Treasure island

Lifestyle | Sun 12 Oct | Author – Niamh Mac Sweeney
Sunset at Benirraas beach, Ibiza
Sunset at Benirraas beach, Ibiza

Secluded coves and caves, old town charm and a vibe that harks back to the 60s psychedelic era of peace and free love. Is there nothing the small island of Ibiza can’t offer holidaymakers asks Niamh Mac Sweeney?

It seems everything that glistens really is gold on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza.

This summer, Ibiza has been the hottest destination of choice for the well-healed celebrity and international jet setter. Throughout the summer of 2014 the rich and famous flocked to the island in droves, and it would be easier to list the stars who didn’t holidayed in Ibiza than the ones who did. Regular celeb visitors to the island include Madonna, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Moss. Kim Kardashian, who jetted on to the island with new husband Kanye, mum Kris and sister Kendall Jenner, partied in style at designer Riccardo Tisci’s birthday bash in August. Footballer Steven Gerrard took his mind off World Cup woes by holidaying with wife Alex and their three daughters, while Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber were also spotted having fun and ‘altercations’ in Ibiza this summer.

For newlyweds Poppy Delevingne and James Cook, the honeymoon period continued on the Mediterranean island following their lavish wedding in the UK. Speaking of weddings, it seems that one celebration isn’t quite ‘the done thing’ anymore. Following this popular trend earlier this year was former Miss World, Rosanna Davison. The plush and exclusive Atzaro Resort in Ibiza provided a luxurious and romantic setting for one of her three − yes three − wedding celebrations to long-term partner, Wes.

Diverse and delightful

But even if you’re not a famous celebrity who has the luxury of exploring this Mecca in VIP style, there’s no reason why you can’t have a slice of the deliciousy delightful Ibiza.

Whether it’s a family getaway, exclusive retreat, cultural break or a party holiday with friends, there really is something for all tastes and budgets on this small, yet expansive, island. In fact, while the accessibility, diversity and vibrancy of Ibiza are its unique selling points, they are not the only draws.

The White Island or La Isla Blanca as it is often referred to, is by far the most diverse and beautiful of all the Balearic Islands. We visited in May, just before the crowds descended for peak summer season, and it proved the perfect time to visit this beautiful island, given the warm sunny weather and the easy pace of getting around.

With its warm climate and stunning landscape, Ibiza takes a hold of the senses.”

With its warm climate and stunning landscape, Ibiza takes a hold of the senses. There is so much to explore, and for the traveller willing to ‘dig deeper’, wonderful things are right there waiting to be discovered. The island’s natural beauty, its diversity and its range make it an appealing destination for families, sun worshippers, hikers, cyclists, nature lovers, party people and those looking for exclusivity and refuge.

A view of Es Vedrà from Cala d’Hort

A view of Es Vedrà from Cala d’Hort

 Ibiza’s top 10 secret beaches
• Es Canaret
• Cala d’en Serra
• Agua Blanca
• Cala Llarga
• Es Bol Nou
• Ses Balandres
• Cala d’Albarca
• Cap des Jueu
• S’Aigua Dolça
• Cala Xarraca

Life’s a beach

With so many beaches, coves and pretty inlets to explore it’s impossible to decide which is the most stunning. It really depends what you are looking for − surfing, swimming, sunbathing, celeb spotting − whatever it is, it really is all there ripe for the exploring.

At Cala D’Albarca on the northern seaboard, high cliffs surrounding a beautiful bay create the perfect backdrop for a picturesque hideaway. The area resembles a stone sculptor that has been carefully crafted by Mother Nature. Dramatic cliffs, large flat rocks and small ledges are the perfect spots to soak up the sun or bathe in the warm waters.

At Cala d’Hort, the pebbled shore serves as the perfect vantage point from which to take in the impressive Es Vedrà. This uninhabited rocky island off the south western seaboard is steeped in myth and folklore. For the Greeks, it was the home of the Sirens, while the Carthaginians believed that Tanit, their goddess of love and fertility, resided there.

While it would be easy to while away the hours − admiring Es Vedrà, sampling exquisite paella, washed down with local wine in the tradtional beach-front resturant, El Carmen − we were feeling more adventurous and exploring the open waters by kayak is a most enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. Stopping off on a small deserted island for a light lunch and refreshments, before paddling our way back to the shore, we are treated to a different view of this dramatic landscape.

 Cala San Vicente

Cala San Vicente

In contrast to the rugged backdrop and impressive walks along Cales de Compte to Cala Bassa in the west − about 30km from Ibiza town − Cala San Vicente in the north east offers a magnificent curve of golden sand with beautiful clear waters. This beach is wonderfully wide, and the palm tree-dotted promenade with its beachside cafes, is yet another great stop off point from which to lounge in the Mediterranean sunshine on a quiet afternoon.

