Ibiza is an island where hippie chic is more than a look – it is a way of life, says Alanna Gallagher
Ibiza, home to the Balearic beat, is a Mediterranean island that has seen many invasions. It was first settled by the Phoenicians, then fell to the Roman Empire. The Arabs passed through as the Catalans followed. In the early 1970s, another tribe, the hippies, many of them American trustafarians and draft dodgers came to celebrate the notion of peace and love while living on no money. What was less apparent was that most were picking up monthly cheques from the bank of mam and dad.
How do we know this? Anita, whose namesake hostelry, Bar Anita, in San Carlos, was a local hippy hang-out, kept tabs that the hippies would pay once their funds cleared.
Fast forward to 1987 when popular culture lore tells the tale of four London music heads, Danny Rampling, Nicky Holloway, Johnny Walker and Paul Oakenfold, who went to Ibiza, rented a villa outside San Antonio and discovered Amnesia, a nightclub in a farmhouse where Argentinian DJ Alfredo Fiorito was on the decks. The tropical set up, dancing under the stars to a completely non-judgmental music set, combined with the taking of a new drug, Ecstasy, was a road to Damascus moment for the DJs, who recreated Ibiza-style beach parties in the UK and made history by authoring a day glo movement that in 1988 became known as the second summer of love.
Fast forward 25 years and Ibiza remains a beacon for the young and the not-so-young. Its allure transcends age – the relaxed vibe that the hippies and the DJs fell in love with is more a state of mind than a number on your passport. Everyone, at least while on holidays on the island, takes its credo to heart.
The hippy influence is evident in the shabby chic hotels and restaurants and in the dress sense of those on holidays – boho luxe for the ladies and white linen rolled up trousers with white tunic shirts for the men. The ideas is to look as if you haven’t got two pennies to rub together, while shelling out about 25 per cent of a premium for the privilege of holidaying here. When compared to mainland Spain, island life on Ibiza is expensive. But that doesn’t stop the local population of 100,000 entertaining 1.5 million tourists every year, one third of them British.
Once you get your head and your wallet around these simple facts the rest is plain sailing. And sailing is one of the best ways to get around the island to get up-close to one its greatest natural assets, its incredible water clarity. The clarity is thanks to the abundance of Posidonia oceanica, a threatened sea grass, an essential part of the island’s eco system that has been added to the World Heritage list, and populates the beaches in banks of unappealing grey foliage.
Getting out on the water is an essential part of the Ibiza experience. If boating is beyond your budget then hire a sea kayak or paddle board. The former is a great way to get in close to the shoreline and swim in inaccessible coves and beaches.
Ibiza’s beaches are, for the most part, au natural, meaning that they haven’t imported sand to create crescents of sugar-fine perfection. They are shingly and shallow and never feel as crowded as the mainland Spain options.
The north of the island is where the well heeled shuffle about in leather soled thongs. For lunch head east where, under the watchful eye of Es Vedra, a rock said to be the site of UFO landings and the tip of the lost city of Atlantis, depending on who you talk to, you can dine on delicious seafood and lobster paella, a speciality of the house, at El Carmen on the Cala d’Hort.
A seafront sundowner is a must. Any of the seafront settings in San Antonio, the island’s hedonistic capital, will give you that chill-out sunset, but for the real deal, where the idea of putting music to the Mediterranean sunset was first born, you have to head to Cafe del Mar and pay your respects to an establishment that is now an international brand that has sold more than 20 million albums and has 11 franchises.
In the north, Benirrás is one of the beaches where you can raise a glass in a much more low-key setting. Elements is a shabby chic establishment with painted boards that overlooks the beach. On Sundays there are drumming sessions on the beach that draw crowds from across the island.
You’ll want to spend your time sun worshiping, but if you can drag yourself away from the sun lounger you will discover an interior that is beautiful. Orange and lemon groves laden with oversize citrus fruits litter the fields. Pityusic Islands, the islands of pines, is a less known name for the Balearics.
The mountains are covered in Aleppo pines and juniper trees with broom, wild rosemary and thyme fragrancing mountain air.
There are hiking trails to follow or you could just head for San Lorenzo, where a rustic road down the side of the church will take you past farmhouses with orchards groaning under the weight of their peach harvest, ancient olive trees and wells, a social place as well as a watering hole, where Ibicancos used to gather to chat and catch-up.
“On Ibiza the schedule is different to at home,” says Michael Murphy, a banker originally from Co Armagh, who owns a rather fab house, La Fabrica in San Juan, that he and his partner, Marc van Schie, rent during the summer. “Parties are impromptu affairs or large end of season blow-outs.”
A finca, with or without neighbor Jade Jagger’s disco ball hanging over the pool, is the best way to really enjoy Ibiza. Go away with friends. Play with the children during the day and after dark party the night away.
Alanna Gallagher was a guest of Turespana, se e ibiza.travel/en