Whenever the Spanish island of Ibiza is mentioned, it is difficult to dissociate it with images of hordes of drunken, drugged up young people jumping around in clubs and sprawling on the beach in all their pink sunburnt youthfulness. Ibiza is of course famed for its clubs, of which it has several world-renowned ones, like Pacha, and for the excess which goes with it. But since reaching the lofty age of 25, clubs and all that stuff have lost any appeal they once had with me (if they ever did, I’ve never been too sure about them).
As my girlfriend is from Ibiza I have visited the island several times now, in all the seasons, and I’ve made an effort to see the other side to the island that is so often ignored, and discovered that this hot, humid, pleasingly green island is rich in history and blessed with great natural beauty (which everyone, from tourists to developers seems fairly determined to destroy). It has a lot to offer a traveller who is interested in an experience that won’t leave your head ringing like it had been used to chime the bells of a cathedral.
First of all, exploring Ibiza off-season is quite a strange experience. From June until September the island, and especially the towns of Ibiza and San Antonio, burst into life, but in the other months many of the shops, restaurants, bars and hotels shut up shop and curl up into blissful hibernation. The streets are pretty empty and the atmosphere is sleepy, and it offers a great opportunity to explore the towns and countryside unmolested. From my experiences, late September or mid-spring are ideal times to visit, as the crowds have dissipated but it is warm enough to enjoy the beaches and sea, and most of the places are still open. Take a walking or cycling tour of the hills in the island’s interior in spring to enjoy the lovely blossom colours, while the ground is carpeted in striking yellow flowers. It’s a good time to explore as there are very few cars, and most of the reckless rental cars with drivers unaccustomed to driving in the right hand side that plague the summer have moved on.
Ibiza’s rich history is also there to be appreciated. It has passed through the hands of, among others, the Phoenecians, the Romans, the Muslims, Catalans, and Castilian Spanish, and they have all in some way left their mark. The town of Ibiza has a Phoenician necropolis which can be explored: there is always something to be gleaned about a civilisation by seeing how they treated their dead, so it’s worth visiting. Meanwhile, the necropolis sits in the shadow of Dalt Vila, with its large defensive structures sprawling high over the town, and can be seen from all around. Its streets and structures take you through some of the story of Ibiza. Developed by the Muslims who ruled the island, it was conquered by the Catalans, whose breach through the walls has been saved and preserved. They, and later the Spanish, built the battlements and bastions which today stand to offer exceptional views to us pink, crisping tourists. The streets are steep, cramped and deliciously atmospheric, and exploring the warren of white buildings and old facades is certainly worthy of your time. There is also a large medieval market in May, which is fun.
Aside from history and walking, there are of course the beaches, and there are many to choose from. I shall here give a very quick review of the ones I’ve been to, having visited purely for research (I know, I know, the sacrifices I make for you, dearest readers):
Playa D’en Bossa is where all the drunk people go on the south-east side of the island
Talamanca, which is quite peaceful, in the south
Figueretas, which is ok but not the most luxurious location
Las Salinas, by a natural park, and one of the more pristine beaches. Nice place to walk too
Benirras, which is quite small and secluded, and has utterly breathtaking water that is so clear the boats look like they’re levitating
Sa Caleta, which is surrounded by orangey cliffs and very secluded. Small and a bit stony though
D’hort, a lovely beach with views out to a rocky island jutting from the sea. Go early as parking is a challenge
Of course, there are many others, and I shall in the name of research try and add to this list in the future.
From many of the beaches and towns you can get boat rides, a thoroughly relaxing way of spending time. There is something so intoxicating about boats and gliding effortlessly over the waves, and the boat slipping its way through the swelling, sparkling sea (I really want a boat, ugh why is this Budgetbudgie and not Mega-rich budgie?). One nice option is to hop on a sea bus that takes you from Ibiza town to some of the nearby beaches. It’s a good way to get around, and you get the views of the coastline while you go (and you get to be on a boat, the best thing in the world. Yay boats). Or take a boat to Formentera for the day.
Now, for the night, should you wish to do the sensible thing and refrain from clubs, food is a perfect alternative. Ibiza, being an island, does seafood very well, and of course try paella (a few places will even do vegetarian ones). One place I would also recommend is Can Bass, near San Jose (the sans, or saints, are everywhere in town names in Ibiza; it’s exhausting and confusing, and also kind of endearing). The atmosphere there is so relaxed, and the place is beautifully designed. It’s a little pricey, but to spend an evening outside in pleasant surroundings it’s worth it. Also, in Ibiza town, try the pincho and tapas bar Can Terra Ibiza. It gives you a bit of a taste of Basque cuisine, and the wine is excellently cheap (so cheap I could save enough money for that boat in maybe 500 years instead of 1000, which isn’t so bad). Wherever you go, make sure you have some bread and ali oli, a garlicy sauce which is very typical of the Balearic islands.
Ibiza really has a lot to offer, and isn’t just a summer island for clubbing. Its beaches are diverse and beautiful, it has history to explore, and beautiful countryside to roam. The food isn’t bad either, and there’s the bountiful joys of the sea to enjoy too. Maybe it’s time to take back this island from the young club people, and appreciate the many other pleasures it has to offer.