The Best of Formentera: Sand, Shopping and Sublime Villas
The small Spanish island of Formentera retains an old-fashioned charm and tranquillity that is increasingly difficult to come by in an age of mass tourism and development. Whilst it is justly popular as a day trip from Ibiza, Formentera is also a superb destination in its own right.
The attractive capital, Sant Francesc, forms a natural hub of activities. The beautiful church of St Francesc Xavier is almost 300 years old. Its evocative, dark interior was once used for protection as well as worship, with islanders taking refuge from pirates inside. Quirky Big Store combines a shop with a fun café serving fresh juice and delicious breakfast and lunch options.
There are many other interesting artisan shops in Sant Francesc but the island’s most famous retail experience is La Mola Market. Formentera has a proud hippy heritage, having attracted creative visionaries throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and the market provides a showcase of bohemian craft products. The majority of them are crafted from local materials and make the perfect gifts.
A great part of Formentera’s reputation rests on its pristine white sand beaches. Every local has a favourite, often one of the completely unspoilt beaches in the Migjorn area on the island’s Southern coastline. Migjorn has the added draw of hip hangout Blue Bar. It is a great place to soak up the atmosphere and music along with a few drinks.
Playa Illetes offers the ultimate picture postcard experience. Its striking blue sea and white sand draw many visitors, and a number of excellent seafood restaurants dot the beach. Both Restaurante Illetes Playa and Es Parral are highly regarded for their fresh fish and welcoming atmosphere. Nearby Playa Llevant is a clothing optional beach which offers a serene expanse of soft sand.
Formentera is proud of its nature, and many of the sand dunes that the beaches back onto are protected. There are often signs along the beach walks describing some of the marine life, birds and flora that can be spotted, and many historic fisherman’s huts still linger in a beguiling nod to the island’s long history.
Villas are by far the best form of accommodation on the island and there are three which perfectly encapsulate Formentera’s cool coastal vibe. Villa Dalia has four en-suite bedrooms, two living rooms and a stunning pool deck with generous furnishings for sunbathing and lounging.
In a similar setting just outside Sant Francesc, Can Carlota villa sleeps up to twelve guests. It is an exquisite conversion of a former finca, or farmhouse and stables, set within a grove of olive and palm trees. The Olympic size infinity pool and outdoor dining and barbeque area are amongst the best the entire island has to offer.
For larger families or grand parties, the imposing modernist Leonor villa can comfortably accommodate up to eighteen people. Leonor’s bold look is nevertheless in complete harmony with its natural surroundings, and the architect’s design ensures the entire property is suffused with the island’s wonderful light. The property’s location on Cap de Barbaria offers extraordinary sea views stretching as far as Ibiza, and perfectly captures the charm and beauty of Formentera.
By Phileas French, Travel Writer