The White Isle is known for its hedonistic parties. But away from Europe’s biggest summer nightclubs are whispers of what the island once was.
Before Ibiza became the party capital of the continent; before the DJs, supermodels and investment bankers – before, even, James Blunt. Before Kate Moss dancing until dawn and Mick Jagger’s children lounging on private beaches. Ibiza was a quiet and natural artists' retreat.
A mere 20 minute drive from the airport, you will find the wilder, hidden-cove filled western side of the island. Drunk on history, this area boasts monuments dating back to the Greek era, as well as glistening woodlands, lakes and ravines. Dry earthy hills give way to white-washed towns, fragrant citrus groves and markets filled with women selling voluptuous piles of freshly-picked olives. It feels deliciously free from the tourist-bus madness that can haunt the rest of the island come July and August.
It is an Ibiza I recognise from stories of people who spent time on the island in the 1970s and ‘80s, rather than my own experience. Of the halcyon days pre-mass-tourism, where you could have a sleepy village entirely to yourself, peppered with black-clad women tottering along the seafront, and walnut-brown children splashing each other in the water – their grandmothers admonishing them to stay safe.
The water here is crystal clear and so perfectly turquoise it almost seems man-made. The view from the sea is dominated by Es Vendra – the famously healing rock that juts out of the sea and warms you with its apparently potent vibes. It is shrouded in myths and legend, the most popular of which is that it is the third most magnetic spot on earth (after the North Pole and the Bermuda Triangle). Apparently, boats can’t navigate properly in the area and fish get disorientated in its vicinity. I did get stung by a jellyfish while swimming just near it – and I’m going to blame the fact it was drunk on good vibes.
In the past, those of us with a taste for luxury were put off from visiting this part of the island because there were no good hotels to stay in. Now there are two delightful, and very different, properties that both look out towards Es Vedra.
If you spend your year dreaming of sitting on a beach with your toes in the water and your hands propping up a book – be it a prize-winner or a ‘forget it once it’s finished’ summer read – then the Petunia is for you. The white-washed walls are covered in bougainvillea and the flower-beds are filled with cactuses, jasmine and lavender. The smell of it hits you the moment you get out of your taxi, carrying bags that still carry of a whiff of aeroplane on them. Bedrooms are cool and airy, with outdoor showers that are reminiscent of high-end safari lodges – but without all the Big Five watching you wash.
The beach just below the property is unbeatable, and you’ll spend half your waking hours wallowing in the velvety soft water. Although make sure you pop back for lunch and dinner, as the Italian chef makes some of the best food I’ve eaten on the island, including deliciously moreish pizzas made from papery thin crusts, and milky burrata. As I lounged around the long, cerulean coloured pool – being fed pieces of frozen watermelon and pineapple – I felt perfectly content.
A 15-minute drive away is a very different prospect: 7 Pines is a sprawling five-star resort with an infinity pool that is crying out to be put on Instagram. Sandwiched between a pine forest on one side and the Mediterranean on the other, is perfectly placed for admiring Es Vedrà – or even yourself, as there are few hotels that are quite as photogenic or selfie-ready as this one. Like a mini village set into the rocks, it is made up of lots of small suites that are dotted around the cliffs. They are all far enough apart from one another that guests travel around on golf buggies. Service is excellent, and the spa is world class – although the real entertainment comes at dinner when a DJ hits a gong at the moment the sun sets and groups of beautifully dressed Europeans pile in for the evenings
At a time when the biggest luxury is being able to switch off and truly relax, this is the Ibiza you want to explore.