Joanna Lester-George

Beyond Goa - Partying In Ibiza / Destination Feature

Planet Goa Vol 3 Issue 6 | May 1st, 2012

The beyond goa partying in ibiza article for planet goa

Ibiza! It is without doubt the most famous party island in the world - and being rather partial to a party myself, I wasn’t at all surprised to find myself back there on the 'White Island' again recently. Traditionally, holidays in Ibiza have been a heady mix of all night clubbing, very little sleep and too-many-friends-crammed-into-one-expensive-villa. For house music lovers (such as me), dancing the night away to the sounds of the world’s best DJ’s at mega famous clubs, such as Space and Pacha, has always been an irresistible draw. Originally known in Spanish by the name Eivissa, the island’s reputation since the 1980’s as the inspirational headquarters of electronic music still rings true.

What I love most about Ibiza, however, is that the island has something for everyone. I happily mulled over this fact whilst enjoying a traditionally naughty Ibizan breakfast of churros (chocolate filled pastry) dipped in coffee. Surreptitiously checking out my dining companions, I noticed that everyone, from the early morning yoginis to the post-party ravers, were happily lounging around in oversized Dior’s and wearing ridiculously healthy tans. I wasn’t looking at a scene of party casualties or sanctimonious health freaks here. Everyone just looked relaxed and gorgeous.

Ibiza is a ruggedly beautiful little Spanish island just eighty km off the Mediterranean coast of Valencia, and has long been the spiritual home of hippies, ravers, artists and musicians. It also has a thriving international tourist scene, which encourages its modest population of eleven thousand to swell by more than four million tourists every season. Beautiful places of course tend to attract beautiful people, and Ibiza plays host to a jaw droppingly glamorous clientele. In fact the island holds similar attractions to Goa, with its endless sunshine, fabulous beach life and general ‘sousegade’ approach. Just as the monsoon in Goa kicks in,the summer in Ibiza kicks off, making it the perfect follow-on destination for yoga teachers, fashion designers and hedonists alike.

For me, this trip was the best possible excuse for an Ibizan party - the wedding of two of my closest friends. With a British groom and a New Zealand bride it was always going to be a very international wedding, with over seventy of our friends and family flying in from all over the world to watch the stylish couple tie the knot. To say I was excited would be a ridiculous understatement. But first, I had rather sensibly planned a few quiet days with friends on the north side of the island.

We stayed in a lovely old finca (a traditional Spanish farmhouse) with gloriously uninterrupted views over the Mediterranean Sea and a garden filled with fragrant lemon trees. Long lazy mornings were spent reading and swimming, followed by a leisurely lunch of local olives, salami, bread and cheese. As the hot sun began to dip later in the afternoon, we would head to Benirras Beach - a hippy hangout famous for its sunset gatherings of dreadlocked drummers. Every evening, the beach was packed to the gills with colourful locals and tourists, some whirling around in a trance to the rhythmic drumming, while others happily watched the spectacle from the side lines beer in hand.

The summer skies in Ibiza stay deceptively light until ten o’clock, at which point we would all suddenly remember to have dinner. Returning home to the finca, we would throw together a meal, tapas style, to eat at the huge wooden table. I was invariably in charge of keeping the ‘chefs’ happy, which meant providing them with endless icy gin and tonics, garnished with lemons plucked fresh from the garden. My stay in the farmhouse felt like a wonderful opportunity to stock up on plenty of good food and rest before the wedding mayhem began. It was also a wonderful experience to be able to hang out with friends who live in Ibiza all year round and to share in their local life.

Far removed from the twenty four hour party scene, the island’s many secluded beaches, peaceful forest retreats and rural walks were easily sought out in the family jeep. The Greeks called Ibiza the ‘Isla Pitiusas’ (Island of Pine Trees) and half of the island still remains entirely covered by forest. We strayed off the well beaten tourist track to discover rustic villages set amidst endless orange groves and framed by hills.

For those looking for a traditional slice of Spanish island life, the beautiful port side destination of Ibiza Town retains a UNESCO-listed area known as the ‘Old Town’, where you can take a leisurely wander around the pretty streets and soak up the Eivissa atmosphere. A wide choice of upmarket seafood restaurants can be found alongside the more traditional cafes serving authentic Ibizan cuisine. Large parts of the island are registered as World Heritage Sites, protecting them from mass development and preserving such cultural treasures as the first remains of Phoenician settlements.

There is an inevitable European flavour to Ibiza that makes it different to the tropical allure of Goa - but the main difference lies in the cost. Just like Goa, you can find a wide range of accommodation to suit everyone, from the luxury villas of the uber wealthy to the cheap and cheerful hotels of the package tourist. But it’s the nights out that will stealthily empty your wallet. Compared to south Goa's Silent Noise club which costs Rs 500 to get in, an entry ticket to a top nightclub in Ibiza will set you back a cool Rs 5000. For that price, of course, you can expect the finest DJ's in the world and unforgettably extravagant stage shows - but beware of offering to buy a round of drinks. A whiskey and coke or a small beer will set you back around Rs 1200. Mine's a lemonade, thanks.

When the date of the wedding finally arrived, I transferred to my new accommodation – the luxury villa, Agroturismo Can Galle. This beautiful venue is one of Ibiza’s classiest places to stay and was happy to host a large group of exuberant friends who had gathered together from far and wide. On the Big Day itself, everyone in the wedding party arrived to a flurry of reunion champagne toasts, before the giddy excitement settled down long enough for the couple to declare their marriage vows under a pagola framed with roses. (I forgot to mention that I was also their Wedding Celebrant - lucky and very honoured me!) The wedding was followed by a fabulous night of dinner and dancing right there at Can Gall - and then a ridiculously fun week of poolside lunches, cocktail parties and clubbing at some of Ibiza's most stylish venues.

After a few extremely hedonistic nights out, there was a need for some serious recuperation away from the villa.The local beaches close by were way too packed for my quieter South Goa tastes and so, keen to escape the crowds, a little gang of us followed a tip off from an Ibizan friend. Hopping out of the taxi at the coastal enclave of Cala Tarida, we paddled around the rocks to find the tiny secluded cove my friend had so rightly described as "sheer paradise." The dazzling blue of the water was the perfect distraction from the locals sunbathing in their, ahem, birthday suits, and the local, family run restaurant of Eufabies was a top spot to share a paella before a snooze on the soft sand.

My favourite dining experience however had to be at La Paloma - a laidback, al fresco restaurant highly deserving of its reputation for serving some of the finest food on the island. Every dish we tried was so deliciously fresh and beautifully presented, and the uber cool, tattooed staff floated continously between our two large tables to ensure an endless flow of wine.

We concluded our amazing Ibizan holiday with sundowner cocktails at the ever legendary Café del Mar, before dancing the night away at the new and super sexy Ushuaia club in Playa d’en Bossa. The spectacular stage and laser shows, along with tunes from some of the world’s top DJ’s, provided a suitably glamorous finale to a suitably glamorous holiday. Ibiza, I’ll be back!