Formentera is the smallest and southernmost of Spain's Balearic Islands. The island is flat and sandy with magnificent, unspoilt beaches. There are a few places where the land rises to present spectacular cliffs to the sea. It is perfect for cycling, walking, snorkelling and sailing.
With no airport and a population of just over 12,000 (2019), Formentera is usually quieter than its neighbour Ibiza. However, in the peak season of July-August, it draws huge numbers of tourists. The overwhelming majority are Italian and the Italian language is heard more often than any other. Some are independent travellers, but many come on package holidays. In peak season, advance booking for hotels is absolutely essential. The hotels on the island are mostly small and independently owned. The majority are in the one- and two-star categories. There are also many small apartment developments. There are no high rise buildings on Formentera. Camping is forbidden on the island.
It has very few cultural or historical attractions such as museums, castles, churches or art galleries. Its cultural attractions include some megalithic sites, a roman road, some watch-towers (18th century), the 18th century chapel of Sant Francesc Xavier and a small Ethnological museum.
Some of the islanders make their living from small-scale traditional fishing. In parts of the island, the soil is good enough to support vines and fruit trees. Several parts of the island are covered in Mediterranean pine trees. Salt marshes (now abandoned) are defining features of parts of the island. However, tourism is the biggest sector of the local economy.
Outside the peak season when the tourists are not mainly high spenders, Formentera has an atmosphere of simplicity and back-to-nature that is the heritage of its past hippie phase. More and more, parts of the island are actively managed as a national park with, for example, board-walks through the sand dunes to enable them to regenerate their vegetation. In addition, areas of the surrounding seas are designated as zones of particular scientific interest in which certain plant and fish species are protected.
The public authorities pursue a policy of responsible, sustainable tourism. It is questionable whether the saturation of tourists in the peak weeks of July and August is compatible with such a policy although, in reality, the revenues from this period are very important for the local economy.
- 1 Municipal Tourist Information Office Formentera, La Savina - Formentera, c / Calpe, s/n, Formentera, ☏ +34 971 322 057.
On Formentera the Catalan dialect formenterenq is the main language, but Standard Spanish is spoken by everyone as well.
Getting to Formentera is quite easy, as you can catch a boat from the Spanish mainland with your car from either Barcelona, Valencia or Denia to Ibiza (Eivissa) and from there catch another ferry to Formentera. In the summer months there are direct ferries between Denia and Formentera.
Alternatively, you can fly to Ibiza and Formentera can be reached by regular ferries from the Estacion Maritima in Ibiza Town and by tourist ferries from other parts of Ibiza during high season. If you're traveling Ibiza by car, check out the stop at Playa d'en Bossa which has a free public parking place right next to it (€20 for a return trip that takes about 60 minutes each way). The boat from Ibiza (Eivissa) to Formentera takes around half an hour, and leaves every half hour in the summer. The boat trip costs €17-24 per person for a single trip. You can buy the ticket on the boat, and you do not need to reserve, but if you want to take a car it is best to reserve during the high season.
Next to the standard ferry there is a yellow speedboat ferry for around €30 per person for a return trip. The speedboat starts from the beach of Platja d'en Bossa near Figueretes.
Regular buses during the summer season go to all parts of the island from the port, where most visitors arrive by ferry, but are less frequent during the winter months. Normally they leave every half hour. When planning your bus trip, make sure that you check that the bus stops at your destination, because strangely each bus stops at different stops. The bus charges a fixed fee of between €1 and €2, independently of where you get on or off. You can pay cash. All buses are tourbuses, so you can easily put your (big) travelling luggage in the bottom of the bus.
On Formentera you must see under water. All of the waters are perfectly transparent, and with goggles and a snorkel you can see all the beautiful fish and the bottom of the waters. You can buy a set of goggles and a snorkel everywhere on the island, for a price ranging between €10 and €20.
Apart from the beaches (see below) there are various sites that are worth a visit. Some of these sites are the lighthouses of Cap de Barbaria (south east) and El Pilar de la Mola (west). There are several caves on the island with the most visited being the Cap de Barbaria cave located on the right of the lighthouse facing the sea.
The only other destinations on Formentera are the almost Caribbean beaches. Generally they are pretty empty (especially compared to Ibiza), with clean sands and clean, transparent water. Most people sunbathe nude on Formentera. The sun can be very strong on the island.
