How to spend a weekend in Ibiza

Ibiza might be synonymous with music and mayhem, but there’s much more to the world’s most famous party island than meets the eye. Discover your own Ibiza, at your own pace.Thursday, 24 October 2019

Ibiza's old town, known as Dalt Vila, is a maze of white-painted houses flushed pink with bougainvillea.
Ibiza's old town, known as Dalt Vila, is a maze of white-painted houses flushed pink with bougainvillea.
photo by Getty Images

Ibiza’s reputation precedes it. But that reputation is entirely dependent on which Ibiza you’re thinking of. Is it the huge clubs and superstar DJs? The notorious Club 18-30 package holidays? The glamorous scene of Ibiza Town? Or the bohemian markets and yoga weekends?

For a small island, Ibiza is remarkably multifaceted — the south home to much of the above, while just 45 minutes’ drive north is an island of quiet beaches, whitewashed farmhouses, olive groves and peaceful tranquillity. A rich and eventful history has seen the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans and Moors make their mark on the island, followed more recently by artists, intellectuals, beatniks, holidaymakers and generations of clubbers. However, a gentle shift upmarket over the past decade has heralded in a wealth of luxury villas, highend beach clubs and glamorous restaurants.

There’s still much that’s affordable though, and Ibiza’s appeal has long been its natural attractions and welcoming locals. The White Isle continues to thrive and reinvent itself during high season, but Ibiza is still ripe for exploration throughout autumn and winter, when some say the island is at its best, minus the crowds and heat. After all, reputation is based on perception.

Fairly new to the scene, the Aiyanna beach restaurant captures the essence of Ibiza.
Fairly new to the scene, the Aiyanna beach restaurant captures the essence of Ibiza.
photo by heikemoellers.com

Day one: island life

Morning
Just 20 minutes’ drive from Ibiza Town and San Antonio, but seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Can Lluc is typical of many of the agritourism properties that have emerged here in the past 20 years.

Surrounded by palm trees and bougainvillea, the 25 acres of farmland has been owned by the same family for generations. A leisurely breakfast by the pool is how we begin the day.

The 30-minute drive east brings you to Santa Eulalia, and while it might be the third-largest town in Ibiza it’s relatively laid-back. A promenade hugs the seafront and a pretty marina draws visitors to its restaurants, cafes, bars and shops. A few minutes’ drive further is the crescent-shaped beach of Es Caná.

Afternoon
A short walk around the coast from Es Caná — or a winding drive inland — is Cala Nova, a peaceful, cut-off bay overlooked by Aiyanna. Opened in 2017, it captures the essence of everything you’d expect from a beach restaurant in Ibiza: decked terraces, palm trees, turquoise waters lapping the shore. The menu is influenced by the eastern Mediterranean, with a focus on organic, local ingredients.

Continue your journey north and, after a stint inland, the road meets the coast again, hugging the rising cliffs as you reach the north-east of the island, before dropping dramatically to the sandy bay of Cala de Sant Vicent. Don’t stop long, though, and take the steep incline west en route to Cala Benirrás. 

Evening
On the north-west of the island, Benirrás is best-known for its sunsets. And drums. Every Sunday, hundreds of people — armed with bongos of varying sizes — descend on this calm, unspoilt bay for the tribal sunset drumming ritual. Otherwise, the market runs several days a week. Whenever you’re there, simply grab a beer at the Elements bar, sit back and enjoy the last moments of daylight.

Back at Can Lluc, and dinner at its restaurant Olea is a reminder of how relaxing the island can be. The exquisite Mediterranean menu — confit cod with almond sauce and ratatouille, baby lamb chops with mint and pomegranate tabbouleh — is evidence of the island’s newfound culinary prowess.

S'Escalinata is by no means a secret, but its colourful beanbags and tapas menu make for a blissful lunch stop.
S'Escalinata is by no means a secret, but its colourful beanbags and tapas menu make for a blissful lunch stop.
photo by Getty Images

Day two: Ibiza Town

Morning
Dalt Vila is one of the island’s truly remarkable sights. Set high over Ibiza Town, the UNESCO-listed medieval fortress originally dates back to the Phoenicians in the 6th century BC. Regular walking tours are available, but you can also download one from the tourist board website. Allow around two hours to explore this magnificent walled citadel, winding through its maze of whitewashed cobbled streets where the locals still stand and chat, hanging out their washing. Head up the stone ramp to Portal de Ses Taules, the majestic main entrance, and onto Patio de Armas where the island’s first hippie market was held. The main highlights are the cathedral and the necropolis of Puig des Molins, but ambling around is equally satisfying. 

Afternoon
Occasionally you come across a place that feels like a real find. S’Escalinata, a bar in Dalt Vila, is one of those; it’s by no means a secret, but there’s something very relaxed and casual going on, while hitting very high standards. Colourful beanbags tumble down the steps; umbrellas offer shade from the sun, and its tapas menu makes for a blissful lunch stop.

After a morning walking, head to one of Ibiza’s most famous beaches. Las Salinas lies just beyond the salt flats that have produced the island’s most important commodity for centuries. The beach, backed by dunes and pine forests, is a long, alluring stretch of sand, its clear waters and bars attracting everyone from families to clubbers and the odd celebrity. 

Evening
Strolling the streets of Ibiza Town at night and admiring the superyachts in the harbour can give you a real insight into some of the island’s visitors. Still, the rich and famous seemingly depart their vast vessels and blend in with the varied tourist demographic of this beguiling town.

