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Formentera (Spain)

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Country: Spain / Country Region: Balearic Islands / World Region: Europe

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      28.05.2001 02:51
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      This island is a little treasure well hidden in a few holiday brochures, but it is worth searching out for a truly wonderful holiday, a place where you really can relax and unwind. Formentera is the fourth of the Balearic Islands and is situated off the coast of Ibiza. It is approximately 3.6km from Ibiza, or half an hour by boat. The island is only around 18km long x 12km wide and being mostly flat, is ideal for cycling. There are very few travel companies who do travel to this island but it is very simple to arrange this holiday by yourself and can all be done online at a fraction of the cost of organising a package (link at foot of Opinion). Flights to Ibiza are accessible for all over the Uk and are very frequent during the summer months Arrival Facts and Figures Arrive Ibiza Airport Taxi to Puerto Formentera - 1800pts, 10 minute drive Ferry to Formentera - return fare - 4300pts, Journey time - half hour Frequency - every 11/2 hours First ferry -7.45am Last ferry - 8p.m. (return times same) Booking Ferry Tickets - port-side kiosk Taxi to resort - journey times and fares vary according to distance, but remember that the island is only 18km long. You can hire bicycles at the port in Formentera but we couldn't find one that could accommodate 2 large suitcases, two travel bags and some duty free:-). Car hire is also available but is probably a bit of a waste as you will not need a car to explore. There is a very infrequent bus service (named the regular bus!!!) which calls at all resorts but does arrive when and if. Mopeds are also popular but again two suitcases, two travel bags etc...... The whole journey from airport to resort is really quite painless and easy and takes around 3 hours (connections allowing). It is very pleasant and it sure beats sitting on a three hour coach journey.
      When we booked for Formentera, we wanted a holiday for two in a quiet, relaxed setting. I booked the holiday with no knowledge of the island, it was a gut reaction to the description in the brochure. We did, on this first trip, take the easy way out and booked a package. We arrived in Ibiza with thousands of other holiday-makers who were all herded onto waiting coaches. Our rep took us in a taxi to the port and helped us onto the waiting ferry. It was a wonderful feeling to escape the busy town and head out to the island. The ferry arrived in Formetera around half an hour later and a waiting taxi took us on a fifteen minute journey to the resort of Es Pujols. Our initial impression on disembarking was that this island was totally different to Ibiza. The vast amounts of cars and trucks we had seen at Ibiza port were replaced by three cars, two coaches, several hundred bikes, seven goats and a herd of sheep. The buildings were all three storeys or under and the general feeling was relaxed and unhurried. We had booked the Portu Saler apartments and were delighted to find that we had a second/top floor apartment overlooking the beach. It was well equipped and very spacious with a huge balcony around two sides which meant we could follow the sun all day. We noted that immediately under this block was a small supermarket and a restaurant, ideal for water and for those occassional breakfasts. The beach at that part of the town is actually a lagoon and the bouyancy in the water is incredible. It is hard to keep your feet on the ground. The sand is golden with very few rocks or pebbles. We floated for hours in the lagoon, with no need for airbeds. There are many beautiful beaches on Formentera, and the best way to reach them is to hire a bike. You can actually cycle until you find your own beach, where you can spend the day without seeing another soul. As the population of the island is only 6000 and the number of h
      oliday-makers is fairly small, the beaches are never crowded. You can easily cycle around the island in a day and in fact I don't think I have returned from a holiday feeling fitter. Remember to take a backpack for swimming gear and water bottles. It should be noted that some of Formentera's beaches are "clothes optional" but the main beaches are strictly swimwear. You must never leave a beach topless (ladies only..lol). Of course, we didn't read the notices on the board and found ourselves on the nudist beach, we did stay all day, and in fact went back another few times, but not exactly the place where you would want to bump into your neighbour...lol These are three of the most popular beaches but there are many more which are great fun to find, especially if it turns out to be your own beach for the whole day. There are many beach bars, some in the most remote locations, and all serve food. Mijhorn http://www.guiaformentera.com/playas/plzonas/migjorn.htm 6km of white sandy beach on the south of the island. The sea is crystal clear and there are several beach bars dotted along the coastline. Cala Sahona http://www.guiaformentera.com/playas/plzonas/sahona.htm Situated on the west of the island. More rugged coastline but beautiful, golden sandy beaches. Es Pujols http://www.guiaformentera.com/playas/plzonas/pujols.htm Situated on the north of the island and the most popular stretch of beach. Lagoon bathing and safe paddling make it ideal for families. The town of Es Pujols comes alive at night-time. There are so many restaurants. Food is very varied, with a fairly heavy German influence. The quality of food is very high and very different to mainland Spain. The accent is on sea food but chicken and lamb dishes are in abundance. We did not have a disappointing meal in two weeks of eating out twice a day. Local wines are palatable and cheap, as is beer
