Ibiza and Formentera Travel Guide
Sexy, nocturnal debauchery to the beat of the world’s most famous DJ’s is but one of the many facets of Ibiza, the seductive wild child of the Balearic Islands. When the frenzied summer crowd departs, an enchanting scene remains; white-sand beaches with gentle waves, a coastline peppered with indigenous pine trees and a chill strip of terrace eateries at the base of Sant Antoni. Wondering what to see in Ibiza? Explore the rocky hilltops and hidden coves for secluded moments in the sun or stay close to town and discover the UNESCO site, Dalt Vila (old town), for a closer look at this island beauty’s surprisingly tame side.
In sharp contrast, Formentera, Ibiza’s shy Balearic sister, is radiant in her serene natural essence, throughout the year. Her tranquil turquoise blue waters and unspoilt lands make this pristine island one of the Mediterranean’s shining gems. If seclusion, aquatic exploration and total relaxation away from the masses are your idea of paradise, Formentera has got your number in spades.
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.
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.
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 Fay restaurant 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.
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.
Things to do in Ibiza and Formentera
Truth be told, vacationers generally come to the Balearic Isles to engage in festive hedonism or to luxuriate in glorious beaches and natural landscape. Given time to explore, however, inquisitive visitors may achieve a new perspective.
The ancient walls surrounding Dalt Vila are one of the oldest Ibiza points of interest; they date back to the 16th century and were once Ibiza’s only protection from her enemies. Venture to each portal access point to envision the island in her heyday. Trekking up a steep hill, Puig de Missa, rewards visitors with the stately fortified church of Santa Eulàlia and striking views over the island. El Pilar de la Mola is a sleepy village perched on the highest point of Formentera, distinguished by Moli Vell a still-operational 300-year-old windmill rumoured to have lodged Bob Dylan for a spell in the 60’s.
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.
It’s no secret; Ibiza boasts a legendary nightlife rivalled by few. Fortunately for those who prefer a more demure taste of the action, without the customary morning hangover, there are options aplenty to keep things lively.
Cabaret shows are as “Ibiza” as the flowing champagne and neon lights, and many establishments offer dinner or at the very least, cocktails. For a campy night of glitzy entertainment, book a show at Lío by the sea. Heart pairs the famed Adria Brothers with the incomparable Cirque de Soleil for a trippy combination of art installations, live performances, elevated street food and crafty cocktails. In Formentera, urban design-savvy patrons get a kick out of Banana y Co’s ultra-sleek cabana style and (comparatively-speaking) more easy-going swag.
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Es Moli de la Sal Formentera
Aguas de Ibiza | Photo: Xavier Ferrand
Hotel es Marès Formentera | Photo: Hotel es Marès
Experimental Beach Club | Photo: Ana Lui
Es Moli de la Sal Formentera
Lío | Photo: Tatiana Chausovsky and Julian Farina
La Paloma | Photo: La Paloma
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