Formentera by Boat
Those who believe that summer is the best time to enjoy the Mediterranean are mistaken. In Formentera, autumn is the ideal time to enjoy its charms (and with much more intimacy). We embark on a boat tour of the island over a week and the experience is beyond compare.
By Alicia Arranz for SPN Magazine
The (good) life on board
“You are about to have an experience that will leave a deep impression and, what’s more, I am warning you that sailing is like a drug and can cause addiction.” That’s how definitive the first words by Chimo, the skipper of our boat, were when he called all the sailors together for a welcome aperitif on the deck of our brand-new Lagoon 450. People’s faces were a mixture of uncertainty but also excitement at the prospect of spending the next seven days and six nights living together aboard a catamaran. Those who were not first-timers sat smiling whilst the others, or at least I, listened attentively to all the recommendations made by this man with a sparkling appearance and wind and wave-beaten skin. Right then, none of us there knew how right Chimo was, but what was certain was that it sufficed for a little more than an hour, the time it took us to allocate the cabins and accommodate all our belongings and provisions for a whole week in the appropriate compartments, making us feel that the boat was our house. A compact, floating house, but a house all the same. And very comfortable and cozy to boot. And so, excited and enveloped in an atmosphere of pure joy, we toasted with cava while the boat cast off. When we had almost lost sight of the other boats from the San Antonio de Portmany marina, so tiny had they become, someone opened another bottle and the sky began to blush. Being aware of being in the middle of the sea, beneath a sun which concerned itself with maintaining a perfect temperature, surrounded by all the blue in the world and listening to nothing but the whisper of the wind mixed with the gentle rumbling of the boat’s engine and with the splash of water in its wake, is a truly joyful feeling that everyone should get the chance to have at least once in their life. In this world we live in, we are all prisoners of stress. Accustomed to the frustration of always having a thousand things to do, every day brings dozens of messages everywhere we turn, which invite us to understand and enjoy life's little pleasures, to pay attention to the here and now, to connect fully with the present moment and with all the good things that life gifts us. Well, what almost always sounds like utopia becomes an actual reality when you wake at dawn in your cabin and the only thought going round your head is whether you fancy a morning dip in the turquoise water or to help yourself to a coffee from the pot steaming in the boat’s kitchen. And, for those who have never tried it, planning to choose a boat instead of a hotel or apartment for your holidays is an option well worth bearing in mind as there are many advantages and, on occasion, it can be an alternative that’s just as cheap, or even cheaper, than conventional accommodation depending, as with other types of accommodation, on what boat you take and when you go. Living barefoot and in permanent contact with nature, exploring picture-postcard beaches and coves, having a siesta caressed by the sea breeze, refreshing yourself in the crystalline water every now and again, seeing the best sunsets of your life and going to bed after gorging on stars and letting the sea stroke your hair as if you were in a cradle until falling into a deep sleep are just some of the rewards that are only offered on board a boat. It is certainly hard to imagine any other kind of holiday which promises so much relaxation and which manages to distance us so far from our usual routine.