      but spirits can be expensive. The custom of serving crusty bread with a garlic mayonnaise spread as an appetiser was always welcomed. Many of the restaurants look out over the sea and can get slightly chilly in the evening. There are a few good cocktail bars in the town which gave us many evenings entertainment. Local bartenders usually have a lively personality and the barmen must be chosen for their handsome looks and tanned, muscular arms and....No, I diverse again...lol... A couple of nightclubs add to the atmosphere. There is a craft market set up in the town every evening. Many hippies travelled to this part of the world in the late sixties/early seventies and can still be found plying their trade in the market. Leather, silver, pottery are often original and very good buys. The stalls line the streets and enable you to wander around freely. You don't usually have to barter for goods as prices are fair and the stallholders are so relaxed about price, they don't mind what you offer as long as you don't insult their craft. While we were there, we were fortunate enough to witness two local festivals - Carmen the Virgin, patron saint of the mariners, which is celebratedon July 16th and patron saint, Sant Jaume, on 25th July. The street celebrations went on well into the night, with costume parades throughout the town. Fireworks displays were among the best we have seen. We danced the night away at one street party. The main industries of Formentera are farming and salt making but apart from a number of salt flat beds, industry on the island is not visible. Everyone is so relaxed that it is difficult to remember that people actually have to work. Service is always friendly, but never visit a restaurant when you are starving as most meals are cooked to order and usually take about half an hour (Ohh, I suppose that's why they supply the crusty bread and mayonnaise....that thought just occurred to me :
      -) Food is generally a bit more expensive than mainland Spain or the other Balearic Islands but is still less than we would pay in UK. Coach and boat tours leave each day to neighbouring Ibiza. There is a special late night ferry two nights a week so that you can go to the town for the evening. We did this trip, but only once. It was very disorientating stepping off the boat in Ibiza and being immediately caught up in the swamp of people milling around. We had dinner, wandered around for a few hours, visited the casino (where we won around £100) and came back on the boat. The much quieter island was a welcome retreat from Ibiza. This is not to say that Formentera is quiet at night, far from it, busy bars, restaurants and night clubs ensure that there is never a dull moment, but at least you have the option of going to the quieter part of town should you wish. Shopping is contained to small, individual outlets with local crafts such as lace, leather and hand painted jewellery. Most gifts are of really high quality and range in price, but they are individual and again very different to those found on the mainland......no donkeys or "My parents went to Formentera and all I got was..........." t-shirts here. However, another difference to mainland Spain is the cost of the holiday. Package holidays are considerably more expensive but that cost can be reduced by organising it yourself. Eating, drinking, entertainment and gifts will cost more but better quality does cost more and the quality is much higher. We adored Formentera and returned to re-live our experience. It had lost none of its magic. I would describe it as a magical paradise where you can be alone in the daytime and freely mix with others in the evening. Fabulous beaches with the cleanest sea you could imagine and superb food make it ideal for relaxing holiday. We saw some of the most incredible sunsets whilst eating in the evening. It took
      me a couple of weeks to adjust on my return as my body clock had slowed to Formetera pace, but I managed to find my way to the travel agent to book again for the following year. We are hoping to return this year and I will update as appropriate. I would thoroughly recommend Formentera as a holiday destination, an ideal place to forget your cares and one I am sure you will return to again and again. We have not taken our children there, it is just a place we like to escape to as a couple, kinda reminds you that there is life after children and that you were a couple before you were parents.......that's the magic for me :-) DIY Formentera: Apartments, history, facts and figures http://www.guiaformentera.com/ing/index.htm

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