Puig de Missa de Santa Eularia des Riu
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Visitors might be excused for wondering what to expect. After all, Ibiza (the town and the island) is a recent addition to cruise itineraries, having been discovered in the 1960s by Europeans looking for unspoiled beaches and hot parties (Trivia question: Does anyone remember Clifford Irving?). Today, it maintains its reputation as a retreat for the famous and their followers. But what does it offer for the casual traveler (only Windstar, Silversea, Celebrity and Costa call here as part of Western Mediterranean cruises)?
The town definitely has a split personality. During the day, it's a typical Spanish seaside village with historical sights, shopping, some interesting restaurants and a beautiful harbor -- in short, an ideal place to explore. By night, during the summer season, it becomes a loud and boisterous party town, with one club trying to outdo the next with sophisticated (and not so sophisticated) attractions to lure the glitterati from one hot spot to the next.
The town has quite a past: It was founded by the Carthaginians around the sixth century B.C., and ruled in turn by the Romans, Arabs and Catalans. Evidence of this extensive history can be seen in the Dalt Vila, or old town, which boasts many historical structures and relics, and two notable museums. The other interesting areas of town are la Marina and sa Pena.
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Other Western Mediterranean Cruise Ports:
Barcelona • Cannes • Capri • Corsica (Ajaccio) • Elba • Florence • Fuerteventura • Genoa • Gibraltar • Ibiza • La Palma • Lanzarote • Las Palmas • Lisbon • Madeira (Funchal) • Malta • Marseille • Monaco • Naples • Nice • Palermo • Palma de Mallorca • Portofino • Rome (Civitavecchia) • Sardinia • Sete • Seville • Sorrento • St. Tropez • Taormina • Tenerife • Tunis (La Goulette) • Venice • Villefranche
Catalan (a "version" of Spanish), but nearly everyone speaks English.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
Currency is the Euro. ATMs are plentiful, particularly in la Marina and along the Vara de Rey.
Salt! Islanders still harvest salt from the sea in salt beds using evaporation, a process that dates from the time of the Carthaginians. Various size bags of salt are available at many shops in town. These packets make unusual gifts, are reasonably priced and won't break on the trip home.
Where You're Docked
Ships dock on the edge of the town, just a few footsteps from shops and restaurants. The entire city is within easy walk of the pier, although the Dalt Vila area is dramatically hilly.
Ibiza is wonderful for strolling. Cruisers can begin shopping or eating almost immediately upon disembarkation, and the little shops on the side streets near the pier are of great interest. The waterfront along the Avenue Andanes is a pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare, one side lined with boutiques and restaurants, and the other a boat-filled harbor. The street offers lots of places to sit and people-watch.
Both the sa Penya and la Marina areas offer plenty of opportunities for window-shopping, strolling, snacking, and enjoying the sun and the people. Dalt Vila is the destination of choice for serious walkers and visitors interested in the history of the area. Many structures have been renovated and are now restaurants, shops and galleries.
On foot! The entire town begins at the pier, and except for the hilly Dalt Vila section, everything is an easy walk. Cabs are generally available, but they cannot enter Dalt Vila.
Watch Out For
The cobblestone streets. Ouch! Wear comfortable, cushioned shoes, especially for walking up to and around the Dalt Vila. Also, the siesta is alive and well in Ibiza. Many shops and museums close in mid-afternoon for several hours, so check before you go.
Dalt Vila is the oldest and the highest part of the city, and visitors should spend some time wandering through the area to get a sense of the place. There are several gateway entrances to the Old Town, with Portal de les Taules being the largest and easiest to access via its ramp. The walls are Renaissance-era and huge, and surround the entire old city. Artillery bastions (with some old cannons and historical plaques depicting related events) are strategically placed atop the walls. This is the highest part of the town, enclosed behind fortified walls. It offers glimpses of secret tunnels, armed overlooks, ancient water sources and the main religious buildings. Dalt Vila features winding streets, castles, chapels and convents, and a large (and still functioning) market square. From the top of the walls, visitors get a panoramic view of the city and the sea.
Museu d'Art Contemporani D'Eivissa (Apartat 251, 971-30-27-23, 10 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. Tuesday - Friday and 10 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. weekends, 1.20 euros) offers painting and engravings with some relationship to Ibiza, from 1959 forward. The real attraction is the building, which is an 18th-century-era structure originally built as an arsenal and armory. The walls are huge, which made it "bomb-proof" at the time the building was erected. Be sure to wander to the lower level.
