48 hours in Ibiza

Europe may be scorching now, but this renowned clubbers' paradise is always chilled. And if the dance scene isn't your thing, the beaches, food, villages and pine forests are perfect for a traditional holiday, writes Rhiannon Batten

WHY GO NOW?

For holidaymakers, Ibiza is the showgirl of the Balearics: whether you're a dedicated clubber, a family of culture vultures, a resolute hippie or a boho princess, it will entertain you. Midsummer may be when all of the abovevisit, but that's because they know the bars are at their liveliest, the atmosphere at its best and the sun just about guaranteed. Fortunately, there's room for everyone. If you're nifty with a football, head for the village of Sant Agusti on 24 August; each year, it holds a match between bachelors and married men to mark Sant Bartomeu's day.

BEAM DOWN

From London Stansted on easyJet (0870 600 0000; www.easyJet.com), East Midlands on Bmibaby (0870 264 2229; www.bmibaby.com) or Southampton on FlyBE (0870 567 6676; www.flybe.com), scheduled return flights cost about £200 (£300 weekends) at this time. After August these fall to about £70, but the flights stop by the end of October. Through winter, Iberia (0845 601 2854; www.iberia.com) flies from Heathrow and Gatwick via mainland Spain. From a regional airport, you may get a better deal on a charter; fares can be as low as £99 return (£150 is more usual), and you'll probably have to stay at least seven days. See what's available at JMC (0870 758 0203; www.jmc.com). From the airport to the Ibiza Town bus station, bus 10 leaves every hour on the half-hour, 7.30am-11.30pm (€1.50/£1 single). Taxis cost about €10 (£7).

GET YOUR BEARINGS

Ibiza is roughly oval in shape, with the tiny capital, Ibiza Town and airport in the south, the huge Sant Antoni resort in the west, rural villages in the east and a good variety of beaches circling the whole thing. There are tourist information offices at the airport and in several towns but the main one, albeit tiny, is in the marina area of Ibiza Town at 2 Placa d'Antoni Riquer (00 34 971 301 900; www.visitbalears.com). For general information before you go, get the new Rough Guide to Ibiza (£6.99).

CHECK IN

Ibiza Town is the sensible place to stay if you're here for a few days, because it has the best transport links and, in the Old Town (Dalt Vila) and marina area, it's very pretty. At the top end is La Torre del Canonigo at 8 Calle Mayor in Dalt Vila (00 34 971 303 884; www.elcanonigo.com), a converted priest's house within the Old Town walls. Rooms currently start at €210 (£148) without breakfast. Cheaper but atmospheric is the Hotel La Ventana at 13 Sa Carossa (00 34 971 303 537; www.laventanaibiza.com); doubles from €146 (£104) in summer, without breakfast. The Vara de Rey guest house, at 7 Vara de Rey (00 34 971 301 376), has doubles from €77 (£55), again without breakfast. Out of town, splash out at Es Cucons , a stylish converted farmhouse (00 34 971 80 55 01; www.escucons.com); doubles from €204 (£145) in summer.

TAKE A VIEW

From the top of Sa Talaiassa , the highest peak, the views across southern Ibiza are stunning. Looking down over the pine forests and coves among the clusters of white apartment blocks reminds you that there's still plenty of green space on the island, especially if you've come straight from nearby Sant Antoni . To get there, it's about 20 minutes' drive from Sant Josep , the nearest village, up a badly pot-holed and rock-strewn dirt track. You could walk it but it's a steep and very hot climb at this time of year.

TAKE A HIKE

Around Dalt Vila in Ibiza Town . A picturesque tangle of cobbled lanes, cafés and boutiques, it will persuade you there's more to Ibiza than clubs and beaches. Most people head straight to the cathedral and ruined castle at the top, but it's more fun to wander up the streets behind the marina through Dalt Vila's massive gates and into the lanes, gradually aiming for the higher ground - and more great views.

TAKE A RIDE

The island is just 40km tip to toe, and it's easy to get around. Buses between the towns and resorts cost €1.05 (70p) to €2.50 (£1.80) per trip. Books of 20 tickets cost €13 (£9). The tourist centres have bus timetables. Boats ply between the towns and beaches, usually for about €5 (£3.60) per hop; Ibiza Town marina is the main hub. To rent a car, try Avis (0870 606 0100; ww.avis.com): it has a special summer rate of £22.45 a day. Autos Mari (00 34 971 33 02 36) has similar rates.

LUNCH ON THE RUN

At Bar Costa, just off the Plaza de la Iglesia in Sant Gertrudis (00 34 971 197 021) you can get delicious fresh bread, manchego cheese, Iberian ham or, if you're feeling brave, some dried venison sausage (€2.25-8.25/£1.60-£5.90 per portion). There's a shady terrace outside and cosy bench seating inside, and it's very friendly.

