GOING OFF-GRID AT IBIZA’S CHILLED-OUT LITTLE SISTER, FORMENTERA
Framed by a rugged coastline interspersing rocky ridges and pristine, white, powdery beaches, the beguiling sea speckled by turquoise, azure and indigo blues, it’s easy to fall in love with the unspoiled natural beauty of the tiny Balearic island of Formentera.
The laidback and quiet lifestyle on this Spanish haven is an antithesis to the steamy party mindset of neighbouring Ibiza. Instead, barefoot luxury is the rule of thumb and flip-flops, billowing sarongs, long seafront lunches, leisurely walks and scooter rides against picture perfect scenery fill the long lazy summer days, and a star-studded blanket of sky shelters the evenings. Accessible by fast ferry or private boat charter from Ibiza port, Formentera is a secluded, gentle natural gem. The Posidonia oceanica sea grass beds responsible for keeping these waters so translucent were declared a Natural Heritage by Unesco, and local environmental awareness and care preserve the island’s idyllic surroundings.
Formentera has countless beaches and hidden coves and one of the daily choices to be made is which ones to spend time on. Migjorn, to the south, is one of the longest, most beautiful and emptiest stretches: it is also home to the Gecko Hotel and Beach Club. Opened in 2007, this year sees the inauguration of the hotel’s revamp, spearheaded by Pablo Carrington’s Marugal Distinctive Hotel Management (also responsible for Cap Rocat on Mallorca, Torralbenc on Menorca, and Urso Hotel in Madrid). Inspired by an elegant 1950s style, the redesign (created by Mallorcan designer Antonio Obrador) enhances the hues of Formentera’s sea in the breezy public areas. Its 30 rooms are split between the ground and first floors, the former boasting private plunge pools and the latter making the most of the property’s panoramic views. The swimming pool is a focal point – flanked by comfy loungers in the garden and a well-sourced bar, it looks out on to the beach and is pleasant at any time of the day; however, the 90-minute morning yoga classes and cocktails at sunset are even more special.
Kayaking, paddle boarding and windsurfing, in addition to sailing, snorkelling and diving, draw watersports lovers into the greater depths of the sea. Meanwhile a scooter is very helpful in reaching beautiful spots overland like Caló des Mort, a beautiful fisherman’s cove flanked by striking cliffs, and Racó de s’Alga. For anyone who loves walking, there are over twenty routes round the island outlined on tourist maps; having recently explored the island on foot, I highly recommend these glorious interconnected paths. They take one all over the island and even to the lighthouses at its extremities of Cap de Barbaria and La Mola, as well as to watchtowers like Torre de Punta Prima. These well-signposted ‘rutas verdes’ are also (for the most part) bike friendly and a truly lovely way to immerse oneself in the surroundings, passing by beaches, local villages, windmills, and even the island’s other Unesco Heritage site, Ses Salines de Formentera. All these outdoorsy activities can easily be interspersed by great meals and quenching chilled jugs of sangria. There are also great eateries on Formentera: Juan y Andrea at Playa de Illetes is a great lunch spot; Piratabus a rustic option for end of day drinks watching the sunset over Migjorn; and Can Carlos in the town of San Fracesc perfect for supper.
Whatever your inclinations to experience the beauties of Formentera, it’s hard to imagine it won’t carve out a special place in your heart. It’s a regular destination for discerning travellers who love a chilled-out beach holiday where doing ‘nothing’, in style, fills one with joy and a feeling of time very well spent.