Formentera: Hippie Island
Since moving to Europe, we've heard whispers about Formentera. Rumor had it, it was a hippie antidote to Ibiza, where Bob Dylan lived in a windmill in the 60s, where Bob Marley performed concerts and where pirates roamed before that, where the water is as bright and clear as the Maldives - a place where day-trippers come and go (emphasis on the go). It all sounded too good to be true. We decided to explore it ourselves, along with cousin Jake on his first trip abroad. Our love for the Balearic Islands is evident - as we got married in Majorca last year - so we eagerly hopped on a plane in Cologne, Germany and jetted to Ibiza - the jumping off point for our Formentera adventure.
We landed in Ibiza late Friday night, and took the 30 minute ferry to Formentera first thing Saturday morning. Our sweet Airbnb host picked us up at the port, and we all used our best college Spanish skills to converse with her on the 15 minute journey to our apartment, situated across from the turquoise lagoon of Es Calo.
Calo des Mort
We dropped our bags, rented scooters and headed immediately to Calo des Mort, a rocky cove of neon turquoise water. We turned our scooters of the main, paved road onto a dusty, sandy road and headed towards the coast. We parked a few meters from the sea and walked along a cliff. When we made it to the Calo, we clung to a rope to navigate down the steep path. We passed several nude sunbathers on our way to a boulder scramble, where we laid out or towels and claimed our spot. Not wasting any time, we jumped into the perfect water and spent the next hour floating, snorkeling and swimming.
On the walk back, Dave was asked to take a photograph of about 12 ladies traveling together, some of whom were partially clothed.
After we worked up an appetite, we headed down the beach for lunch to 10.7, an upscale but super chill beachside restaurant, where we sat barefoot outside and feasted on sashimi, veggie tempura, fresh bread, local olive oil and homemade pasta, all washed down with sangria (Jake's first). We took time to enjoy our boozy lunch and cooled off with an afternoon swim before heading back to our place for a siesta.
San Ferran Pizza & Blue Bar
For dinner, we headed into San Ferran, the main city on the island, for pizza. Even though Formentera is located in the islands off of Spain, it is a famous summer destination among Italians who want to escape the summer tourist crowds at home, and many of whom emigrated over the years and opened their own restaurants. For this reason, Formentera has delicious, authentic Italian food. This was confirmed for us when we devoured our crispy wood-fired pizzas while the sun set over the little town. After dinner, we headed to the famous Blue Bar, an historic beach bar, frequented over the years by the likes of Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd. We watched the sun set, listened to live music and enjoyed some beers and the World Cup before scootering home under a canopy of stars.
Boat Trip to Sea Caves
On day 2, we planned a boat trip around the island with a local captain. Since there isn't a pier for smaller boats, we followed our skipper through a shallow bay, wading through waist-deep water while holding our belongings over our heads. We climbed into the boat along with our fellow passengers, a group of Italian girlfriends in their 20s - a few of which had bad attitudes. Karma got them later in the day when they were stung by jellyfish. One of them asked Dave if he had any ointment or cream for their jellyfish stings. Why they thought he would carry that on him, we could only guess. He responded "il bagno," meaning "the bathroom" (urine) as a possible antidote.
We started our boat trip by heading to Espalmador, a tiny island off of Formentera, where we walked along perfect pink sand beaches and swam in the so-perfect-it's-fake-looking seas. We spent the day jumping off the boat to snorkel, sharing our snacks and beers with the Italian girls and exploring sea caves. Jake and Dave found a climbing rope leading to a potential cliff jumping spot but Dave crashed down from the climb, leaving a chunk of his finger behind.
Es Calo Paella
After boating all day, we headed to the Es Calo restaurant for a late lunch, where we devoured a giant platter of seafood paella, washed down once again with Sangria..."when in Spain." After lunch, we scrambled down the rocks out front and were treated to a long swim in a nearly empty, deep teal cove. In the distance, yachts moored offshore, and the rocky mountains off the tip of the island created a picturesque frame for a perfect European summer swim spot
Mercadillo de la Mola - Hippie Market
After our lunch and swim, we scootered to the less populated side of the island to check out the famous Sunday hippie market, the Mercadillo de la Mola. We picked up concert t-shirts from Bob Marley's performance on the island and shopped handmade jewelry and art from local creatives. We drove up to the highest point on the island and climbed a tree to take in the view of the narrowest part of the island, a sliver of land in between two vibrant blue bays.
