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Insider A -Z of Ibiza: Y is for Yesterday’s Ibiza

Never forget the memories

Although made infamous during the 1960s days of hippies and bohemia, and then more so with the introduction of the superclubs and dance music culture, Ibiza is actually a traditional Spanish island steeped in history. Harking back to the Phoenician days and when Dalt Vila was an imperial outpost for the Romans, who eventually spared our beautiful island during the days of the empire, Ibiza has a chequered past and the Ibicenco residents stand testament to that.

Many of the Ibizan families who have lived on the island for generations haven't ever stepped foot into a club and wouldn't really feel at home in Playa d'en Bossa. They still maintain the original Spanish fiestas, particularly the Patron Saint days after which most of the towns and villages are named. Here are some of the best landmark traditions which make our island so unique and still reflect yesterday's Ibiza...

Semana Santa

The Week of the Saints marks the lead up to Easter - a grand old affair for the whole of Spain and a week in Ibiza's quieter months when the island is as busy as July. Visitors from the mainland arrive in droves and the streets bustle with families enjoying the Easter holidays. Most bars and restaurants open up in time for this event. The cathedral at the top of Dalt Vila is the centre point for all celebrations, which involve a daily procession through the streets of the Old Town highlighting Jesus' journey through crucifixion to resurrection. The sombre parade involves drumming, costumes and a life-size effigy of Jesus carried by his worshippers up the ramp and to the cathedral. A pretty mind-blowing experience whether you're religious or not.

Insider Info - Bag yourself a table outside La Bodega at the foot of the Dalt Vila ramp where you can enjoy a bottle of fine Rioja, some delicious tapas and front row seats to the procession as it mounts the ramp. Semana Santa in style...

San Mateo Wine Festival

Every winter for the last 20 odd years, San Mateo's sports ground hosts a wild party which certainly helps to shake off the December chill. Local farmers bring hundreds of their home brewed wines for you to sample - and all for free! Introduce a live band, bath tub BBQs to cook your own sausages over and a ton of island residents and what you have is one hell of a night! Cue much revelry and drunken dancing into the early hours of the morning. Just beware of the headache the next day which only this level of wine can induce...

Insider Info - If the festive atmosphere becomes too much to bear, or you need something else other than sobrasada to line the stomach, then head up the road to Can Cires, a gorgeous little restaurant who serve up quite possibly the best homemade cheesecake on the island, if not in the world!

Three Kings

Once you have managed to just about recover from the fiesta that is New Year on the island, here comes the Feast of the Epiphany or the Day of the Three Kings. Celebrated on the 5th of January, it is the Ibizan equivalent of Christmas, gifts included. Three men in full King costume arrive into the port from the sea and join the procession of floats as it meanders around town, throwing sweets into the crowds, before reaching the Vara de Rey finale point where the kings distribute pressies to the children of the island.

Insider Info - Get the drinks in at Ebusus on Vara de Rey (see I is for Ibiza Town). Beer and wine is a mere €2 and this spot is perfect to check out the arrival of the parade and to elbow the punters out of the way as candy is thrown into the willing crowds. Marvellous!

Ball Pagés

This traditional Ibizan folk dance was bordering on the point of extinction until recently revived. From the times when Ibiza was primarily agricultural, farmer and workers would burst into spontaneous dance to entertain themselves after a hard days graft. Not unlike today, I hear you cry! Now a number of dance troupes are reigniting the interest amongst the island's youth and traditional costumes are being dug out, allowing this fantastic celebration of the island's history to continue.

Insider Info - You can witness Ball Pagés for yourself in the Northern village of San Miguel every Thursday at 18:00 from May to October or in Dalt Vila every Friday evening. Well worth a visit if you would like a temporary alternative from fist pumping and shuffling.

So just remember, there was an Ibiza before the clubs and before Space Terrace even had a roof...

Next week, Z for Zen...

Insider's A - Z of Ibiza

WORDS | Leena Sharma