Low-lying landscape / Alamy

There's so much more to this island than its nightlife, as Mark Rowe discovers on a new hiking trail

I'm not much good at lying, so I won't pretend that I've spent the past 20 years waiting for the opportunity to hike around Ibiza. Like most of us, I guess, I've never really looked beyond its stereotype as the rave capital of the world, and somewhere where people disembark from their aircraft, spend a week on the beach and then head home.

So, the announcement of new walking routes across the island, along with maps and signposts to help you on your way, caught my eye, even if it sounded rather like an artist attempting to set up their easel in the fast lane of a motorway.

It's along the highway from the airport to my first destination, the town of Santa Eulalia, that I begin my education in the other Ibiza. "Is the old Ibiza still here?" I ask Gil, my taxi driver. "Of course!" he booms. "Around the coast you have some development but inland, 60 per cent of the island is still very traditional. You'll see, it's wonderful – hills, valleys ...." We drive past a village called Siesta, and already I sense an island dancing to a slower beat.

Within four hours of landing, I have my boots on. My path initially follows the languid Santa Eulalia river – the only river in all the Balearics – through the edge of town. It is idyllic: there is a medieval bridge; sedge banks up against glistening honey-coloured embankments; reeds, six metres high, sway in the wind; there are willow warblers and kingfishers. In the first of many such contrasts, I pass below a hotel complex made from the same mottled yellow stone. I decide it looks nicer and softer when left in the ground.

The rocky coastline (Alamy)

I pass the beach of Calo de S'Alga, where the rocks and coastline are smothered in what looks like desiccated coconut. In fact it's a Mediterranean underwater plant, Posidonia oceanica, that washes up in vast banks along Ibizan shores. Commonly known as Neptune's grass, it's springy enough to sleep on and I suspect has provided a soft landing for many a survivor of a long night of clubbing. Out to sea I pick out yachts and kayaks, then the path rises, and I'm hiking through undulating pine forests high above the town. I drop down by a dry river bed and enter a tunnel to reach the bay of Cala Banca, a hidden cove where I linger for an hour. No one comes.

The walks prove to be thoughtfully planned and easy to follow. Most involve some climbing, but since no hill on the island is higher then 475m, there is never too much exertion. If I see a hill ahead, I'm usually up and over it within an hour or two, passing intensely yellow gorse, a cocktail of lavender and pine bark scents.

One day I follow a trail from Santa Eulalia to the northern village of Sant Joan, 12 miles away, through rural farmsteads, orange, olive, and carob groves. Everything seems permanently ripe for the picking. The journey introduces me to a distinct and proud island culture, of which I had been entirely ignorant. The language, Ibicenco, is a dialect of Catalan and is spoken to a staccato beat markedly different from the fluidity of Castilian Spanish. "Spanish speakers cannot understand a word of it," Gil had told me proudly.

Low, drystone walls of warm sandstone are colonised with poppies, and other wild flowers. One smallholding consists of a geometrically precise polygon of sandstone walls with fruit trees planted in hexagonal patterns. I'm not sure what I thought Ibiza might remind me of before I visited, but I'm sure it wasn't this vision of the Cotswolds.

The climb up the rough Serra de Sant Vincent range of hills is steady and never too steep. Green Ibiza wall lizards scatter and scuttle ahead of me. At the ridgeline, I pause among the drooping pine needles and look back down into the valley through which I have just walked, and the hills that run away to the south. Birdsong is everywhere but even they must pause for breath, and when they do it seems to be in harmony and I am left in absolute silence. It's a lovely spot.

The forest track drops down then rises up a gorgeous, apparently unnamed valley. It is sprinkled with remote houses and farmsteads. This was once a redoubt for the hippies who migrated to Ibiza in the 1960s, drawn by its claimed ley-line associations with Goa and Bali. Perhaps they and their descendants are still here, though I suspect these houses now amount to prime real estate.


My bed for the night in Sant Joan is the exquisitely converted farmhouse Can Fuster, or the House of the Carpenter. Around 150 years old, and owned by Vincente, who named it in honour of his grandfather's trade, Can Fuster is part of an agroturismo initiative to promote the rural side of the island whereby farmers are encouraged to diversify into tourism.

"We have olives, almonds, oranges," says Vincente. "You used to make money from the fruits but not now – a sack of almonds will fetch just five cents." There's a pool, a portico overhung with fruit trees, and a shaded garden. It's a perfect coda to the day.

My final walk takes me from Sant Joan north to the coast and a series of delectable bays and lonely tracks, to the tiny resort of Sant Miquel. In places, nature has carved out squared-off, lido-like bathing areas. There's a brief, nerve-shredding walk above a 150-metre gully before I pick up a long, snaking track that seems to cut forever along the roof of Ibiza.

Eventually, I descend to a magical bay called Calo de s'Illa, a rocky plateau, pockmarked with craters caused by eroding salt. It looks like the surface of Mars: in turn rusty red, grey, lime green. It's as lovely a bay as I've seen anywhere in Europe and, reached as it is through a small wood and down a slippery path, it feels a long way from anywhere.

Journey's end is Can Maries, a small, modern hotel built by owner José overlooking the bay. It stands within the grounds of a farm that has been in his family for 600 years. I have to double check: 600 years? Incredibly, yes.

On my last morning, still trying to get my head around the contrast that Ibza's hinterland provides, I grab a coffee by the beach at Sant Miquel with Toby Clarke, who runs Walking Ibiza, a local company. Toby, born here to British parents, nods as I outline how my ignorance about Ibiza has been transformed.

"I feel blessed to live here," he says. "There are certain parts of the island where you can walk and not see a house. There are so many beautiful little places. People say Ibiza is ruined, but it is absolutely not. It's a question of trust. If you trust in Ibiza, it gives you that trust back."

Getting there

British Airways (0870 850 9850; ba.com) has year-round flights from London City and Gatwick to Ibiza. Other airlines offering seasonal services from the UK include Monarch (0871 9405040; monarch.co.uk), easyJet (0843 1045000; easyjet.com), Ryanair (0871 2460000; ryanair.com), Thomas Cook (0871 2302406; thomascookairlines.com), Thomson (0871 2314787; flights.thomson.co.uk), Jet2 (0906 3020660; jet2.com), and Norwegian (0843 378 0888; norwegian.com).

Walking there

Inntravel (01653 617000; inntravel.co.uk) offers a self-guided week of walking, discovering Ibiza's Hidden Charms, from £795pp, including seven nights' B&B in three hotels, three dinners, two picnics, route maps and notes, and transport of luggage between hotels. Flights and airport transfers are extra.

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