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Travel: Discovering unexplored highlights in chilled Ibiza

Beatiful cove with fishing piers, rocks and an anchored sailboat, Formentera
Beatiful cove with fishing piers, rocks and an anchored sailboat, Formentera

Nestled between the Spanish mainland and the islands of Majorca and Menorca in the glistening Mediterranean sea, Ibiza is renowned the world over as the ultimate hedonistic clubbing destination.

But, beyond the crowds flocking to witness the cream of the world’s top DJs and the throngs of young tourists dancing their cares away, a rub of sun-kissed eyes reveals a very different Ibiza to the all-night raving and misbehaving she’s become famous for.

Pink sand beaches, cultural hot spots and pine-clad rolling hills dotted with hidden hamlets and secluded coves are just some of the discoveries awaiting you in the surprisingly peaceful, lesser-known face of Ibiza.

In the south-west of the island, just a short drive from the tourist-drenched town of San Antonio lies the iconic Es Vedra island, a magical rock formation jutting out of the turquoise horizon.

Hiring a car, we drove through winding forests and mountains to the cliff-fringed beach, Cala d’Hort, to witness the sun setting over the 1,354ft high islet.

Mediterranean history meets Caribbean culture in this laid back beach paradise, where a beach-shack nestled beneath leafy palm trees serves tapas and cold drinks to sun-soaked bathers.

Boat huts built into the rocks curve round the bay and betray the history of the area’s fishing past, and calm azure waters are broken only by the multiple yachts and swimmers enjoying the magic of the cove.

Enjoy a beach-side fresh seafood paella dinner with sunset at the beach’s Chiringuito before heading home.

We stayed in Apartamentos Formentera, a secluded and quiet block of apartments near San Antonio’s small beachfront, Calo el Moro.

Although tranquil, our apartment was also within walking distance of the famous Cafe del Mar and Cafe Mambo, if you fancy something more traditionally Ibiza in the evening.

San Antonio is a great starting point to explore the rest of the island, and although it can be busy and noisy in certain pockets, if it’s simply exploring the island you’re in Ibiza for, it’s a great place to stay for reasonably priced accommodation.

From San Antonio, a 20-minute journey north through the heart of the island reveals Ibiza’s namesake of the White Isle in blinding clarity.

White stone houses with ochre roofs interrupt the landscape, revealing themselves in little villages cloaked by the lush green forests and rolling hills as you drive by. We took a bus to the north of the island to check out the quieter and boho atmosphere we’d been promised in this more elusive part of Ibiza.

Half an hour from the throngs of San Antonio takes you to the north-east village of Punta Arabi, where the hippy market operates on a Wednesday.

Boho vibes, the smell of incense and laid-back music fills the air as you meander through glittering stalls selling everything from bags to jewellery, all the while surrounded by sweet bougainvillea, oleander and hibiscus bushes.

Snaking a little further down the east-coast of the island, Ibiza’s old town unfolds itself like the proud crown of the isle, traditional white buildings encrusted on top of a sloping hill like diamonds in rock.

A visit to Ibiza would not be complete without a wander around the twisting, winding streets, delightfully revealing themselves in pastel hues, with hanging plants, bright flowers and vines bursting from balconies.

Multiple shops and restaurants sprawl out onto the marina, where boats can be caught to neighbouring isles and the Spanish mainland.

Speaking of neighbouring islands, Formentera, Ibiza’s tiny sister that lies just to the south is well-worth a day from your itinerary.

A 25-minute boat ride reveals a sparkling, sun-drenched paradise of an island, surrounded by endless hues of turquoise sea.

Quieter and calmer than its larger sister, Formentera offers a tranquil retreat where bikes and scooters are the preferred mode of transport and empty beaches peppering the coast lie just waiting to be explored.

From the main port (Puerto Formentera) we hired a little car for the day and gave nearby beach Platja de les Illetes a go.

Scenes of almost other-worldly blues hit every sense as you approach the beach through sloping dunes and dive into the glistening waters of the Mediterranean, which calmly laps on snow-white sand.

Tearing ourselves away from this unbelievable beach was difficult, but we’d planned to see a little more of the island before heading back to Ibiza that evening.

Calo des Morts was our next destination, a secluded and undeveloped beach to the south of Formentera.

Parking at the top of a dirt track, a 15-minute walk downhill takes you to the glistening cove, surrounded by rocky outcrops and cliffs.

Afterwards, we dined on al-fresco tapas in a restaurant in the village of Saint Francesc Xavier, a beachy little settlement with boutiques and surf shops, before catching the 8pm ferry home.

Sandy, sun-kissed and feeling wholesome after a day of exploring, we decided to head out for a drink on our last night to catch a DJ or two – we were, after all, in Ibiza.

P.S: For an even greater Mediterranean island experience, hire a boat and sail to Formentera from Ibiza yourself.

Grab your snorkel and dive into the clear-to-the-bottom azure shallows of the island, where shoals of fish and bright corals await.

Factfile: Enjoy comfortable, affordable accommodation at Apartamentos Formentera, San Antonio. Prices start at £540 for a week based on two sharing a self-catering apartment. Return flights from Glasgow and Edinburgh to Ibiza with Thomas Cook from £120.