Ibiza Holidays – A Balearic Paradise
Ibiza greets its visitors wearing a carnival mask, inviting them to join the revel of its glamorous, up-all-night world of clubs, villa parties and bohemian bad behaviour. This glittering façade hides a softer face, however, and once you’re out of earshot of drums and away from the flash of disco lights there is a world of scenery, cuisine, and culture to discover.
Despite being just 40 kilometres long and 25 kilometres across, Ibiza – named for Bes, the Phoenician god of dance – has drawn the attention of imperial armies, pirates and exiles for centuries.
Some say this is thanks to Es Vedra, the limestone islet off its west coast which is reputed to be the third most magnetic point on earth. A more pragmatic explanation is that invaders came for the salt harvested from the brackish waters of Ses Salinas, on its southern tip.
Whatever the cause, Phoenicians, Romans, Moors and finally Catalans staked their claim, each contributing to its cosmopolitan character.
It is easy to see why voyagers through the centuries grounded their boats and made themselves at home. For sheer physical beauty Ibiza is hard to beat. The coastline is comprised of some 80 beaches, ranging from the pristine white expanse of Es Cavallet, to Aguas Blancas’s golden sand, to rocky coves like Punta Galera and Es Xarcu. Each seems to have made a private arrangement with the Mediterranean, coaxing from it a unique shade of blue, green, or aquamarine.
Historically, though, settlers prized the brick-red soil of the interior, where they planted crops and made homes. A trip across the island reveals terraced citrus orchards, an agricultural innovation of the Moors, as well as their distinctive white-walled fincas. And Dalt Vila, the ancient heart of Ibiza town, is a legacy of the Catalans who wrested control in 1235.
This was the last major invasion until the tourist revolution of the 20th century, which began in the 1920s and 30s with a smattering of painters and refugees from the troubles of mainland Europe. For the next few decades draft dodgers, hippies, artists and adventurers made their way to the island. The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd dug its vibes, as did Velvet Underground chanteuse Nico. Other notable musical visitors were Bob Marley, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa.
When airplanes replaced boats the trickle of tourists became a flood and in the 1980s Ibiza went from an exclusive enclave to a playground for the masses. Music guaranteed it wouldn’t become any ordinary sunshine spot, though.
An Argentine expat named Alfredo started playing records at a club called Amnesia. Soon other clubs like Ku (now Privilege) were throwing hedonistic dusk-till-dawn parties unlike anything in mainland Europe.
Dance aficionados can recite the rest of the story like the catechism: a handful of British DJs got high at Amnesia then went home to recreate its spirit-lifting magic in England. The UK’s new clubbing cognoscenti flocked to the island by the hundreds of thousands, and passionate, if somewhat fraught, love affair was born.
Ibiza remains a Mecca for electronic music but it has matured. Clubbers who raved all night at Space or Privilege in the 90s now rent villas and hang out on beach with their kids. Political changes in the 00s led to legislation that effectively ended round-the-clock clubbing. This caused plenty of grumbling at the time, but tourists and locals alike agree it was for the best.
For the past few years the government has made a concerted effort to diversify its appeal. New information points, signposts for bike and hiking trails, increased funding for cultural events, improved beach clean-up and stricter enforcement of noise regulations have made the island more user-friendly than ever. All you need to appreciate its many facets is time and, if possible, a hire car to explore the more remote beaches and reaches.
Ibiza Town is a good place to start. Its medieval heart contains narrow cobbled streets lined with picturesque houses and overseen by watchful cats. A climb to the top of its steep walls offers a vista of the Mediterranean on one side and the marina on the other. It is also home to bars, restaurants, boutiques, museums, municipal buildings and the five-star Mirador Dalt Vila hotel (if you can’t afford a room you can always stop in for a cocktail).
Ibiza Town sprawls beyond the edges of the antique citadel in welter of busy streets and sunny squares. The central plaza, Vara de Rey, hosts events ranging from craft exhibitions to Christmas fairs, while the neighbouring Plaza del Parque is surrounded by cafes where locals and tourists gather to eat, drink, gossip, play chess, and plan their nights out.
The other major towns are Sant Antoni which, despite its reputation as package holiday spot, boasts some fine restaurants and world-famous sunsets; and Santa Eularia, a staid but pleasant seaside town with a striking old church that overlooks the marina and beach.
You can drive the length and breadth of the island in a couple of hours, but it is best to go slowly, stopping to savour each of its villages. Due to the rugged topography there are distinct regional variations.
Sant Carles is home to iconic hippie market Las Dahlias and a small but perfectly formed church; Sant Miquel guards a stunning bay; Santa Agnes has vast almond orchards whose blossoming is the occasion for a fiesta every spring; Sant Josep is the gateway to Es Vedra; and crafts-lovers go to Sant Rafael for handmade ceramics and jewellery. Between them lie lush fields, clusters of carob and olive trees, hills clad in dusty pines. Plus, you’re never more than a few minutes from the sea.
