Formentera holidays wrote the book on seclusion. The island’s like a mirror image of Ibiza, with the lofty hotels and beachside bars cropped out.
Made for relaxation
The term unspoiled’s bandied around a lot, but Formentera’s one of places that puts a firm tick in that box. It’s a master of stress-busting breaks, and you’ll feel a million-and-one miles from normality. There’s no airport, so the final leg of the journey here’s a boat trip across from Ibiza, in Spain. And when you bob into La Savina’s harbour, the island’s make-up free appearance is like an instant-effect chill pill.
It’s no coincidence that the shoreline here looks like it’s only just been discovered. The island’s bigwigs have put their foot down when it comes to building beside the beaches, in a bid to keep them in perfect nick. The result is some of the most stunning reels of sand in the whole of Europe, where there’s nothing but bumpy dunes to keep the waterfront company. We’re not talking about one or two sandy beaches, either – there’s 12 miles’ worth of sunbathing territory to weigh up. Among the most popular are the Migjorn and Llevant stretches.
Peaceful Es Pujols
This place is the smallest of the Balearic Islands, so it’s no surprise that life pootles along in a lower gear. The biggest town, Es Pujols, is a minnow when mentioned in the same breath as Palma and Mahon. That’s what visitors rate about it, though. Fresh seafood restaurants nudge aside big names and chains, and the town’s hotels are more family-run apartment than super-sized resort.
Things to See and Do in Formentera
Miles of sands
Twenty kilometres of bone-white beaches lasso Formentera. The coast around northerly La Savina collects the overspill of Ibizan daytrippers, so expect beaches there to dance to a livelier beat. Beach hotels in the south have taken the ban on seafront development seriously, so buildings are low-slung and sands are spotless. Sunbathing-wise, anything goes – ditching the bikini top or trunks isn’t unusual here.
The big beach
Formentera is topped and tailed by its biggest beaches, Platja de Migjorn and Platja Illetes. Platja Migjorn’s sands are pretty but wild, with heaped dunes and sea grasses, and there’s a bunch of hotels and restaurants at either end. Platja Illetes, meanwhile, is home to jumbo yachts and Spanish daytrippers.
The secret beach
Most of Formentera’s beaches live life in the slow lane – including Ses Platgetes. It’s a small scoop of sand backed by dunes that double up as windbreakers. Rock pools, neon green lizards, and La Mola cliffs are on show, too.
Hippy markets have been popping up all over Formentera since the Seventies. Stalls stick close to towns like La Mola and have a bona fide feel, thanks to their island-made wares – think woven hats and milky ceramic bowls. Stalls are fair-weather pop-ups, so you’ll only find them between May and October.
The heart of Formentera’s capital, San Francesc Xavier, is striped with pedestrianised alleyways. Shops fringe their edges, stocked with a mishmash of locally-made goodies like leather bags and super healthy high-mineral bath salts.
Es Pujols is the only tourist town on the island, so its shops come with the heftiest price tags. A handful of fashion boutiques are set back from the waterfront, and stalls glittering with jewellery decorate the prom in the evenings.
Formentera’s default modes are sleepy and sleepier, so nightlife tends to err on the low-key side. Northern towns like San Ferran have a few bars leftover from the Seventies’ influx of flower power devotees. They usually have red wine on tap and a Bob Dylan mix tape on repeat.
The northern town of Es Pujols has a strip of lively bars and clubs right on the seafront. Sometimes the party even seeps onto the sands, filling the place with a real Ibizan vibe. Actually visiting Ibiza is dead easy, too. Hop on a ferry at La Savina and you’ll be there in 35 minutes.
Slipper lobster and rice
From April to June Formentera’s seabed is bursting with slipper-shaped lobsters. They take over restaurant menus, too – chefs stuff them with bacon and sauté them in olive oil until golden. As with all Formentera fish dishes, a side of rice comes as standard.
If you asked a local to name their favourite fish, it’d be the rao. This small salmon-coloured critter is graced with a pair of pin-sharp fangs that make fishing it a bit of a challenge. Normal shops don’t tend to stock them – you’re more likely to find them topping the menu of pricey restaurants.
Vi pagès wine
Island-grown wines are becoming fashionable on Formentera – pocket-sized fields of grapevines are sprouting up all over the place. The oldest tipple is a 13th-century red called vi pagès, also known as ‘farmer’s wine’.
Rubiols hit the dessert menus in springtime as a traditional Easter treat. These half-moons of pastry are packed with larder leftovers like apricot jam, sweet pumpkin, and cream.
There’s no escaping salt on this island – it’s in the sea, lagoons, and salt pans of Ses Salines. You’ll also find the stuff sold in liquid form as a health food, as it’s got a sky-high count of illness-beating minerals.
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