The Balearic Islands isn’t necessarily the first place that comes to mind when conjuring up the thought of dreamy beaches and sun-kissed sand, yet when we took a boat trip to the out-of-sight island of Formentera, that is exactly what we found.
As the smallest of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, Formentera is the sleepy sister of the livelier Ibiza. This idyllic sandy atoll is where visitors flock to for a relaxed pace and where the 10,000 local residents stay to enjoy the simplicity of island life.
White sand and shallow blue water trace the outline of the island, with sun towels peppering the popular beaches. Slightly distressed but lovingly built beach bars are hidden down long-grass paths and behind colourfully painted fences, with only the relaxed beats of music and the drifting smell of food on the barbecue to guide people towards the bar.
How to get there
From Ibiza: There is no airport on Formentera, so the only way to get to the peaceful shores is by boat. We got the ferry from Cala Longa, which picked up more passengers from Port d’Eivissa in Ibiza Town.
Time: 45 minutes
Cost: Around €20 per person for a return
Arrive: All boats arrive at La Savina as this is the only port on the Island.
How to get around the island
As soon as our feet touched dry land, everyone from the boat made a beeline for the bike and scooter rentals shops, which are directly in front of the port. Whilst the Island is quite small – in comparison to Ibiza – it still has a 43-mile coastline which would take around 17 hours to walk on a round-trip… So exploring by scooter is probably the less sweaty option!
- Average scooter hire for one day – Around €14 per day
- Average bike hire for one day – Around €8 per day
In the mindset of “save the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”, we opted for the cheapest bike rental available… Obviously, there was a reason these bikes were the cheapest option, as we went on to have a bit of nightmare about 1 hour into our cycle. Halfway up a picturesque – but rather steep – hill, I could hear James mumbling behind me before stopping to shout my name. James’ chain had come off his bike and was jammed between the different gears, meaning we had to carry out some serious, though unsuccessful, bike surgery. No amount of readjusting or careful positioning could unjam the chain so we could ride off into the midday sun to find the sanctuary of some much-needed shade. Alone on the roadside, surrounded by nothing more than the long grass and an abandoned shed, the 35°C heat was slowly melting our patience. Whilst wheeling our bike back to the rental shop, we can across a solitary garage which happened to be our saviour. Two burly men took the bike out of James’ oil sodden hands and slotted the chain back into place – though it did take two fairly big guys to do this, so James’ ego was relatively undamaged…
Once we were back on track, we headed straight to the beach and there was a lot for us to choose from!
You’d be forgiven for thinking you were in the Caribbean whilst stood barefoot on the sandy beach overlooking the crystal clear sea of Formentera. The Island has a secluded feel about it, escaping the mass crowds and hen parties of the mainland, with beaches (dare I say it) capable or rivalling its tropical counterparts. We cycled inland to the town of Sant Francesc Xavier and then back down towards Estant Pudent Bay where we had many scenic pit stops.
Our favourite places were the hidden and secluded beaches of the island. The ones you don’t look for, instead simply stumbling upon them, altering your end destination to there and then.
El Tiburon – Despite being close to the ever popular Playa Des Illettes and La Savina, this beach has managed to remain peaceful. The wooden boardwalk will lead you down to the sandy shores where the yachts come and go throughout the day. Fancy.
Playa Tanga – You’ll find yet another crystal clear sea at Playa Tanga. This is one of the bigger beaches of Formentera with sand dunes stretching out across the length of the coast. The beach is within a conservation area so you’ll have to pay a small fee to enter.
Playa Des Illettes – Once voted the best beach in Europe and sixth in the World, this magical little strip of sand stretches out into the sea and has all of the tropical vibes going for it. Unfortunately, this attracts huge crowds to the beach which ultimately kind of ruins the idyllic nature of the spot.
Travel tip: Whilst there is a parking charge for scooters (€2) and card (€4), we were able to ride straight up to the beach and lock up our bikes for free.
Sant Francesc Xavier is the largets town on the island and this little hub is where you’ll find the majority of restaurants and shops in Formentera. Right in the center of the town is the Plaza Principal where you’ll find the imposing church – easy to spot as it’s the biggest building in the area.
We found all sorts of shops whilst wandering around, with my absolute favourite being the amazing pottery shop filling from floor to ceiling (quite literally) with hand painted items, from buttons and doorknobs to salad bowls and windchimes. I could quite easily have bought my whole kitchen from that shop! Oh, and James found a nice hat…
Have you ever taken a boat to Formentera whilst visiting Ibiza?