Guide by Maya Boyd
A lost world of whitewashed villages, rugged terrain and beaches that would make the Caribbean blush, Formentera really is an escapist’s paradise.
Where to eat
It may be the most diminutive of the Balearics, but boy does Formentera pack a big culinary punch. Start your day with coffee and croissants on the sundrenched terrace of Cana Pepa (Plaza de la Constitution, 5, San Francesc, +34 971 321 091 canapepa.com) a chic but low-key café in the church square of San Francesc. We love to hit the beach the Formentera way, and that means going via Gran Iberico (Avenida Miramar, 6, Es Pujols, +34 971 328 132) a tiny traditional jamon bar for sensational pata negra ham with pan con tomate (traditional bread with tomato paste) and icy shots of the local liquor, hierbas. For a beach lunch with a view, you can’t beat El Tiburon (Playa Illetes, +34 659 638 945 tiburon-formentera.com). On the silkiest swathe of Illetes beach, we love the rice dishes and the epic salads, plus the beach-friendly wine list (Domaine Ott rosé, anyone?). Come supper time, the foodies among you will want to hit up Can Carlos (San Francesc, +34 971 322 874 cancarlos.com), the walled courtyard mecca to fine Italian dining. A thousand fairy lights twinkle overhead while an open grill lends a sense of theatre. Alternatively, if you still have sand in your hair, head to Macondo (Calle Mayor, San Ferran, +38 706 555) it’s everyone’s favourite pizza restaurant and with its keen prices and vibey streetside location, you can see why.
Where to sleep
It’s all about early nights and early mornings in Formentera, so you’ll want somewhere lovely to lay your head. If peace, tranquility and hands-on service are high on your list, head down the winding camino to Es Ram (Carretera la Mola, +39 011 81 85 270 esramresort.com. Villas from £2500 per week B&B).
A luxury eco-resort where the cliffs of La Mola plunge into the sea, this place is decadent and divine. It’s Kate Moss’s Formentera bolthole for good reason. For something smart but more low-key, the brand new agroturismo Es Pas (Playa Mitjorn, +34 687 807 819. From £70 B&B) is a good option. Request an upstairs room - these are light and breezy and have balconies overlooking the pool deck or the surrounding countryside.
Las Dunas Playa (Carretera, La Mola, Km.11, +34 971 328 041 dunasplaya.com. Two person apartments from £80 room only) is a great mid-range option for those who like to fend for themselves – the group of simple bungalows are literally scattered among the dunes of Mitjorn beach and there’s a cool little open-air bar with a pool table and a great soundtrack. Another beach favourite is Las Banderas (Playa Mitjorn, Km. 8.7, +34 971 321 896. hotelresidenceformentera.com. Doubles from £102 B&B) the boho beach haven once owned by makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury’s sister, Leah. It’s under new management but retains a relaxed, hippy vibe. Formentera isn’t flush with B&Bs, but Casa Ariadna (San Francesc. firstname.lastname@example.org. Doubles from £60 B&B) really makes up for it. A charming, Provencale-styled country house with blue shutters, the rooms here are chic and neutral with driftwood accents and splashes of colour. Bathrooms are top-notch and you can expect tremendous breakfasts and a lovely warm welcome from Ariadna herself. Bungalows KM9 (Playa Mitjorn, Km. 9, +34 648 510 687 formenterainlove.net) are just as they sound – a pair of whitewashed bungalows on Mitjorn beach (below) with pretty terraces, thoughtful décor and a fabulous pool.
Hostal Entre Pinos (Carretera de la Savina, 3, +34 971 327 019 hostalentrepinos.com. Doubles from £46 B&B) has a basic, slightly 70s aesthetic (and pool) near Acapulco, the popular surf shack in Es Calo, while Formentera Chic (Two pictures above) (formenterachic.com) has a number of bijou studios and apartments across the island. Prices vary depending on location.
Where to go out
Formentera nightlife is the antithesis of hedonistic Ibiza, but it does have after-dark allure. Es Pujols is the only real resort town, and it really is charm personified – take a stroll along the buzzing promenade and take in the night market, stopping for a drink at any number of waterfront bars – Bananas & Co (Calle Espardell, +34 636 512 888 bananasformentera.com) is popular and gets loud’n’rowdy with excitable Italians sinking cocktails in high summer. German techno maestro Sven Väth hosts occasional pop-ups of his Ibiza night, Cocoon, at Es Pujols’ tiny club, Tipic (Avenida Miramar, 164, Es Pujols, +34 676 885 452 clubtipic.com). If you’re after something more traditional, Fonda Pepe (Calle Mayor +34 971 328 033), in the heart of tiny San Ferran, is a rock’n’roll mecca where Pink Floyd and the Bobs (both Dylan and Marley) played in the 1970s. It’s as basic as it gets, but oozes character. Lastly, don’t forget the beach – both Blue Bar ((below)Playa Mitjorn, +34 666 758 190 bluebarformentera.com) and Flipper & Chiller (Playa Es Arenals, Mitjorn, +34 971 187 596 flipperandchiller.com) on Mitjorn stay open after dark, while Illetes newbie Beso Beach (Playa Illetes, +34 9712 324 572 besobeach.com) really gets going when the sun goes down.
Where to shop
There are no chain stores in Formentera – it’s all about boutiques, crafts and handiwork. That’s not to say it’s not smart though – Obi (below) Calle 8 Agosto, 55, San Francesc, +34 971 322 843 obiformentera.com) offers chic separates in luxury fabrics - we love the great marl silk jersey sweatpants.
What to wear
It’s all about low-key luxe here – think denim cutoffs and macramé bikinis, accessorized with a statement gold cuff and a messy braid. If you’re hiring a scooter (you should) then biker boots will protect your toes.
Don't leave Formentera without…
Hiring a scooter (formenteramotorent.com from £17 per day). The island is tiny and there’s really only one road – everything else falls in the camino (dirt track) category – so go it alone on two wheels and feel the wind in your hair.
Sybarites head to the spa at Es Mares (Calle Santa Maria, 15, San Francesc, +34 971 323 216 hotelesmares.com), Formentera’s only luxury townhouse hotel, for the full 5-star works. But those in the know swim to the island of Espalmador, just off Illetes beach, and head over the dunes to the hot, sulphurous mudbaths. Wallow in glee then wash it all off in the sea for baby-soft skin and hair.
How to get there: boats from Ibiza
Trasmapi (trasmapi.com) and Balearia (balearia.com) both offer regular returns to Formentera (up to every 30 minutes in high summer). Of these Trasmapi is the fastest (30 minutes) but you’ll need Balearia if you’re taking your car. Prices from £36 return per person. Timetables can be found online or just book on the spot at Ibiza Town port.
How to get there: By plane
Easyjet (easyjet.com) flies from selected UK airports to Ibiza from around £150 return.