We had barely touched down on Spanish soil when Dominique Lacroix, our excellent Ibiza tour guide, asked the question I had been dreading.
“So, has anyone been to Ibiza before?”
One by one, the group nodded or shook their heads. One member of our travelling party had been on a girls holiday here; another had been with his parents when he was nothing but a young boy. “No-one likes a show-off,” I thought to myself, as Dominique’s attentions eventually turned to me.
“And you, Dani-e-lle?,” her French roots peeking through her bronzed, Ibizan skin.
“Er, yeah, I’ve visited before,” I smiled. “This is my fifth visit in five years.” She smiled, too. You could tell that, as a font of knowledge on all things related to Ibizan heritage, culture and history, she had probably not had many dealings with 22-year-old males from a busy city in England.
“So you know Ibiza, then?” she teased. “I have an idea,” was my foolish retort. In reality, my knowledge of Ibiza was limited to supermarkets, sangria and the quickest way to the nearest Subway. I say was.
This beautiful Balearic island, once conquered by the Romans many centuries ago, is now seemingly invaded every summer by a different kind of person.
The stag or hen night. The adolescent’s first holiday. The archetypal ‘boozed-up Briton’.
But it hasn’t always been an island of sun, San Miguel and super-clubs, and there is plenty more to this place than its reputation would have you believe.
Dalt Vila, the city’s ‘Old Town’, is perhaps one of its best hidden gems. Hidden away behind walls on top of one of the island’s highest hilltops, it almost evades any attention. That, of course, was the purpose - the town was build behind the walls to repel unwanted attention from invading pirates.
The site has been preserved completely, but is far from a crumbling museum relic. There is life within the barricades - the walls have come alive, quite literally, and have become houses, shops and cafes, enveloping a bustling community of street artists, impressive architecture and the excellent little ‘La Torreta’ restaurant, situated on Plaza de Vila. As we enjoyed the last of our excellent steak - accompanied by a man dressed as Jack Sparrow singing an entertainingly-random array of love songs - it was hard to imagine these Ibizan people being anything but entirely welcoming to guests from all over the globe.
Dominique waxed lyrical about her adopted homeland.
“So many people come here on holiday and end up staying,” says the adopted Ibiza native.
After a visit to the Las Dahlias Hippy Market, near San Carlos over on the east side of the island, our party made its way to the excellent Bodega Sa Cova winery (sacovaibiza.com)in the north. There, instead of my usual fishbowls on the strip, we tasted an array of fine wines in the sun and learned the basics of the process from Juan Bonet, the winery’s affable owner.
“Drive for just 15 minutes,” Juan told his newest guests, “and you can suddenly enter a completely different world.”
That evening, we saw exactly what he meant as we made the short drive to San Antonio, on the opposite side of the island, to watch the famed sunset, before lunch at Ushuaïa, one of Ibiza’s newest - and most exciting - nightclubs. Leonardo Di Caprio rented an entire floor of the accompanying Ushuaïa tower recently for a price in the region of $12,000 per night. Thankfully, not everything that takes your breath away on this stunning island has a similarly jaw-dropping price tag. Ibiza Mundo Activo (www.ibizamundoactivo.com) operates kayak tours around Es Vedra - a giant rock which pokes out of the sea just off the island’s south-west coast - from just 25 Euros (£21), with a discount for larger groups.
Es Vedra - a stones throw from the breathtaking, must-visit view of Can Porroig harbour - is known for sending compasses haywire, and is said to have magnetic properties.
Just one of the reasons, perhaps, why people keep dragging themselves back to Ibiza for more.
Three things to do:
1 Many wouldn’t believe it, but there was life on the island before it started to become invaded by stag nights and revellers. By many thousands of years, in fact. Take a trip to the Puig des Molins Necropolis (www.maef.es) to see how it all began - and ended - for the people who shaped Ibiza in its formative years.
2The sun sets in every country in the world - but few places have a more beautiful sunset than Ibiza. Take a trip over to San Antonio and visit the Sun Sea bar (www.sunseabar-ibiza.com) on the seafront, and warm up for the night ahead with a cocktail (or two!)
3The hippy movement made Ibiza one of its homes in the 1960s, and many haven’t left. Held four times a week, the Las Dah;ias Hippy Market offers a remarkable array of souvenirs and other goods - while live bands cover numbers by bands including The Beatles.
Seven nights bed & breakfast at the four-star Hotel Torre del Mar in Playa D’en Bossa, departing East Midlands Airport on 30th September 2013. Per person price from £459 based on two adults sharing, and including transfers and baggage allowance.
Jet2.com flies to Ibiza from £41 per person - one way, including taxes - from East Midlands, Leeds Bradford, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, Blackpool and Belfast Airports up to seven times per week. Set within landscaped gardens, the Hotel Torre del Mar is an oasis of calm in a quieter area of the popular Playa D’En Bossa region.
From its fabulous location, with direct access to Sa Punta beach, visitors can enjoy the best the White Isle has to offer, including a beautiful sandy beach on your doorstep by day, before heading along to the many nearby restaurants and bars in the evening.
Views to a small nearby harbour and both Playa D’En Bossa and Ibiza Town can be enjoyed from the 18th century watchtower in the grounds, from which the hotel takes its name.