With memories of sticky club nights at Manumission, fry-ups in the sunshine and an ill-fated hungover scooter ride from my last trip just over a decade ago, we dipped over the impossibly blue sea and landed in Ibiza. This time, however, I was to avoid singing Vengaboys as much as possible as we were off to explore the blissed out, bohemian side of the legendary isle.
A mecca for free-spirits since the 1950s, Ibiza’s hippy culture is still alive and the sound of drums at sunset increase the further you get away from the Brits abroad buzz of San Antonio. If you’re looking to kick back and focus on your well-being and meditation for a few days, read on. If you are hitting the clubs this summer and just want some hangover cure activities, the following should clear your mind and cleanse your spirit of the shots of the night before.
Tranquil Northern Ibiza
With the island only 40km long, staying far from the madding crowd couldn’t be easier. We stayed at the adults only (but not THAT kind of adults only, as I kept telling my friends) Barceló Portinatx (Venda de Portinatx, 62 barcelo.com ) resort in the north of the island just a 40-minute scenic drive from the airport. Take hand luggage only and you’ll be off the plane and by the pool in no time.
All the rooms in this bright and spacious hotel come with terraces with sun loungers allowing you to sunbathe in complete tranquillity if you just don’t have the energy to expend to pop down to one of the resort’s two pools or even the secluded beach, only 20m away.
The setting couldn’t be more idyllic with stunning sunsets and sunrises above the Portinatx cove which stood in for a much further flung island in the late ’50s film version of South Pacific. In fact, sitting in the hotel’s beachfront Noray restaurant with a goblet of G&T, guitar duo playing and the sky turning pink, it’s hard to believe that you can get here on a budget airline and no jetlag. You could just come to the island for some R&R and you wouldn’t have to go far with the tranquil outdoors Wellness Centre at Barceló Portinatx, with an almond oil massage and experience showers to jump into in between dips in the pool and a complimentary yoga class with views of the Balearic. But, this is the adventure issue so no lounging around for #TeamCoco… okay, maybe just a little bit with a mooch around the stunning true Ibiza feel shop/bar Los Enamorados (103, Calle de Portinatx, losenamoradosibiza.com) with a sundowner cocktail.
Portinatx is located in Sant Joan de Labritja and is the only true tourist resort in this region meaning that a short trip from this coastline you can lose yourself down dusty roads lined with fincas and their lemon groves. The village of Sant Joan is dreamily referred to as ‘the last village’ of the island with its white-walled houses with colourful doors begging you to sit in the sun with a cerveza or explore their artisan market every Sunday.
The village is home to a number of quirky small businesses, like intriguing coffee house-shop-hairdresser Los Otros (Carrer de Sa Cala 15, Sant Joan De Labritja losotrosibiza.com). Pop in for beautiful gifts and a trim and stay for their legendary veggie pink burger from chef Mirjam, author of popular veggie cookbook ‘Veggie Very Much’. After your healthy lunch and retail therapy pop to The Giri Cafe’s garden (Plaza España 5, cafe.thegiri.com ) for a few cheeky sun-drenched afternoon cocktails in the shade of their centuries-old townhouse.
There’s hidden magic to this island everywhere you look. The village of Sant Joan celebrates its patron, Saint John The Baptist on 23rd June with a riotous party with fireworks and bonfires. During the festivities, you can ward away evil spirits by noting down all the negative things that have happened to you in the previous year in a list and chucking it in a bonfire. Then, set intentions for the next year with a new list of goals.
While many of the full-moon free-spirit partiers may have moved on from the hedonism of the ’70s, there are still authentic glimpses into nomadic life around, especially in the north of the island. Parked up in the dusty sand, in the shadow of pine trees in Portinatx, every morning you’ll find traveller couples enjoying breakfast on the rocks and sweeping out their vans. As the sun sets on a Sunday evening, if you are lucky, you’ll catch groups of them drumming on the beach here and also at nearby Benirrás Beach. Apparently, this tradition dates from ‘The Day of The Drums’ on Sunday 18th August 1991 when hundreds of people gathered to protest the Gulf War.
You won’t have to go far before stumbling over ‘authentic hippy souvenirs’ but take these with a pinch of salt. It’s not really the free-spirit way to have things mass produced for a profit. However, to soak up some of the atmosphere of the ’70s it’s definitely worth grabbing a cold one and losing yourself in Ibiza’s original hippy market, Es Cana in Punta Arabi, 10am – 8pm every Wednesday or the famous night market at Las Dalias which runs until 1am on Mondays and Tuesdays throughout the summer months. The scents, sights and sounds of these markets will transport you back in time and have you considering all manner of floaty clothes that you’ll then attempt to work into your office attire when back home. A boyfriend blazer works over all kinds of maxi-dresses, trust me.
If you can’t peel yourself away from your sun lounger to make it to the full hippy market experience, check out WorldFamilyIbiza.com – the family-run free-spirited brand which has expanded from Las Dalias market to, fittingly, the world with their colourful collections.
Exploring the seas
You can’t come to Ibiza and not take the opportunity to get out in the sparkling sea. The clear water is thanks to the protected meadows of oceanic seagrass and you won’t believe the turquoise translucency of the water as you come into Formentera by boat. There are a number of larger boats which travel across from the port in Ibiza town but for a true sense of adventure chartering a smaller boat is definitely recommended from the luxe Marina Botafach. Leisurely floating along, hearing tales of pirates, spying luxury yachts that Robert DeNiro has rocked up on and even glimpsing a dolphin, you can see why people have flocked to these magical islands for decades.
Formentera is the smallest and most southernly Balearic island with bright white sands and out of this world blue sea and sky. It’s not hard to see why Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin embraced spending time here in the ’60s and Cara and Leonardo can be found losing themselves in these pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming surroundings. Arrive here and grab a bicycle or scooter to explore your way, with beautiful beaches all around the coast and wall-to-wall sunshine, choose your adventure. From beach chiringuitos where you can grab snacks to the unmissable homemade vanilla ice-cream at the stunning Es Moli De Sal restaurant on Playa de Illetas, there will be plenty of instagrammable treats on the way.
Still got a hankering for more of magical, bohemian Ibiza? In the South of the island is the impressive towering island of Es Vedra where Tanit, the goddess of love and fertility is believed to have lived. It’s also where the sirens who lured Odysseus from his ship lived according to local legend and claims to be the third most magnetic spot in the world, just behind the North Pole and Bermuda Triangle. If that wasn’t enough mystery for you, it’s also said to be the tip of the sunken city of Atlantis. The location of this Atlantis is supposedly secret but if you are feeling adventurous, follow the track down towards Sa Pedrera (the cove’s non-new-age name), it’s a steep journey but one that will reward you with carvings and paintings left by the nomads before you.
Where to stay…
We travelled to Ibiza with British Airways and stayed in a Superior Room with Ocean View at the Barceló Portinatx (barcelo.com) including the gorgeous breakfast buffet.
The team at the hotel will be happy to arrange transfers and taxis to and from the hotel to help you explore off-the-beaten-track Ibiza.