High and mighty: charming Ibiza Town and Dalt Vila

Enjoy the White Isle's boutiques, bars and beaches before the crowds descend, says Lucinda Baring

Travel Essentials

Why go now?

Ibiza's summer season is just kicking off – hotels, restaurants and bars closed for the winter are reopening; the sea has begun to shrug off its chill and the island's nightclubs throw open their doors to DJs once again with opening parties this week. High season doesn't kick in until July, so this is a brilliant time to explore the White Isle's beautiful beaches and idyllic countryside before the real heat and the revellers descend.

Touch down

British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) has launched a new twice-weekly link to Ibiza from Heathrow. BA also flies from London City and Gatwick, while easyJet (0843 104 5000; easyJet.com) flies from Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, Belfast, Glasgow and Liverpool. Monarch (0871 940 5040; flymonarch.com) goes from Birmingham, Gatwick, Manchester and East Midlands. Ryanair (0871 246 0000; ryanair.com) and Jet2 (0871 226 1737; jet2.com) both fly from eight UK airports, while Thomas Cook (0871 230 2406; flythomascook.com) flies from 14 airports and Thomson (0871 231 4787; thomson.com) from 15.

The airport (1) is 7.5km south of Ibiza Town (Eivissa in Catalan). Buses (00 34 971 340 382; ibizabus.com) run from outside the terminal to Ibiza Town every 20 minutes from 6.30am to 12.30am, and to San Antonio on the west coast every hour from 8am to 1am. Tickets cost €3.20 to either town and are available on board. Taxis are metered; the fare to Ibiza Town is about €12 and nearer €40 to the furthest point of the island.

Get your bearings

Ibiza is an island of two halves: the quiet, rural north is a foil to the more developed, fashionable south. The two biggest towns are charming Ibiza Town on the east coast and party hub San Antonio on the west, the throbbing hub of package deals, and stag and hen weekends. Beaches vary between small, pebbly coves and long sandy stretches.

There is a good tourist office at the airport (1) (00 34 971 809 118; ibiza.travel/en; 8am to 8pm Monday to Saturday, 9am to 3.15pm Sunday) and another tourist office (2) opposite the cathedral (3) in Ibiza's old town (00 34 971 399 232; 10am to 2pm and 5pm to 8pm Monday to Saturday, 10am to 2pm Sunday).

Deliciously Sorted (00 34 971 197 867; deliciouslysortedibiza.com) is a local concierge service that makes hotel and restaurant reservations and can book anything from boats to babysitters.

Check in

The Giri Residence (4) at Carrer Principal 3-5 in San Joan (00 34 971 333 345; thegiri.com) is stylish but relaxed. This is luxury Ibiza-style: there's no bowing and scraping; you can have breakfast at 6pm if you like. Of the five rooms, Bougainvillea is the biggest and most private; the spa is small but striking. Doubles start at €395, including breakfast.

Reached via winding country lanes lined with wild flowers, Es Cucons (5) at Carrer Cami des Pla de Corona 110 (00 34 971 80 55 01; escucons.com) is a rural idyll. Sixteen bedrooms are scattered between the original finca (farmhouse) and stables; the outdoor spa is set amid almond groves. The simple Mediterranean food is first class. Doubles from €275, including breakfast.

Can Planells (6) at Venda Rubio 2 is an agroturismo (small country guesthouse) near the village of San Miguel (00 34 971 334 924; canplanells.com). Its eight rooms are typically rustic in style; the private pool and gardens are lovely and quiet. Double rooms start at €170, including breakfast.


Day One

Cultural morning

Seek out Ibiza's cultural nucleus within the fortified walls of its old town, Dalt Vila. It's perched high above the sea with exceptional views to the island of Formentera, its meandering cobbled streets full of chapels, palaces, museums and galleries.

As you enter through the imposing archway (7) on Carrer de Jaume 1, the first building you come to is the Contemporary Art Museum (8) on Plaça de Vila (00 34 971 302 723; 10am to 1.30pm Tuesday to Sunday, 5pm to 8pm Tuesday to Friday; free entry), a blissfully cool space where the vaulted ceilings and white walls offset the colourful canvases.

