Formentera Island is the smallest of the Balearics, and with an area of 32 square miles (83 sq km), and length of 12 miles (20km), it’s easy to explore. Although the island is just two nautical miles south of Ibiza, the distance between the two ports is 12 miles, and the journey takes around 30 minutes by ferry. The permanent population is around 7,000, but the summer months see nearly half a million tourists come and go.
Despite the number of visitors the island has done a great job of preserving its natural beauty through a number of initiatives, including a dune regeneration program, resistance to tarmac on the roads, building restrictions, and encouraging tourists to use bikes. Even though Formentera is next to the booming party destination of Ibiza, and the major tourist island of Mallorca, it feels like a remote destination. Without an airport it takes that extra effort to get there, and this has helped the island maintain its heritage.
The geography of the island is unusual: it is mostly flat except for the plateaus of Far de la Mola in the east, and Cap de Barbaria in the south. The narrow isthmus known as Es Carnatge connects these two. There is also a northern peninsula of beaches and dunes known as Es Trucadors.
Because of its shape, with two bulbous plateaus joined by a long isthmus, Formentera has a relatively long coastline. Even in peak season you should be able to find secluded beaches away from the tourist throng.
Av. de la Mola (PM 820) is the main artery of the island running from the north-western port of La Savina down to the south-eastern village El Pilar de la Mola. However, if you are travelling by bicycle then there is network of paths behind the highway that are far more scenic.
Formentera Island has made a few appearances in literature since the Greek geographer Strabo mentioned it over 2,000 years ago. For example, the lighthouse Far de la Mola inspired Jules Verne to write ‘Off on a Comet’ back in 1877 and there is a monument noting this at the lighthouse. More recently one of the island’s caves, Sa Cova Foradada, was featured in the film ‘Sex and Lucia.’
The best way to see the island is by bicycle as you get to cycle through dunes, along the coast, and across farmland. However, all modes of transport are available for hire, even quad bikes and electric cars.
The circuit bus travels from Far de la Mola to El Pilar, Mirador, and Sant Ferran. From Sant Ferran it loops around Estany Pudent via Es Pujols, Illetes, Port de la Savina and Sant Francesc. The route is divided into a short circuit for €6 which covers Port de la Savina, Illetes and Es Pujols, and the long circuit for €10 which covers all the stops. Between May and October the bus runs the loop between La Savina, Es Pujols, Sant Ferran and Sant Francesc every two hours.
Shop opening times are generally from 9am to 2pm and from 5pm to 8pm. Some of the best shopping items on Formentera are made by contemporary artists living on the island. There are hippy markets, such as the one in Sant Francesc on Saturday mornings, and there is the art and crafts fair in Pilar de la Mola which runs on Wednesdays and Sundays from May to September.
One of the best things about Formentera is the 20 Circuits Verds, or Green Tours. These are 20 designated and signposted cycling and hiking trails that take you off the beaten path to some of the island’s most beautiful spots. For example, Route No.1 runs around Estany Pudent and takes you right through the wetlands which are prime bird watching territory. Some of the birds that you might see are warblers, black-necked grebes, herons and egrets. It used to be a popular spot for flamingos, but a sighting of one is a much rarer occasion these days.
You can access Route No.1 from three main points: a turning 500m outside la Savina, from the road that leads to the Sant Francesc Hospital, and from just outside Es Pujols. It is also accessible from a dirt track that leads down from Punta Prima. The turning into Route No.1 after Es Pujols is just next to the Caminito restaurant.
You can also cycle the smaller of Formentera Island’s two inland salt lakes, Estany des Peix, by combining Route No.7 with Route No.13. The entrance is just one kilometre outside la Savina, and its shallow waters, with small boats bobbing up and down, make it a very relaxing spot. It’s another decent bird watching area, with plenty of terns and ducks.
The waters also have healing properties, well in a way at least. The new drug Yondelis is a marine derived anti-tumour agent. It is based on an extract of Estany des Peix’s tunicate, and is now being produced synthetically for the treatment of patients with advanced soft tissue sarcoma.
Unless you manage to book one of the limited helipad spots to get to the island, then you will be arriving by boat. In the summer they run from mainland Spain (Denia, Barcelona, Valencia) and from the Balearics (Palma, Eivissa). Most boats call in at Eivissa so the final leg of your journey will be the 30 minute ferry from Eivissa to Formentera.
902 45 46 45
902 160 180 – 971 312 071
902 119 128
Mediterránea – Pitiusa
971 322 443
El Pirata Beach
Emergency services are reached by dialling 112, and help is available in English, Spanish, Catalan and German.
Municipality: 971 32 10 87
Local Police: 092/ 971 32 20 87
Civil Guard: 971 32 20 22
Hospital: 971 32 12 12
Pharmacy, Sant Francesc: 971 32 24 19
Pharmacy, Es Pujols: 971 32 86 63
Pharmacy, Sant Ferran: 971 32 80 04
Taxis: 971 32 23 42