It has been a long European winter—the coldest in a few years. Add to that the second wave of a pandemic and a strict lockdown insisting on taking away much of the season’s joy. Then, the so expected spring doesn’t show. It’s already early April, I’m in south Germany, and the cold doesn’t let up. I wish for a dreamscape, ideally by the sound of waves, under sublime sunshine.
I take refugee in Spain’s sexy and third-largest Balearic island, Ibiza, one of the few destinations where travel is, in April 2021, uncomplicated. The Mediterranean cobalt-blue water is still warming up, but off-season, Ibiza reverts to its beguiling, unhurried self to allow its history and culture to resurface – something unthinkable in the typically busy summer days. November to April are the quietest months for a real taste of Ibiza, with temperatures averaging around 15C (though in April, they do go higher). It’s when I hope to dive into its original spirit, sounds, away from distractions, crowds, and the pulse of tech house.
Unlike other Balearic such as Mallorca, Ibiza is small but also remarkably diverse. The North’s slower pace somehow invokes the old-school Balearic bohemians, attracting the world’s wandering souls for centuries. It’s here Ibiza’s best Yoga and wellness retreats and a place of stillness, peaceful beaches, whitewashed farmhouses, and olive groves. I spend a few days in this corner of the Island, based in Sant Joan de Labritja, as I stay at Gare du Nord, an old-school hippy hostel turned into a bed & breakfast immersed in the atmosphere of this laid back village. Gare du Nord has an interesting appeal and a relaxing “Ibiza” vibe, with no luxuries, ideally located as a base in the North. From here, I explore the northern coast, such as hiking from Portinatx to the Moscarter lighthouse. With endless Mediterranean sea views on a perfect spring day, the clifftop trail is nothing but tranquility. I also venture deep into the countryside and enjoy meals at La Paloma for deliciously fresh produce and Nagai for Japanese cuisine.
On a sunny April morning, I once again grab my hiking boots and head towards Es Portixol, which is a small, almost circular, and isolated beach surrounded by hills and pinewoods 12km from Sant Joan, on the northwest. There is not a single human as I take the breathtaking loop trail, flowers blooming its colorful shades under gentle sunshine framed by the transparent water. After a few ups and downs, the hike drops to sea level, taking me to Es Portitxol cove before rising back up via a steep hill path. Later on, I spot a few local fishermen on their boat huts, as if the guardians of the pristine, sacred beach.
Then, just a 45-minute drive south reveals the home to the sun bedded sandy beaches and nightclubs from where Ibiza gets its reputation as the Spanish clubbing mecca. But that reputation is utterly dependent on which Ibiza you’re thinking of. Even here, in the south, I realize there is much more than just summer parties. It’s hard to go deep and explore its most interesting corners in the summer heat, but this is Ibiza in spring when it shows off its biodiversity under blissful sunshine and remains a bastion of idyllic beaches and pine forests.
As I wish to see much of the Island, I then move to central Ibiza, where I stay at ridiculously charming Can Sastre – a former Finca turned into an utterly stylish agriturismo hotel. The five-room hotel’s exteriors are draped in bougainvillea, while the interior, with its whitewashed walls, reflects the former farm shed, giving a real sense of rural Ibiza. It’s the real deal and, in every detail, a place that makes you feel at home. Yet the delicious and healthy breakfast prepared every morning by the friendly owners – a dutch couple who bought and revamped the space in 2008 – is what I love the most about my stay.
From Can Sastre, it’s easy to navigate across different pockets of Ibiza. While some nearby restaurants in celebrated neighboring Santa Gertrudis are still closed ( a few due to the Covid-19 pandemic, while others get ready for summer), many of the best beach restaurants are fully operational with no queues and barely any reservations – a treat I’m aware won’t last long. Open-air lunches at Cala Gracioneta and Cala Bassa are something to remember though dinners are improvised as current restrictions require all places to shut at 17:00hr.
I also take a 35-minute ferry ride and go on a day trip to Formentera. The smallest of the Balearic is too gorgeous to miss, the compelling turquoise water beaches at famous Platja de Sea Illetes glowing without the usual boat traffic. Then, I return to Ibiza to lounge by empty waters and mingle among locals in Cala Escondida or beautiful Cala Saladeta, after pursuing more hikes, such as the one from Cala Bassa to Torre d’en Rovira. I soon realize Ibiza can’t get any better. As I end the day watching a divine sunset over Es Vedra from Sant Josep de Sa Talaia, I think about the first settlers to be drawn to these shores. The Carthaginians, Moors, Romans, and even pirates taking turns to stake their claim on this superb spot in the Med. I find myself wishing I could have seen it before it first developed.
It is, therefore, a privilege to savor one of the most compelling islands in the Mediterranean under such authentic light. It is also remarkable to witness its resurface after a severe lockdown, despite the safety protocols still in place. In one of my Ibiza days, I ascend the cobbled ramp-up to Dalt Vila – the old town, a 16th-century Unesco World Heritage Site, and selfishly enjoy having it all to myself. But while I get lost among the castle walls and labyrinthine streets, I also sense the optimism of a place highly dependent on tourism for survival.