Formentera under your skin
It could be said that a boat is a destination in itself in the same way that the important thing about a holiday is not where you go but what happens along the way. But if we talk about Formentera that all changes. Because the first time you see some of its most beautiful beaches, such as Es Palmador which has an incredible purity, is enough to make you realise that paradise does exist and that it is much nearer than we think. It really is a virgin beach, which can only be accessed by boat, with sand so white and water so clear that it seems unreal, even though it is not the only one like it. The one at Ses Illetes, framed in a setting of natural park, is a strip of land that extends into that part of the Mediterranean confused for the Caribean, stretching out in such beauty that it is considered amongst the best beaches in the world, and features in fifth position in the Tripadvisor Traveller’s Choice Awards 2015. Here, and also at the century-old Faro de la Mola, several scenes from Sex and Lucia were shot, the film by Spanish director Julio Medem in which the actress Paz Vega rose to fame, and in which the wild scenery was as much, if not more, the protagonist than the actors themselves. Very near the lighthouse is another of the popular icons of the island, the Molí, an eighteenth-century windmill whose silhouette was on the cover of the record More by Pink Floyd, the soundtrack to the film of the same name directed here by Barbet Shroeder in 1969. It’s 50 years since it has milled any grain, but is excellently preserved. The other great thing about Formentera is that anyone can find what they are looking for here. If your priority is to dissolve into practically untouched natural spaces, there is Punta Prima, with its intriguing rocky coast. If you fancy getting off the boat to sit and eat fresh grilled fish, a good place is Es Caló, a little village with a charming pier and various restaurants around it. Life onboard is full of excitement and there are many activities to liven up the hours in the sun, such as snorkelling, diving, waterskiing etc, but it would be a shame to miss a recce inland. Whether travelling on foot, bike or motorbike, there are many interesting routes which run along the tracks within the island, such as the Camí de Sa Pujada, a path around 1500m long which passes an ancient Roman route and affords the best views of the whole island, and also that of Es Vedra, those Ibizan islets steeped in elusive legends. There is even Es Putxols for night life, which is the most touristy area on the island. The night-time scene is not like that of its Ibizan big sister but there are plenty of places to go for a drink and dance until dawn. Or, even better, to have a drink and go back to sleep on the boat, because watching dawn from the middle of the sea is far better than from the shore.
Where to eat (and dine or have a drink)
Tiburón: Every bit the classic, established for over 20 years, this “chiringuito” (beach bar) is at the foot of Ses Illetes beach. Most of its customers leave their boats opposite and, to access it, take a little motorboat shuttle which is also used for delivering takeaways! With a relaxed, Caribbean atmosphere, it is perfect for disembarking and enjoying good music and quality fusion food with an accent on mediterranean touches: from gazpacho to tuna sashimi, by way of seafood pasta or plentiful salads, always in super plentiful portions. www.tiburon-formentera.com Casa Sa Punta: Next to the harbour of La Sabina, this is a place privileged for its sunset view, to be watched with a glass of champagne or mojito in hand. In fact, dozens of people meet at the tables facing the sea and those surrounding them at the key time to watch the sun go down. www.casasapunta.com Beso Beach: The most fashionable bar on the island, El Beso is without doubt the place to see and be seen. Celebrities and the famous hanging out on the island meet here as they consider its atmosphere to be the best, with its wooden tables, 'raciones' of Spanish ham, unbeatable mojitos and grilled meats. www.besobeach.com La Mola Artisan Market: On top of all these experiences, to wander round the stalls of this little market is to completely saturate yourself in the culture and identity of Formentera, which is still as it was in the ‘60s: the dreamy haven for hippy communes who found their tailor-made paradise here. There are stalls selling all kinds of artisan textiles, ceramics, leather goods, jewellery and trinkets as well as unique paintings and sculptures and, almost always, creations by local artists. Without doubt the best place to kit yourself out in that small number of essentials for a few days on the island: espadrilles, straw hat and floaty boho clothes. Wednesday and Sunday, 4pm-10pm, Pilar de la Mola.
How to get to Formentera: You can only reach Formentera, the smallest of the Pitiusa islands (as the Greeks christened them) by sea, so the best way is to fly to Ibiza international airport then take the ferry which connects the islands in just over half an hour, getting off at La Sabina harbour. Even better is to do the crossing in a rented boat, which leaves from one of the marinas on Ibiza such as that of Ibiza town, Sant Antoni de Portmany or Santa Eulalia. Getting around on the island: At almost 20km long and 2km wide, Formentera is perfect for getting around by bike or motorbike. Many companies rent them for around 25 euros a day or even less such as Moto Rent Migjorn and Formentera Moto Rent. There are also hire cars but using smaller, more functional vehicles is recommended as they give much more freedom and are more fitting with the lifestyle of an island which, in winter, is inhabited by only 10,000 people and on which, today, there is only one set of traffic lights. Aboattime is a Spanish start-up which has given a 360-degree turn to the business of chartering boats. With a convenient platform for booking boats that you can embark from any point on the Spanish coast, with or without a skipper, it makes it easier now than ever to go for a different kind of holiday, conveniently at the same price and conditions as a hotel.
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