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Formentera is an island of 83.2 km2 full of idyllic beaches, wild coves and cliffs. Its profile is very flat, with its highest point, the Cap de la Mola (Cabo de la Mola), located at its east end just 192 meters above sea level. With a total length of just over 20 km, it has an isthmus in the center of 2, 000 meters wide.
The main towns are in the interior, where they were located in the past to defend themselves against the attacks of the pirates who visited it for centuries. And not because it hid great wealth.
Between Ibiza and Formentera, always by boat © Getty Images
The gateway to Formentera is really the port of Ibiza, even in high season. Its only communication with the outside is by boat, essential to cross the Es Freus Strait between the two islands, about 11 km of sea that take about half an hour to travel.
Again on the mainland, the first stage is Sa Savina, the only port of Formentera. We can arrive with our vehicle or rent it in one of the many rent a car at the foot of the port. The offer on two or four wheels is impressive: bikes, scooters, electric cars, convertibles and even a Citroën Mehari of the ancients. In Formentera there are 140 enrolled, but in summer they arrive even more.
THE ORIGIN OF THE IBICENCAS HERBS
Although during the Civil War and until 1953 this island had a hydroport to the north, at Estany Pudent, where seaplanes landed and took off, the current absence of an airport has allowed it to preserve the essence and wild nature.
Its vegetation is formed by pines, fig trees, junipers, almond trees and, above all, bushes of all types of wild herbs. Some are native, such as the frígola, a kind of thyme that dyes the fields purple in spring and summer. It is the secret element to make a liquor originating in Formentera, but which neighboring Ibiza has appropriated: the famous Ibizan herbs, essential when finishing any meal.
Idyllic beaches, wild coves and postcard cliffs © Getty Images
The smallest inhabited island of the Balearic Islands depends on Ibiza for almost everything. For your visitors to arrive, to stock up or for health and administrative assistance. A helicopter fleet moves people who cannot be treated to the small center of Sant Francesc Javier, its most important town, to the hospital in Ibiza.
In winter, if the weather is bad, its nearly 13, 000 inhabitants are isolated. And in summer the population can get to quintuple, although many are day visitors and others stay in the hundreds of boats that anchor in its 69 km of coastline.
With these characteristics it is clear that it is difficult to get lost in this heavenly territory, but only for about 60 years, when sophisticated, bohemian and wealthy American, German, English, French, Swiss or Italian tourists landed in it wanting to bathe naked and to have fun drinking herbs or using them as they thought best.
THE MAIN ROAD
In those years of the last century the communications network of the island was mainly formed by dirt roads, except for the main artery that, like a column, crosses Formentera from east to west. And that the PM-820 travels the longest distance of the island (20 km), between the port of Sa Savina and the lighthouse of Sa Mola.
The PM-820 reaches the lighthouse of Sa Mola © Alamy
This road, which was completed in the 20s of the last century, remains the main one on the island, with one lane in each direction, bike lanes and without a single traffic light, only three roundabouts. It is basically a long straight line that unfolds inside and crosses the main towns: Sant Francesc Javier, Sant Ferran de Ses Roques, Caló de Sant Agustí and the Pilar de La Mola.
The only curves of the PM-820 are found when climbing towards the Cap de la Mola, eight or ten linked turns, easy to trace unless you cross a tourist bus. That may be the only problem when traveling on the island. Those curves and the hundreds of mopeds and bicycles that roll in the summer months that sometimes make you feel that you are on a circuit.
In the middle of the mountainous section, at km 14.3, it is essential to stop at the El Mirador restaurant, which lives up to its name because the show is impressive: the whole island is seen and in the background Es Vedrá, the famous mound of Ibiza .
The last part of this road is a straight on a plain, with the lighthouse of Sa Mola at the bottom, which ends abruptly on cliffs cut to the sea. As if it were the bow of this island anchored in the Mediterranean.
On your journey you will find hundreds of bicycles © Getty Images
At the foot of the lighthouse you will find two charging points for electric vehicles, the assault of the 21st century. The Insular Consell is trying in the last years to humanize the circulation in its territory. The roads have not been unfolded, it has enabled 32 green routes that total more than 100 km and clearly bets on electric mobility. Throughout the island there are 24 recharging points, possibly the highest concentration per km of Spain.
