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Ibiza, an island with more than one face

November 13, 2003

Victoria Beckham (former Spice Girl) in Ibiza promoting a song (AFP) IBIZA, Spain — There are plenty of generalisations about the Mediteranean island of Ibiza. The island has the wildest nightlife in Europe, and the tone is set by top models and pop stars. Summer is when the beautiful people strut their stuff.

All this is true, but it is only part of the truth. Away from the party scene, Ibiza is a tranquil island where holidaymakers can relax. Visitors can mix the two Ibizas, if they want to.

As the sun sinks slowly below the sea, soft music issues from the beach bar at the Cala de Benirras, in the north of the island.

An amorous couple move languidly in the water as the "Finger of God" casts a shadow over them. That is the name of the tall spike of rock which rises out of the water. This is the moment when being here engenders the feeling that this is the right time to be here in this place.

This night, no one wanted to leave the bay. The sand is still warm and the smell of the pine trees encircling the bay drifts through the air. Some sunburnt men with hair in dreadlocks place flares in the sand. Sardines are prepared over a grill and bottles of red wine do the rounds.

Jasmin, aged 25, from Munich, says: "This is a little different.

It doesn't always need to be the big beach parties and mass discos like in Ibiza City or Saint Antoni." She is enthusiastic about this improvised beach party. After three hectic days in Ibiza City, she welcomes the change here in the quieter north of the island.

Every beach on Ibiza can be reached by car in less than an hour, regardless of starting point. In the north and east, the secret tips include, apart from Benirras, the whote sands of Aigua Blanca, the Cala Mastella and the Cala Llonga. The Cala Salada, near Saint Antoni, is also worth a visit.

Ibiza also has so-called evening beaches, where a magical atmosphere develops at sunset. Cala d'Hort, in the southwest is the best-known. This is where a great view is had of the mysterious rocky island known as Es Vedra. This island, just a few hundred metres from the beach, towers 382 metres out of the water and, at first glance, looks like an extinct volcano.

Some locals believe Es Vedra is the tip of the lost City of Atlantis. The hippie commune here believes the island is a landing place for aliens from outer space. In any case, many are the stories which do the rounds at the heady parties around the campfires.

A good place to watch the sunset is on the beach in front of the Cafe del Mar in Saint Antoni. Most people arrive between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.. Lounge music plays in the background, which helps lend the sunset an even more romantic quality. When the sun does finally sinks into the sea, the guests all applaud, and then leave the beach to go and celebrate.

The real party beaches are south of Ibiza City. Platja d'en Bossa is a show in itself. This is where gay men with close-cropped skulls tight string tangas compete for attention with beautiful girls in leopard bikinis and silicon bosoms. Sapa-DPA

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