Put the glow-sticks down and discover the secret side of Party Island (aka Ibiza)

Es Vedra, Ibiza, Balearic Islands, Spain (MR)

The giant rock, sticking out of the sea off Ibiza’s south-west coast, has a strange, hypnotising power. I’m told Es Vedra is notorious for sending compasses haywire and making homing pigeons lose their way. Sitting in a kayak, paddling towards it, I can understand why.

This is the Ibiza I didn’t know existed, full of picturesque coves, dramatic cliffs and old-fashioned wooden boatsheds. The paddle flicks through water that’s so clear, it practically compels you to strap on a snorkel and dive in.

It’s blissfully calm and quiet, two words the island isn’t readily associated with. When David Cameron chose Ibiza for a family holiday, it seemed an odd decision. But it turns out that sun, San Miguel and super clubs are not the be-all and end-all. Sprawling spas, fine dining in secluded hillside restaurants and historic Phoenician-era sites that go back 2,600 years play a part too.

The unexpected magic strikes again while standing on the Sant Bernat Bastion in Ibiza City. As you peer over the fortified Renaissanceera walls at about 7.30pm, the Mediterranean sparkles into life. Ferries from Formentera and the mainland glide towards the marina, private yachts open their sails and playboys in designer sunglasses bounce their speedboats over the wakes.

A restaurant with a superb view of Es Vedra, IbizaFeast your eyes: A restaurant with a superb view of Es Vedra

Dalt Vila – Ibiza City’s Old Town – was originally constructed as a defence against pirates. It has been preserved as a whole and, in Europe, only the fortified section of Valletta in Malta is larger. But Dalt Vila is not a museum piece – there is life within the ramparts.

Starting at the rustic, hotchpotch cathedral and heading gradually downhill through the labyrinth of cobbled lanes, things get progressively noisier. Stalls selling postcards and hand-made jewellery give way to street performers blowing giant bubbles, accordion-wrangling buskers and restaurant terraces.

Succulent lamb is washed down with wines made at vineyards in the north of the island. An intoxicating, relaxed agelessness floods the city at twilight; people are living life to the full.

Las Dhalias market near San Carlos on IbizaHippy haven: Las Dhalias market near San Carlos

This live-and-let-live character has its roots in the hippy movement, which made Ibiza home in the late 1960s. Las Dahlias hippy market near San Carlos in the east of the island is a remnant of this.

Every Saturday, live bands play psychedelic versions of Beatles numbers while massage tents fill with shoppers clutching recently purchased silver pendants and fresh melon juice.


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