Ibiza is one of Europe’s trendiest summer islands.
Famous for its whitewashed capital, where an ancient fortress sits perched atop a hill, high-end resorts and gated communities, and lively social scene, it hosts more than 2000 tourists per 100 residents.
Despite Ibiza’s indisputable charm, the jam-packed beaches and raucous party-goers may put off crowd-wary travelers like you. Still, not all hope is lost: there is a smaller, lesser-known, and equally stunning island only 30 minutes south-west of Ibiza that is sure to steal your heart.
Known locally as Ibiza’s ‘tame’ sister, it is a Mediterranean gem few Americans know about, and your best bet at a truly relaxing sunny getaway.
Welcome To Paradisaical Formentera
Formentera is the smallest of Spain’s Balearic Islands, covering an area of only 32.13 square miles, and home to a population of 12,111, mostly ethnic Catalans, according to the latest official estimate.
Though it is located only 4 miles south of Ibiza, the nearest island with an international airport, it is often described as a more quaint, traditionally Mediterranean insular municipality, seeing that a majority of tourists remain in the neighboring island without ever taking the ferry over.
Out of the Balearics, a group comprising not only Ibiza and Formentera, but also the trendy summer resorts of Mallorca and Menorca, the latter of which started hosting nonstop flights from America only recently, the island in question is the only one not to host any commercial flights.
Other than a handful of heliports, it lacks an international airport, meaning the only way to access it is via ferry from certain ports in Ibiza.
With several ferry companies operating on the Ibiza-Formentera route, the quickest ferries take only 30 minutes to cross, leaving from Port d’Eivissa, with prices ranging from US$18 to US$29 for standard tickets.
Formentera Is Still Largely Unspoiled By Overtourism
If you’ve been following travel trends in Europe in recent years, you might have observed that the presence of international airports in traditional communities is partly the reason why overtourism, and eventually gentrification takes place.
Granted, Formentera is no hidden gem among Spaniards and their fellow Europeans, serving as a summer escape since the sixties, when it became a popular meeting point for hippies, but most Americans will fail to realize it even exists.
That is mainly because travelers originating from across the pond favor easy-to-reach destinations, and while Ibiza itself does not host nonstop flights from America, it is served by an airport, nonetheless, connected to numerous transit hubs across Europe.
The easier a destination is to reach, and the more attractive it is, the higher the risk it will be overrun by visitors, so while Ibiza flourished in recent decades as a Mediterranean resort, the less prominent Formentera remained very much a ‘niche’ destination.
It is still sought-after almost exclusively by travelers looking to relax and soak up the subtropical vibes.
It may be a small island, but it has no shortage of gorgeous swimming spots to be discovered, nor of stunning scenery.
An Exclusive Luxury Destination In The Making
Formentera is no budget island getaway, either.
Though you will find cheaper overnights in the main settlements, you should expect to pay as much as US$577 nightly staying at the ultra-luxurious Five Flowers Hotel & Spa.
With very few, if any youth hostels in sight – Booking.com even fails to list them – it is not a destination for the masses, serving instead as a luxury getaway for vacationers who are not afraid to splurge, if that will mean more exclusivity and fewer crowds.
From the rugged coast of Els Pujols, to the La Mola Peninsula, lined by sandy stretches bordered by the bright-blue waters of the Mediterranean, Formentera feels more like an unspoiled nature reserve than a tourist destination, proper.
If it’s beaches you’re after, you’ll want to check out the landmark Platja Ses Illetes, at the Northernmost tip of Formentera, ranked one of the most beautiful not only in Spain, but all of Europe.
At 1.5 km long, this soft, chalk-white sand bank arises from an aqua-colored lagoon, sloping into the more azure hues of the Mediterranean in the distance. The seas here are calm and shallow, making Ses Illetes perfect for bathing.
Similarly to the stunning peninsula described above, Cala Saona is yet another beautiful family-friendly beach bordered by palm trees and boasting shallow shores and turquoise waters.
Formentera is renowned for the locals’ relaxed attitude towards life, and as a place where nudism can be practiced without judgment. Some of the most famous naturist hotspots are Migjorn, Llevant, and Sa Roqueta, not far from Els Pujols.
Els Pujols, on the other hand, encompasses both a jagged coastline and a sandy crescent connecting an up-and-coming resort area to the namesake town, where travelers will find a selection of bars, danceterias, and Michelin-star worthy restaurants serving Mediterranean food.
The only other major settlement on Formentera its the island’s capital, Sant Francesc. It is dominated by a picturesque whitewashed church and an imposing Town Hall, from where narrow, paved streets snake out of, leading to traditional eateries and souvenir shops.
Regardless of where you’re based in Formentera, whether it’s San Francesc, Els Pujols, or other smaller coastal settlements, one of the top-rated activities to do is renting a bike for one or two days.
A Paradise For Bikers
As the island is so compact, it is possible to bike around the whole extent of the coast, and even explore off-path locations inland, where the arid, coastal Mediterranean landscape gives way to rolling green fields dotted with vineyards and centuries-old Catalan-speaking villages.
Bikes can be rented directly from your hotel or accommodation provider.
The island is cut through by paved roads, but it is in essence a biker’s paradise, with lanes dedicated exclusively to biking spanning 40 km from North to South, leading to secluded beaches, 18th-century Martello towers, and natural parks.
An Island For Poets
If you’re visiting Formentera in June, and you’re a fan of jazz music, you might want to attend the annual Formentera Jazz Festival, held in celebration of the island’s musical background.
It’s been cited by various artists, including Brazilian Bossa Nova icon Gilberto Gil and Pink Floyd.
It is also where Joni Mitchell wrote most of her 1971 record Blue, on top of serving as an official residence for Bob Dylan, who set up base in a landmark lighthouse in Cap de Barbaria.
Staying in Formentera long enough, you’ll soon realize why it’s been a muse for so many poets and musical artists.
The high season in Formentera is just getting started, and lasting through August, when the seas are warm for swimming, and the sun is always shining, it is the best time to enjoy the island’s unique atmosphere.
↓ Join Our Community ↓
The Travel Off Path Community FB group has all the latest reopening news, conversations, and Q&A’s happening daily!
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR LATEST POSTS
Enter your email address to subscribe to Travel Off Path’s latest breaking travel news, straight to your inbox.
This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com