FORMENTERA – THE ISLAND OF THE FREE

I’m sitting in the first row of a plane not far from Treviso, Italy. We’re boarding for Ibiza, and I’m feeling completely thrilled and anxious at the same time. On my right; I can see glimpses of the Alps and the bright red sun setting, and on my left is notorious Venice, its islands, and the Adriatic – with my homeland somewhere further off in the horizon. The lights go off, the voices in the plane go silent. The cabin crew ready is for take-off as the day turns to dark. Though my day started early that morning in Zagreb – this is where I felt that my journey to the Spanish island of Formentera really began.

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Most people have heard of Ibiza. Even those who aren’t too sure of its location know that it’s noted for its intense party scene. Though I never imagined that my path would take me here, the first stop towards my final destination was this exotic Balearic island.

The ferry boat directed for its neighboring Formentera was scheduled to leave the Eivissa port at half past midnight. I admit it – it wasn’t too easy for me to wait for that boat all alone at that hour, but I kept telling myself: if there is one place on Earth that is full of life, it’s Ibiza. So I waited patiently, strolling through its lively streets.

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Ten minutes into the ride, I decided to break the rules by stepping out onto the front deck, following the crew of young men that were seated next to me. That unforeseen moment – feeling the salty, Mediterranean air on my skin while surrounded by complete darkness, and a magical, starry sky – was when I already knew that the trip was worth the wait.

Formentera is known as a hippie island, where people feel free to not only go topless at the beach – but also completely naked. It’s so normal you don’t even think twice about the nudity laying 5 meters from you. Its area takes up 83 square kilometers, with two main streets and many, many off-road paths and sandy routes, through which vehicles have a difficult time making their way.

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While my friends and I were searching for accommodation, we were looking to find it in one of the villages further off from the port La Savina. By chance, a few vacant beds were left in one of its most attractive (and oldest!) hostels – Hostal Pepe, located in Sant Ferran de Ses Roques. Between romantic bars and restaurants crowded with people, at 1:30 AM all you could hear was live music and the sound of different languages – a true Spanish sensation in the air.

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The next morning, despite little sleep, I woke up slightly hyperactive. I stepped out onto our balcony and had a first look of the island by day, instantly falling in love. The modest, rural architecture, desert-like vegetation, and interesting boho-chic details in the exterior were all so quiet and picturesque. The only people that I could see were waiters, bringing chairs and tables out into the streets, getting ready for breakfast. In that moment, it seemed as though my decision not to research my destination prior to my arrival was going to be the right one.

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formentera beaches

If you ask for advice on which beach of Formentera to visit first, you will most likely understand that here, you could spend weeks and weeks relaxing and uncovering all of its beauty. It wasn’t easy choosing which direction to take first, but one look at Caló de Sant Agustí was enough for us to stay. Descending to the turquoise-blue water down the sandy, red cliffs reminded me of home, in some strange way.

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One of the beaches many recommend is Caló des mort. Though the path leading there is not an easy one by car, it’s worth every steep and scary turn. Emerging from the dense pine trees to witness a view that spreads across the entire southern side of the island, the open sea, and far-away Africa, was like seeing an oasis in the midst of a desert.

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food, fashion, and fun

Where to eat and drink? Locals will gladly answer that question, though it’s hard to find them since many foreigners from all over the world come to work on Formentera with each new season. The most popular foods are, naturally, fish specialties and modern fusion menus, such as the options you have at the exquisite little restaurant-bar Maricastaña and Pantaléon.

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The typical fashion to be seen on the island is very nonchalant, basic, and pleasant to the eye. There were lots of light-weight, natural materials, such as linen and cotton shirts and tunics, straw hats and bags, and of course – the inevitable Spanish espadrilles.

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One evening, just before sunset, we visited a hippie market in El Pilar de la Mola on the far east of the island. Supposedly, it’s also the best viewpoint of the entire island, but we only got there on time to enjoy the live music, artists and craftsmen selling their handmade work, and to buy 5-Euro woven straw slippers.

Besides enjoying delicious dinner courses that often start just before midnight, those for whom nightlife presents an unavoidable segment of summer fun, there are a number of night clubs all over the coast where you can dance and drink until the early morning. “Take the turn at kilometer 7.8”, a local explained, “…and drive all the way down – that’s where you’ll find Blue Bar”.

In our search for Las Salinas, the natural salt reserves in pastel-pink and crystal hues, the macadam off the main road ended up taking us to Torre de la Gavina, one of the forts that served in the defense against pirates for centuries. We did end up visiting the saltine park, though – and what a sight to see!

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One morning, my friends asked me if I was ready to go kayaking with them – another chance to push myself out of my ordinary beach mode, and experience something new. Three hours and lots of sore muscles later, I was one happy adventurer who could say she swam with the pretty yellow-green fish and creepy, translucent medusas. Though everyone seemed frightened of jumping into the water between the cliffs, in that moment choosing courage over fear felt almost obligatory.

Admittedly, one of the most majestic moments was arriving at Beso Beach just before the sunset. Joining hundreds of people that seemed to be like one big Formentera family – people who you would perhaps see at breakfast, at a bar late at night, or sitting next to you on that plane for Ibiza – were all standing there together, sharing what seemed to be an eternity.

Though I am aware that all good things come to an end, it seemed too early to leave this heaven on Earth after only a few days. Feeling kind of down back in Ibiza, having just left two amazing friends, I decided to cheer myself up by exploring the town a bit by day.

After browsing around numerous souvenir shops, somehow I ended up entering “Les Espadrilles de Charlotte” – where I befriended the designer and owner of the shop, who showed me all of her hand-made models– one of which Pablo Picasso even used to wear! Half an hour into our chat on fashion, craftsmanship, and cultures – we spontaneously started photo-shooting her lovely shoes on the walls of the church across the street. That’s the thing about traveling that gets me all of the time – the adventures that shape you into a new you. I left completely inspired and dehydrated in 40-degree weather.

Traveling inspires us for new ideas and gives us a healthy push forward for new beginnings in life, such as the start of new projects, or even going back to the same old routine. I find that if we are open and flexible enough to adapt to what may not seem like the most attractive idea ever at first, wonderful things happen – the same life, but a whole new world. Traveling helps us discover how maybe our way, our culture of living, our habits and traditions, are neither the best or the worst out there – they’re just different.