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On the road: Ibiza’s north east

We take you to great spots on the island.

The itinerary: starting from the village of San Carlos, taking in the coast heading north, stopping at beaches like Cala Leña and Cala San Vicente, with points of interest in between.

What you'll get: stunning coastline, winding country roads, turquoise coloured waters, landmarks and pitstops for food.

Essential take items: drinks, snacks, a good camera, beach gear, music such as our Ibiza Spotlight Selects playlist, cash for bar drinks, sun screen, paper map/map app (take a phone charger if using the latter).

The route

Ibiza might be a small island, though how many of us really know its every nook and corner; how many of us have seen its beautiful secluded coves, rising hills and landmarks; how many in short know the real Ibiza?

We present to you another side of the island, one that's more hidden and less visited. You'll need transport of course, a car being ideal to lug around beach wear, drinks and snacks, though a bike (maybe an electric one) would do the job just fine.

This tour is designed to be as long or as short as you want it to be. If you want to stay longer on the beach, simply skip other elements and choose what you want to do. Read on and see what we discovered on our tour around the north east of Ibiza.

Morning fuel

Our breakast selection at Las Dalias Café

We started our tour in the charming village of San Carlos, going for breakfast at Las Dalias Café, part of the famous and long-established hippy market. Inside it's modern with a rustic twist and that morning, filled with early morning sunshine. The menu offers lots of toasts with modern toppings like beetroot hummus and grilled peppers and for the health conscious, kefir with red fruits to get that digestive system moving.

We went with a ham and cheese toastie, some poached local eggs with spinach, Spanish tortilla and avocado on toast with lime zest. This with cups of hot frothy coffee set us up well for our day on the road. It's always worth going out for breakfast when on holiday, even if your hotel includes it. Ibiza has so many great places for the first meal of the day that not eating out is almost a crime.

Our food sinking down, we headed to our first sightseeing stop, the beach of Cala Leña, heading north through San Carlos, following the signs for the local beaches. Here, you will drive through lots of winding country roads, pass small restaurants with intriguing names, marvel at the tranquillity and the lack of people. This is really the way to see another Ibiza.

On to the first beach

Clockwise from left: Cala Leña beach; the road to Pou des Lleo; Ibizan white-painted house; country farm land

Everything is signposted on the road, so getting to our first beach was easy and indeed in a little under ten minutes, we were there. We descended the hill that leads to the beach, then left the car in the big tree-covered car park there, a godsend in high summer that will keep your car cool.

Cala Leña has lots of charm with a good sized chiringuito beach hut at the end of a long wooden promenade. Jugs for sangria hang off hooks at the ready, inviting you in. Being a little early for booze, we instead strolled along the seafront. With pine trees to the back of us and the sea in front, it's quite the haven. To the left, a heavenly white-painted stairway built into in the rock face, going down to the sea, adds majesty; the iconic fishermen's huts that line Ibiza's coast reminds one that this is the Mediterranean. Sitting on the sand, we drank in the beautiful day, before sloping off to the car to continue our journey northwards on the back roads.

Moving towards the beach of Pou de Lleo, past Cala Boix, you will find yourself in a scene of pastoral wonder, with valleys and peaks, vineyards and vegetables growing. Ibizan houses whizz by, decorated with plant pots and covered in bougainvillea in hues of pink and purple. The road is narrow here, though there are always spots to stop and take pictures and you will want to, especially if you've not ventured out much from where you are staying.

Towers and a private island

Clockwise from left: the Torre de Campanitx; the walk down to Aguas Blancas; your writer sporting eyeware courtesy of Ibiza's Optica la Mar ; fishing boat slipway at Pou des Lleo

Driving along roads where only the odd cyclist and occasional car passes is a luxury on Ibiza and satisfyingly, the drive to Pou des Lleó gave us just that. We arrived in around 25 minutes or so, allowing for a longish photo stop. Being early, few people were at the beach and this is a good tip to avoid the crowds; the morning really is the best time to get peace and quiet.

After a look around, we stopped at the tiny chiringuito there for a quick beer and a look at our route, asking the barman about a point of interest we wanted to see, an old defence tower. This is the Torre de Campanitx, built in the eighteenth century to ward off pirates. It's very easy to get to and you can walk there from the beach, turning left with the sea behind you. We drove, though be warned that it's a bumpy dirt track all the way, so you are better off in a vehicle with good ground clearance.

Tagomago, the private island that costs a good chunk of change

Once at the summit of the hill, we marvelled at the crenelated treasure that is this old tower, taking some snaps and wondered if we could go inside to re-imagine a time when its occupants might be sending out flares to warn of a pirate attack. From here, a short walk towards the sea reveals the private island of Tagomago, a place that's probably not on your list as accommodation, costing almost €24,000 for a night. If you go to take a look, be careful not to walk too far to the edge as it's a steep drop down. Best to go with caution as you appreciate the silence with only singing birds breaking the calm.

