”World-famous nightlife is only one chapter in Ibiza’s story – others include sleepy villages, pretty beaches and a UNESCO-protected old town.”
Ibiza might be known for being a bit of a party playground, 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.
Take places like Puerto San Miguel and Portinatx, on the north coast, for instance. Apart from a sprinkling of shops and restaurants, they’re home to nothing but sandy coves and hills blanketed with wild flowers. Further south, Santa Eulalia provides a happy medium between lively and laid-back. The boutiques and bars here have a cosmopolitan edge, and the town’s long sweep of pale sand is a favourite with families.
Another string to Ibiza’s bow is its capital, Ibiza Town. Its old quarter, which has earned a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list, is cocooned by Medieval stone walls and overlooked by a fortress. The newer part of town, down by the waterfront, meanwhile, is an amalgamation of high-end restaurants, well-dressed bars and stalls selling everything from leather bags to shoes.
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Ibiza comes gift-wrapped - a giant golden ribbon wraps itself around the island. Split into 60 individual stretches, there’s enough space for everyone. The island’s got everything from parasol-peppered strips to secret coves where it’s just you, your towel and a couple of lost-looking seabirds. For sheer length you can’t beat Playa d’en Bossa, which melts into Figueretes not far from Ibiza Town. It snakes along the southeast coast for two miles, all soft sands and holiday-brochure palms. Things stay pretty lively – this is, after all, where you’ll find the famous Bora Bora beachclub. But the calm waters make it a hit with families, too. Ibiza Town’s more reserved offering, meanwhile, is Talamanca, a sandy bay a mile or so north of the capital. The powers that be have put the mockers on development here so you can get a flavour of what this coastal stretch was like before tourists pitched up. Alternatively there’s pebbly Playa Codolar, just east of Sa Caleta on the island’s southern shores. If you don’t mind the odd rumble of a jet engine – it’s pretty close to the airport – it’s a great place to sneak a little ‘me’ time, rarely attracting more than a handful of sunbathers. The titan on the west coast is, of course, San Antonio, whose huge sliver of sand is a favourite recovery spot for worn-out clubbers. As for the east, laid-back Santa Eulalia and Es Cana warrant your tanning time. Think buttercup sands and wincingly blue waters. Venture north of these two and you’ll come to Cala San Vicente. It’s a big yawn of a bay backed by a gaggle of bars and a shoal of good fish restaurants. In terms of watersports, all but the tiniest beaches have them, everything from pedalos to parasailing. The caves and coral reefs are great for diving, too.
The island’s got over 2000 bars and restaurants so finding something you fancy is a piece of cake. Think seafood platters spilling over with big juicy prawns. Pizzas the size of wagon wheels. And an endless supply of crème catalana. The island has got as much of an appetite for food as it does for clubbing. Fresh seafood is Ibiza’s forte and you won’t have to cast your net far to find a decent fish restaurant. The paella’s always popular, with deep-fried calamari and grilled swordfish tempting alternatives. Another favourite is the fish stew known as ‘zarzuela’ whose ingredients range from monkfish and mussels to crayfish, cod and crab. A good place to test-drive it is Santa Eulalia, the island’s gastro capital. It may be small but it packs a stack of restaurants and most of them are in prime settings - the beach, the promenade, the marina. Then there’s the Street of Restaurants, Calle San Vicente, which has gained almost cult status among visiting foodies. Around 200 metres long, it had 17 restaurants at the last count, with fry-ups as easy to find as fillet steak. Of course, you can’t talk about Spain without mentioning tapas. Think cured ham, boutique cheeses and plump olives served on doll-sized tea-plates. The old quarter of Ibiza Town does a great trade in tapas with authentic little bars spilling out onto both pavement and terrace. If you’re coming away as a couple, head here at night - it’s so romantic you half expect to see Cupid hovering above your table. Tapas aside, Ibiza’s brimming with Brit dishes. If, to you, eating out means a burger between dance anthems, Playa d’en Bossa and San Antonio come up trumps. They’ve got loads of fast food joints and British-style pubs as well as upscale numbers when you’re ready to splash out. Drink-wise, Spanish wines, beers and brandies keep smiles on faces while alcohol-free thirst-quenchers include ‘granizado’ - a refreshing combo of fruit juice and crushed ice.
Forget New York. Forget London. Forget Rio. This place has the finest nightlife in the world, bar none. Today, Ibiza’s still THE place to hear cutting-edge DJs on the best sound systems around. Space has clubbers from all over the world flocking to join in the madness, especially for the opening and closing parties. The sunset terrace is famous for day-long hedonism – that and the fact it’s under the airport flight path. Even with 747s a few metres above, the booming sound of the PA still manages to drown out the roar of a jet engine. Just as impressive is the Spanish institution, Pacha. With tonnes of different zones and bars, it’s a real mish-mash of cultures and sounds. Although it has a huge capacity for over 3,000 clubbers, somehow it manages to keep a cosy feel. Of course, you can’t talk about nightlife without mentioning the infamous Privilege. It's the world’s biggest cluband it's popular with A-listers like P Diddy, Madonna and Jade Jagger. But it’s not all about tough beats and bustling streets - there’s a chilled-out flip side to Ibiza’s hectic hedonism. Resort towns like Portinatx and Santa Eulalia are the ideal antidote to the 24-hour madness of the busy hubs. Other popular chill-out spots are the beaches around Café Mambo and Café del Mar in San Antonio, where you can catch a glimpse of the legendary sunset. With the lucky few parasailing past a setting sun, cheers fill the air as the sky turns scarlet. Beneath the applause, you’ll hear the world’s best DJs hard at work.
If you want to see what Ibiza’s original hippy markets were like, you’ve got two choices. Borrow Dr Who’s Tardis or hit Es Cana on a Wednesday. With the latter the most feasible, you’ll be able to swing back to the Sixties without the aid of a magical phone booth. This most stubborn of markets refuses to move with the times – pretty much everything on sale is the same as it would have been four decades ago. Think loud jewellery, kaftans in every colour of the rainbow and joss sticks aplenty. But not all markets here revolve around tie-dye brights. Sant Joan does a great organic food market, while San Antonio and Santa Eulalia cater for the artsy crowd. However, for full on fashion-mag chic you need to head to the capital, Ibiza Town. It packs in a huge collection of boutiques in a relatively small space. In the new town, stores are a slick affair – pretty much what you’d find in any larger town or city. But head for the old town and the port and a more unusual shopping scene unfolds. It’s a honeypot for local designers, most of whom wield needle and thread like an artist does paintbrush and palette. It has to be said, the free-spirited nature of the island inspires some truly outlandish clothes great for the clubbing scene. And there are some envy-inducing one-offs to be found if you’re prepared to put the time in. As for when to shop, the bigger places tend to snooze their way through the afternoon – this is Spain after all – but they make up for lost time by staying open ‘til late. In Ibiza Town, for instance, you can head out at 10pm and still be shopping at midnight.