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Ibiza owns a reputation as a boisterous party town where hit the beaches by day and dance all night. But this is only part of the story for this picturesque island, which is part of Balearics near the coast of Spain.
The town was founded by the Carthaginians around the sixth century B.C. and ruled in turn by the Romans, Arabs and Catalans. Evidence of these periods can be seen in the Dalt Vila, or old town, which boasts many historical structures and relics and two notable museums. The medieval walled city and its Gothic cathedral became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999.
During the day, Ibiza is an ideal place to explore, with trendy shops, interesting restaurants and a growing number of luxury hotels and spas in its beautiful harbor. In addition, the island boasts 56 sandy beaches around its coastline, making it the perfect place to simply relax.
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Other Western Mediterranean Cruise Ports:
Barcelona • Cannes • Capri • Corsica (Ajaccio) • Elba • Florence (Livorno) • Fuerteventura • Genoa • Gibraltar • Ibiza • La Palma • Lanzarote • Las Palmas • Lisbon • Madeira (Funchal) • Malta (Valletta) • Marseille • Monaco • Naples • Nice • Palermo • Palma de Mallorca • Portofino • Rome (Civitavecchia) • Saint-Tropez • Sardinia • Sete • Seville (Cadiz) • Sorrento • Taormina (Messina) • Tenerife • Tunis (La Goulette) • Venice • Villefranche
Mojitos made with white rum, fresh limes, brown sugar and mint leaves. Also, try the Sangria wine with added spirits, liqueurs and chopped fruit.
Salt! Islanders still harvest salt from the sea in salt beds using evaporation, a process that dates from the time of the Carthaginians. Bags of salt are available in various sizes at many shops in town. These packets make unusual gifts, are reasonably priced and won't break on the trip home. Sweet delicious Hierbas Ibicencas liquors, made from Ibiza aromatic herbs, such as fennel, thyme, and rosemary, also make tasty souvenirs and are available throughout the island.
Catalan is the language of Ibiza, but English is spoken in the shops, restaurants and clubs.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The euro is the official currency. For updated currency conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. There are currency exchanges and ATMs at the port and throughout the city. ATMs are the cheapest way to acquire euros. Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere. U.S. dollars or other currencies are generally not accepted.
Where You're Docked
Cruise ships dock at Port d'Eivissa. (Eivissa is the Catalan name for Ibiza), on the edge of the town, just a few steps from shops and restaurants. The entire city is within an easy walk of the pier, although the Dalt Vila area is dramatically hilly.
There is no terminal building in Ibiza. When you disembark, you are immediately in the town. Wi-Fi is available in most of the cafes and coffee shops. There is also a Telepost -- which exchanges money and features a public phone and Internet access -- near the dock. 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 road, 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.
On Foot: The entire town begins at the pier and except for the hilly Dalt Vila section, everything is an easy walk.
You cannot enter Dalt Vila with a bus or shuttle. People with mobility issues can rent a taxi to take them around the island, but they cannot enter the Dalt Vila area with a car.
By Taxi: Cabs are generally available. In the summer season, cab and bus services to travel outside of the city are available, but waits can be longer than an hour.
Watch Out For
The cobblestone streets. Wear comfortable, cushioned shoes, especially for walking up to and around Dalt Vila. Also, the siesta is alive and well in Ibiza. Many shops and museums close mid-afternoon for several hours, so check before you go.
While Ibiza has many daytime activities, the island is well-known for its nightlife -- but not all ships stay overnight. If you are interested in the nightlife, check the hours that your ship will be in the port. Most clubs don't open until 10 p.m., and the festivities continue until the early morning hours.
Walking in the city is safe, but beware of pickpockets on the beaches. Don't leave your valuables on a towel and go in for a swim.
Dalt Vila is the oldest and 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 huge Renaissance-era walls surround the old city. Artillery bastions (with 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 (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 offers paintings and engravings with some relationship to Ibiza, from 1959 forward. The real attraction is the building, which is an 18th-century 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. (Apartat 251; 971-30-27-23; open 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. weekends; about 1.20 euros)
Museu Arqueologic d'Eivissa i Formentera is the place to discover the results of all of the archeological digs (some ongoing) in and around Dalt Vila. It offers glimpses of the prehistoric, 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. (Placa de la Catedral 3; 971-30-12-31; open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday; about 3 euros)
It seems Ibiza is alive with shopping opportunities, and the main streets 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. Shops of note: Lovy Ibiza, a unique sandal shop, Paseo de Vara de Rey, Bamba Adlib, which sells fashionable women's clothing and accessories, and Pony, a boutique with children's clothing.
If your ship stays into the evening, try 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 an evening breeze and chance to engage vendors in discussions and bargaining. Between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. from June to September in the Patio de Armas in Dalt Vila, you'll find craftspeople from the island who specialize in making traditional espadrilles, hats and baskets. Visit the Hippie Market, a night market and street fair.
Been There, Done That
Enjoy the nightlife. Ibiza is an international party place. For cruisers with a late departure, consider relaxing onboard during the day, catching a nap or two, and venturing forth around 10 p.m. to hit the clubs.