The main road of Formentera has two variants. The first, the 820-1 PMV of 9.2 km, is heading south. It starts in Sant Francesc and ends at the Cap de Barberia, where the lighthouse of the same name was made famous in the film Lucia y el Sexo. It has become one of the most iconic images of the island, flesh of selfies.
The fenced orchards with stone walls and the pines that we cross in the first part of the road, suddenly disappear to give way to a rocky landscape where only some bushes grow.
HUNGER AND DEVELOPMENT
Although in Formentera there are megalithic remains of about 2, 000 years a. C. (Ca Na Costa) and through it passed Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Muslims and many pirates, even Vikings, perhaps ancestors of current tourists, none remained. Only the Romans and the Arabs were a little more and left some inheritance. The first, the scale or the light of fish oil, and the second, the ferris wheel, windmills, reservoirs or ceramics.
When cinema makes places popular © DR ('Lucia and sex')
Formentera has been a rather uninhabited island throughout its history. Until now.
The current paradise was a hell for the inhabitants of past centuries, who had to feed on the few figs and almonds that gave the land, small orchards or fishing. The famine and the plagues periodically caused the displacement of all the Formenterans to the neighboring island.
For centuries it was reduced to a place where the people of Ibiza were supplied with wood, charcoal made with the pines that formerly provided shade in Cap de Barberia, stones, salt and slaves. The slaves were the pirates who were confused by Formentera and those who threw the tie from time to time.
Ses Illetes, LA beach © Alamy
The northern variant of the main road, PM 820-2 draws a circle of about 7.4 km between Sa Savina and Sant Ferran de Ses Roques. It crosses the spectacular natural park of Ses Salines, continuation of the one in the south of Ibiza, and the beach of Ses Illetes, a white sand with transparent turquoise waters.
From this basic network there are some streets or 'avingudas' and, above all, many roads that bring us closer to beaches, such as Migjorn in the south or Cala Saona, where there are spectacular sunsets. Many of the accesses must be done on foot.
Cala Saona and its sunsets © Ana Montenegro
Formentera is determined to remain a paradise, although a few years ago it looked like a province of Italy. The chic and hipster tourism of the French, Germans and some Italians broke down in the early 1990s. The economic crisis caused the Germans to sell their businesses and the Italians entered into a mass driven by the fame that gave the island the vacations of their footballers more famous.
REMAINS OF THE PAST
Today the origin of the visitors is more balanced and the limitations to build large hotels, together with the escalation of prices, has led to a more sophisticated style being preserved.
In fact, Formentera still retains some of the premises that frequented the first hippies. Fonda Pepe, in Sant Ferran, where it is said that they drank herbs, and other things, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, King Crimson and some members of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, remains almost the same.
The Hostal La Savina, which today runs the fourth generation of owners, was the first at the edge of the sea and the Hotel Entre Pinos dates back to 1967.
Most of the accommodations are apartments, cottages and boutique hotels such as the Gecko Hotel in Migjorn, with a nice restaurant on the beach.
Beach bars where you can give yourself the pleasure of eating © Alamy
Eating in Formentera is not cheap, but it has a handful of excellent restaurants, a cross between a beach bar and a chic restaurant that combine local stews and salads with Italian food.
BOOKS IN THE SAND
Formentera is cited in one of Julio Verne's most surreal and unknown novels, Héctor Servadac, in which a group of people from different countries travel the solar system on the back of a comet after a catastrophe in the Mediterranean.
The French writer, unlike his descendants, never stepped on Formentera and it is not clear how he knew her, but there he placed Palmyrin Rosette, when the comet arrives. The island thanks you with a plaque at the lighthouse of Sa Mola.
Surrealist is also Za Za, Emperor of Ibiza, of Ray Loriga, in which yachts, designer drugs and new rich people parody a neurotic and accelerated pack.
6 (of 12) ways to die in Formentera and Other 6 (of 12) ways to die in Formentera, by Javier González Granado, is a collection of curious stories dedicated to a month of the year and a tragic death, with winks to the present and the past of Formentera.
Wonderful! © iStock