At 40 000 feet the plane is awash in youth. Aboard the Transavia flight from Paris to Ibiza, my Virginian mother, 68 years young, raises an arched eyebrow at the party-ready passengers. Seated across the aisle from us are my French husband and two young daughters (4 and 6). What are we doing taking a family trip to the Spanish isle famous for its hedonistic nightlife?
Anchored in the Mediterranean just 149km from Valencia, Ibiza is the closest island in the Balearic archipelago to the Spanish mainland. Generations of travellers have heard the siren song of its sun-baked beaches and crystal-clear waters. Of course, Ibiza also has a reputation for its all-night parties, electronic music and DJ-driven clubs - including the world’s largest, Privilege, which has a capacity for 10 000 revellers. For an April getaway from our Paris home we chose Ibiza for its climate, beaches, the Spanish love of kids and the enticing low cost of the Transavia airfare. I can’t help but wonder: Did we take an unwise gamble on Ibiza, even in the off-season?
But as we travel north in our rental car, the billboards are fewer and farther between. The landscapes unfurl in a hypnotic tapestry of olive groves and pine forests. A moon is hanging over the Mediterranean by the time we arrive at our vacation house, rented via Airbnb, not far from San Carlos. It’s stocked with a stash of snacks to stave off our pre-dinner hunger.
Perched on a rise above an olive-dotted estate, the house takes in wide vistas all the way to Tagomago island offshore. Gesturing to the island, our host Ronald explains it’s an exclusive spot rented out for $20000 (R275 410) a night. We are privy to the same views for $160 (R2 203) a night.
Ronald and Marielle, a hospitable Dutch couple with a vacation rental company on Ibiza, share generous tips about their adopted home. The map Ronald and Marielle provide us with becomes a tattered testament to our quest to unravel the mysteries of the “White Island”.The island was coveted for its strategic position on maritime trade routes. The earliest settlements were founded by the Phoenicians in the 8th century BC, making Ibiza Town (or “Eivissa” in Catalan) one of the oldest settlements in the Mediterranean.
Studying our map, we notice that the coastline is punctuated by seven symbols depicting ancient fortified towers. Aha! Why not explore them? Our daughters clutch the “treasure map” as we set out for the first, closest to our house. To reach Torre de Campanitx, we follow a trail through woods and flowering meadows buzzing with bees. Reaching the thick-walled, stone tower, all of the family is giddy with the Mediterranean views.
Our “tower quest” becomes a means to explore all corners of the island and discover the myriad beaches along the way. Despite its small size, Ibiza has incredible diversity: pine-covered mountains, vineyards, quiet coves, rugged coast and sand to suit every beach personality. We detour around the nudist beach just north of our house and continue to the Torre des Molar.
This tower offers thrilling Mediterranean views from a precipitous perch at the top of the stairs.
Along the way, we chance upon the most scenic beach, empty save for a few souls, inside a cove at Cala d’En Serra. It’s so steep that we must park the car at the top of the road and walk down. We’re rewarded with a vision out of paradise: white sand gently lapped by the turquoise sea. Flowers are everywhere.
To the west, we notice a shift in the vibe: A party crowd flocks for sunset cocktails and beats at Sunset Ashram, a bar above Cala Comte beach (not Mom’s favourite, but our daughters dig the soundtrack). So we continue and find an empty trail leading to the Torre d’en Rovira, a path we all enjoy because of the striking, craggy coastline.
The island’s multi-hued palette shows itself at the Cala Salada beach, where orange cliffs abut the white sand. Our quest concludes at the tower facing the rocky pinnacle of Es Vedra. The sun is beginning to sink lower in the sky when we first glimpse the rock. And it appears that Es Vedra is illuminated with strange shafts of light from the heavens above (or is the camera viewfinder playing tricks on us?).
Perhaps the real highlight of our adventure is the discovery of countryside hamlets where Spanish traditions reign supreme. We drive through the village of Sant Vicent de sa Cala and are stopped in our tracks by the site of a church - gleaming white in the midday sun, festooned with festive ribbons in all the colours of the rainbow.
The only sounds are the garlands flapping in the wind. Inland, at Santa Gertrudis de Fruitera, we arrive to partake in a long, joyful Sunday lunch among local families crowding the terrace tables set up outside on the street. We sip glasses of Ibizan wine, soaking up the sun, while our girls run wild on the playground along with the rest of the village kids.
After a week we find ourselves at La Noria, a seafood restaurant that’s always packed with locals. Everyone’s happy in this mellow moment, Ibiza style. - The Washington Post