The new Lonely Planet guide to Spain is a chunky beast, but only four paragraphs of its 720 pages are devoted to Formentera. And as the smallest, least developed and most charming of the Balearic Islands, you get the feeling its 10,000 or so residents rather like it that way.
The island – half-an-hour south of Ibiza by ferry, just 12 miles long and a mile-and-a-half wide at its narrowest point – is a fantastic place to visit in September and October, when it’s still hot and sunny during the day and blissfully balmy in the evening. By then the dense summer crowds are long gone but the restaurants and cafes haven’t yet started to shut down for winter.
What to do on Formentera? Well, honestly, not an awful lot, and therein lies its charm.
If you want to rave in a nightclub till 6am, attend a yoga retreat where your only sustenance is chewing celery stalks three times a day or tweak your chakras at a TikTok-recommended ayahuasca retreat, stay on Ibiza.
But if you want to do little apart from eat, drink, relax on talcum powder-soft beaches, swim in turquoise waters or meander around village markets, it’s Formentera you should make an autumnal beeline for.
Will Hide waxes lyrical about Formentera, the ‘smallest, least developed and most charming of the Balearic Islands’. During his trip there, he paid a visit to the popular Ses Illetes beach (pictured)
In the 1960s, Ibiza hippies decamped here when they felt things were going a bit too mainstream. Artists, painters and musicians were among them, drawn to its glorious beaches and quiet coves reached along rutted tracks. Pink Floyd chilled out here, rumour has it Bob Marley spent time on the island in 1967 and Chris Rea was inspired to write On The Beach.
There’s still a carefree vibe in the air, although now that comes with superfast wifi, unpretentious restaurants, design-mag hotels and coffees poured by hip, hair-bunned baristas who’ve honed their craft in Barcelona and Madrid.
The first part of my stay was the 14-room Hotel Casa Pacha on the south side of the island, fronted by an idyllic beach that stretches over the horizon in both directions.
I’m not a particularly spiritual person, but after a few days Mother Earth had worked her magic.
Was it being gently woken by the sound of the waves and the sun cascading over my balcony each morning? Or the breakfast of pastries, eggs and ham by the beach? Maybe it was just soaking up the sun and taking dips in the sea. Then again, the liberal pouring of gin into sundowner cocktails may also have had something to do with my blissed-out state.
The first part of Will’s stay was in the 14-room Hotel Casa Pacha (pictured), which is fronted by an idyllic beach on the south side of the island
To get around I rented an e-bike, whose battery-powered assistance took the sting out of the hills as I headed to explore the Terramoll vineyard and the lighthouse at Far de la Mola. The latter is a great spot to watch the sunrise, if you’re a (very early) morning person.
It’s said Bob Dylan lived in a windmill near here in the late-1960s, and I enjoyed browsing its atmospheric night-time market, held on Wednesdays and Sundays, selling everything from espadrilles to paintings, all made locally.
Formentera has developed an impressive network of more than 60 miles of off-the-beaten-track cycle routes, and main roads are having bike paths added. At the popular Ses Illetes beach, once the car park is full, no more people are allowed in… unless you arrive on two wheels, in which case you just pedal on past with a smile and a jaunty wave.
Formentera has developed an impressive network of more than 60 miles of off-the-beaten-track cycle routes, and main roads are having bike paths added, Will (not pictured) reveals
Will cycled to the lighthouse at Far de la Mola (pictured), which he says is a great spot to watch the sunrise
I managed to get pleasantly lost exploring the bumpy paths, which eventually brought me out to the remote bay at Cala en Baster where I took an invigorating dip, alone apart from a starkers couple. One legacy of Formentera’s hippy past is that most beaches allow you to swim and sunbathe nude, which a lot of people take advantage of.
Another compensation of pedalling around Formentera was the lack of guilt at mealtimes.
Lunch at Restaurant Tanga, a few steps from the beach in Ses Salines Natural Park, was exceptional, and dinner at El Mirador, up a steep hill in the east of the island, came with fantastic sunset views.
Will took an ‘invigorating’ dip In the remote bay at Cala en Baster, pictured above
For the last part of the week I switched to the swish Cala Saona Hotel in the west of the island. It’s chic and contemporary with crisply uniformed staff at the spa, padel-tennis courts, a pool, restaurants and a large swathe of beach with yachts bobbing offshore. Go for a seaview room so you can sit on your balcony to watch the sun set with something fizzy in hand.
I lazed on the sand to attack a few books that had been gathering dust at home and listened to the latest episodes of a true-crime podcast.
The power of the sun over the next few months may be less fierce in Formentera than at the height of summer, but the numbers coming off the ferry are thinner, the beaches emptier and the welcome no less warm. A perfect opportunity for a Mediterranean late-season holiday, far from the madding crowds, where you embrace your inner hippy and practice the supremely under-rated art of doing next to nothing.
Will Hide travelled as a guest of Visit Formentera (visitformentera.com). BA has flights to Ibiza from Heathrow, Gatwick and London City from £102 return (ba.com). Fly & Vai offers combined bus and ferry tickets from Ibiza airport to Formentera from £73pp return (flyevai.com). E-bikes, from £24 per day, and car rental through MotoRent Pujols (motorentpujols.com). Cala Saona offers B&B doubles from £223 per night (hotelcalasaona.com). Casa Pacha has B&B doubles from £310 per night (casapacha.com).