Fomentera, a 20 minute boat trip from Ibiza town, is adorned with the sandy footsteps of linen-clad A-listers – such as Leo DiCaprio and Cara Delevingne – who carve a private piece of the Med’s sparkling little secret
The watershed moment en route to Formentera comes when you realise dry land is only millimetres above water and the island is pretty much completely flat.
You don’t need a watch – the contentment of time by the sky is what trips to Formentera is all about. Well, that and lunch.
Often referred to as Ibiza’s hippy ‘little sister’, the smallest of the four major Balearic islands has been a place of elegant escape since the Sixties. Titans of chill from Bob Marley to Jimi Hendrix once flocked to Formentera. There’s even a rumour that Bob Dylan watched the sunset over Africa’s Barbary Coast from the Cap De Barbaria Lighthouse.
Still, it’s not the effect of musical legends that’s made Formentera the coolest holiday destination in the Mediterranean since Kate Moss rocked up at Ibiza airport in tasselly cowboy boots.
For this, the blame must be laid at the door or, rather, the boot and heel of the Italians – who are, controversially, actually not much loved by Spaniards.
The Italians adore Formentera like the Italians adore really bad techno. During high season, as much as 75% of the population is from the land of enthusiastic hand gestures and the island has become a bit of bolt hole for wealthy Italians looking to avoid crowds of their countrymen on the beaches of mainland Spain. Half the bars and restaurants are run by Italians who live here all year round.
Ask any of Formentera’s Italian devotees why, and you’ll hear the same thing. That it looks more like the Maldives than the Mediterranean aside, it’s because this tiny utopia just doesn’t change. Ibiza’s super-clubs and mega-hotels are yet to arrive in Formentera – developers have been stopped from doing almost anything at all by the iron fist of the authorities, who have strict aesthetic criteria for new structures, and, most significantly, a blanket ban on beachfront buildings.
“Unspoilt” might be one of the overused words in the history of travel writing, but there’s no other way to describe Formentera’s postcard #nofilter beaches, white-washed villages, heathery scrub, salt plains and sand dunes. As the island’s website says “the last paradise of the Mediterranean”.
Modern tourism hardly exists in Formentera. There’s no airport, very few hotels, (though no shortage of luxury villas), no designer shops, and NO American fast-food chains.Many of the roads are dirt tracks, much of the pine-covered countryside protected and areas in the north part of a World Heritage Site. The Ses Salines Natural Park safeguards a Unesco-protected seagrass, posidonia, that’s one of the oldest living organisms in the world and which filters the water offshore and keeps it crystalline. So there.
But the Italian’s best-kept secret is almost out, thanks to the likes of Cara Delevingne and Leonardo DiCaprio. Claims that the island was planning on banning selfies and man buns may have been wildly under-reported, but British interest has been piqued by increasing reports of celebrities descending on Formentera.
Package tour operators are now attempting to cash in on the tranquility, and the possibility that the island may be only one summer away from ruinous change – of morphing into a grotesque Majorcan mini-me – seems increasingly plausible.
So, if there was ever a time to soak up Formentera’s restorative “time stands still” vibe it’s now.
Swim, eat, drink, repeat: this is the format for Formentera’s golden days. This is a destination for people who like the good things in life, sure, but aren’t taken in by bright lights and flashy fanfare. Yes, it’s luxury but it’s laid-back luxury. Think stealth wealth – nothing more ostentatious than a creased white linen outfit, say. Be prepared to feel like your purse has undergone open-heart surgery – even the supermarkets are extortionate. Two weeks in Formentera would be enough to make David Gandy’s eyes water.