We’ve made a deal with my Parisian BFFs. We meet up once a year for a few days. No partners, no children, no husbands allowed. And each time in a place that none of us has ever been to. It all started as a way to celebrate our 40th, and of course spend quality (read laughing!) time together. First, it was Tangiers, then Sassi di Matera. We went to Antwerp last year but I never got to write about it. And this year it was the tiny island of Formentera, near Ibiza, where hedonism reigns. Our three days went a bit like this:
START THE DAY at Can Rafalet, the cafe with the prettiest terrace overlooking the bay of Es Calo. The menu is nothing crazy but they cover the basics perfectly well: fresh squeezed OJ, toasts with all sorts of savoury toppings such as tortilla (Spanish omelet), ham or plain tomatoes. There’s also a local specialty of a round cake with icing sugar on top which is a hit. The old fisherman’s huts make for the charming view but the prize goes to the incredibly blue waters in front of you. Rafalet is also a small hotel. I have a feeling that some of the rooms must have a killer view.
LATE MORNING comes and it’s time to choose a beach for the day. There are three that everyone flocks to:
– On the North Side of the Island, there is a stretch of sand that goes quiet far in the water, after you pass the pretty salt flats. It’s called playa de Illetes and is known to be the 7th most beautiful beach in the world. Si señor. Drive as far to the end as you can, pass the famous beach club Juan y Andrea and park on the last little parking, so you can experience both sides of this special spot: the tranquil bay side and the more wavy sea side. There’s one last beach restaurant there, with toilets if needed, shades and fish dishes that looked yummy.
Everyone will tell you about the restaurant Juan y Andrea on the bay. People flock from from Ibiza for the day just to spend it there. Reserve far ahead.They have a beach club too, with long chairs and a small bar where boccadillos (sandwiches) sell for close to Eur20 (but they’re delicious!!) and the pizzas will surely keep the children happy.
– On the South West coast was Playa de Mitjorn, possibly our favorite.
Here are some reference points so you can find a nice spot to park:
pass the restaurant Can Dani on the road, then there’s a sign indicating Vogamarie with a big sea urchin. Follow that direction until the beach and park at the end if you can. Then, you have the choice of either finding a spot to lie down with your own umbrella, or rent one of the thatched-roof ones. Lunch at VogaMarie is a good option but again, it’s best to reserve ahead (they don’t serve after 4pm so we got caught short and tucked our tummies in). They also rent small beach houses nestled in the dunes, which looked great. The pretty boardwalks among the dunes are reminiscent of the Atlantic coastline and when you lift the eyes and see the colour of the sea, you could think that you are in the Caribbean. But this is the Mediterannee, and it’s only a couple hours away from most big cities in Europe. Incredible.
LATE AFTERNOON, head to the village of Pilar de La Mola and drive all the way to the light house perched on top of the cliffs. It’s a very pretty view but also a bit scary as none of the edges are marked as dangerous. I definitely would not let my children run around freely over there! But again, Formentera did not feel so much as a family island.
The cafe Codice Luna near the lighthouse has a chilled terrace, good food, and claims to have the best music on the island but we never made it there at night as the road is quite winding.
Pilar de la Mola might be the truest village on the island, where hippies probably first settled in the sixties and seventies. There are a couple nice shops. It’s also where the hippy market takes place every Wednesday and Sunday at 4pm. But I got a bit tired of that hippy word in Formentera. It sounded too much like a marketing trick played for the tourists…
BEFORE SUNSET, head to the beach bar Pirata Bus and order one – or two – or three! – mojitos until the sun comes down.
The location of Pirata Bus is amazing (not easy to find!! Shall i give you the directions…? hihi…ask me!). The scene can be hit or miss depending if you have a bunch of laid back gals chillin’ around, or a group of excited bachelorettes. But no matter what, the mojitos are some of the best in the world.
DINNERTIME comes late, Spanish-style:
Our best meal was at Restaurant Pascual in the fisherman village of Es Calo. The chipirones, aka small fried calamari, were perfectly crunchy and the paella so savoury. It’s been serving customers since 1964 and while it does not get the hype of some other places such as Can Carlos or the Michelin-starred Can Dani, we found it delightfully quiet and authentic, with real old-school Spanish waiters attending us.
For the best tapas, we were told to go to Can Toni but never made it there. It’s in Pilar de La Moda and this review from someone who first visited the island in 1973 is quite entertaining. Ca Na Joana in Sant Francesc had a very pretty courtyard and nice ambience.
this is a cute map that I snapped from CNTraveller. All other photos are my own.
THINGS TO KNOW:
– Nudists are everywhere on the beaches of Formentera. Oh we’re not prudes, but we still had a few laughs..! They come young and old (although more often old than young!). It’s a bit unsettling at first, because nudist beaches elsewhere in the Med are typically exclusively nudist (so that there’s no mistake). But hey, everyone blends in, children play around unfazed and it all feels ok. Somehow!
– Learn to say Ciao rather than Holà. Formentera is the kingdom of Italians, apparently mostly from Milano and Genoa. To the point that shops and restaurants are largely owned by Italians!
– The beaches have no shade so it’s important to carry around a small umbrella that you can get from your car rental, or where you sleep.
– It’s super easy to reach Formentera from Ibiza. The harbour in Ibiza is 15-20′ by taxi from Ibiza airport (approx Eur15 ride) or there are plenty of buses. Boats depart every 30′ or hour depending on the time of the day. Try trasmapi.
– Buy a single-trip boat ticket when you get on board in Ibiza harbour. That way, you’ll have the flexibility to catch whichever carrier boat on the way back.
– Supermarkets close at 2pm and reopen at 5pm in case you need some sunscreen or food for the beach, pay attention!
– We rented our two little cottages thru a very nice lady called Belen Serra. They were perfect for us but would not work well with children (a bit too small) unless you would rent the full house.
– Find a place to rent on one of those links but keep in mind that prices go to the roof in the summer months and especially in August when the island is full of (splashy) Italians. here are a few links that I came across: Formentera chic, Viva Formentera, BlueStays, Your Formentera
– There are not too many hotels on the island but these came well recommended: Es Pas or the fancy Es Ram. This hostel looked like a good deal for its amazing location on the water.
– Rent a mehari from formenteramehari.com and the lovely Esther will help you get settled and drive it. Or Formator for meharis but also fiat 500 convertible and some 4x wheel drive, ask for Yolanda (+34 971 32 2929). If you’re going to rent bicycles, know that you’ll be riding A LOT! the island is small, but not so small, and the sun is hot. very hot. Similarly, I don’t think that scooters are the best way to go around because you’ll be breathing a lot of dust..but that’s just me:)
– This is a very sweet guide about the island. CN Traveller and Elle both have some comprehensive ones too.