The church of Santo Domingo (9) on Carrer del General Balanzat (10am to 1.30pm Tuesday to Saturday; mass at noon and 8pm Sunday) is worth a quick peek for its fading frescos before heading to the Puget Museum (10) at Carrer Major 18 (00 34 971 392 147; 10am to 1.30pm Tuesday to Sunday, 5pm to 8pm Tuesdays to Fridays; free). The 15th-century townhouse is named after the family of artists whose work is displayed inside.

At the old town's apex stands the Cathedral of Santa Maria (3) on Plaça de la Catedral (10am to 1pm Tuesday to Saturday; Sunday mass at 10.30am), a cooling reward for the climb. Established after the Catalan conquest in 1235, the exterior is a mixture of Gothic and Baroque, the interior spartan.

Lunch on the run

As you snake back down through the streets of the old town, stop at the convent on Carrer de Sant Ciriac (11) (closed evenings and Sunday), for an empanada (pastry) made by the nuns; flavours change daily, but might include spinach and peppers or chocolate, for €3.50.

Alternatively, Hostal Parque (12) at Plaça del Parque 4 (00 34 971 301 358; hostalparque.com) serves salads and dishes to share under smart umbrellas.

Opposite, In & Out (13) (00 34 971 307 370) also has a good, quick set menu such as sardines and squid-ink paella for €15.

Window shopping

The best boutiques await in Santa Gertrudis (14), a lovely small town in the middle of the island. Shop Es Cucons at Plaça de la Iglesia 7 (00 34 971 197 756) sells printed bikinis, dresses, espadrilles and stylish homeware; The Rose at Venda de Fruitera 2 (00 34 680 955 615) does silk dresses and kaftans.

An aperitif

Sunset Ashram (15) (00 34 661 347 222; sunsetashram.com) is a lively beach bar on Cala Conta, on the west coast, particularly popular at sunset. The atmosphere is relaxed and bohemian (incense, crystal wind chimes). Have a strawberry mojito (€12) or share a bottle of rosé (€18).

New this month, Experimental Ibiza (16) on the far south at Cap des Falco (00 34 664 331 269; eccbeach.com) is a chic alternative.

Dining with the locals

Across the beach from Sunset Ashram (15) is S'illa des Bosc (00 34 971 806 161; silladesbosc.com), a good fish restaurant with outdoor seating (paellas from €15; fish for €23).

The village of San José is a 10-minute drive away. Here, Destino Tapas (17) at Carrer sa Talaia 15 (00 34 971 800 341) has tables in a garden opposite the church. The tapas cost between €1.50 (spinach with almonds and raisins) and €8 (Moroccan lamb with olives).


Day Two

Take a hike

There is a wonderful 8km walk between Sant Mateu (18) and Cala d'Albarca (19) on the north-west coast, through the pine trees to a spectacular natural stone bridge spanning two parts of a cove.

Toby Clarke (00 34 608 692 901; walkingibiza.com) offers private guided walks for €125 for up to eight people, with transfers; and a community walk every alternate Friday that sets off from various locations on the island (€10 per person).

Out to brunch

El Chiringuito (20) on the beach at Es Cavallet (00 34 971 395 355; elchiringuito ibiza.com) is smart and stylish without being pretentious; it attracts big tables of friends and families who share plates of fried anchovies (€18) and spaghetti with clams in a lobster broth (€49 for two). A waiter also comes round with a bucket of oysters (€3 each) and a belt of different sauces in holsters. There is a staffed play area on the sand where children can have their faces painted and sun loungers and umbrellas on the beach below. No one eats before 2pm; booking is essential.

A walk on the beach

Es Cavallet is long and sandy, flanked by dunes, with a nature reserve on one side, the Mediterranean on the other. A gentle stroll south will bring you to the Torre de Ses Portes (21) (an 18th-century defence tower).

Alternatively, a masseuse sets up shop under an umbrella near the water (€60 per hour). Be warned: Es Cavallet is also popular with naturists.

Icing on the cake

Cala Xuclà (22) is a tiny cove on the north coast of the island where the water is beautiful. The beach is pebbly, but if you climb over the rocks to the left you can dive straight in. There is also a shed that serves simple but exceptionally fresh fish from the market for about €20 per person (open at lunchtime only).