She’s got her Bulgari tan and she’s packed her glow sticks, Estella Shardlow jets off to her first ‘Ibiza’. But, this being the Arb, there’s a soupçon of sophistication in the air…
When you step off the plane in Ibiza airport, a great parting of the ways occurs: the hyped-up gaggles of post A-level ‘yoofs’ cram onto the coaches waiting to ferry them to San Antonio, where they’ll spend a week doing all the things that give us Brits a very bad rep abroad; the rest of us ask our taxis to take us swiftly in the opposite direction.
Because other than this one rather notorious resort, Ibiza is very far removed from the old image of glow sticks, Stella n’ sunburn – the same image that made several of my friends and colleagues raise their eyebrows when they heard I (apparently not screaming ‘raver’ kitted out in my French Sole pumps and Mulberry tote) was going to the Spanish island. But, there, I discovered an arrestingly beautiful island of white sand coves and pine-covered hills dotted with farmhouses and quaint hamlets, as well as seriously chic beach bars and boutique yoga retreats. Even Ibiza Town, the capital, has preserved its charm with a picturesque UNESCO-protected old quarter, Dalt Vila.
And it’s Ibiza Town, with its chilled vibe, cultural offerings and neighbouring beaches, which makes the perfect base for first-timers like myself to dip their toes into the many different scenes the island has to offer – and, of course, into seawater so clear and warm that it’s almost painful to think of sat here, in a north London café on a grey rainy day. Okay, that’s it: I must start planning next year’s trip…
Begin with Brunch
For vegan fayre that’s not scrimping on a flavour head to Out of Time People (C/Jaume), a sweetly bohemian pavement café just outside the Dalt Vila’s walls. My non-veggie travel companions were equally happy with their buckwheat pancakes piled with fresh fruit as I was with the avocado and feta on toast, while our friendly Uruguayan waiter gave us expert tips on the island’s best beaches.
Take in Some Views
Exploring the steep, cobbled lanes of the Dalt Vila, I kept having to remind myself that I was in Ibiza, not Croatia or Tuscany. Winding paths take you through a mosaic of traditional whitewashed houses up to the ruined castle, cathedral and, best of all, glorious panoramas over an azure sea. Just before you reach the peak, you’ll find the Museu d’Art Contemporani, housed in an 18th-century armory with underground exhibition spaces. There’s a small collection of renowned contemporary Spanish artists, such as Antoni Tàpies, as well as lesser-known Balearic painters. After all that walking, it’s time for a restorative caña at S’Escalinata, sinking into one of the brightly coloured beanbags on the café’s steps.
You could probably find a different beach bar for every week of the year in Ibiza, but Blue Marlin, a 15-minute taxi ride from the town centre, is one of the most luxurious and iconic. You may well find a superyacht owner lazing on the next daybed along, and no shortage of pink shirt-wearing City boys. The cocktail list is impressive, as is the restaurant’s Mediterranean menu, then come nightfall there’s dancing under the stars to a crowd-pleasing set by resident DJ Valentin Huedo.
Hit the Beach
Locals head to Ses Salinas – the best beach in the Ibiza Town area (around 10 minutes’ drive), you’ll find a smattering of great beach bars overlooking soft golden sand and clean, shallow waters. Champagne sangria at The Jockey Club is de rigueur.
If you’re feeling more intrepid, however, you should head further west along the coast to Ca Atlantis. It is quite literally a hike to get there – after negotiating some bumpy dirt tracks, you have to clamber down a cliff for about 20 minutes (make sure you bring plenty of water and sensible footwear), but if you make the effort you’re rewarded with a series of natural rock pools that most tourists don’t even know exists.
Dine Al Fresco
The atmospheric candlelit courtyard of La Brasa is one of the most beautiful dining spots in town and as a result often sees queues stretching out into Plaza del Parque. It serves up Spanish classics, such as a squid ink-tinged seafood paella.
Meanwhile, the nightly club parade is a rite of passage in Ibiza Town, so position yourself for a pre- or post-dinner (depending on how local you’re going with your dining times) Margarita at one of the cocktail bars along the pedestrianised port area to marvel at the weird and wonderful costumes. I was ‘treated’ to the sight of a thong-clad man in Union Jack body paint on stilts. Not something you see every day…
Experience a Super-Club
Though Ibiza has much more to offer than clubbing, it would be rude not to check out at least one of its legendary venues. I opted for Avicii’s hugely popular Sunday residency at five-star hotel Ushuaia, where revellers dance around the curving pool and send up cheers to the planes coming into land overhead.
When I arrived at 9pm the party was in full swing (supporting acts kick off at 5pm), and an hour later the Swedish EDM superstar was taking to the decks flanked by spectacular lighting and on-screen digital content. Swept up by the crowd’s infectious energy, the fireworks, mega-hits such as Wake Me Up and I Could Be the One, and several unexpected remixes of tracks well outside the EDM genre, three hours of solid dancing somehow flew by. No doubt Avicii will be back there again next year.
See you by the pool…
For the complete Ushuaia Beach experience, visit www.ushuaiabeachhotel.com.