Despite its glitzy reputation as the ultimate European destination for clubbers, Ibiza—the third-largest Balearic island, located off the coast of Spain—offers much more than an endless party. With a documented history that dates back at least as far as the Phoenicians in 654 B.C., the island has earned UNESCO World Heritage status for culture and biodiversity and remains a bastion of idyllic beaches, pine forests, and architectural landmarks.
Here’s how to experience Ibiza beyond the dance floor.
Fearless travellers seeking adventures on the water can try flyboarding, parasailing, and jet skiing, but nothing beats racing off a cliff and plunging feet first into the island’s crystal-clear waters. The west coast coves of Cala Tarida and Cala Bassa are popular spots for diving. After catching your breath from all the activity, relax on the white sand beaches with a well-deserved cocktail.
Trip tip: Rockid Ibiza Outdoor (rockidibizaoutdoor.com) arranges adrenaline-pumping excursions around the island, including cliff-jumping with instructors.
Climb Ibiza’s highest peak, Sa Talaia, for peak views of traditional whitewashed Ibicenco homes, verdant pine forests, and panoramas of Sant Antoni Bay. Start the trek to the summit—roughly nine kilometres round trip—a few hours before dusk to watch the sky turn a kaleidoscope of purples, pinks, and yellows as the sun sinks below the horizon.
Trip tip: Before beginning the hike, veer off Sa Talaia Street to visit the Can Jeroni Cultural Center (www.santjosep.org) for art exhibitions featuring regional paintings, sculptures, and photography.
In a blend of moorish and medieval architecture, Dalt Vila, or Old Town, is a labyrinth of narrow, cobbled streets that offers a glimpse of history. Photo By: Larisa Shpineva/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus/ Getty Images
A mystical landscape of asymmetrical walls, intriguing carvings, and natural seawater pools, the secluded Atlantis beach transformed from a 16th-century stone quarry into an explorer’s playground during the 1960s hippie movement. Officially known as Sa Pedrera de Cala D’Hort, the quarry yielded stones to build iconic Ibizan structures such as the Dalt Vila and Eivissa Castle. Travellers can dive alongside native flora and fauna and enjoy uninterrupted views of Es Vedrà, a rocky limestone formation rising from the sea.
Trip tip: The trek to the lost city takes perseverance. From Cala d’Hort beach, take Highway Cala d’Hort to Torre des Savinar until you reach a parking lot. From there, walk through the rough terrain to reach Atlantis.
Blending Moorish and medieval architecture, Dalt Vila, or Old Town, is a labyrinth of narrow, cobbled streets that offers a glimpse of history. Make your way toward Eivissa Castle (www.spain.info/en_US), perched on Dalt Vila’s highest peak; this UNESCO site, constructed over a thousand-year period, includes the former governor’s residence, military barracks, and gatehouse tower.
Trip tip: Visit during the second weekend in May for the Medieval Festival (medieval-festival-ibiza.ibiza4all.org), when acrobats perform jaw-dropping tricks on the castle walls for crowds dressed in medieval garb.
Sundays in June, all the way through early October, bring with it the local tradition of bongo drummers descending onto the beach, to “drum down the sunset.” Photo By: Nickvilla92/iStock /Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
Those travelling with children shouldn’t miss the Aquarium Cap Blanc (aquariumcapblanc.com), located in an underground cavern that originally exported lobsters to Barcelona and other regional cities. These days the cave provides a home for Mediterranean sea creatures including starfish and rainbow wrasse. Since the site has optimal water quality thanks to the tides don’t be surprised to spot sea turtles carefully tended through the Recovery Center of Marine Species (aquariumcapblanc.com) initiative.
Trip tip: Pack a picnic and head to Caló el Moro, a small beach where children can splash around in shallow waters and build sand castles.
The island’s carefree spirit attracts yogis and wellness gurus looking to unwind and connect with nature. Whether you celebrate your private practice on the beach or spend a week at a retreat, you are in the right place to find bliss.
Trip tip: Several yoga studios host retreats focused on daily practice, workshops, teacher training, and revitalisation therapy, including Ibiza Retreats (www.ibizaretreats.com), with all-female trips, or Wild Soul Retreat, which combines yoga and adventure excursions around the island.
Fideua, a paella-like dish made with noodles instead of rice, is a speciality meal in Ibiza. Photo By: Miguel Sotomayor/Moment/Getty Images
Savour Ibiza’s approach to Spanish flavours with meals such as zarzuela de mariscos, a mouthwatering shellfish stew made with saffron-infused stock and fresh vegetables, or fideua, a paella-like dish made with noodles instead of rice. Ibizan wine, influenced by the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans, uses Monastrell, Garnacha, and Malvasia grapes to produce a flavour well-suited to the island’s Mediterranean palate. Finish your meals with a chupito (shot) of hierbas ibicencas—a savoury-sweet liqueur blended with wild herbs and aniseed.
Trip tip: After exploring Ibiza Town’s medieval streets, refuel on Ibizan and Mediterranean cuisine at Restaurante Arrocería Es Arcs (www.restaurante-esarcs.es) or sample wine at Can Rich de Buscatell (bodegascanrich.com/en) in Sant Antoni de Portmany.
Feel the sand between your toes at one of the several beaches stretched around the island, including Benirrás beach, a 10-minute drive from San Miguel. Sundays from June to early October bring the local tradition of bongo drummers descending onto the beach to “drum down the sunset.”
Trip tip: Be warned: Roads to the beach are closed after 4 p.m. during drum season, so ditch the car and hop on the bus from the Sa Plana car park.
If you’re looking to take home a one of a kind souvenir, be sure to browse the handmade jewellery, colourful clothing, and exotic textiles at Hippy Market Punta Arabí or Las Dalias Hippy Market. Photo By: Amoklv/iStock Editorial/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
Hippie markets quickly became part of the Ibizan culture when artists and designers flocked to the island during the 1960s. For that one-of-a-kind souvenir browse the handmade jewellery, colourful clothing, and exotic textiles at Hippy Market Punta Arabí (hippymarketibz) or Las Dalias Hippy Market (lasdalias.es).
Trip tip: During the summer, Las Dalias Hippy Market holds an exclusive night market (lasdalias.es/en) for select artisans.
Although it’s technically not a part of Ibiza, nearby Formentera—the smallest of the Balearic islands—is too beautiful to miss. A popular day trip reached by a 35-minute ferry ride, the small island is a refuge of uncrowded and gorgeous beaches.
Trip tip: Look to the easternmost tip of the island to find a picture-perfect spot with sweeping ocean views, plunging cliffs, and El Faro de la Mola, the tallest and oldest lighthouse on the island.
is an editorial researcher and writer at National Geographic.
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