Here’s what you’ll miss if you don’t venture beyond the clubs in the world's party capital.
With its throbbing nightlife and buzzing bars, Ibiza is the unofficial party capital of the world. But there is another, often-overlooked side to the island, which belongs to the many gnarled olive trees, poppy fields, spectacular cliffs, and almond groves. So if you’re through with the partying, take some time off to discover the real Ibiza:
Go back in time In 654 BC, the Phoenicians founded a fishing village in Sa Caleta. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Walk along a cliff to the ruins of the village and see the ruins—building foundations, brick walls and shards of pottery. The tiny beach of Es Bou Nou with its rocky headland and copper-red cliffs (where people soak in healing red clay packs) is close by, while in the distance, you can see the horseshoe-shaped bay which acted as a natural harbour for the Phoenician settlers. While in Sa Caleta, stop by Cafe Caleta—it is famous for its seafood paella and the special Cafe Caleta flaming hot coffee, which is made with local liqueurs, orange peel, lemon and spices.
Spend a day in Ibiza’s villages The northern and western parts of the island have several charming villages named after saints. These have—not surprisingly— beautiful churches, whitewashed buildings and small bars. One such is the village of Santa Gertrudis. This postcard-perfect community has a whitewashed church (dating back to 1797) and a street lined with art galleries, bars and book stores. Most interesting is Bar Costa whose walls are adorned with hundreds of works of art by different artists from the island who would trade in their paintings for food and drink. Another village to visit is San Carlos whose groves of almond, fig and carob trees continue to be a favoured spot for artists and foreign residents. Have a drink at Bar Anita, which was the haunt of artists, writers and free spirits back in the ’60s and even acted as an informal post office. Today, over 400 mail boxes still line its walls.
Shop at the hippie market at Las Dalias For a peek into the Swinging Sixties when hippies flooded the island, visit the colourful hippie market at Las Dalias. Open on Saturdays, it has a distinctly eastern vibe, and plenty of stalls selling handmade clothes, jewellery, exotic footwear, artefacts, food and drink. Adlib, or white clothing made with natural fabrics, embroidery, crochet, flounces and lace, is sold at plenty of stalls too. The Adlib fashion was a movement against the rise of uncomfortable haute couture. The name of the brand comes from the Latin phrase ad libitum—at one’s pleasure.
Hit a spiritual high Visit the mysterious rock of Es Vedrà located high above the beach of Cala D’hort. This rocky limestone outcrop is regarded to have healing properties and is a source of inspiration for yogis and wellness gurus. Later, head to the Torre des Savinar watchtower—built to scan the horizon for pirates—for a sunset view of Es Vedrà.
Walk through the Old Town Dalt Vila, or the Old Town of Ibiza, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site complete with a fortress and cathedral. It’s also a maze of old cobbled streets and apartments with wrought iron balconies, high ramparts and terraces behind a ring of medieval walls. The town’s famous 13th-Century Santa Maria Cathedral was built on the site of a Roman temple and a mosque. Visit the Madina Yabisa Interpretation Centre, which uses audio visual technology to tell the history of the former medieval Muslim city which fell in 1235 to the Crusaders. Later, visit the delightful Puget Museum to see paintings of the town by Ibizan father-son artists Puget Vinas and Puget Riquer.
Go underground In the north of the island are the caves of C’an Marca where pirates and smugglers used to hoard their treasure long ago. Take a guided tour and see stalactites, stalagmites, fossilised sea beds and even some of the ancient escape routes used by pirates.
Have a sundowner on Benirras Beach The picturesque Benirras Beach with its grainy-pebbly sand, pine trees, bohemian vibe and view of Cap Bernat (a rock shaped like a woman at prayer) is a great place to catch the sunset. Once a magnet for artists and hedonists, today you’re more likely to see a few hippie bongo players beating out rhythmic thumps as the sun goes down.
Visit the salt pans Since the times of the Phoenicians, the island’s wealth has come from its salt reserves—known as ‘white gold’. Today, over 1,000 acres are still covered with salt pans which have been given Natural Park status because of their unique ecosystems that harbour storks, flamingos and other water birds. From afar, the salt pans look surreal—shimmering pools divided by walls and mountains of white sand. Try paella made from an original family recipe at La Escollera, a restaurant at Es Cavallet Beach (an official nude beach), which looks out on to the Mediterranean Sea.
Be a foodie Ibiza offers a diverse range of international cuisine and an exhaustive array of local specialities. Try the local fish stew called Bollit de Peix. Ibiza is also famous for its desserts and pastries: orelettes which are small ear shaped pastries, liqueurs like Frigola, magdalenas de almendras (almond biscuits) and flaó—a cheesecake made from soft goats and sheep cheese with aniseed and mint.
Catch a fiesta Ibiza‘s small villages have regular celebrations with dances, feasts and grand parades. Locals wear traditional costumes and stalls selling traditional arts and crafts, local food and preserves are everywhere. Listen to Catalan music or catch a glimpse of traditional jewellery worn by women—heavy necklaces, rings and necklaces whose filigree-work dates back to Moorish times.
Where to stay El Hotel Pascha belonging to the same group as the Pascha nightclub has suites decked in white and is conveniently located 10 minutes from the centre of town (www.elhotelpacha.com/english/)
Extras Take a day trip to the neighbouring island of Formentera.
Eat Paella, freshly caught fish and tapas at Restaurant Calma on the Marina, facing the lights of the old town. Next to the port in an old mansion is Restaurant Ca N’Alfredo, one of the city’s best restaurants, which famous for its fish and potato stew and paella. If you want home-style cooking with homemade desserts, head to the swish Restaurant S’Ametller on Calle Pere Francesc.
Buy White Adlib clothes, pottery and ceramics and local sparkling wine called cava.
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