Swimming pool like sea

Clockwise from left at Aguas Blancas: Tender curving lines of creamy spray; a rock to clamber onto; fun in the shallows; the view from above

Our barman had tipped us off about a lovely spot, just down by the Pou des Lleó restaurant above us. Going down the path, you'll reach a pretty open part of the coast, though it's to the left you must continue for a true treasure. We clambered over some rocks and followed the next pathway to find a strip of deep azure sea with rocks, like small volcanoes, emerging from a swimming-pool-like sea (see first photo of this article). It really will take your breath away; we felt utterly privileged to be there, knowing we'd return for sure.

The time came to leave to the next beach on our itinerary, Aguas Blancas and a short 15 minutes later, we arrived, parking at the bottom of the road that leads to it and walking up then down the steep hill to reach it. Aguas Blancas is famous as being a nudist beach and for the white sea spray that gives it its name. You really want to get here before midday Spanish time (14:00) which is about when the sun moves behind the high cliffs casting shade across the beach.

It's not all for naturists though and you'll find the first stretch of sand has more clothed bathers, so if in the mood to go nude, go further left to find three stretches of sand that get less populated as you walk along. Once there, bare all and be as nature intended, though with sun cream. We left, tummies rumbling and set off back on the road to our next stop, Cala San Vicente.

A stop for lunch

Cala San Vicente from the road

It's only a short drive of around ten minutes to Cala San Vicente along twisting mountainous roads carved into the cliffside and then suddenly the beach comes into view and what a jaw-dropping sight it is. Looking down through the vegetation, you see sea colours of turquoise and brilliant blue, with tiny rays of light like glow worms bouncing off the surface. Simply beautiful.

On arriving at the bottom and parking, we sauntered along the promenade to take in the dazzling view in front of us before stopping to eat. Our lunch venue was the fittingly titled Boat House restaurant that's stuffed full of reclaimed nautical materials collected from all over Europe. You'll see ship lamps on the walls, fishing nets as decoration, rope bobbins turned into tables and many more reclaimed materials each with a story.

Down on the beach at Cala Sa Vicente

We can't say enough good things about this place, from the welcome of charming owner Jay to the lovely staff to the creative international menu. It's a hive of activity and we observe prettily dressed plates come out to be served, then leer with intent, as a huge hunk of Chuletón or T-Bone arrives at our neighbour's table, making our mouths water. We order. We need fuel.

Relaxed eating

Clockwise from left: arriving at the Boat House; two shots of Hierbas; carving the Chuletón steak; breaded prawns with kimchi mayonnaise

A mint-flecked baba ganoush and some deep fried prawns with kimchi mayonnaise are our starters and are absolutely delicious. We sit, looking out to sea feeling a sense of utter relaxation and wait for our main courses, a wonderful Peruvian chicken and a seafood spaghetti “a la chitarra”. We wolf these down, eagerly, enjoying every last bite.

Hunger now gone, we bask in the appreciation of an excellent lunch and take a quick tour round to see more of the decor details. It's worth taking a look around here as there is always another detail that you've missed. Look out for the mock fish tank underfoot inside and just keep on looking for more surprises. Now, feeling full, dessert is a remote possibility and we order a couple of shots of local liqueur hierbas.

To the end, my friend

Clockwise from left at Cala d'en Serra beach: over the water: fishermen's hut sliwpways; the view from above; a tree bearing the ultimate holiday legend

A full-bellied stagger to the car is next and onto our final stop. Fortunately, getting there is easy. All you need do is drive in the direction of San Juan through verdant hills with steep inclines down and up. It's incredible when you see this mountainous terrain. We drive along open-mouthed, seeing old Moorish terracing on the hills, pointing to a time when people here really lived off the land and sea. It's all I can do to not drive off the road, taking in the spectacle.

We continue on to the cove of Cala d'en Serra, down narrow country roads, again with few other cars until we start to descend again and then glimpse what is a small piece of beauty, this time the sea sporting a gorgeous shade of green. We park, walk down and race to get to the water, with Michael, the photographer in this duo, taking shots on the way. We'd waited all day to get in the sea and once in, we're like kids again, diving down below to see the marine life and lolling on our backs on the water. After around ten hours on the road, this is our just reward.

Now, at the end of our day, it's time to leave and athough we don't want to, we are safe in the knowledge that we can return again and again to this pretty garden and coastal paradise.

You'll need a car for your road trip, so do check out our selection of local Ibiza car hire companies to get some nice wheels to take you around.

PHOTOGRAPHY | Michael Tomlinson

Article fully revised in September 2019

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