Some good beaches:
- 1 Platja Llevant.
- 2 Platja de ses Illetes. Crowded beach.
- 3 Cala Saona.
- 4 Platja Migjorn.
- 5 Platja Es Arenals.
- 6 Platja des Canyers. It's 85 m long, lies between Es Pujols and Sa Roqueta and is a little unspoilt naturist beach, and has a low occupancy degree and where most people are naked when they lie on the beach, are swimming or playing beach tennis.
- 7 Platja Tramuntana.
- 8 Espalmador. An island to the north of Platja de ses Illetes. Espalmador also has the famous mud baths, however as of July 2010, visitors are greeted by two female guards who stopped everybody and instructed to only look, but not touch or try, because it belongs to a highly protected nature reserve.
When choosing a beach for the day, consider the wind direction - some beaches may be rough while others are calm. Since the island is small, it is not difficult to change your plans at short notice.
Formentera also has two large lagoons, the Estany de Peix and Estany Pudent (Fish lagoon and Stinking lagoon). It's possible to swim on the south side of the Estany de Peix; the north is a boat harbour.
For the energetic traveller Formentera has a network of cycle tracks and green lanes, both around the lagoons and beaches, and going to the more wild upland areas of the Cap de Barbaria and la Mola.
- Renting a moped is what most people do, so you can easily and quickly get to your preferred beach.
- Rent a bicycle and cycle around the island.
- Snorkel in the crystal clear waters. Beware of poor quality snorkel and goggles.
- Relax and chill out in one of the birth places of the hippie movement.
- Formentera has a strong nude beach culture with nudity common on all the island's beaches. There's no pressure and normally there's a mix of states of attire, with 'clothing optional' being the key phrase, but try it out, it's actually pretty nice!. The sole exception is the town beach in Es Pujols during the peak season.
- Ibiza Yachting Group. Alquiler de yates en Ibiza y Formentera. Yacht charter and sailing, from bareboat to crewed in Balearic islands.
Pick up a pair of traditional Espadrilles, traditional footwear that is light weight and protects your feet against the sometimes rocky surface of the island.
Formentera has many, many small restaurants, varying in price and quality. Most are run by hippies, and are very cheap with medium quality.
- 1 Sa Sequi, La Savina (along the coast to the N from the port), ☏ +34 679864900, +34 648198050. A beach-side restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere.
- 2 Restaurante Aigua, La Savina (at the SE corner of the harbour), ☏ +34 971 32 33 22. A choice of seafood and Mediterranean cuisine; a sushi terrace upstairs.
- 3 PanPerFocaccia, La Savina (at the harbour), ☏ +34 971 32 10 01, +34 652 36 56 77. For the real pizza from Napoli.
- 4 El Gaucho, Es Pujols. If you are in the mood for real meat from Argentina.
- 5 Bocasalina, Carrer des Fonoll Marí, 2 (Es Pujols), ☏ +34 971 32 91 13. Spanish tapas.
- 1 Tipic, Es Pujols.
- 2 10.7, Migjorn beach (Exit on km 10.7 of Carretera de La Mola road).
- 3 Blue Bar, Migjorn beach (Signed exit from La Mola road), ☏ +34 666 75 81 90, firstname.lastname@example.org. Around since the 1960s, this bar enjoys fantastic sea views along Migjorn beach and is good for a few sundowners with a DJ providing chilled out mood music during peak season.
- 4 Gecko Beach Club, Playa Migjorn, Ca Mari, ☏ +34 971 328024. 09:00 - 02:00. Cool modern boutique hotel with beach side restaurant
Formentera has a variety of options for accommodation on the island. Where at first it was mainly basic hostels, there are now many hotels and villas being reformed or constructed to cater for the more demanding clientele that the island is attracting.
- 1 Hostal la Savina, La Savina (in the harbour of Formentera).
- 2 Sa Talaya (Near playa Migjorn). A collection of independent bungalows.
- Decode Formentera. A local independent villa rental agency.
There appears to be very little crime on Formentera (especially compared to Ibiza). The most common type of crime is petty theft of small items such as jewelry and documents, but this is still in very small numbers. It is always recommended that you keep your belongings safe.
Be careful with walking on the (asphalt) road in the dark. The island is notorious for people (often tourists) drinking and driving. In general the car driving style on the island is not very subtle.