Ibiza is known for its vibrant nightlife and diverse music scene, including performances by famous DJs like David Guetta and rows upon rows of upscale holiday villas and high life, but in all fairness, I didn’t love it all that much.

Yes, the weather is lovely in July, and I truly doubt there’s a better spot in Europe for socializing if, you know, you’re into partying hard.

In my honest opinion, however, as charming as the walled Ibiza Town is, it felt too busy to be enjoyable, local beaches were not exactly made for relaxing, and I wouldn’t go out of my way to have dinner in another mid-range, yet ridiculously-overpriced Sant Antoni restaurant again.

Fortunately, my visit to the Balearics wasn’t restricted to Ibiza only: I added a little side visit to Formentera, a tiny island only a 30-minute ferry ride away most visitors ignore, and I couldn’t believe how beautiful—and most shockingly even, peaceful—it was.

Spain’s Hidden Beach Paradise

Young Women Sunbathing In A Beach In Formentera, Spain, Mediterranean Sea, Southern Europe

Ibiza’s small and prettier sister, Formentera is a tiny island in the vast Mediterranean covering an area of only 31.75 sq mi, home to only around 12,000 people—versus Ibiza’s 49,727—and a natural preserve lapped by the clearest waters you’ve ever seen.

It has some of the most beautiful swimming spots in the entire Mediterranean, but none of the crowds, and instead of the all-inclusives and creaky waterparks, you’ll find casual guesthouses, boutique hotels, and unspoiled beachfronts.

Es Calo des Mort In Formentera, Mediterranean Sea In Spain, Southern Europe

I stayed at Hotel Roca Bela myself, in the quaint coastal town of Els Pujols, where every room has a terrace and sea view, and my favorite thing, an air conditioner to beat the oppressive Spanish summer heat, and they cost me an acceptable $124 to book per night.

However, costs can change depending on season and demand.

The minimum stay is 3 nights—for most hotels registered in Formentera, you can’t just stay overnight, so bear that in mind—and I visited in early May myself, when the high season hadn’t started, so you should expect prices to fluctuate as demand increases come summer.

Minimum stay requirements are common during high season but may not apply all year.

La Mola In Formentera, Spain, Southern Europe

The hotel was decent, the continental breakfast being the major highlight, yet from my base in Els Pujols, I traveled extensively around Formentera, reaching all its main points of interest without resorting to expensive day tours, nor wallet-wiping taxi rides because buses aren’t as frequent:

How, you may ask? Well, cycling, of course.

An Island So Small You Can Just Walk Or Bike Around

Young Couple Biking Down A Cycling Path Leading Down To A Beach In Formentera, An Island In Spain In The Mediterranean Sea, Southern Europe

I know you’re probably thinking you don’t want to go on vacation in Spain to cycle a marathon in order to see and do stuff, but hear me out: I’m not at all athletic myself, either, and it had been years since I last biked anywhere.

I was, of course, reluctant when my hotel concierge suggested I should explore the island by myself on a two-wheeler until it dawned on me Formentera is indeed quite small, and the extensive network of cycling paths is there for a reason.

Stunning Nature

A Bike Parked In A Lookout In Formentera Facing The Mediterranean Sea, Spain, Southern Europe

Biking nonstop from Formentera’s northernmost Platja de Ses Illetes—one of the most beautiful beaches in Formentera, mind you, with waters so serene and turquoise it could belong in the Caribbean—to La Mola, its southernmost peninsula, takes only an hour.

Of course, it will take you longer than that—I can’t tell you myself the number of times I’ve stopped for pictures of majestic sea cliffs, recluse sandy coves and the odd Instagrammable windmill—but the fact of the matter is, it’s all very scenic, and you’ll soon stop worrying about those little detours.

Historic Windmill In Formentera, Spain, Southern Europe
Naturist Beaches

If you’re rocking up to the nudist-friendly Platja de Llevant in the early evenings, however, I’d advise you not to bring kids along as the regular frequenters are not exactly known for being… prudish, if you know what I’m saying, and that’s only one of several Eden-like naturist spots dotting the coast.

Other gorgeous beaches include Ses Platgetes, Cala Saona and Caló des Mort, though honestly, all of Formentera’s beaches look as if they’ve be.

Dirt Road Leading Down To Cavall d´ En Borras In Formentera, Spain, Southern Europe, Mediterranean Sea

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised Formentera is one of Europe’s capitals of naturism when nature itself is so abundant and beckoning: lakes, caves, pine woods, vineyards, and what have you, all tinged golden once the sun lazily sets after 9 p.m.

Catalan Culture

On the culture side, this is one of Spain’s most staunchly-Catalan islands: in case the naming of places wasn’t enough of an indication, locals are very proud of their ethnic heritage, and they will often mix Spanish with the local eivissenc dialect of Catalan.

Church In Formentera Spain, Southern Europe

The tradition is also expressed through the local cuisine: my favorite local restaurant is without question Can Forn, in the historic village of San Ferran de ses Roques, a 20-minute walk from where I was based in Els Pujols.

Catalan food is their specialty, and I’m not surprised it’s been getting rave reviews on Tripadvisor lately: it truly is the best dining spot on the island, and not a day goes by I don’t dream of their calamari ‘a la payesa’, which tastes as heavenly as it sounds.

I didn’t have the opportunity to go on a comprehensive gastronomic tour of Formentera as I was only there for two nights myself, but I did enjoy the seafood pasta of El Giovale, an Italian-run trattoria in the outskirts of the regional capital, and my own hotel’s varied selection of paellas.

The capital of Formentera itself, San Francesc has a number of casual eateries and cafés, not to mention souvenir shops and hippy bazaars where you can buy the classic croched, handmade Ibizan beach attire for cheaper than in the main island.

Formentera Isn’t All That Pricey, Either

Charming House In Formentera, Spain, Southern Europe

Despite Formentera’s remoteness, food isn’t as expensive here as you’d expect: the diet is mostly fish-based and all those family-owned restaurants will typically catch their own; there’s also potatoes, grain and fruit in abundance, so very few items are actually imported from the mainland.

Unless, of course, you’re keen on trying the local sushi buffet, the vegan-friendly upscale diner, or the round-the-corner Indian (yep, Formentera may be mostly rural, but it sure knows how to please its international clientele).

Historic Martello Tower In Formentera, Spain, Southern Europe

Either way, you’re likely to spend $25-27 on a single order, including a small portion of calamari for starters, a main dish, and even a glass of local wine—a piece of advice? Make sure you try the Cap de Barbaria red, Formentera’s most famous wine.

In total, I must have spent $450-500 for a three-night stay in Formentera, including the ferry from Ibiza and back, accommodation, food and transportation costs (the latter of which are null as I was mostly biking, or just walking short distances)

Formentera is the perfect destination if, like me, you eventually end up desperate to escape the gong-show that is Ibiza, whether it’s for a day trip only, or a long weekend of recovery, cycling, beaching, and food-sampling.

How do you get here, you may be wondering?

Torre de sa Punta Prima In Formentera, Spain, Southern Europe

How To Get To Formentera

As mentioned above, Formentera does not have its own airport—it’s the only Balearic island that does not host flights from mainland Spain or abroad—but it is served by hourly ferries leaving from the main Port of Ibiza.

Two companies operate on this route, Balearia and Trasmpai, and the crossing takes only 35 minutes—make sure you head to the upper deck for a breathtaking view of the medieval, whiteashed Ibiza Town as the ferry heads out into open sea—and one-way tickets are around $19.

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