The small village of San Rafael can be found on the main road between Ibiza town and San Antonio.
Like all Ibiza villages it is dominated by its late 18th Century church with amazing views all the way down to Ibiza’s harbour, busy with cruise ships and big ferries. If open, also have a look into the church, it is really beautiful.
The two main features of the village itself are the many restaurants and the pottery workshop. San Rafael has been declared the only artisan zone – Zona de Interés Artesanal – in Ibiza because of the traditional pottery shops there. The pottery is sold in two shops in the village and in the many roadside shops on the whole island. The Icardi ceramic workshop has a wide selection of pottery made in exactly the same way today as when first introduced to the island by Mediterranean invaders thousands of years ago.
At the geographical heart of the island, the village of Santa Gertrudis, is Ibiza in microcosm. Steeped in tradition, its main square houses the whitewashed church and a cluster of bars, restaurants and shops, whilst in the rich agricultural landscape all around, live sheep, goats and the island’s only dairy cows.
It’s also a home from home for many new residents from Europe and beyond who have brought a different, can we say Bohemian? style of living to the village. Many artists, sculptors and musicians have settled here over the years and their works are everywhere – in galleries and most famously in the Bar Costa where penniless artists in the hippy era would swap paintings for food and now hanging art competes with hanging hams for space.
Santa Gertrudis has expanded rapidly but carefully over the last few years. Smart modern villas now line the new streets, the village square has had a makeover and is now a pedestrian friendly plaza and new, hip café bars and restaurants have joined traditional Ibicenco establishments as the village’s eatery scene achieved critical mass.
Sant Llorenç de Balafia
San Lorenzo (Sant Llorneç de Balàfia) is near an ancient Moorish settlement between Santa Eulalia and Santa Gertrudis dominated by its imposing church and a few surrounding watch towers. The village is one of the smallest villages in the North part of Ibiza. The village is under the municipality of San Juan. The church which was built in the 18th century is built on a highest point of the village. There are a few houses here, but a bar and restaurant serves as the best excuses to stop, as does the rather lovely picnic and barbecue area above the hamlet. This unusual arrangement is popular with locals as a spot where you can turn up with your own food and drink, and find everything else laid on by the local authorities. We’re talking everything from ready built barbecues to dry wood and covered eating areas replete with rustic tables and benches. You won’t believe the amenities until you stumble across this unique facility.
The village of San Lorenzo has some historic architecture which is the traditional Ibizan style. The village is built around the church with historic pirate towers which were builit to protect the villagers from attacks. Font de Balàfia which is a traditional fountain that is part of the Balafia village where they do the folk dances that take place during the once a year fiesta on the 10th of August. San Lorenzo is a quite a flat area and has many fields surrounding it of lemon trees and orange trees. Another noticeable thing is the long road to San Lorenzo from the San Juan road is one very straight road an sort of tells you a lot about the area as being very open and flat. Although there is a slight accent towards the town because its kind of built on a side of a hill. But the views from the town are towards very open fields.
It comprises a church, a supermarket, a few bars and several surrounding houses – but not much else, which only adds to the rural charm here.
Santa Inés is a wonderful place to visit in order to discover the real Ibiza of the Ibicencan farmers, far away from the hustle-and-bustle of Ibiza Town and San Antonio.
Do take a walk around near the village, as the surrounding countryside is simply breathtaking, with fields of orange, lemon and almond trees set against the deep, ochre-red of the earth and the many different greens of the pine trees.
Another great way to see the countryside is with the Ibitren, which stops here in Santa Inés. Sit back, relax and enjoy the tour.
If you’d like to stay near Santa Inés, the rural hotel Can Pujolet, comes highly reccommened and is only 3 minutes away from the town centre.
Occupying a commanding position, the village and its fortress church, built between the 14th and 18th centuries, dominate the countryside all the way down to the coast at Puerto de San Miguel, which was once the fishing port of San Miguel and is now a popular small resort. These days the church is more of a landmark to the thousands of tourists who pass through here on route to the big hotel complexes. It’s also the venue for high kicking displays of traditional folk dancing as practised by the local folk lore groups on Thursdays from 6pm in summer. Down in the village’s main square there’s a craft market on Thursdays too. Here, only products actually made in Ibiza are for sale, and these range from pottery, fresh produce like honey with the scent and taste of the island, bamboo carvings, water colour paintings and handmade sun catchers. The village has its fair share of little bars and restaurants, C’an Rei is a traditional restaurant with a range of tapas, while Es Bosc, a small finca with shady garden, serving tapas, meat and fish, is just outside the village on the road to Santa Gertrudis.
Puerto San Miguel is worth a visit if only to gaze upon the magnificent mansion on the Illa des Bosc which overlooks the port and belongs to the proprietors of a chain of Dutch department stores. A Russian billionaire recently hired it and threw a private concert at which Julio Iglesias and The Gypsy Kings were booked to perform.