Museu Arquelogic D'Eivissa I Formentera (Placa de la Catedral 3, 971-30-12-31, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. - 8 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday and 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Sunday, 3 euros) is the place to discover the results of all of the archeological digs (some still ongoing) in and around Dalt Vila. It offers glimpses of the pre-historic, Punic, Roman and Islamic periods. Again, the building itself is fascinating. The exhibits are located in various rooms up and down staircases, and the structure is in three sections, each of a different style.
Shopping: Ibiza lives to sell, it seems, and the main streets and thoroughfares are lined with a wide variety of shops and boutiques selling everything from the usual tourist knickknacks to local crafts, jewelry and, of course, salt. One particularly interesting shopping street is D'Enmig, a short block away from the pier, parallel to Avenue Andanes, with its wide array of small, locally owned stores. Two shops of note are Chiage, at D'Enmig 32, for unusual jewelry, and Tu Bon Bon, at Career de Cipriano Caruo 17, with a wide assortment of inexpensive European candies (sold in bulk).
Not to be missed is night shopping. In season, shops stay open into the evening hours, providing visitors the chance to explore after the heat of the day has passed. There is something magical about shopping outdoors after dark, with a cooling evening breeze, and the chance to engage the local vendors in discussions and bargaining.
Been There, Done That
Enjoy the nightlife. Ibiza is an international party place, enjoying a well-deserved reputation for its nightlife. For cruisers with a late departure (Wind Surf departs at 3 a.m.), consider relaxing onboard during the day, catching a nap or two, and venturing forth around 10 p.m. to hit the clubs. Unfortunately, the guidebooks usually tout last season's hot spots, but they are a start (check out www.ibiza-spotlight.com for current club information and party calendar details). Ask a (young) local in one of the shops for suggestions. Or venture into the Calle de la Virgen area and follow the crowds. The more adventurous may seek out one of the mega-discos outside the city (ask a cabbie for advice), but be sure not to miss sailing time.
For a quick and reasonably priced meal, try Cafeteria (Placa del Parc 14, 971-30-13-58), which offers snacks and sandwiches for about 5 euros per person and is open all day.
The city has numerous restaurants and many sidewalk cafes. Outdoor eating along the harborside Avenue Andanes is particularly pleasant.
For something a bit more elegant and formal, Dalt Vila offers a wide assortment of restaurants for visitors more interested in the food than the view, including Restaurante El Olivo (Placa del Vila 8, 971-30-06-80), serving upscale Mediterranean cuisine in the 40-euro-per-person range for lunch and dinner.
Several shore excursions hit the mark, only available here:
Best Choice for Nostalgia Lovers: Visit the Hippie Market, a throwback to the street fairs of the 1970s. Many of the hippies are gray-haired now, but the range of (mostly homemade) items available for purchase is enormous. A great excursion for shopping or just remembering the old days.
Best Choice for History Buffs: Book a tour of South Ibiza and visit the ancient Sea Salines (forty salt pits still in operation) with their resident flamingos; and then on to the villages of San Jose and Sant Antoni de Portmany, each with churches and other buildings of historical note.
Best Choice for Beachgoers: Take the beach excursion to Cala Conta Beach on the western tip of the island, where swimmers and non-swimmers alike enjoy the exceptionally clean water and the beautiful terrain.
Staying in Touch
An Internet cafe is located at 30 Avenue D'Ignasi Wallis and is open weekdays from 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. - 8 p.m. (closed on Sunday). Access is 3 euros per hour.
For More Information
On the Web: www.ibiza-spotlight.com/ibiza_town_i.htm is the section of an island-wide site with some information on the town, but little in the way of the cultural side.
www.illesbalears.es is the official tourism portal of the Baleares.
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--By Maria Smith, a longtime travel writer whose work has appeared in newspapers such as the Dallas Morning News, the Nashville Tennessean and the San Jose Mercury News.
Image of Puig de Missa de Santa Eularia des Riu is copyright Santa Eularia des Riu Town Hall and appears courtesy of the Institut Balear del Turisme. Image of Eivissa appears courtesy of the Institut Balear del Turisme. Images of Cala Conta and crafts in Old Town Ibiza are copyright Ibiza-Spotlight.com. Image of Sant Josep de sa Talaia is copyright Sant Josep de sa Talaia Town Hall and appears courtesy of the Institut Balear del Turisme.