That evening, courtesty of a donation from our grandpa, we went out for a sunset meal at Chezz Gerdi. We took photos in front of the famous VW van, decorated with flowers and a cutout Formentera sign and then proceeded to dinner. We shared a giant sushi platter and some sundowners while Jake tried a Kobe burger. Then we took an evening walk along the promenade to a vibrant little town to watch the World Cup. We ended our night with gelato, making the most of the European summer. With all of our travels, it is our opinion that Euro summer cannot be topped.
The Crossing to Espalmador
On day 3, we headed to the famous Iletes, a long stretch of beach dotted with upscale but always casual (think bare feet and sand floors) restaurants and beach bars. We arrived early, parked our scooters and ventured through sand dunes, narrow channels of beach with ocean on both sides and surreal rock art sculptures to the end of the island. Despite signs warning of the apparent danger due to strong currents, we swam across the wavy isthmus at the end of the island to Espalmador, wading through the blue waters past million dollar yachts moored in the bay.
After taking a swim in the wavy gap between the islands, we spent the morning swimming at the narrowest part of the island, alternating between the wavy open sea side and the enclosed, lagoon-like side. After getting our fill of the beach, we checked out the bright pink salt flats centered on the island.
We planned to have lunch at the famous, ritzy Juan y Andrea, which has been around for decades and is an annual stop for the Euro yacht jet-setters, but we opted instead for more low key tapas at Can Carlitos, which turned out to be our best meal of the trip.
We arrived to Can Carlitos just as it opened and we were seated on the shady back deck which opened out onto the rocky coastline and the glittering, teal afternoon sea. We started with sangria and beer, and then moved on to warm fresh-baked bread, olives, local crispy tomato bread, cod fritters, mussels in a spicy coconut curry, tuna tartare, octopus, patatas bravas, ceviche and garlic prawns all topped of with grilled pineapple and house made coconut milk ice cream. Each dish was carefully made, beautifully presented, flavorful and delicious. The location was perfect. The decor was on point - rustic and bohemian.
Homemade Pasta Dinner
In the afternoon, we took another long, lazy swim at Es Calo, and in the evening we headed into town for homemade pasta at a local Italian spot. Jake uncomfortably chatted about the World Cup with the Italian proprietors, and we drank Italian wine as we watched the sun set over the island.
Cap de Barbaria Lighthouse
On our last morning in Formentera, we left Jake to sleep in and set out on a mission to explore the Cap de Barbaria, famous for its lighthouse and, on clear days, views all the way to Africa. We intended to just spend an hour scootering and exploring, but, as seems to happen with us, we ended up on a multi-hour sweaty hike to the lighthouse and some nearby ruins. Dave did some bouldering on a fort ruin while Erin did some scrambling above the cliffs.
Journey to Ibiza
We reluctantly headed back to our Airbnb, returned our scooters, and headed back to the port, where we boarded a car ferry back to Ibiza to enjoy the remainder of our last day of the trip back in "society." Upon checking in to our hotel, we were notified that we were upgraded. We opened the door to our room and realized we were given the penthouse which featured a giant roof-deck overlooking the beach. We ordered a giant platter of sushi and ate on the deck, feeling like royalty.
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We took a dip at the beach and then Erin and Dave headed into Ibiza Old Town to shop at the famous Vicente Ganesha, owned by Vicente, who travels back and forth between India and Ibiza, sourcing fabrics and creating his own bohemian designs. Erin stalked his Instagram, poring over pictures of him with Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and other celebs. When we arrived, she was nervous and excited - we both loved the clothes so much we spent more than an hour exploring the store and had to hold ourselves back from buying everything we could get our sweaty hands on. We enjoyed some acai bowls to regain the energy we spent shopping and then headed back for cocktail hour with Jake.
We spent the rest of the day watching soccer in a local tapas bar, chowing down on Spanish classics over beers and the outcries of the other patrons as each goal was scored. The next morning, we woke up early, flew back to Cologne, and were back in Lux by early afternoon.
Formentera is our new "secret" favorite place in Europe. It certainly isn't secret to Italians, but its small size, along with a lack of night clubs, chain restaurants, ritzy hotels and an airport makes it still only open to those that are in the know. We feel like we have been let into a private club and we are so grateful to live so close to a spot where we can have the combination of the best water and beaches we've experienced in Europe (or maybe anywhere), a low key vibe, a place small enough to scooter everywhere, great weather and delicious food. We love it so much we are going back next month.
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