempo, honourable mention goes to local institution Es Moli de la Sal, for their delectable regional dishes and arguably the most amazing views of the coastline.

Aubergine

Aubergine

The easy breezy pace of island life practically commands that cocktail hour starts whenever the mood strikes, so you’ll never be at a loss of great places to wet your whistle pre-dinner or for an after-hours nightcap. Notables include the sun-bedded comfort of Experimental Beach Club, a lounge and restaurant that suits cocktail connoisseurs that prefer a fancy drink over bubbly table service. Named after the year the first absinthe bar on the scene, Bar 1805 serves classic cocktails with French-style nibbles and hosts a series of seasoned international mixologists throughout the party season. Even though it’s unglamorously located in a hostel, don’t hold that against La Savina cocktail club, one of loveliest outdoor bar options (gin and vodka tonics are all the rage) in Formentera.

After a night of revelry, a hearty cup of coffee (and a solid breakfast) will undoubtedly hit the spot. Tiny and rustic with its painted woods, wicker décor and fresh pastries, Baker Victoria & Co. is a snug spot to replenish. Romantically inviting, La Paloma Café serves simple, ecological meals, juices and coffee in a magical outdoor garden of ambrosial orange trees and flowers. Stunning in its simplicity, Claro Concept Food Store is a whitewashed haven of tranquillity serving fresh baked goods, light meals and a smile.

Experimental Beach Club | Photo: Ana Lui

Experimental Beach Club | Photo: Ana Lui

Photo: Roberto H

Photo: Roberto H

Shopping in Ibiza and Formentera

Seasonal island crashers tend to travel with their most fabulous duds in tow for optimal peacocking but to add a shabby-chic local flavour to your stay, scour the local shops for a treasure trove of must-have baubles.

Buy original gifts at the Atzaro shop, ranging from subtle (candles and frames) to kitsch (jewellery and décor). For eye-catching beachwear essentials for men, pop into Syd & Rex or if understated classics suit your fancy, try Pondenco Eivissa fashions found in select shops around town.

To add spark to your interiors, spend some time strolling up and down the aisles of Sluiz, a concept store offering a plethora of “conversation pieces” for the home. For those with a more subtle sensibility, Oliver Décoracion sells eclectic furnishings in a more muted range.

Photo: Samuel C

Photo: Samuel C

A surely unmissable experience for gay party aficionados, Glitterbox at Hï Ibiza saw 150,000 visitors in 2018 and held numerous events around the world

Ibiza and Formentera nightlife

Ibiza’s legendary nightlife is rivalled by few; its clubs having been the setting of early noughties epicurean cinema like It’s All Gone Pete Tong and Kevin and Perry Gone Large as well as more the recent Swiss-French drama Amnesia and Netflix rom-com Ibiza. Fortunately for those who prefer a more demure taste of the action, there are options aplenty for any predilection and maturity.

As well as clubs and neon lights, a typical adventure into the Ibiza gay nightlife scene could likely involve a cabaret show, or other such glitzy entertainment alongside a meal or a cocktail at the very least. Lío is one such venue taking bookings for a variety of sensual performances. On a Wednesday, it’s La TROYA @ Heart Ibiza where the gay party is had. The baby of infamous party creator Brasilio de Oliveira, La TROYA breaks out of convention; bringing art, creativity, drag queens and erotic dancers together for one unforgettable night each week. Forget about observing the Sabbath, because Sundays are for partying in Ibiza. Glitterbox @ Hï Ibiza is Sunday’s best gay party, raising 21st Century dance music to new levels and featuring heavyweight line-ups of house DJs, drag queens, dancers and performers on its ballroom size dancefloor under confetti cannons and an immersive sound system. A surely unmissable experience for gay party aficionados, Glitterbox at Hï Ibiza saw 150,000 visitors in 2018 and held numerous events around the world, including New York and London, even taking to the stage at the infamous Tomorrowland festival.

Pershing Yacht Terrace at Seven Pines resort | Photo: Jordi Cervera

Pershing Yacht Terrace at Seven Pines resort | Photo: Jordi Cervera

After jumping and grinding on Ibiza’s vast dancefloors, take a night to chill at the picturesque Amante beach club, set atop the cliffs and overlooking Sol d’en Serra bay. Here you’ll find luxury day beds with waiter service and sea views as well as a fancy Mediterranean restaurant with fabulous wine and cocktail list. As well as the aforementioned morning Yoga, Amante also hosts open-air movie nights with beanbags for comfort alongside cava and popcorn. Back in the old town, on the legendary Calle de la Virgen, get your kicks at Sunrise Ibiza a welcoming gay bar with a reputation for great cocktails, swinging seats and great music.

Staying close to the main stretch but offering something a little different is Paradise Lost Ibiza, tucked away out of sight on Carrer del Pasadis, a place for purveyors of fine rum and quaffable cocktails. Designed as an homage to Milton’s tempting Garden of Eden, the bar’s surroundings are all about kitsch décor, luxe leather sofas, and neon graffiti artwork. Let’s hope your hotel has a trouser press because it’s high-end all the way at Pershing Yacht Terrace at Seven Pines resort, the first west-end, Yacht-inspired bar serving up signature cocktails, fine liquors and wines with a stunning ocean backdrop, bathed nightly in the oranges and pinks of Ibiza’s iconic sunsets.

While an Ibiza gay nightlife guide could run pages, over on Formentera there are fewer chances to party. However, at one of the off-the-beaten-track restaurants on Illetes beach, set in the dunes south of Es Moli de Sal, you’ll find frisky hotspot Beso Beach, the place to go for strong cocktails, live DJs and day-long liquid lunches.

Amante Ibiza

Amante Ibiza

Amante Ibiza

Amante Ibiza

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