Every Sunday evening as the sun sets over the Ibizan cove of Cala Benirras, a group of dreadlocked uninhibited hippies unpeel their bikinis and swimming trunks and start to play the drums. Some sing along as the sun slips under the horizon, while others dance barefoot to the tribal rhythm of the bongos. Everyone looks out to sea where a rock formation, known to the locals as the ‘finger of God’, protrudes from the ocean. The beach itself is framed by ragged cliffs coloured green by pine trees.
The hippy sunset turnout in autumn 2021 is depleted – this 50-year-old ritual that traditionally attracts hundreds was paused by the pandemic and people are still cautious – but there is still an energy that feels almost elemental. Like everyone over the past two years, the White Island has been forced to slow down, allowing its serene side to shine again.
There are of course two sides to Ibiza. In San Antonio and Ibiza Town, you’ll find the noisy Vegas side – world famous DJs, mega clubs, thumping dance music and parties that end at dawn. Then there’s the more introspective wellness scene where the island’s natural beauty and bohemian spirit are now being maximised for a high-end clientele. Ibiza will always appeal to those who want to party hard (there can be few places in the world that do hedonism quite so well), but it also now appeals to well-heeled, discerning travellers who want a slice of hippy zen without having to compromise on luxury. The north is still thought of as the quieter, calmer older sister that does yoga in the morning and the south the glitzier, nosier younger sibling, but that is changing. There is now bohemia to be found in the south, and sprawling heavyweight resorts on the wild coastline of the north. Although few could have predicted that Ibiza – a mecca for electro and house music and inebriated twenty-somethings – would become a destination to recharge, perhaps this is just a step back to its peace-loving roots. The Ibizan slowness and tranquillity that first attracted the flower children of the ’60s is becoming more prominent across the island if you know where to look.
WHAT TO DO:
Ibiza is a small island (to drive across it takes an hour) which makes it perfect for exploring. Hire a car or moped so you can see the lesser-known gems, like the inland villages which are often missed as tourists gravitate towards the beaches. Sant Josep de sa Talaia, 15km from the capital of Evissa, sits at the foot of Sa Talaia, the island’s highest mountain, boasting beautiful panoramic views of the island. It’s one of the few places in Ibiza where time seems to stand still – locals still outnumber tourists and the centre of the village is still the 17th-century church. Once you’ve finished gazing at the view and walking along the cobbled streets, stop off at one of the restaurants and cafés for a chilled aperitif.
No trip to Ibiza would be complete without a trip to Dalt Vila, the historic fortified quarter of Ibiza Town, which was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1999. Situated on a hill behind towering 16th-century walls, it forms a labyrinth of lanes lined by restaurants, bars and shops selling more white crochet dresses and linen shirts than any reasonable person could possibly need. Do make detours at L Mental for its hand-crafted Ibizan goods and also Annie’s, where Kate Moss and Adwoa Aboah go to buy one-off vintage pieces. There are no cars in Dalt Vila, which heightens the sense of history. Walk up the hill (don’t worry, there are plenty of bars to break up the journey) to the castle for 360-degree views of the island.
The north side of the island is famed for its secluded, unspoilt beaches, but the little-known Cala Carbo on the south-west coast is well worth visiting. This small sandy cove, only 55 metres long, is surrounded by rocky hills dotted with pine trees. Even in high season, it remains relatively quiet – surprising given its jaw-dropping sunsets. On the other side of Ibiza sits Cala Xaracca, a picturesque, tranquil bay that again feels like being on your own private beach. A walkway leads to a swing that sits over the transparent sea, surely one of Ibiza’s most Instagram-friendly spots. Stop off at the nearby Cala Benirras for the sunset drumming ritual and the hippy crafts market, which sells hand-made clothes, jewellery and embroidered patchwork bags.
For rustic, traditional Spanish food in an idyllic location, Restaurant Balneari Cala Carbó is perfect. Positioned on the shoreline of Cala Carbo, its terrace extends onto the beach, so diners can enjoy huge bowls of paella and cold beers with their feet nestled in the sand. With a relaxed, quiet atmosphere and good quality food, the restaurant menu specialises in fresh seafood sourced daily from the surrounding bay. A short walk away is La Mirada Rooftop, part of boutique hotel Petunia. The cocktails are great, but what makes this stylish spot unmissable are the views of Es Vedra – a legendary rock formation said to be the third most magnetic place on earth (only the Bermuda Triangle and the North Pole rate higher) and, according to hippies, the source of the island’s famed energy. You don’t need to believe in that to appreciate its beauty at sunset, and La Mirada – with its outdoor sofas and expertly made drinks – delivers an enticing place to absorb it all.
