Everything to know about Formentera, Ibiza's untouched little sister

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Often described as Ibiza’s hippy little sister, Formentera could not be further away from the throbbing nightclubs, crowded bars and mega hotels of its better-known sibling. Although it’s just four nautical miles from Ibiza, the smallest of the Spanish Balearic islands has no airport and strict regulations governing development meaning it is sought out by travellers looking for a slower pace. In the 1960s Formentera was a secret hideaway for stars like Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley and, in more recent times, Kate Moss and Leonardo DiCaprio have made the 30-minute pilgrimage by boat from Ibiza when they’ve grown tired of partying.

Just 30 kilometres long, Formentera is all craggy limestone cliffs, pristine sand, whitewashed towns and rustic beach shacks where you can order jug of mojito at dusk and join the crowds that gather at dusk to cheer as the sun dips into the sea. Expect to hear more “ than “ this might be a Spanish idyll but the Italians love Formentera and during the high season as much as 75 per cent of the population is Italian. You’ll want to hire a bike, a motorcycle or one of the ubiquitous Citroën convertible jeeps and hop from beach to beach – each a sliver of white sand with shallow, cerulean blue water – stopping somewhere for a lazy lunch along the way.

Gecko Beach Club
With an enviable sense of style that has been described as “Balearic-meets-Riveria” (think rustic wood tables, oversized cane lanterns and a blue-and-white theme) this boutique resort is hunkered in the dunes on Platja de Migjorn just 15 minutes drive from the port. As well as generous day-beds arranged around the pool (and loungers on the beach) the hotel’s yoga classes are popular with guests who seem focussed on indulgence and relaxation in equal measure. The rooms are not large but some have their own plunge pools. The beachfront restaurant is worth staying in for with extraordinary grilled octopus, sea bass and lobster stew and there’s an excellent poolside boutique selling delicate jewellery, woven bags, sandals and sunglasses by European designers such as Sophie Digard, Luna Llena and Star Mela. 


Juan Y Andrea
Barefoot waiters dressed all in white serve platters of seafood and huge pans of paella to deeply-tanned European diners at tables right on the beach at this renowned restaurant. With its point-blank view of superyachts moored off Illetes, arguably the island’s best beach, this is the place to see and be seen.  The fact that the menu includes three different Atlantic Lobster dishes – and waiters can be seen lugging around jeroboams of rosé and champagne –should be a clue that it’s not cheap, but whether you spend your time watching the people or the view you won’t be disappointed. Bookings essential. 


Beso Beach 
Set back from the beach at Illetes, with its palm-canopy roof, mismatched tables and cane lanterns, Beso Beach is a highly-Instagrammable version of a beach shack or “chiringuito”. Order bucket-sized mojitos and Basque dishes, and when the sun sets, slip off your shoes and hit the sandy dance floor while the resident DJ stationed under a tree plays a mix of Nu Disco, Deep House and unrecognisable Spanish music that will cause people climb on the tables and dance.


Sant Francesc Xavier
In the tiny capital of Sant Francesc Xavier you’ll find a surprising number of good design shops and boutiques. Mandana sells bikinis and sarongs by Copenhagen designer Beck Sonergaard and shoes from Italian brand Campomaggi; Koi sells everything hessian, cane and woven such as bags, placements and even shoes; Majoral sells delicate Mediterranean-inspired jewellery made with fair-mined gold and Te Doy La Luna sells chic childrenswear from European brands such as Tocoto Vintage and Rodia.


Hippie Market
Rediscover the island’s beatnik roots with a trip to the outdoor “Hippie Market”. It’s a long and windy road through thick pine forests to at El Pilar de la Mola, but since it is also Formentera’s highest point you’ll be rewarded with expansive views of the island along the way. Held on Wednesdays and Sundays during summer the market features jewellery, ceramics and leather goods designed by local artisans and live music.

Image credit: Instagram.com/serafintorrent


Formentera has more unspoiled beaches than you can count. As well as Illetes, there is the six-kilometre-long Migjorn and Caló des Mort, a protected cove that is only accessible on foot. Rock jumping is popular here – ask a local for a safe spot to clamber up and then plunge into the sea.

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