The small island of Formentera is part of the Spanish Balearic Islands and lies around six kilometers south of Ibiza. Measuring just 19 kilometers in length, it can easily be explored by car or scooter. Many refer to it as Ibiza’s little sister, however it couldn’t be more different to the famous clubbing island in terms of what it has to offer. Think laid-back charm, exotic beaches and quaint village life – albeit with a touch of chic thrown in for good measure. We take a look at the island’s star-studded legacy, explore its sandy beaches and find the best markets to soak up that positive, hippie energy.
Although Formentera is not as well known as its Balearic neighbors – Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza – the island has featured in several famous novels and films and is a favorite celebrity bolthole. While the original hippie crowd, such as Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin, came here in the ’60s, today it’s more the likes of Kate Moss, Jade Jagger and Sienna Miller who come here to get away from it all. Even Hollywood celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio and professional footballers come here to enjoy Formentera’s unique charm and relaxed vibe.
However, it wasn’t only celebrities who fell under Formentera’s magic spell. The author Jules Verne decided to set part of his novel Hector Servadac on the island, at the famous La Mola lighthouse, which stands majestically on a 120-meter high cliff, overlooking the sea. Formentera also gained cinematic fame with Spanish cult movie Sex and Lucia, starring Paz Vega, which was set and filmed on the island, often featuring another of the island’s famous lighthouses, Es Cap de Berbería.
Formentera’s beaches are often likened to those in the Caribbean, with turquoise blue waters and flour-white sand. The water may be slightly cooler, but that’s the only giveaway to let you know that you’re actually thousands of miles away from the shores of Saint Lucia.
Located on the north coast of the island, on a long, thin sandy promontory, Ses Illetes is one of the most stunning beaches on the island, partly in thanks to its lack of development. There’s nothing here except for a few small, stylish, wooden beach bars and restaurants. Oh, and a few superyachts offshore. Another reason for its beauty is that between here and Ibiza lies the Las Salinas Natural Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its abundant marine life and endemic oceanic Posidonia (a type of sea grass).
This long crescent of sandy bay stretches for a total of seven kilometers along the south coast of the island, punctuated by small coves, inlets and rocky outcrops. There’s a bit more development here than Ses Illetes – such as sun loungers, umbrellas and the odd hotel – but on the whole much of it has been left to its natural state. Furthermore, because of its length, even in the height of summer you can find a large stretch of sand to sprawl out on.
A favorite with families because of its sandy, shallow shores and crystal clear waters, Cala Saona is a natural bay surrounded by high cliffs. It sits on the west coast of the island and a 30-minute hike to the peak of Punta Rasa is guaranteed to offer breath-taking views.
Formentera has never really shaken its hippie spirit since the 1960s and you’ll still find that laid-back vibe, although maybe a little more boho-chic these days. To seek out the island’s flower power charm, head to Formentera’s famous hippie markets.
The small town of Sant Francesc acts like the capital of the island, but is far from busy and bustling. Passing small squares, its charming church and the town hall, you’ll find the daily hippie market, where colorful people have set up stalls, selling everything from long, patterned skirts to beaded sandals and handmade jewelry.
Even bigger and more famous than the Sant Francesc Hippie Market is the La Mola Craft Market, located just outside the village of El Pilar de la Mola, and held every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon from 4-9PM (May to October only). Live music is held in the central square, bars open up their terraces and stalls sell everything from handmade leather products to ceramics, jewelry and textiles – all made by local artists living on the island.