By Eric Dessner MD
Ibiza–What to expect for the first time traveler.
Is it all just DJs, fluorescent glow sticks and inebriation? Or is there more to the island?
Even if you’ve never been to Ibiza, you’ve probably heard stories about it. The Spanish island has developed a bit of a reputation for its vivid nightlife and electronic music scene.
But I like to think I’m an open-minded kinda traveler. So, after having heard several, well-heeled, travel junkies tell me that the island has a lot more to offer than just the synthetic dance beats and festive beach clubs, I started to warm up to the idea of a visit.
The island offers plenty of opportunities, they said, “ to just chill out and unwind and do yoga and drink smoothies,” if a traveler was so inclined. Beautiful landscapes, seaside restaurants, sunsets. The nightlife was there if you wanted it, but there was also potential for tranquility and rejuvenation as well.
So, my girlfriend and I decided to make a pit stop there before making our way to Greece this summer, to check it out and see what all the fuss was about. I didn’t pick up a travel book or read a whole bunch of online reviews. I just stuffed all of my preconceived notions about the island, into a small, mental carry-on that I could stow away in a tiny subconscious “overhead compartment”.
I’m happy to report back that the anecdotal reports I received prior to my own travel experience were mostly true. The island does have quite a lot to offer, and a visit can be manicured so that it focuses on serenity, rather than body thumping and electronic music crescendos. You can kind of get in touch with your inner bohemian if you want to: people wear sandals everywhere, bikini tops are completely optional, and a sense of Spanish laissez-faire contentment permeates everything.
And I must admit that the electronic music that we heard playing in the background almost everywhere we went was really quite good. The volume was reasonable. It’s not like Miami where, depending on the venue, you might not be able to speak to the person standing next you, even if you’re lounging around an outdoor pool deck.
My favorite thing about Ibiza were the sunsets. Spectacular is a gigantic understatement. These were not the megawatt pastels that you get lacing the clouds in the Caribbean. No hot pinks or lurid oranges. These were quieter, more subtle, and cloudless. Maybe more contemplative? Imagine a perfectly faded pair of blue jeans, rather than a sky that’s been acid washed. They’re both visually interesting. Just different.
In Ibiza, the panoramic view of a horizon felt far off in the distance. The colors blended together so seamlessly. Almost like water colors: vibrant, but still understated. It was as if these sunsets left room for you to carry on with the important aspects of your life–like picking a child up from a friend’s house or putting groceries in the trunk of your car– without having to stop, and stare dumbstruck the at the hallucinogenic painting up above.
While it is possible to have a relaxing vacation in Ibiza, I think it’s important to note that the influence of the party scene does indeed wash over much of the island (even if you avoid Hi Ibiza, which is where most of the dance clubs are concentrated) . For example, one night my girlfriend and I were dining at a beautiful restaurant that was perched on top of a hillside with a glorious view of a sunset. On the horizon there was a small rock formation that was jutting out into the sea. The rock formation has an ice-cream scoop depression that seems almost designed to frame the setting sun. It’s ridiculously beautiful. Divine. We looked at it in sheer amazement.
That is until the server returned to take our order and out of the corner of my eye I saw a gentleman at the table next to us had his shirt completely unbuttoned. He was getting a “full-on” massage by a member of the waitstaff. I was flabbergasted. My girlfriend kinda just shrugged her shoulders and said, “It’s Ibiza. It’s to be expected.” And even though we were only there visiting for a few days, I think she was right.
We had a great time. The island is an interesting fusion of cutting edge musical funk, earthy interior design touches, and possesses a modern hippie swagger. The sunsets are killer. Just keep in mind that even though it is possible to have a relaxing stay in Ibiza, it’s pretty tough to completely remove the clubby vibe from the equation.
Travel tip: if you stay at a nice hotel I’m not sure you need to book a daybed at the separate beach club. Some of the hotel pools are just as nice. Oh yeah, go to Formentera (45 minute ferry ride). Worth it! The bike ride will make you feel like you’re knocking on heaven’s door.
Eric Dessner MD is an ophthalmologist in Brooklyn, NY and the founder of Medmic.com