Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of party island Ibiza, Formentera is a serene, idyllic paradise offering some of the best beaches in Europe. Crystal clear azure water, white sand and a laid back atmosphere make it an ideal destination for a low-key, relaxing holiday.
Formentera is the smallest out of the four main Balearic Islands, but there is plenty to do whether you are staying for a week or a day. A handful of small, low-built villages are scattered around the island with Sant Francesc Xavier – the whitewashed, bohemian capital – at the very centre.
Hosting guests like Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan in the 60s, it has become a refuge for the hippie generation and with its charming boutiques and craft market, the spirit of the movement is still very much alive here. In high season hordes of Italians descend on the island and the influence of Italian cuisine is evident at the restaurants. Off-season you can still enjoy uncrowded beaches, which is why Formantera has been a celebrity favourite in recent years.
How To Get There
There is no airport on the island, so you will need to catch a flight to Ibiza. A number of ferry services go from Ibiza Town to La Savina Formentera all year round including Aquabus, Balearia and Trasmapi, the journey takes about 35 minutes. Sometimes there are offers online, so it might be cheaper to book tickets in advance, but you can also buy them on the spot at Ibiza Port.
Scooters are a very popular mode of transport on the island and you can rent those in most towns for about 25 – 35 EUR a day. For a more sustainable option there are old-fashioned and electric bicycle rentals as well. There are over 30 Green Routes (Rutas Verdes), which are easy to cycle, while taking in the wonderful sights and landscapes. A special public transport line L3 line leaving from La Savina will also take you to the main tourist attractions and beaches.
What To Do
If you have more time, going to S’Espalmador is a must. It’s a small privately-owned island, separated from Formentera by a shallow sandbar, accessible to the general public by foot during low-tide or by boat services from La Savina. Alternatively you can rent your own boat or kayak in La Savina. It’s a tranquil unspoilt sanctuary, with pristine water and wild, protected sand dunes which are part of the Ses Salines Nature Reserve.
Make sure to bring everything with you to S’Espalmador – water, food, sun cream, parasol, as there is nothing on the island apart from glorious nature. In the centre of the island you can admire a salt plain, which, due to salt crystallisation, has a striking pink colour during certain times of the year. Some come to take a mud bath here, but the locals don’t recommend it citing ‘questionable hygiene levels’ of the mud, so perhaps better to admire from afar.
If you’re after other great beaches on Formentera, Calo des Mort is a cosy, small cove, mostly rocky, which makes it a good place for snorkeling. Come here early to get some space on the mini beach. For more Caribbean vibes head to Platja de Ses Illetes, which is a narrow sand strip in the northern peninsula with beautiful soft white sand and calm waters. There are small jellyfish that come and go with the wind around the island, so the upside of Ses Illetes is that you can just switch sides easily to avoid jellyfish.
For enthusiasts of casual walks you can take a short 30 min stroll from La Mola Windmill (Molino viejo de la Mola) to the La Mola Lighthouse (Far de la Mola) to enjoy some rustic views of cactus fruit and fig tree orchards. Another interesting area for walks is the barren, alien landscape of Can Marroig. There used to be a picturesque rocky arch here, but now it’s collapsed. The terrain is made up of very sharp rocks, so make sure to put on some covered shoes.
The very southern tip of Cap de Barbaria offers some slightly longer walk opportunities. This area is devoid of any services or vegetation, just pure, unadulterated nature and a few sights including the Faro de Cap de Barbaria lighthouse, La Cova Foradada and Torre del Cabo de Barbaria. La Cova Foradada can be easily missed, as it’s not signed. There is a small ladder going into the hole in the ground just right of the lighthouse. Descend down into this natural cave with a scenic viewing terrace at the end (at your own risk).
Lastly when you’re in La Savina, swing by the Ses Salines de Formentera salt flats, which look especially magical in the evenings during sunset. Even though the salt works are no longer operational, the process of crystallization still occurs here which gives the salt pans a pink appearance.
Where To Eat
As with most places in Spain you will need to be mindful of restaurants closing in the middle of the day and plan your food escapades accordingly. Restaurants usually open for lunch between 13:00 – 16:00 and they reopen again for dinner time at 20:00. Some places will remain open for drinks orders only between these meal times.
In Sant Francesc Xavier, for an atmospheric evening meal under lush tree canopies and tiki lamps visit Can Pepito, which has a fantastic garden and a great selection of international cuisine including poke and galettes. Fonda Platé is a great little place for a late afternoon drink and some people watching overlooking the main square. For dessert head to La Mukkeria, Italian gelateria with a mindblowing selection of ice cream flavours and ice cream cakes. With its Italian influence it would be a sin not to have some great pasta in Formentera – a popular spot for this is El Gioviale.
In Es Pujols Bocasalina is a slightly more upmarket fare with a romantic atmosphere and scenic views of the sea. Here you should try the Formenteran wine Savina Blanco and the excellent fish dishes.