The Mediterranean's Last Hippie Haven
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because your inner Janis Joplin is thrashing for a playdate.
By Laura Secorun Palet
The OZY Top 25: Each week we share an irresistible vacation hideaway, chosen by OZY staff.
When the pope has nightmares, they’re probably about Ibiza. The Mediterranean island has been a sinner mecca for decades: Lust, gluttony, sloth … name any deadly sin and Ibiza has been cashing in on it in the form of drugs, sex and after-after-parties. Yet few people know about Ibiza’s angelic little sister, Formentera.
The tiny isle sits right off the coast of its floating Las Vegas-like brother, and it couldn’t be more opposite. While Ibiza has long lost its ’60s peace-and-love vibe, the practice of spending quiet, sun-drenched afternoons lying on a hammock and reading — Indian spirituality, perhaps? — is alive and well in Formentera. Add some guitars, bicycles and sunrise yoga classes and you’ve got yourself what may be the last truly hippie corner of the Mediterranean.
No swimsuit? No problem. Most beaches are unofficially naturist.
Accessible only by boat — it’s a 30-minute ride, $55 return — the best way to discover Formentera is renting a bike or a scooter (about $26 per day). And don’t worry about getting lost. The island is only 11 miles long and there’s really just one road. A few must-do’s: Visiting the beautiful lighthouses as you beach-hop and watching the sun go down over the stunning salt plains (a UNESCO World Heritage site). The island’s main attraction, though, is its wide range of beaches, from hidden coves to kilometers-long sand dunes and rocky outposts, peppered with casual bars and seafood restaurants (paella, anyone?). Word of advice: In summer, you might have trouble finding a spot to put down your towel. Your best bet is to grab a map and a bike and then pedal away from the busy spots. Then, when you’re hot and tired, dive into the closest patch of turquoise water. No swimsuit? No problem. Most beaches are unofficially naturist, but if you want to be on the clear, head to the Playa de Ses Illetes, a sandspit that’s the island’s most famous nudist corner.
“Freedom is in the air here,” says Maria Roses, a 26-year-old from Barcelona who has visited the island on several occasions, “I love that I only need to pack a bikini, books and a couple of long white dresses.” Indeed, the island has perfected the boho-chic, chilled-out aesthetic over the years. In winter, locals dress normally for their day jobs, but as soon as June comes around, every whitewashed street and seaside promenade turns into a flower-child runway featuring wide straw hats, denim cutoffs, batik dresses and crotchet bikinis. And if your wardrobe is lacking a little Janis Joplin, check out the legendary bohemian market of La Mola, open on Wednesday and Sunday evenings.
To be sure, Formentera’s appeal is also its curse. Because as hippie and hip as they may be, tourists are always a nuisance when they come in the thousands. In low season, the island has only about 12,000 inhabitants, but every summer that number quadruples. David Sanchez, a local fisherman who also rents scooters, says it’s too much. “We love tourism, but it’s simply a matter of space!” he says. Don’t worry, though: If you go in early June or September, you’ll have plenty of space to recharge with a healthy dose of sun, sand and skinny-dipping.