Experiencing the other side of Ibiza

Bohemian Picnic at the Rocky Beach, Six Senses Ibiza
Bohemian Picnic at the Rocky Beach, Six Senses Ibiza

Beyond the notorious club scene lies another Ibiza, a place where slow is the only way to go

Bathed in the rays of the early morning sun, Santa Gertrudis appears no different from any of the other scenic villages nestled into Ibiza’s lush interior. If you have already explored a couple of these tiny treasures – admiring the whitewashed buildings constructed using time-honoured methods, stepping inside one of the distinctive churches designed not just as holy places but also as havens from marauders, cooling down with a drink at the bar where locals gather to exchange gossip – you might be tempted to drive past without stopping.

That would be a mistake, especially if you are in the mood for a spot of shopping. Many of Santa Gertrudis’ traditional houses have been discreetly converted into boutiques packed with objects of desire. In shops like Es Cucons La Tienda and the irresistible Le Petit Atelier no 74, you will find everything from hand-milled soap to local olive oil, colourful ceramics to clothing from the likes of Free People. If you don’t fall in love with a handwoven basket, a handmade bag or a classic-cut linen shirt, you’re not looking hard enough.

As with anything else in Ibiza, the secret to a successful Santa Gertrudis shopping trip is to time it right. In the morning the village mood is laidback and leisurely. Things heat up at the other end of the day when tables cascade out of the restaurants into the street and Santa Gertrudis slips into its other role of buzzy dining destination.

Timing is everything in Ibiza. Between mid-June and late September partygoers flock to the island. Restaurants are booked out and so are many of the best beach clubs, where prices for sun loungers can soar as high as 250 euros. If the sound of that sends your stress levels soaring, time your visit for May, early June or October to discover a very different island.

This Ibiza is a place of great beauty, where ultra-clear waters wash quiet coves sheltered by sandstone cliffs, where tradition is nurtured in tranquil villages, where you can feast on delicious Mediterranean cuisine grown just metres away from your dining table.

“There are so many places to discover. I always say take a stroll, take a drive, get lost, find this spot here, or look around that corner,” says Alvaro Redondo, the general manager of the Experimental Montesol. A landmark in Ibiza Town, the hotel is freshly emerged from a top-to-toe refurbishment by chic designer Dorothee Meilichzon. Its prime position on the lovely Paseo de Vara de Rey makes it a superb base for exploring the island.

Start with pretty-as-a-picture Ibiza Town itself. Its whitewashed houses trimmed in bright colours could double for Mykonos, if Mykonos were planted with tall palm trees and eye-poppingly bright bougainvillea.

Gazing down on this scene is the World Heritage listed Dalt Vila, a fortified citadel with imposing walls. Both the lower town and Dalt Vila offer plenty of winding alleys to explore, including cute boutiques, cosy cafes and elegant restaurants. I am delighted to discover that the rooftop bar of the Experimental Montesol offers views right across Dalt Vila, best enjoyed over a serving of the tangy house-made olive tapenade and a cheeky cocktail.

One of the most surprising things about Ibiza is the quality of its food. Skip the flashy beach club restaurants and head to the interior where skilled chefs create menus that honour their ingredients. Among the best is Salvia in the north-west of the island, where chef Pablo Carrizo – alumni of celebrated kitchens including El Bulli, El Celler de Can Roca and Martin Berasategui – follows a zero-kilometre philosophy. Vegetables are the stars of his elegantly simple tapas-style dishes: think charcoal-grilled carrots with crème fraiche and passion fruit, or grilled spring onion with chilli pepper and black garlic alioli.

Ibiza is larger than most people realise – 10 times the size of the entire island of Manhattan – and hiring a car leaves you free to explore, choosing your direction to match your mood. If you want to skip the beach clubs and find your own stretch of sand there are plenty to choose from, including Sol d’en Serra in the east, Cala de Sant Vicent and Cala Nova in the north-east, Cala Saladeta in the northwest and Sillot de Rencli in the north. If you love a superlative sunset, it pays to drive all the way west to Cala Conta, where the sky seems to stretch forever.

Looking for a little culture? The island has a rich creative scene; even the quietest villages will often be home to an artisanal atelier or two where you can pick up a handcrafted gold ring or a hand-tooled leather belt.

“There are so many creatives in our community, it’s very special,” says expat English jeweller Natasha Collis who came to Ibiza in 2007, little expecting she would end up making her home here. Collis creates and sells her pieces, made with hand-melted 18 carat gold nuggets, in an atelier housed in a 300-year-old building in the village of Sant Miquel to the north of the island.

She says that while the creative community sustains her, so does the island itself.  “The island gives me energy,” she says. “It’s so very green and you can escape to lots of little places that haven’t been discovered. It feeds me to wake up here.”

Creatives aren’t the only people drawn to Ibiza. The island has also become a magnet for wellness practitioners of all kinds, from meditation teachers to reiki healers. For serious top-to-toe healing, the place to go is Six Senses Ibiza. Perched on an isolated point on the island’s north coast, Six Senses Ibiza takes advantage of the rich array of local healers to offer an immersion in wellness of all kinds from the soulful to the scientific.

Choose between experiences as diverse as sound therapy, a cryo-facial or one of half a dozen different types of yoga, or head to the resort’s longevity centre, RoseBar, for the latest biohacking techniques. The flavour-packed mod-Med food served amid the olive trees delivers big doses of natural nutrients, while the sea air’s negative ions dial up the invigoration, boosting both body and soul – much like Ibiza itself.

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