Beachouse Ibiza on the coast of Ibiza Town has a more boho-chic club appeal, whereby day guests sip jugs of sangria and Mediterranean-inspired plates, from pasta to fish to excellent lamb steak. Live DJ sets play mellow Balearic beats which turn into low-key beach parties after the sun goes down. In Ibiza Old Town, the locals continue to dine at La Oliva, a shamelessly romantic restaurant with tables that spill out onto the street. Walk further up the hill for a drink at S’Escalinata (translates as ‘the staircase’), a small bohemian bar which looks out over the city. Guests sit on colourful bean bags which cover the cobbled steps, while listening to an eclectic soundtrack that veers from world music to live flamenco guitarists.
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Heading to the north side of the island, The Giri Café specialises in a farm-to-fork experience inspired by the day’s harvest. Forming part of a boutique hotel in the sleepy village of San Juan, the menu celebrates local, seasonal produce presented in colourful sharing plates. The location is spectacular – a set of old wooden doors in the village square opens up onto a sun-soaked terrace and garden, and while the name says café, this is a destination to be enjoyed both day and night.
Six Senses, which opened in 2020, offers HaSalon, another photogenic restaurant that truly feels special. Israeli celebrity chef Eyal Shani has masterminded a mouthwatering menu that again uses produce grown at the hotel to create mezze dishes, seafood and grass-fed meats (make no mistake though – the vegetables are the stars of the show). Diners sit under a canopy of olive trees and low lighting with views of the sparkling waters below.
WHERE TO STAY:
There is no shortage of accommodation in Ibiza, but if you’re looking for a slower, tranquil break then there are two new stand-outs:
This stylish boutique hotel opened in summer 2020 with the aim of creating a dream-like atmosphere to help guests truly surrender to the Ibizan way of life. The garden is filled with a mix of olive, palm and citrus trees, winding paths and white-washed walls covered with bougainvillea. Rosemary, lavender and pines smell so good you’ll wish it could be bottled. A pool sits in the middle surrounded by plush sun loungers with plenty of shaded chill-out areas for afternoon naps; it’s impossible not to feel zen here. The spacious rooms are each stylishly decorated while remaining low-key, with shabby chic furniture and luxe Meraki bath products. There are three restaurants, including a pool-side pizzeria, but the rooftop spots are the real stand-outs – the ideal place to watch those candy-floss skies and mesmerising sunsets over Es Vedra.
The staff are warm and accommodating, impressively maintaining a calmness even in busy moments. Yoga is also available throughout the season. One of most appealing facets about Petunia is how secluded it is, creating an oasis-like, intimate feel that feels miles away from the chaos of San Antonio, only a 15-minute drive away. It looks like how Groove Armada’s At The River sounds. A dusty track down a hill lined with pine trees leads to Cala Carbo, the aforementioned bijou beach yet to be discovered by the masses. The haute boho design, personalised service, winning views and cocoon-like feel of Petunia are set to be make it an island classic.
Six Senses Ibiza
Another sign that Ibiza now prioritises health as well as hedonism is Six Senses, one of the Mediterranean’s most exciting recent openings. Designed by star architect Jonathan Leitersdorf, the sprawling resort on the northern tip of the island has a clear wellness focus. Set on the honeycomb-coloured cliffs above Cala Xarraca, Six Senses is the first hotel in the Balearics to achieve BREEAM certification, the benchmark for environmentally friendly construction – so a stay here is good for the soul in more ways than one. Guests arrive to a shamanic smoke cleansing ceremony before being guided to the main hotel – an artfully designed haven full of beautiful people wafting around in linens and crochet (the likes of which can all be bought in its sustainable store, Agora). The views are gasp-inducing – crystalline waters framed by pine-tree covered hills, all of which can be enjoyed either from the bar, restaurant or the sparkling infinity pool.
Follow the stone steps underneath a smaller plunge pool, and you’ll come to the spa – a three-storey space, complete with a sauna, hamman room, hot water baths and massage catacombs (go without one of the sublime massages at your peril). If you’re not feeling relaxed yet, then one of the yoga sessions on the deck overlooking the sea should help. Another restaurant sits within the caves under the main hotel, which offers a livelier, more party-like atmosphere (this is Ibiza after all, it can’t all be virtuous). A recording studio resides next door, which will undoubtedly attract A-listers in the coming months. The slick rooms mostly come with sea views, and are decorated in muted, natural tones with plenty of textured fabrics and mid-century furniture. We stayed in a sea-view premium junior suite, which featured a spacious terrace and mini garden filled with Mediterranean plants and flowers. Bath robes by chic Italian brand La Double J hang in the wardrobe, while the mini bar is stacked with a mix of alcohol and CBD-infused soft drinks and kombucha. For a resort of this size (there are 116 rooms in total), there is a remarkably community-like feel, thanks in part due to the central plaza inspired by traditional Spanish villages, but also the staff who are a perfect mix of warm, relaxed and helpful.
A special mention must go to Agora, the resort’s sustainable boutique-cum-entertainment space. Masterminded by former fashion editors Daniela Agnelli and Tiffanie Darke, Agora offers a well-curated array of Ibiza-ready, ethical holiday brands, styling workshops, expert talks and a rental service where guests can hire designer looks for an evening.
From Harper’s Bazaar UK