The Balearic Islands have bagged themselves quite the reputation, namely thanks to the influx of Brits flaunting off to Ibiza for a week sloshed with booze, sun and regrets. But even though the island is renowned worldwide as being the biggest party island maybe, ever, over the last few years, there’s been a surge of tourists opting for the quieter side of this beach-y island with a few scooting off for a blissful day-trip over to Ibiza’s little brother, Formentera.
Perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones whose managed to snag up a week retreat while the younger, quainter and, without a doubt, quieter sibling, or you’re yet to tick this little beauty off your lengthy bucket-list but I can say wholeheartedly Formentera is the tropical-esque destination you need on your radar because of their striving desire of promoting sustainable tourism.
The Glorious Beaches
Just a stones throw away from Ibiza, Formentera is the smallest of the Balearic Islands and has a certain charm about it. It could have something to do with the dreamy Mediterranean waters, pink-tinted sands and continual sun rays shining hard throughout the year. So, you can forget being stuffed like sardines in a can on the only strip of sand near your hotel because there’s a whole lotta beach to go around and they’re as roomy as anything. Admittedly I swanned off to the island towards the end of the tourist season but you don’t have to worry about pitching up on the sands at the crack of dawn to bag yourself a seat with a view…
Out of the string of waters I have the opportunity to bathe within, the ocean around Ses Illetes beach was by far the dreamiest. And, I’m not alone on my love affair with the beach as one of the locals told us at lunch the spot is a celebrity hideout and we were extremely lucky to have bagged ourselves a table for 20 at the beaches only restaurant, Pirata Formentera. It’s also the perfect spot to spread your fins wide as you snorkel along counting the fish beneath the crystal clear waters. The waters are pretty shallow so ponder a little further out into the open seas and you’ll be able to spot a bed of oceanic posidonia below.
The Marine Meadows
These aren’t just any old meadows you’d find near your house in the countryside. No, these are oceanic meadows and like most ocean beds, Formentera’s have been poked, prodded and damaged by us ‘trusty’ humans but the locals are doing their best to rectify the harming effects of human tampering. Doing their bit to help is Save Posidonia Project, a pioneering project born out of the desire of the Consell Insular of Formentera (Balearic Islands) to boost as well as promote sustainable tourism and raise funding for the conservation of the oceanic posidonia marine plant. The posidonia plays a vital role in the coastal ecosystem, helping to filter the water’s sediments and giving a unique transparency.
You’ll find meadows upon meadows of the marine plant surrounding the island and Ibiza, and since 1999, the meadow was actually declared a World Heritage Site so protecting it is a high priority for those living on the islands. While visiting, I had the delight of attending the Forum Posidonia 2019 and heard from global representatives who’re striving to do their bit in order to change the tourism of Formentera and Ibiza into a more sustainable realm, from eliminating single-waste plastic from the islands by 2021 to generating awareness to future generations about the vital importance of posidonia meadows in Formentera. The best way to explore these wonderful oceanic beds is getting a boat trip and snorkelling or diving beneath and seeing the beautiful plants and creatures who roam the waters.
Wholehearted culture and community spirit
If there’s one thing we’ve lost as a country, more specifically London, it’s our inability to switch off and spend the evening away from our phones, social media and screens, and indulge in an evening of wining and dining. We’ve created a space where express dining is favoured, which I’ve personally grown to loath, so when in Formentera I revelled in the independent restos (you won’t find any Maccie’s or big corporations over here), cultural history and friendliness of the locals.
When you’re as tiny as Formentera (it’s literally 20km in length!), it’s hardly surprising its bustling with independent businesses and local markets. Back in the hippy-age of the 1960s, the island saw an influx of long haired hippies hop over and set up shop. Nowadays you can time travel back to the 60s trawling up and down the island, hippy market after hippy market nuzzled with trinkets, homemade fabrics and one-of-a-kind embellished piece you can’t help but fall in love with.
Nowadays everyone’s trying to do their bit when it comes to sustainability, and the people of Formentera (and Ibiza) are striving to go the extra mile. We’re talking eliminating single-use plastic from the island by 2021, weekly beach cleans up, conserving and protecting the posidonia surrounding the island, and most importantly, teaching tourists to respect the island and the local economy. The hot topic of conversation was helping independent businesses reduce and eventually eliminate single use plastics completely, which is done through a star rating system (three stars being the best, zero ultimately being the worse). Even the larger hotels are jumping on board and doing their bit, with many already abolishing plastic altogether. Our hotel, Insotel Formentera Playa, was one of the larger establishments on the island and have already been awarded two out of three stars for their plastic demolishing commitment. If only a few more Brits were taking a few tips from the island over here in the UK…
More Than Just A Pan Of Paella…
If I learnt anything on the trip, it’s that the Spanish don’t mess around when food is involved! I was continually rolling around in a food coma trying to hide my food baby from sight when strolling the beaches in my swimsuit. But you won’t ever find me complaining about hefty portion sizes. Of course, being nuzzled in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, it’s hardly surprising most menus centre around the ocean. A favourite spot amongst the group was definitely Las Dunas Playa in Ed Migjorn, brimming with seafood. Being the veggie among the group, I took on the challenge of indulging in the heaps of grilled veggies slathered in olive oil and salt on a bed of quinoa. Combined with free flowing wine, it was a challenge I eagerly accepted!
One for the eco warriors is Restaurant Can Vent. Nestled in Es Pujols, the restaurant prides itself in sourcing solely from the earth and the sea so you won’t see any miscellaneous processed foods here, and each tapas dish is created to surprise you. The food was once again earthy and fresh, with the crisped vegetable lasagne being the showstopper of the night. While the interiors and eco-inspired decor wowed us Instagram fiends away with its bohemian chic and neutral tones.
For now, I’ll leave you with the lingering aroma of wine and paella. If the island is good enough for the dreamy Leonardo DiCaprio, it’s good enough with us!