Go slow in the white land of pink flamingos
Manjulika Pramod, February 09, 2022
Some myths must be busted and my most recent revelation has been around Ibiza. The world knows it as the land of boho hippies, musical galas, trance clubbing and world class night parties, but the white island of the Mediterranean serenaded me with an absolutely subtle side of it. It left me bewitched with its UNESCO world heritage old town, world class marina, gorgeous salt pans, ancient fishing quarters and cultural conglomeration. Although the summer crowd had fallen by nearly half, the countryside, the foliage and the vivid red hues over the azure waters made for stunning sights in October.
Ibiza literally has two personas. There is summer season (April to September) when the weather is warm and adorable, the beach clubs are packed all day, the island is swarmed, the people in hospitality work double shifts, and the bohemian musical parties keep the island awake all night. And then there are other months when you wake up to misty mornings on a sleepy, groggy island, stroll through the empty streets and catch up on the prettiest views, unpretentious offerings and sunny corners. When I was there, it was more of a handshake time, when the clubs had just begun to hibernate after the closing parties and the island was preparing for the winters.
So, while the sun, sand and music of the peak season lures travellers, you may embrace it in the less busy months, for more serendipitous encounters and charming experiences.
Ibiza, one of the earliest towns of Europe
History is the last thing on anyone’s mind while traveling to Ibiza but we should all thank Carthaginians who discovered Ibiza in 654 B.C. and made it an important trading centre for its ‘white gold’- salt. Later came the Romans in 123 B.C, and the Goths between 5th to 9th century A.D. The most impactful were the Arabs who ruled for 500 years and left their influence on the houses, musical instruments and island dialect, “Ibicenco”. The cultural dynamics of the island changed further when the Catalans invaded the island in 1235, replacing the Mosque with Cathedral, renaming the villages after Christian saints and forcing the making of fortified churches. However, the uniqueness of Ibiza lies in the fact that while it stands true to its cultural past, it has always maintained a big heart for the hippies.
Dalt Vila, The Port & Sa Penya in Ibiza Town
What’s beyond the beaches and music? I asked my guide and Shana pointed out to some of the wonders that were right under my nose, at the historic Dalt Vila. Translated as ‘Upper Town’, this UNESCO World Heritage site is a little city inside a fortress and has been identified as the only completely preserved Renaissance citadel in Europe. It watches over the vibrant Ibiza town and the gorgeous marina, with hawk eyes. To ensure that I did not miss anything, she walked me through every nook and cranny of the cobbled narrow alleys, limestone walls, the cathedral, city hall, a drawbridge, pretty houses and array of galleries and restaurants. From here, we made our way to the Port d'Eivissa. (Eivissa is the Catalan name for Ibiza), via Plaça de la Vila, the square in the heart of the neighbourhood. The harbour shone in bright and beautiful colours, blending in well, with the hustle and bustle of the city. And the last stop was Sa Penya, the oldest fishing neighbourhood and one of the most picturesque enclaves on the island. Located between the ramparts and the port, this is one of the hotspots of the Ibiza town, where the parties take place, day and night.
Villages, beaches and the sunsets
The sunsets of Ibiza are legendary and one is literally spoilt for choices. I may not have seen it all but the evening at Cala d’ Hort was spectacular, with the prettiest views of the islets of Es Vedra and Es Vedranell. Another stunning spot to surrender to nature is the sunset strip at San Antonio. Personally, I saw the most miraculous sunset from the unspoilt beach of Cala Conta.
Ibiza is home to many delightful villages and nearly 80 beaches. There is Talamanca Beach, which is an ocean of calmness. The southern coast of Ibiza is the most popular for its long stretches of sand and Playa d’en bossa is the longest white beach on this side. Another famous stretch is at Las Salinas, dominated by rocky coves and watchtower at far end. Before exploring the beaches on the western side, a quick stop-over at San Jose village is worth it. It is home to the largest church on the island. And before I forget, I must talk about the forgotten village of Ibiza, San Augustin, where a very soulful white church has been standing for 200 years. Don’t forget to stop at Jesus village, nearby, known for its parish church with arches dating back to 1400s and the engraving of Virgin Mary. Last but not the least, there is Santa Eulalia, a cute little town on the north east coast, which has a beautiful beach, the only river flowing through it and a white church perched on the top.
The whole island is hippie at heart and Ibiza dares you to do things that you may not have done before. Doing a fun tour of the island on a vintage Citroen car, attending a jewellery making workshop, trying some yoga at one of the agro-tourism resorts and indulging in Olives, Aioli, Paella and Sangria, I did it all. I know Ibiza means music, sun and sand, but you must buy salt from there and go to the salt flats of La Salinas to see how ‘white gold’ is made. You might spot some pink flamingos too. And do not wrap up the trip before seeing the oceanic Posidonia (seagrass), endemic and important for marine life, found in the Mediterranean basin and identified by UNESCO.
Manjulika can be followed at: https://www.manjulikapramod.com/