The most attractive part about Ibiza is the island itself. Rugged, sun-soaked, surrounded by the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean, it’s paradise on a rock. This rock is rather large, however. It is the third largest of the Balearic Islands, with a size over five times greater than Mykonos, Greece and ten times larger than Manhattan Island. The population is relatively sparse, with no more than 133,000 year round inhabitants.
Most of Ibiza’s beaches are made up of small “calas”, with only a few long beaches, such as Las Salinas, Es Cavallet, or Playa den Bossa. The water is so clear, you can view the spectacular marine life with very little effort. The island’s seabed is the home to 220 species of coral, the highest for a marine community in the Mediterranean. You will also discover sea-horses, hump back whales and the endangered monk seals.
Even amateur underwater explorers can snorkel from the beaches, so be sure to bring a mask and snorkel for viewing its amazing underwater beauty. The various types of beaches range from sand to pebbles or rock, like the Punta Galera, which is surrounded by cliffs and is a favourite place for diving Some of the beaches have been developed specifically for tourism, while others are completely virgin.
For the best panoramic view of Ibiza, as well as an appreciation of its rich cultural heritage, you will want to visit Ibiza’s old town, Dalt Vila. The name means high town, and as you take the ascent up its winding cobbled street, you will agree the name is rather appropriate. The dramatic main entrance is up a steep slope, where you will cross a drawbridge through the Portal de Ses Taules. You will be immediately transported into the past, with imposing Roman statues flanking each side of your journey, and be carried into the ancient courtyard of the Plaza de Vila, or main square.
The other entrance, Portal Nou, is more gradual in the ascent, but no less effective as a time capsule. Traditional black-clad Ibicencos go about their daily lives, unperturbed by the changes from ancient to modern times. Sturdy wooden doors stand ajar, giving you a glimpse into stone courtyards and private chapels. Gothic Catalan buildings tower above you. Along the way to the cathedral, Santa Maria d’Eivissa, you will find a number of gift shops and galleries sponsoring the enormous creativity and exquisite work of local crafts people.
Battlements surround the cathedral, perched high above the coastal dwellings, with views of Ibiza landmarks, including the red-tiled cupolas of the sixteenth century church, Santo Domingo and the statue of General Joaquin Vara de Rey, Ibicenco hero of the Cuban Wars. Nearby is the Museo Puig des Molins, with some of the impressive Roman artefacts in the world.
Horseback riding is an excellent way to navigate the rugged country surrounding Ibiza, but the Ibiza Horse Valley is more than just a riding stables. Located in Ibiza town, it is a sanctuary for mistreated and unwanted horses from all over the world. The purpose is to re-group them in a herd and establish their natural horse behaviour. Once the animal’s trust is regained, it can be rehabilitated and given a new owner and a new life.
Horse Valley has numerous breeds, from mixed breeds to Arabians, Appaloosa’s, Percheron’s, American trotters and others. Horseback rides can be arranged from half-day to two-day journeys that will take you into the heart of Ibiza north country, to secluded areas, or beach rides combined with swimming. Be honest about your riding capabilities. The horses range from the extremely gentle to the high-spirited, and trail rides from gentle terrain to the very rugged.
Ibiza has two national parks of particular ecological interest and beauty; the Ses Salina National Park and the nature reserve of es Vedrà, es Vedranell, and the little islands to the west of Ibiza. The Ses Salinas National Park is located in the area south of the island of Ibiza and north of Formentara. It covers 1,786.52 hectares on land and 13,611.80 hectares off shore. This national park includes all the different ecosystems found in Ibiza, making it one of the most important natural habitats in the Mediterranean.
A variety of natural features can be found, including the salt lakes, 178 species of plants, rocky cliffs, beaches, pines and centuries-old ghost trees (a type of Juniper). The sea bottom contains the underwater meadows. Considered a type of algae, it is actually one of the most important features to the delicate ecological system. It provides shelter to the virulent marine life and plays an important role in oxygenation, water filtration and coastal erosion. The sea meadow are responsible for Ibiza’s crystal-clear water and is considered the world’s largest living thing.
Standing nearly 400 metres tall, this uninhabited island is made of limestone and is situated 2km off the coast of Ibiza in the Cala d’Hort area. While geologists prefer to dismiss the tales and legends concerning this rock island, it is still considered the third most magnetic spot on the planet. Navigational instruments often become very erratic within the vicinity, and even sea gulls seem to lose their sense of direction.
The island is shrouded with myths. It is reputed to be the home of sirens and sea-nymphs found in the tales of Ulysses by Homer, and the birthplace of the Phoenician goddess, Tanit. It’s also been said that the limestone from es Vedrà was used to build the Egyptian pyramids, as it is claimed to hold the same concentration of mysterious energy. One of the most popular myths is that a natural cave located there is the entrance to the sunken city of Atlantis. It is reputed to have natural healing properties, to be the location for UFO sightings and even have enough strange under-water activity that fishermen will avoid it. One fact is indisputable; the sight of it with a sunset highlighting its magnificence is awe-inspiring and unforgettable.