Ibiza beyond the beat: how to mellow out on

Everyone knows Spain's rave capital is the place to let your hair down, says Ian McCurrach. But it also caters for a quieter crowd - especially now the clubbing season is coming to an end
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The Independent Travel

The current closing parties herald the end of the clubbing season in Ibiza, but don't be fooled into thinking that the summer on this Spanish island is over. Far from it. With warm, sunny days throughout this month and into early October, this is a great time to visit because the island is quieter and infinitely more chilled.

The current closing parties herald the end of the clubbing season in Ibiza, but don't be fooled into thinking that the summer on this Spanish island is over. Far from it. With warm, sunny days throughout this month and into early October, this is a great time to visit because the island is quieter and infinitely more chilled.

In fact, Ibiza has been much maligned by most of the British press this year for either being too expensive - which it isn't - or for being an 18-30 clubbing hell-hole. Admittedly, there are some half-a-dozen superclubs dotted around, but if you don't know where they are you are unlikely to stumble across them or their wide-eyed inhabitants, even during peak season.

For me, Ibiza is pure magic. But like all magical things, the intrinsic nature of its appeal is difficult to pinpoint. What I do know is that, even after three visits in as many years, the island remains an enticing combination of extremes: wilderness and sophistication, old and new. Add to this its sublime sunsets, the blissful beaches, an unspoilt rugged interior with luminous pine forests and olive groves and you have a small piece of paradise on Earth.

Ibiza also has something intensely spiritual about it, so it's little wonder that the Flower Power generation of the Sixties made it their hippy home stop-off on route to Goa and Bali.

The quickest way of getting to grips with Ibiza is to spend a couple of days exploring the island by car, trekking along one of the many walking trails or by cycling or even seeing it from the saddle. Before I went to Ibiza last year, a friend in the know gave me a copy of the chill-out album Bambuddha Grove - The Arrival, which features music from the Bambuddha Grove restaurant and bar in the San Lorenzo hills. Its mellow tunes make the perfect musical accompaniment to driving around the island.

There are many sleepy whitewashed hilltop villages to explore on the island, such as Santa Agnes, where celebrities, including Jade Jagger, have houses. My favourite village is Santa Gertrudis, in the centre of the island, which has an abundance of good restaurants and bars in the town square that spill out on to the sun-drenched pavements. If you like villages bursting with galleries and boutiques, visit San José, in the south-west, which also has many fine fincas (farmhouses) for rent in the surrounding countryside.

Discovering Ibiza's beautiful beaches is pure joy. One of the coolest is Es Cavellet. Backed by stunning dunes it has white salt flats which were once worked by the Carthaginians. This seemingly endless stretch of soft white sand is home to a mixed crowd soaking up the rays. Just around the headland is Ses Salines, which is slightly less peaceful, but still bewitching, with great views of the salt works.

Benirras, an exquisite spot in the north, and famous for its sunsets, is completely unspoiled and bohemian. Hippy bongo players herald the sunset here on Sundays. But the real pleasure of Ibiza is discovering the many isolated beaches at the end of dirt tracks, such as Playa de S'Illa, near Portinaxt. On the day I visited there were only two other people on the beach - bliss.

You'll also find a broad range of cuisine on offer on the island. Within the medieval city walls of Ibiza Town there are lots of sophisticated eateries and bars. The pretty terrace outside La Ventana Hotel, Sa Carrosa, D'Alt Vila (00 34 971 303537), tucked under the ramparts, is a superb spot for cocktails. Then move on to El Olivio, Placa de Vila, D'Alt Vila (00 34 971 300680), the oldest restaurant in town, which serves up Ibizenco specialities such as pork fillet stuffed with goat's cheese and tarragon. Expect to pay around £30 per person for a three-course meal, including wine.

For more peaceful and relaxed meals there are plenty of countryside restaurants in idyllic settings, most costing around £20 for a three-course meal with wine. Tucked away in the centre of the island, near San Lorenzo, is Cana Pepeta (00 34 971 325023), on the Ibiza Town/Portinaxt road, at the turn to Es Canar. Diners eat beneath Ibiza's third highest peak in this open-air restaurant, which serves delicious fresh fish and crustaceans.

Also to be recommended are La Plaza (00 34 971 19705) in Santa Gertrudis, which dishes up fine French fare and L'Elephant (00 34 971 198056) in Sant Rafel. The treat of my last trip was my visit to Bambuddha Grove (00 34 971 197510), on the Ibiza Town/Sant Joan road, near the turn-off to Santa Eulalia. This Asian-inspired restaurant is packed to its Balinese rafters every night and is not only home to the A-list when they are in town, but a cross-generational mix who come to sample the Thai-fusion cuisine or chill-out in open-air lounges which are strewn with silk cushions. Expect to pay from £30 per person for three courses, including wine.

Your bed for the night in Ibiza is crucial and at all costs avoid Figueretas, just outside Ibiza Town, and San Antonio, which are low-rent package-holiday territories. I spent a couple of days in the centre of the island at Casa Naya, which rests at the top of a pine-clad hill with unbeatable views across the island. Jose Loscertales has lovingly created a small development of well-equipped self-catering studio rooms and apartments, clustered around a pool and terrace. Informality is the key here. Don't miss the excellent homemade fare served up at breakfast time, which includes croissants and breads.

At the top of the scale - and the island - is Hotel Hacienda, the only five-star property on Ibiza, from which you never need stray. With two superb restaurants to choose from, an exotic pool and many sun terraces, from which the views of the sunset are unsurpassed, I found it hard to drag myself away.

In fact, by the time you read this I will have returned to Ibiza and probably be sunning myself on Es Cavelet beach, as I've just booked my annual September visit. That's the thing about Ibiza you see - it just keeps you coming back for more.

GIVE ME THE FACTS

How to get there

easyJet (08717 500100; www.easyjet.com) flies daily to Ibiza from London Stansted from £41 return. Hotel Hacienda (00 34 971 334500; www.relaischateaux.com) offers b&b in a standard double room from £224 per night. Casa Naya (00 34 971 325264; www.casanaya.com) offers b&b in a double room from £95 per night. Holiday Autos (0870 400 0010; www.holidayautos.co.uk) offers one-week's car hire in Ibiza from £115. Bambuddha Grove's double CD,

Further information

Bambuddha Grove - The Arrival, is produced by Warner Music UK, £14.99.

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