WINDOW SHOPPING

There isn't a lot in Ibiza that you won't find elsewhere (probably cheaper) but, if you're in the market for spangly flip-flops, elaborate leather belts or massive straw baskets (the item to have on the beach), the marina area in Ibiza Town is a fun place to shop. Bear in mind that most of the shops close from 1.30pm to 5pm for the siesta, although some then stay open until 1am.

CULTURAL AFTERNOON

You can't come to Ibiza without enjoying some beach culture. From tiny Gracioneta and family-oriented Cala d'Hort , with its dramatic view out on to the huge, offshore rock of Es Vedra in the west; to the party beach of Ses Salines in the south, hippie-ish Benirras in the north and the black sands of Cala Boix in the east, there's a beach to suit just about every taste. My own favourite was Cala Carbo , a quiet, pebbly beach in the west, with good swimming and two good beach- restaurants delivering huge pans of paella and jugs of sangria to white tablecloth-covered tables.

AN APERITIF

The 'sunset strip' at the end of Calle Vara de Rey in Sant Antoni is the traditional place to be as the sun goes down over the sea, with ambient music easing from the speakers at Cafe del Mar (00 34 971 342 516, 6pm-4am). These days it's a scrum to get to the bar, though. For something more chilled - in the literalsense - head for the sun-dappled patio at Anita's, behind the church in Sant Carles (00 34 971 33 50 90) for a cold glass of hierbas, the local tipple (€1.45/£1).

DINNER WITH THE LOCALS

La Scala in Ibiza Town , at 7 Sa Carossa, Dalt Vila (00 34 971 300 383), is on a patio surrounded by old shuttered houses. It serves skewers of prawns for €11.50 (£8.20) and grouper fillets in saffron for €14.90 (£10.60). At Comida Bar San Juan, 8 Carrer de Guillem Montgri, near the marina, you'll get simple grilled fish and meat served up on marble-topped tables (€8/£5.60 for a main course, €3.50/£2.50 for tapas). Or book an upstairs table at Can Berri Vell in Sant Agusti (Placa Major, 00 34 971 344 321), and make sure you arrive in time for the sunset.

SUNDAY MORNING: GO TO CHURCH

The small whitewashed church of Nostra Mare de Jesus, in the appropriately-named village of Jesus , has an elaborate altar painting inside and a new park being built outside. There's nothing grand about it, but that's what's special. It's open for Mass at noon on Sundays and from 9.30am-12.30pm and 4-6pm on other days.

OUT TO BRUNCH

Opposite the lane that takes you down to the church in Jesus is La Croissanteria Jesus (Centro Commercial Local 11; 00 34 971 310 373). This posh bakery with outside tables sells everything from pastries, croissants and the local flaky pastry, ensaimadas, (€0.85-2.60/60p-£1.80) to cheese, ham and bread platters (€5/£3.60) and bowls of muesli with fresh fruit (€6/£4.30). It's open every day except Tuesday, from 6.30am to 3pm.

A WALK IN THE PARK

The entrance to Can Pere Mosson Country Park , a woodland park with picnic areas, barbecue pits and paths through the pine trees, is next to the church in Sant Llorenc . Entrance is free, and it's open from 8am to 7pm in summer, and 8am to 6pm in winter. Carry on to the pretty village of Sant Joan and the Eco shop and café at 5 Plaza de Espana (00 34 971 333 029; www.eco-ibiza.com).

WRITE A POSTCARD

From the traditional Bar Tabac at 7 Carrer de Missa in Sant Miguel (00 34 971 334 638, open 9.30am-2pm and 5-10pm). Right next to the white church at the top of the village - and a pretty gallery - the bar's two outside tables look out over sun-soaked hills. If you haven't got cards already, get them here for €0.40 (28p).

THE ICING ON THE CAKE

Even if you haven't come for the clubbing - there's probably the highest concentration of top-class clubs in the world - it's worth going to one for the experience. The choice may seem boggling at first, but each club has its well publicised "best" day: Mondays for Circo Loco; daytime clubbing at the end of the airport runway at DC10, on the Salines to Sant Jordi road (22); Tuesdays and Saturdays for the water parties at Es Paradis in Sant Antoni ; Wednesdays for hippyish Namaste at Las Dalias in Sant Carles ; and just about any night for clubbing's grande dame, Pacha, in Ibiza Town . Beware the prices: the cheapest, DC10, is about €15 (£10), and the most expensive, Pacha, up to €50 (£35).

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