By Petra Dokken for Fathom
I came to the Spanish party island reluctantly almost twelve years ago. I expected to find nothing more than prejudice, shitty drugs, and Eurotrash.
I touched ground; I fell in love.
What I love is the energy, the vibe. Nothing I can define or analyze. It just is: an island that welcomes hippies, jet set, local farmers, German tourists. A small microcosmos where everyone lives and lets live. Ibiza is known for decadence, but it also has a beautiful countryside, agroturismos, and a lot of retreats and spiritual stuff. A hidden heartbeat.
Sandy beaches, small coves, cliffs, and everything in between. There are probably a hundred small beaches in every direction from wherever I’m standing. I choose depending on the time of the day and how I feel. Maybe I’ll hit the wild nude beach Aigües Blanques in the northeast or the sexy and hot party beach Ses Salines in the south where beautiful bodies unashamedly show off their lust.
For the singularity of Ibiza’s reputation, there’s actually nothing homogenous about this little place. The farmers, Catholic and mellow, treated the 1960s hippies who arrived escaping war and other horrors with generosity. The rich land provided for all, and it still does. People live long and live well. My friend Anette moved here, and her health improved miraculously. Healers and yogis thrive on Ibiza. When I ask another local friend, Joan, what it is that makes the fertile red soil and the magnetic fields so special, he said, well, yes, they just are. No fuss about it.
Abundance. On a street late at night, I see a girl in a white nurse’s dress with a red cross and an unusual feature, a hole in the back that shows off her cute butt. This is mild compared to what you can find here. Sex is in the air as the extreme night creatures gather, but I can go a long time without noticing.
That said, Ibiza has become much tidier in the past five years. Beaches now have sun loungers and parking lots; before we could roam free in the wilderness. The hippy market Las Dalias is now a perfectly shabby chic restaurant that sells trinkets that are too expensive for what they are. As for my beloved Benirràs beach, the sunset beach where we always had drum night on Sundays, well, for the past few summers we couldn’t even find a parking spot less than a kilometer away. Not to mention the traffic police coordinating the tourists. So much for a magical feeling.
But then September comes, and it is definitely better again.
I’m always glowing when I leave Ibiza. The stimulating conversations, the surprising encounters. The hiking in enchanted forests that smell of rosemary, thyme, and pine. The boat rides to secret coves.
WHAT TO DO
Relaxing is the main event around here. I stay up north with an international creative crowd, and we all just relax. A typical day consists of long swims in the late morning, discussing ideas in shadows, long lunches, outdoor siestas, and dressing up for the evening, though we might not ever leave the house. If we do feel like going to a bar or dancing, there is no shortage of options. Classy cocktails and the best DJs in the world seem a world apart from our haven in the olive grove, but are in fact only a 20-minute drive away.
Maybe that is the solution to the riddle. We big city people can chill out here because we know that we can choose not to.
WHERE TO EAT
There are fancy spots and family-style, home-cooking places. There are fish restaurants by the sea, and there’s an ongoing discussion about who makes the best paella. It’s traditional to only have coffee in the morning and eat a long, lazy, late lunch, followed by siesta and, later on, dinner and drinks (or just drinks).
Once upon a time, I met a man that I later fell in love with at Can Curune (Ctra. Sant Joan-Eivissa Km 17,5; +34-971-333-165). Or maybe it was love at first sight that morning. Yes, I found love in a small supermarket that sells fresh meat, local salt, and has a great selection of Champagne. (So typically Ibiza.) Located north, not too far from Sant Joan, Can Carune is a meeting place where I get my morning coffee and lunch. It’s run by a loud, local family cooking hearty food.
Head inland to La Paloma for organic and soulful Mediterranean food in the village of San Lorenzo, or stay seaside at El Chiringuito. I love this place. All white, on the beach, in the southern part of the island. A bit glitzy, but in a good way. Great for lunch and afternoon cocktails.
Can Planells. Photo: Petra Dokken
WHERE TO STAY
Stay in the north and choose something personal.
Can Planells is an agroturismo (a reformatted former farm) with eight rooms owned by my friend Joan Planells. It is a paradise of calm, an orchard of lemon, orange, avocado, melons, plums, tomatoes. Figs and almonds. Vegetables and flowers. Pool and garden. I sleep like a baby here.
Can Pardal is a new boutique hotel in the village of Sant Miquel, by the church with only five rooms. Just beautiful. I also love The Giri, a small, five-suite secret in the village of Sant Joan. Soft modernism and luxury spa. A regular on “world’s best boutique hotels” lists.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
Fly: Vueling (now owned by British Airways) is a low-cost airline that flies many times per day from Barcelona. You can also fly via Palma de Mallorca.
Rent a car at the airport. The small but good roads will take you wherever you need to go. I usually say that it never takes more than 20 minutes to get wherever you need to go in Ibiza, and it’s almost true. Road signs and names of villages can be slightly confusing since they are sometimes written in the local Catalan and sometimes in conventional Spanish.
WHEN TO GO
Summer lasts from May-October, though June-September are the warmest, with very little rain. November-April is much quieter, but even at its coldest, winters are not brutal. September is the best time to visit. That’s when the big crowds are gone and the selected ones emerge to enjoy what only can be enjoyed here in at this time of year: soft vibes and closing parties.
Drugs of all kinds are not legal in Ibiza. Other than that, anything goes.