What makes Ibiza more than just another pretty Mediterranean island its legendary laissez-faire attitude. Some attribute this to its colourful history, others to simple tolerance, but whatever the cause all ages, sexes, nationalities, and proclivities are welcome, provided they extend the same courtesy to each other. Small wonder people return year after year, eager to revisit their favourite haunts and sink into the voluptuous embrace of this island of the (dance) gods.
About the author
Cila Warncke is a freelance writer who went to Ibiza for the music and stayed for the lifestyle. She lived there for three years, writing for numerous magazines and websites. Cila currently lives in London, where she is finishing her first book and plotting her next trip to Ibiza. Web: Cila Warncke. Twitter: @CilaWarncke.
When to go to Ibiza
You’ll always find holidays in Ibiza friendly and welcoming, whatever the time of year, but it can get busy in the south of the island during the school holidays. Bargains in accommodation and food can be found in April/May, but some attractions may not be open during the winter season.
San Antonio and its surroundings can get pretty hectic in August and September, so unless you want to party hard, it’s probably best to avoid this area. But if you are going there for a clubbing holiday, you will be in your element!
The weather in Ibiza
Ibiza only has two seasons- Summer (May to October) and Winter (November to April). Although not considered to be an all year destination, even the winters are mild in Ibiza. Temperatures in the summer can regularly reach 35 degrees and the sun will be out for up to 11 hours a day in June and July!
Water temperatures in the summer months range from 20-25 degrees and rainfall is almost non-existent. During winter, it rains infrequently, but there can be some extended periods of overcast weather. Temperatures in winter never reach freezing and the tail end of winter is the best time to see some of the fantastic countryside in the interior of the island, as flowers are abundant in March/April.
Getting the best deal to Ibiza
The best times to get cheap deals are in May and October, just before and just after the season, however there are deals to be had in September and August if you look for them in the northern part of the island.
Flights to Ibiza can cost as little as £45 per person in May and fantastic savings can be made if you look for accommodation away from the busy areas of San Antonio or Ibiza town. Have a look at the deals we are offering and don’t forget to keep an eye on our late deal savings. For the early birds, paying a low deposit at time of booking makes any holiday much more affordable.
Airport and transport need to know
Ibiza can be reached from all the major airports in the UK. All flights arrive at Ibiza airport (IBZ), a busy (during season) but clean facility with some great shops showcasing some of the island’s more popular fashions. The airport is located right in the middle of the southern part of the island and is connected to the main resort towns by great roads meaning that transfer times can be as little as 25 minutes to the other side of the island.
Shuttle bus and taxi services operate 24/7. Taxis are usually metered so no need to barter. Taxi prices from the airport can be high if you are travelling late at night. there are taxi services that can be booked in the UK to collect you and take you back to the airport at the end of your stay. Try this website for taxi bookings - http://www.resorttaxis.com/
If you really want to see Ibiza, hire a car: the main roads in Ibiza are generally excellent and well sign-posted. Some of the lesser roads are not so good however and in the north of the island you may come across some that are in need of pothole repair! That said, some of the coast roads are a driving heaven.
Islanders drive on the right, as in continental Europe, and driving is generally relaxed, but beware, many young tourists hire motorbikes and scooters; driving can get a bit hectic, especially when approaching the main resort areas.
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A selection of top regions in Ibiza
Ibiza’s beaches are so varied, from tiny coves with little strips of white sand to long golden sand beaches and sunsets to die for (check out Directline Holidays blog for more details: http://www.directline-holidays.co.uk/blog/best-of-ibizas-beaches-and-sights/) There is usually a beach to fit every personality - if you are gregarious and daring, why not try one of the nudist beaches near Las Salinas?
Whether you are looking for cocktails on a double sun lounger in a bijou beach bar with fashionistas or a simple quiet area in the north end of the beach, if you want to relax, come to this beach. The sunset is magical. This is probably the best resort for lounging on a sun lounger.
Playa d’en Bossa
This long, golden beach has great bars and restaurants dotted along its margins. It also has hire shops for paragliding and water sports. The great thing about this beach is that you can always find somewhere quiet to while away the time but still be just 5 minutes from the action. Playa d’en Bossa is the best resort for beach activities, however the sea can be a bit dirty here. There is a coastal path to the south of the beach that takes you on a beautiful countryside trek.
There are some tiny cove beaches around the northern town Puerto de San Miguel that are quiet and so beautiful. These are the best beaches for complete isolation. Some are only accessible by scrambling across rocks or picking your way carefully down footpaths. There are very rarely any restaurants or facilities here so take a packed lunch. Travel light, but don’t forget to bring your snorkelling gear; the rocks in the crystal clear water are a haven for all sorts of beautiful marine wildlife.