Stylish and cosmopolitan, the winding streets and cobbled lanes are home to shops, bars and restaurants, but it’s the overall character of the town that really shines. Comidas Bar San Juan offers a taste of the traditional, if that’s what you need — tapas as well as seafood — at prices hard to ignore. For a postprandial, stroll the streets as the bars begin to fill up — or head to the town’s heights for the night-time view over the harbour.

Beachouse has a selection of drinks and dishes from a modern, global menu.
Beachouse has a selection of drinks and dishes from a modern, global menu.
photo by danielbalda.com

Day three: club life

Morning

Almost exactly in the centre of the island, Santa Gertrudis is at a crossroads, so people happen upon the place one way or another. The sleepy village’s whitewashed buildings, home to art galleries, boutiques and some great restaurants, is the perfect place to watch the world go by.

Just 20 minutes’ away, historic Las Dalias is the largest and best-known of Ibiza’s hippie markets. Every Saturday, thousands of people descend on the 300 or so market stalls. Las Dalias perfectly reflects the island’s bohemian roots — clothing, jewellery and handicrafts — with music at the heart of everything. 

Afternoon
An early adopter of the ever-rising trend, you’re never far from a beach club in Ibiza. Beachouse, with a low-key bohemian feel, has a superb selection of drinks and dishes from a modern, global menu: quinoa salad with roasted chicken, sea bass with leek puree and chive oil. The music, as it should be in Ibiza, is carefully curated by DJs throughout the day, building from mellow, Balearic beats to a hypnotic, tribal sound. And with a choice of beach beds or table in the restaurant, it’s somewhere you can linger for hours. Situated at the south end of Playa D’en Bossa, near the likes of Hï Ibiza and Ushiaia, it’s close to the action, but suitably relaxed. 

Evening
You don’t want to be anywhere near a club much before midnight, so Mikasa is the perfect place for a drink as you get in the mood. With 16 rooms and a terrace bar overlooking the bay towards Ibiza Town, this boutique hotel has low-key lighting, soulful house music on tap, and chic design.

When Space closed its doors in 2016 after 27 years, it was the end of a clubbing era. But the opening of Hï Ibiza, its replacement, went some way to make up for the loss. Glitterbox is one of its best nights — an offshoot of the Defected Records label, it marries the likes of Masters at Work, Basement Jaxx and Dimitri from Paris, with a distinctly disco vibe.

Hï Ibiza's flamboyant Glitterbox disco promises a wild night like no other.
Hï Ibiza's flamboyant Glitterbox disco promises a wild night like no other.
photo by Glitterbox

Six of the hottest clubs in Ibiza

1. Hï Ibiza
Occupying the space formerly known as, er, Space, Playa d’en Bossa’s Hï is home to big hitters such as David Guetta, Black Coffee and Glitterbox. Don’t miss its Wild Corner — the secret disco toilets.

2. Amnesia
Dating back to 1976, the 5,000-capacity San Rafael venue became famous for DJ Alfredo’s sets in the 1980s — which kickstarted the club scene as it is today. Nights in 2019 included Elrow, Cocoon and Together.

3. Eden
San Antonio doesn’t have as many top clubs as the east coast but, celebrating its 20th birthday this year, Eden is probably its highlight. The likes of Defected, Shine and Toolroom appear in 2019. 

4. Pacha
One of Ibiza’s most famous exports, Pacha’s cherry logo can be seen here, there and everywhere worldwide. The Ibiza Town club goes from strength to strength with Dixon, Solomun and Calvin Harris resident this year.

5. Privilege
The biggest club in the world, which famously hosted Manumission’s parties for over a decade, has 10,000 people regularly hitting its dancefloor. Currently home to Carl Cox, Sasha, Digweed et al.

6. Ushuaïa
A vast open-air venue surrounding a pool, parties kick off in the daytime — its Ants night is one of the big draws at the Playa d’en Bossa venue.

The Ibiza you've dreamed of: Bless Hotel is the 'Coco Chanel-inspired' hotel on the Santa Eulalia coast.
The Ibiza you've dreamed of: Bless Hotel is the 'Coco Chanel-inspired' hotel on the Santa Eulalia coast.
photo by Roberto Lara Fotografia

Three luxurious hotel stays in Ibiza

1. Bless Hotel
Newly-opened, near Cala Nova, the 151-room hotel is slick and sleek, bringing its ‘Coco Chanel-inspired design’ to the Santa Eulalia coast. With a restaurant from Michelin-starred chef Martín Berasategui, and a spa and pool offering spectacular views onto the beach.

Retreat to leafy Can Lluc, where pine trees and vineyards shield the bustle of nearby Ibiza Town and San Antonio.
Retreat to leafy Can Lluc, where pine trees and vineyards shield the bustle of nearby Ibiza Town and San Antonio.
photo by Can Lluc Ibiza

2. Can Lluc
Offering 20 rooms and villas, discretely tucked away in the heart of Ibiza, this agritourism finca is a luxurious escape surrounded by pine trees and vineyards. Just 20 minutes from Ibiza Town and San Antonio, you’ll be reluctant to leave.

Mikasa is Ibiza Town's bohemian boutique hotel with 16 distinctly themed rooms.
Mikasa is Ibiza Town's bohemian boutique hotel with 16 distinctly themed rooms.
photo by mikasaibiza.com

3. Mikasa
Across the marina from Ibiza Town, Mikasa is a bohemian boutique hotel with 16 distinctly themed rooms. The chic, rustic design is complemented by a Levantine restaurant and bar with stunning views over the harbour.

How to do it
Numerous airlines fly to Ibiza non-stop from various UK airports. Rooms at Can Lluc start from €220 (£200) per night based on two people sharing. Double rooms at Mikasa start from €200 (£180) per night based on two people sharing.

Find out more from Ibiza's Tourist Board.

Published in the November 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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