If you are going to spend a few days in and around Ibiza, then you will also want to set aside some time to explore its stunning sister island next door – Formentera.
At 82 kilometres square, Formentera is the smallest and most southerly of Spain’s Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea and can only be accessed by boat, making it a popular trip destination during the summer months.
Known for its long white sandy beaches, clear waters and stretches of dune and pine trees, there’s a lot more to see and explore than you might expect.
Approximately 12,000 people live permanently on Formentera, where Megalithic graves provide the first evidence of colonisation on the island that can be traced back over 4,000 years. That’s a long history for an island that is only 20km long and 2km wide! Formentera has played host to the Greeks who gave Ibiza and Formentera their collective name – the ‘Pituses’ (the suitably apt ‘pine tree islands’) followed by the Romans in c. 200 BC who built a fortress near to Es Caló where the foundations can still be seen today.
Formentera’s long and chequered history has seen the island witness the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th century, Vandals then Byzantines, followed by the Moors who brought their advanced knowledge of agriculture and irrigation. Their influence was captured in time by the many stone walls and irrigation systems that some farmers still use to this day.
Fast forward to the 1930s, the time of the Spanish Civil War, when Formentera suffered greatly as a consequence of heavy fights against the nationalistic troops of Franco. From 1939-1942 there was a concentration camp on the island for political dissidents from mainland Spain awaiting execution.
It’s a far cry from the island that has become a tourist hot spot for many boat owners, charters and day-trippers arriving via ferry from the harbour in Ibiza Town courtesy of Baleària. There is an Ibiza-Formentera ferry once every 30 minutes throughout the day, with the first leaving at 7:00 in the morning and the last at 20:30 in the evening, they even let you transport your bicycles for free and take your pets with you – two ingredients for a wholesome day!
Right, let’s get down to the good stuff and take a look at some of the best places to drop anchor and things to experience in your guide to Formentera by Sea & Land:
ANCHORINGS & BEACHES
Ses Illetes (Illetas)
Along the east side of this anchorage you will find some of the best beaches the Balearic Islands have to offer thanks to its gently shelving crystal clear waters and brilliant white sand making for the most vivid colours and turquoise sea. Many drop anchor and come ashore to enjoy fresh seafood and Mediterranean dishes found within its many restaurants such as Juan y Andeea and Es Moli de la Sal. Here you will be exposed to winds from the north and north east with anchoring over clean sand.
Isla de Espalmador
Espalmador is a small uninhabited island and part of a nature reserve just a few metres from the northern edge of Formentera and only exposed to west winds.
Expect to feel like you are in paradise and at home in the Caribbean thanks to its combination of striking colours and the lack of people. We’re talking about an island, just off another island, that is only accessible by boat – if you’re looking to find the perfect spot that whittles down the true die-hard explorers, then this is the spot for you! Important note, it’s 100% necessary to rent a mooring buoy as anchoring between buoys is forbidden in this area in order to protect the banks of Posidonia seagrass.
This immaculate cove benefits from crystal clear water with a slightly different edge thanks to the colour of its surrounding rocks and being able to anchor over sand. We’ll let you into a secret – Cala Saona is often cited as the best anchorage in Formentera to watch the sunset. That one is on us. You’re welcome!
Caló des Mort
If you are looking for something a little more secluded, and away from the summertime crowds, then this is the sanctuary for you. Open to the east with anchorage over sand with the occasional rock, Caló des Mort is a small hideaway with sheltering rocks and an old fishing hut, its old wooden ramp extending into the picturesque white to blue gradient waters. Ideal for bathing in its shallow warm bath water-like temperatures or donning a snorkel and flippers to meet some of its many aquatic inhabitants. A must see!
Playa de la Savina
If you feel the need to stretch your legs or sip on a cold drink or three, this anchorage, closer to the recreational marina of Formentera, is the one for you. Anchoring in clean white sand, you are moments away from the many bike, scooter and car rental places and two decent supermarkets which are ideal for stocking up back onboard. Due to its proximity to the marina you can expect more action, people and boats, so it’s worth keeping in mind the many other places to stop off if you are looking for real peace and quiet.
Now you have a good idea as to where to go, let’s take a look at the many things to do and explore:
Having looked at some of the beaches mentioned above, many, if not all, are good for snorkelling and diving. Formentera’s waters benefit from the perfect combination of a pleasant temperature throughout the year (a very pleasant 22° to 27°) and an impressive biodiversity, making for plenty to see underwater as the sun shines through the crystal clear waters towards the bright white sands below. The bluest of blue waters? Yes. Fish? Yes. Paradise? Yes!
Now if you like water sports, then kayaking is most likely on your radar. If you’re looking to stretch and move your limbs after spending time floating in the sun, then there is no better way to explore Formentera’s beaches, lighthouses and towers whilst admiring the flora and fauna from the comfort of your own kayak. With its shallow waters close to shore, kayaking is the perfect way to go round the island’s perimeter in calm waters, suitable for all ages. There are many places to rent kayaks and SUP onshore.
Formentera is ideal for cycling because of its small size and level terrain. The island is well signposted with cycle paths and green circuits that will take you in and around its architecture and deeper into the sand dunes and pine tree-lined countryside. Top tip, experience the sunset on the move and watch as the colours shift and change into deep oranges and purples, reflecting off its shallow waters in true Balearic twilight. There are many bike hire companies at the main port, and increasingly a number of e-bike options, such as HASHA Ibiza, who curate adventures with luxury lunches, yoga and adventure!
Discover the ‘mill route’
Keen for some history and culture? Formentera has a total of 6 windmills that are classed as cultural heritage on the island. Again, thanks to its small size, this makes for a mini adventure with fun for experienced hikers, leisurely weekend warriors and families alike. Rounded off with an ice-cold beverage, of course.
Fancy heading ashore to pick up some holiday gifts and trinkets? Formentera has retained its hippie essence which is on display through an array of handcrafted goods and stalls. We recommend the La Mola hippie market, open every Wednesday and Sunday, May to October, right by the La Mola lighthouse. Take in the sights and sounds of Formentera’s atmosphere before heading back to your boat.
It’s worth noting that the high season in Formentera is July and August and during these months prices tend to go up along with the number of visitors. Instead, we recommend going in May, June, September and even October when the restaurants are open and the beaches are less busy and peaceful.
No matter how you approach it, Formentera is a truly one-of-a-kind and special jewel in the Balearic crown and it will take just one visit for you to start building your own tips of where to go and places to see.