Privilege is one of the biggest discos in the world. It seats up to 15,000 people. People stand in long lines to gain entrance. It has an indoor pool with a DJ suspended above. Admission is 60 to 70 euros. It is about six miles from the port. Cab fare is approximately 13 euros.
Pacha is also a popular club for the rich and famous, as well as the not so rich and famous looking to meet them. The oldest club in Ibiza is a 10 to 15 minute walk from Ibiza town or a 10 euro cab ride. Buses also go there. Admission is 80 euros. (Avenida 8 de Agosto)
Tickets for the clubs are cheaper if you go online ahead of time and order them.
Oenophiles will appreciate a half-day vineyard excursion to northwest Ibiza, where most of the island's vineyards are concentrated. The tour includes the beautiful scenery in the area, history and winemaking process. It also includes a visit to a bodega for a tasting of four different wines accompanied by local specialties.
Best for Watersports: En Bossa, immediately south of Ibiza town, with its fine sands and clear water, is ideal for sailing and windsurfing. The area around the beach is the town's main tourist center with numerous bars and cafes. There are chairs and umbrellas for rental, walkways for the disabled, two lifeguard towers and showers.
Best for Nature Lovers: Es Cavallet is the official nudist beach, however, topless bathing is accepted at all beaches on the island. The beach combines sand dunes with beautiful vegetation and has rock pools at the far end. It is located in the Sant Josep area about five miles from Ibiza and can be reached by bus service.
Best for Partying: Ses Salines, also in the Sant Josep area, with its fine sand and many dunes, is one of the island's most popular beaches. Located approximately five miles from Ibiza, the beach is surrounded by vegetation and hammocks, and sports equipment can be rented. Numerous restaurants and souvenir shops are near the beach. Bus service is available.
Best for a Half-Day: Ses Figueretes, located in the neighborhood of the same name, offers easy access for cruise passengers. Its access is within the urban area closest to the town center and can be reached by public transportation, on foot or by bicycle. It has walkways for the disabled, chairs and umbrellas for rental, telephones, lifeguard towers and showers.
You'll find plenty of Mediterranean cuisine, with tasty fish and meat dishes along with a tradition of sweet pastries. Fish soups, sausages such as sobrassada and botifarro are delicious. Empanadas (patties stuffed with peppers, meat or fish), and cocarrois (patties filled with spinach and raisins) are local favorites. Try the bunyols (aniseed flavored fritters) for a sweet treat or the Ibizan magdalenes (made from puff pastry filled with marzipan).
The city has numerous restaurants and many sidewalk cafes. Outdoor eating along the harborside Avenue Andanes is particularly pleasant.
Ca n'Alfredo, located at in the Old City serves some of the best paella with lobster in town. It serves traditional Ibizan cuisine but is pricy, with meals costing35 to 80 euros. You may have to wait for a table, particularly outside, because this is a popular restaurant with locals. (Passeig Vara De Rey 16; 971-31-1274; open Tuesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner, closed Mondays, reservations recommended)
S'Ametller in the port area serves innovative Mediterranean cuisine using local products with stylish presentations. Entrees range from 35 to 38 euros -- with three plate tastings from 22 euros. (Pere Frances, 12; 971-311-780; open daily for lunch and dinner)
Crossisant Show, located opposite the food market, is a fun place for breakfast, with great pastries and people watching, as well as free Wi-Fi. Try the almond croissants. (Placa de la Constitutcio; 34-971-7665; open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily)
Staying in Touch
Computers are available at Chill Cafe, located at Via Punica 49, a 15-minute walk from your ship. It is also a restaurant and coffee shop that serves tasty sandwiches, fresh juices and has a friendly helpful staff.
Telepost, located at Pg. Vara de Rey 6, has money-exchange facilities, public phones and Internet access. It is close to the dock.
Best for First-Timers: Take a stroll in the Old Town, or Dalt Villa, a UNESCO World Heritage site with its walled city, town hall, and Baroque-style Church of the San Domingo. A half-day introductory tour also includes a guided tour of the Archaeological Museum and the Cathedral of Santa Maria d'Eivissa.
Best for Active Travelers: "Biking on Formentera," the southernmost and smallest inhabited island in the region. The half-day biking excursion offers an active way to explore Ibiza's neighboring island. Sites include Fish Lake, the villages of San Francisco, Es Pujols, the white sandy beach of Iletas and a church.
Best for Repeat Visitors: A half-day tour to the resort town of Santa Eularia includes an alfresco lunch at the exquisite Atzaro, a centuries-old complex that has been converted into a luxurious resort. Points of interest include the Jesus Village, Roca Llisa Golf Club, the only one on the island and the Puig de Missa, a church fortress which looks down over the town.
Best for History Buffs: Book a half-day tour of South Ibiza and visit the ancient Ses Salines (40 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. This trip usually includes free time to shop or visit the 14th-century parish church in Sant Antoni de Portmany and Ibizan snacks such as Iberic jam, sweet pastries (ensaimada) and a glass of cava (sparkling wine).
For More Information
On the Web: Balearic Islands Tourism
Cruise Critic Message Boards: Spain Ports
IndependentTraveler.com: Europe Travel Guide
--Updated by Phyllis Steinberg, Cruise Critic contributor