However not that many roubles are required for a fabulous seafood lunch at Port Balansat, by repute one of Ibiza’s best fish restaurants, which is just by the beach. The cave of Can Marça, a former smugglers’ hideaway, is an interesting diversion from the port. It’s well sign posted and is on the way to hippie heaven, Benirras beach, famous for its sunset drumming.
San Carlos became famous as a hippy village in the 60s and 70s as many of those long-haired peace-lovers settled in the beautiful surroundings of this northern Ibiza village. They often lived in old farmhouses, known as ‘fincas’, often without electricity or even running water! Today, you’ll still find them there – the real hippies. For them, being a ‘hippy’ is a lifestyle, not just a fashion. Here, many prefer to live without modern comforts, with as little money – and work – as possible and with a true, communal spirit. Traditionally, the hippy community would gather in Anita’s Bar – because they had the only phone in the village! Even today you can visit the original phone booth in the bar – and use it – it’s still very much functional.
There is a sense of time standing still in San Carlos. For example, old mailboxes made of wood cover an entire wall in Anita’s Bar, because even today, there is no postal delivery service to every house in the stunning San Carlos countryside. So many people still pick up their post at Anita’s Bar – and take the opportunity for a leisurely chat accompanied by a cool hierbas on ice. Today’s new hippy generation also congregate in Las Dalias, located about 1 km before San Carlos (coming from Santa Eulalia). It’s here you’ll find one of the most original hippy markets with its hundreds of brightly coloured stalls and larger than life characters.
Every Saturday from 10am until late in the evening, all year round, the sellers build up their stalls on the ivy-covered terraces and courtyards, whilst during the summer, you can also catch the market each Monday night. Meanwhile, Las Dalias is not only known for the hippy market. Throughout the week a variety of events take place such as Namaste, featuring live performances and chill-out music every Wednesday night. You will find the current programme of Las Dalias widely advertised all over the island – look out for posters and flyers. And during winter, the island meets here for the Christmas market – there’s even mulled wine!
The Las Dalias restaurant has a rustic interior in the basement, with white plaster walls where old farm tools hang, and a romantic garden terrace – and there also is a rooftop bar!
The pretty village has become host to one of Ibiza’s most vibrant live music festivals, too – Ai Carai which takes place every year in June, very close to the Festival of San Juan and a particularly great time to visit. The local Fiesta of San Carlos is celebrated in the weeks around the Patron’s Saint Day on the 4th of November.
San Carlos is also the junction where all the roads meet, that later branch off to many other gorgeous east coast beaches such as Cala Leña, Cala Nova, Aguas Blancas and Cala San Vicente.
It’s therefore probably the least affected by conventional tourism. This traditionally rural area is now the home to the most number of agrotourist (rural) hotels in all Ibiza. Visitors come here to step back in time to the days when the island was a quiet Spanish backwater.
It’s also hippie headquarters for those who have moved to the island to seek an alternative lifestyle embracing spiritual philosophy and a healthier way of life. As usual, the village is lorded over by the 18th century whitewashed church. Unusually the rest of the architecture is not all the traditional cubic, bleached white Ibicenco houses. There’s an air almost of Atlantic Spain with stone built houses with sloping roofs on the outskirts of the village. The main street is a joy. Quiet, flower bedecked, wrought iron balconies and ancient wooden doors lead visitors up the cobbles and steps. Here and there the scent of garlic, the hiss of coffee machines and the chatter of clients in the bars.
There’s not a lot going on in San Juan, and that’s its main attraction! Cala San Vicente is worth a visit for its fine sandy beach and safe waters. The cave of Es Culleram, a shrine to the Goddess Tanit dating back 2400 years can be found on the way to the coast and the restaurant Can Gat by the beach is such a popular seafood eatery that local people drive miles to get there.
Situated in the North of the island, Portinatx immediately impresses with not one but three great beaches – S’Arenal Gros (which is the largest), S’Arenal Petit (which is more private) and Playa Porto Beach – each one of them fully kitted out with sunbeds and lifeguards to ensure complete peace of mind and body. Each one is an easy stroll from all the resorts accommodation.
Ibiza is very beautiful and Portinatx is one of the best resorts from which to experience this. The waters are stunningly clear, making it a favourite with snorkelers and scuba-divers. There are small ferry boats that will leisurely take you down to Puerto de San Miguel and even San Antonio and regular busses connect to Ibiza Town. It might not be in the middle of the clubbing scene – better for those looking to chill- out between nights out – but everywhere is easily accessible for when you do want to check out the beats or sights of the island.
San José sits high in the hills in the centre of the borough with the same name and has some excellent restaurants, a few shops, bars, a church and a shady arbour in which to sit and contemplate village life. San José is first and foremost a living village and it is not a tourist centre. If it was then Ibiza’s highest hill, Sa Talaia, would have a chairlift to the top and a water slide down the ten or so kilometres to the bay of San Antonio.