Espalmador is a private island just north of Formentera. Despite being owned by a wealthy Barcelona family anyone can visit its white beaches, natural coves, and sulphurous mud baths. It is an unspoiled paradise, and other than the remains of an old defence tower that was used to spot Barbary pirates there are no buildings on the island.
Formentera has a narrow peninsula known as Es Trocadors which extends northwards, and just a few hundred meters north of this is the island of Espalmador.
Formentera is only four nautical miles from Ibiza, and Espalmador is one of the chain of islets and rocks that stretch from Cap de Ses Portes (the southernmost point of Ibiza) to the northern tip of Formentera. This area is known as Es Freus, which means difficult passage, but these days the ferries negotiate the waters without any problem. If you are making the journey from Ibiza then the final island you pass before reaching the port of La Savina is Espalmador.
There are regular boat trips to the island from the port of La Savina and this is the recommended way to get there. Some guide books suggest you can walk across the shallow waters that lap between Formentera and Espalmador, but this is extremely irresponsible advice. The name of the area between the two islands is Es Pas, which means the strait, and on a day when the waters are completely still and there is not a breeze in the air, then yes it is technically possible to walk across, but with even the slightest winds then it is a perilous journey.
There have been fatalities, with tourists falling victim to the strong currents of Es Freus. When taking the ferry between Ibiza and Formentera you can feel Es Freus dragging the boat off its course, and it is this same current that runs between Espalmador and Formentera. So please do not walk across no matter what others may be doing or saying. A healthy respect for the ocean will keep you safe.
The ferries to Espalamador leave from La Savina, and stop at the beach of Illetes before dropping anchor. Generally departures run from 10:15 to 11:45, with a final ferry at 13:15. Returns leave from 16:15 to 17:30, with a final ferry at 18:45. These excursions cost 15 euros, but you should check the times and pricing on arrival. There are also a number of daily charters from Ibiza, and from the beach you will see a mass of beautiful yachts. If you have some binoculars trained on Marc Jacobs’ boat you may even catch sightings of Kate Moss.
You can see Espalmador from Formentera’s Es Ministre beach:
One of the delights on Espalmador is mud bathing. Right in the middle of this tranquil island is a natural mud bath that’s easy to find. Head along the far north end of Platja de s’Alga (s’Alga beach) and follow the narrow pathway through the scrubland that backs the beach. Finally you will emerge at a wide salt plain that has liquid mud at its centre. In years with light rainfall the sulphurous mud pond is dry across much of its four hectares.
Although it has no proven therapeutic benefits, on a hot sunny day there’s nothing nicer than wallowing in cooling mud! Let it dry as you walk back to the beach then dive into the clear sea to get clean. A great experience and the kids will love it!
A common sight is naturists emerging clothed in black mud, only to then wash it off in the ocean and appear naked once more. Unfortunately not all people treat the mud baths with respect – they throw mud at one another and the surrounding area. In the summer of 2009 this led to such significant damage that the baths were shut. With Espalmador a private island it is important to remember that access to it is a privilege, and the baths should be bathed in, not played in.
The best beach on Espalmador is Platja de S’Alga and it is here that you will find the highest concentration of naturists, although nudism is not obligatory. It has shallow warm waters and pristine white beaches that bring hoards of day trippers from Ibiza who never make it as far as Formentera. Also worth a look are the coves of Cala de Bocs and the sa Torreta beach in the north-west.
Espalmador has a defence tower Torre de S’Espalmador and you can see it by heading over to Sa Guadiola. Also known as the tower of Guardiola, it has been restored and having been built between 1749 and 1750 is older than four defence towers on Formentera.
Besides Espalmador there are a number of other outlying islands, one of which is Illa d’es Penjats – the Island of the Hanged. It takes its name from the fact that pirates were executed here as far back as 1271. Illes Negres, the Black Islands, lie to the west of Penjats, and Illa des Porcs (Pig Island) and Illas des Torretes (Turret Island) are two others. Pig Island is notable for its lighthouse, but Turret Island is absent of the defensive structures you might expect given its name. Espardell used to be home to goats, but now has rabbits, lizards and cormorants.