Holidays to Ibiza might be mainly associated with nightlife, but that’s only one chapter in the island’s story. Its sleepy villages, pretty beaches and UNESCO-protected old town aren't to be missed.
Nightlife and beyond
Ibiza might be known for being the party playground of Spain, but there’s more to this Balearic Island than big-name clubs and A-list DJs. Away from the nightlife-focussed resorts of San Antonio and Playa d’en Bossa, it sings to a different tune.
The main resorts
Northern towns like Puerto San Miguel and Portinatx showcase sandy coves and hills blanketed with wild flowers. Further south, Cala Llonga offers a similarly relaxed atmosphere and boasts one of the biggest beaches on the island. Santa Eulalia, meanwhile, provides a happy medium between lively and laid-back. The boutiques and bars here have a cosmopolitan edge, and the town’s sweep of pale sand is a favourite with families.
Ibiza’s capital, Ibiza Town, has an old quarter that’s earned itself a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list. It’s cocooned by Medieval stone walls and overlooked by a fortress. The newer part of town, down by the waterfront, is an amalgamation of high-end restaurants, well-dressed bars and market stalls selling all sorts of clothes and souvenirs.
Daytrips to Formentera
Formentera’s known as Ibiza’s little sister island and it’s well within daytripping distance – the ferry ride takes just 30 minutes. The island’s beaches are the jewels in its crown. Bright-white sands with Blue Flag status are the norm. Conservation laws are strict here, too, so you won’t find any sprawling seaside restaurants. Instead, beach huts whip up seafood snacks and drinks. Plus, you can head inland for rustic markets and traditional eateries.
Things to See and Do in Ibiza
A photogenic coastline
Ibiza is haloed by some of the most scenic beaches in the Balearics. We’re talking tucked-away coves with bright white sands, and golden sweeps bracketed by forest-topped cliffs. Look out for what the locals call ‘chiringuito’ bars. Even the sleepier beaches tend to have at least one nearby, and they’re the best places to head for authentic tapas dishes, fresh seafood and jugs of sangria.
The big beach
Playa d’en Bossa Beach follows the lead of the town’s nightclubs – it’s big and lively. Its white sands welcome locals, families and the party crowd, but its sheer length means there’s plenty of room for everyone. The restaurants and bars overlooking the sand cater for a mixed guest list, as well – house-pumping beach bars sit alongside cafés with children’s menus.
The secret beach
If you’re after a beach that’s off the tourist trail, seek out Cala Xuclar. This small, crescent-shaped bay is tucked away in the north of the island, around a 5-minute drive from Portinatx. There’s nothing but green hills and a few fishing huts framing the sands, and refreshments come courtesy of a tiny bar that sells tapas and seafood dishes at lunchtimes.
Es Cana is famous for its Hippy Market, which rolls into town every Wednesday. Expect stalls piled with jewellery, lace, leather bags and sandals. Portinatx also hosts a market on a Sunday, although it’s on a much smaller scale than Es Cana’s. Visit the Thursday market in San Miguel, meanwhile, to pick up watercolour paintings of the Ibiza countryside.
The studios and galleries around Santa Eulalia are great for artwork – try Calle San Jaime for the best choice. The pieces here are pricier than those you’ll find in the markets, but you’ll discover bespoke oil paintings and ornate hand-made sculptures. Ibiza Town, on the other hand, is good for high street stores. On the Vara del Ray and Rosello avenues, you’ll find favourites like Bershka, Mango and Zara, as well as local fashion chains like Stradivarius – Ibiza’s answer to Topshop.
Ibiza Town is brimming with boutiques, which sell everything from one-of-a-kind dresses to hand-made jewellery and leather handbags. For the best choice, try the stores along Calle Bisbe Azara. If you’ve got your eye on some vintage wear, head to the old quarter, where some of the best stores on the island congregate. Playa d’en Bossa also does a good line in boutiques – the ones behind the beach sell designer sunglasses and expensive sandals.
Ibiza might be renowned for its legendary nightclubs, but nights out on the island don’t have to be so full-throttle. Cala Llonga and Puerto San Miguel are full of family-friendly restaurants, and street musicians come out to entertain passers-by after sundown. Sophisticated Santa Eulalia is the island’s foodie capital, though. Its village square is brimming with tapas bars, and Calle San Vicente, or the ‘Street of Restaurants,’ is great for gourmet cuisine.
Ibiza isn’t known as the dance capital of the world for nothing. Every summer, the island welcomes top DJs, who take to the stage in mega-clubs like Space and Bora Bora in Playa d’en Bossa, and Amnesia and Privilege near Ibiza Town. San Antonio’s West End is also really popular. The streets are filled with bars, and the cocktails are really cheap.
You can’t visit Ibiza without sampling some of the seafood, and this local stew is made with lots of different types of fresh fish. Monkfish, mussels, crayfish, cod and crab are all tossed into the mix, alongside fluffy potatoes and tomatoes.
Families have been sharing out this warming stew for years. It’s a tasty dish made from spiced lamb, pork and chicken, which are mixed together with sausages and potatoes. The whole thing is seasoned with garlic, cinnamon, parsley and saffron, which give it loads of flavour. Most places serve the dish alongside crusty bread that’s been drizzled in olive oil.
This melt-in-the-mouth pudding isn’t one for dieters. Ibiza’s take on the classic American cheesecake, it’s made with cream cheese, mint, aniseed and honey, and has a lovely zesty flavour. It’s usually washed down with a glass of sweet dessert wine.
This fluffy, oven-baked pudding is a must-try in Ibiza. Traditionally, it’s made with milk, butter, eggs, lemon, and pieces of sweet ensaimada pastry. It’s flavoured with cinnamon, and is often enjoyed with a frothy cappuccino as an afternoon pick-me-up.
At the end of a meal, waiters tend to ask guests if they’d like a ‘chupito’, or shot. Say yes, and they’ll come back with an ice-cold helping of the local speciality liquor, hierbas. It’s a syrupy blend of local herbs – approximately 18 plants are used to achieve its aniseed-like taste.
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Cala Llonga may be only a 20-minute drive from Ibiza Town, but this chilled-out place feels a world away from the Balearic Island's famous club scene. It’s a small, compact town surrounded by pine-covered hills that seem to melt into the sandy cove below. And it’s also blessed with a fine selection of shops, bars and restaurants. Of course, if you do fancy a night out in Pacha or Privilege, the capital is right at hand.
Cala Pada is a shy-and-quiet spot on Ibiza’s eastern edge. It’s named after its beach – a wide, horseshoe-shaped curve of sand backed by bottle-green pines. With only a handful of beach restaurants and cafés to its name, it’s worlds away from the loud-and-proud party towns that the Balearic Island's known for.
Sun-seekers pick Cala Gracio based on its back-to-basics principles. You'll find it on Ibiza – the most nightlife-centric of the Balearic Islands. But, it's in a hushed spot on the island's west coast, where the priorities are chilling on peaceful beaches from dawn 'til dusk. Despite its scenic backdrop, though, it's not completely out in the sticks – the White Isle's buzziest town is just around the corner, without actually coming into earshot.
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