If you’re hoping to experience something more authentic than a sun lounger in Ibiza, then head east to the beautiful town of Santa Eulària and its fortified 16th century church, Puig de Missa, which presides proudly from a hill overlooking the town. A traditional tapas lunch at Bar Anita in Sant Carles will not only satisfy your appetite, but will also remind visitors why this area has been attracting hippies since they first rocked up here in the 60s. Of course for those who find peace and love on the golf course, you’ll be happy to hear Santa Eularia has an impressive 18 holes.

Country retreat

Moving inland, Ibiza’s rural agrotourism hotels are really coming into their own and offer visitors the opportunity to enjoy the authentic countryside environs while getting to know the friendly locals.

We visited Can Gall in San Juan − a typical Ibizan country house (finca) that dates back more than 200 years. Tastefully restored but retaining its original, rustic charm, the interior has a cosy ambience. Outside fruit, almond and olive trees grow on the estate which is surrounded by mountains and rugged countryside, while the garden, terrace and pool provide an ideal place to retreat and relax, far from the tourist spots.

Atzaró, also in San Joan, is another exclusive, rural agrotourism hotel and spa resort. Built on an orange farm, Atzaró is an oasis of calm and serenity. The whitewashed buildings, extravagant gardens, plush spa, relaxation areas and hidden nooks, all lend themselves to luxury and fine living. The renowned restaurant, that serves some of the most wonderful local gastronomic cuisine I’ve tasted, and the exclusivity of this country resort make it popular for weddings and guests who want uninterrupted 5-star elegance.

One of Ibiza’s best kept secrets is it rich Mediterranean wine. Bodega Sa Cova winery in the north is set in the fertile valley of Sant Mateu d’Albarca, where every year in December locals celebrate the Fiesta del Vino when hundreds of people gather to taste the island’s wines. We were welcomed to Sa Cova by the extremely hospitable Bonet family for a wonderful evening of fine wine, food and chat. The fact that the owner, Juan’s wife is Irish certainly served as a great conversation starter; not that conversation was in short supply − the more the wine flowed (and it flowed generously) the more armoured we became with this winery and its owners.

The Bonets’ passion for wine is obvious and as the first winery to make wine commercially in Ibiza, they are well-placed and noble traditionalists who have given a new impetus to the island’s wine industry. Using various grapes, that are harvested manually to maintain the highest standards, this winery combines modern methods with ancestral processes that date back to when the Phoenicians first introduced wine-making to the island. The results are a range of fresh and appealing young wines as well as rich crianza wines matured in French and American oak barrels.

Things to do

  • For tailored kayaking trips: kayak-ibiza.com
  • For local tours of Ibiza and Formentera: guiasibiza.com
  • Explore the caves of Cova de Can Marca at Port de Sant Miguel: covadecanmarsa.com
  • Explore the vineyards and sample locally produced wine at Sa Cova winery: sacovaibiza.com
  • Check out a host of marine species at Acuarium Cap Blanc, also a great place to watch the sun set over the bay of Sant Antoni. One of Ibiza’s most famous landmarks, the salt flats (Parque Natural de Ses Salines) are also well worth visiting.
  • For more tourist information: ibiza.travel/en

Old town charm

When you tire of beach life, a visit to Ibiza’s old town provides the perfect diversion. A UNESCO World Heritage city, Dalt Vila is the most preserved acropolis in the Mediterranean. Its impressive walls, dating from the 16th century, were designed by Italian architect Calvi and are best explored by foot.

Entering the old town through the Portal de ses Taules, which is opposite the Mercat Vell (old market), visitors are treated to endless culture and heritage. From the citadel, chapels, castle and cathedral, to the art galleries, craft shops and quaint restaurants, a day exploring Ibiza’s old town doesn’t seem like nearly enough time so extensive are the hidden gems of this historic town. Regardless of the length of your visit, its impossible not to soak up this captivating place, its bustling streets and alleyways, packed with culture and characters.

We were fortunate to visit Dalt Vila when internationally renowned Catalan artist, Joan Miró exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art; but regardless to the time of the year, there is no shortage of exhibitions to visit in the town and the maze of medieval streets are brimming with art, heritage and culture.

Ibiza's breath--taking Dalt Vila at night

Ibiza’s breath–taking Dalt Vila at night

Hidden gems

enjoy a coffee and watch the world go by in Dalt Vila

Enjoy a coffee and watch the world go by in Dalt Vila

For visitors who land on the island of Ibiza expecting to find stunning beaches, a rugged landscape, exclusive clubs and resorts in abundance − they will not be disappointed. But for first-time visitor to the island there are many more surprises in store.

The holiday brochures paint a very true picture of this inviting corner of the Balearics, but this is only one half of the story.

People have been flocking to the island for years, and they are showing no signs of stopping. Families, yogis, party revellers, celebrities and sun-worshipers alike, come to Ibiza for very different reasons. But one thing they have in common is their strong connection with this magical and diverse island.

With so much to explore in such a small area, it would be a shame not to return to sample more of the hidden treasures that Ibiza has to offer. Next stop the island of Formentera.

Out and about