Sant Antoni de Portmany
San Antonio got its nickname Portmany from the Romans, who were impressed by the portus magnus, the big port. The municipality in the north-west of Ibiza combines the opposites of the island like no other: from the busiest tourist area in the harbor to the quietest villages in the valleys of the Es Amunts hills. Population approx 26000 (1. Januar 2019).
Until the late 1960’s, San Antonio was a quiet fishing port, with little more than the mighty fortified church built between the 14th and 17th centuries, a few houses and a few foreigners’ lodgings on its wide sandy beach. With the tourist boom, hotels shot up here like mushrooms; the old town center can hardly be seen behind the modern skyline. The new landmark of the village is the monumental egg of Columbus with the caravel Santa María in its center. In 1992, to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America, it was strategically placed in the port roundabout where the roads from Ibiza Town and San José meet. The monument owes its existence to the persistent research of Nito Verdera, an Ibizan journalist based in San Antonio. Verdera claims that Columbus, whose origin is unclear, was Catalan-speaking and was probably born in Ibiza. He has been discussing this thesis with international historians for many years.
The harbor promenade runs around the bay. To the north, in front of the lighthouse on the pier, is the quay for the ferries to Denia on mainland Spain; then follow docks for countless small boats and the Club Náutico of San Antonio, as well as the small excursion ferries to the nearby beaches of Cala Bassa, Cala Comte and Cala Tarida, and the glass-bottom boats to the islands of Es Vedrà to the south and Ses Margalides to the north. On the other side of the street is the Passeig de ses Fonts with two large fountains. The promenade continues in front of the sandy beach to the Sa Punta des Molí cultural center at the southern end. There, next to a windmill that was restored a few years ago with an old water wheel, interesting art exhibitions and sometimes live concerts take place regularly.
If you’re looking for a quiet, relaxing vacation, San Antonio isn’t the place for you. The place is dedicated to the loud fun that young English people in particular seek and find. “Pay one, drink two” is one of the usual advertising signs in front of countless bars in the West End; there are supposed to be bars where only English is spoken. In the high season of July and August, the narrow streets are packed with sunburnt, partying youngsters who never seem to get to sleep. Of course there are also several discotheques directly at the port; the largest are Es Paradis Terrenal, famous for its water parties, and Eden.
The breathtakingly beautiful sunsets, which can be admired from Ses Variades, have spread all over the world. After the Café del Mar successfully began to accompany the natural spectacle with ambient sounds, numerous other pubs have settled all around. To the applause of the crowds of spectators, the glowing red sun sinks into the sea. But Sunset Beach may soon have to move to another location: the mayor’s office is planning to set up a modern marina here.
In the winter, when hotels and most pubs and restaurants close, San Antonio’s entertainment districts turn into a ghost town. It gets really cozy at the port.
Sa Forada / Buscastell
This tiny town on the country road that leads from San Rafael to Santa Inés is hardly recognizable as a village: a relatively new little church, a school, a bar, and a grocery store behind it, that’s all. Yet the bar is remarkable; every fortnight the opening of a new art exhibition takes place here and then the shop is buzzing. Otherwise, it’s a nice place to sit and have a coffee or beer in peace.
A nice excursion is a walk in the nearby Buscastell valley. The numerous terraced fields were once created by the Moors, who led the water from the torrent to the fields via an ingenious canal system.
Sant Mateu d’Albarca (San Mateo)
Also to the north of the island, in the hilly area of Es Amunt, protected by strict building codes, is San Mateo. The 18th century church dominates the village; below are two restaurants, the sports field and a few residential buildings. The school is two kilometers away, and there is no longer a grocery store. In the wide valley behind the village mainly vines are grown; two bodegas (wineries) are based in San Mateo. Every year in late autumn, a wine festival is celebrated on the sports field to rehearse the Heurigen, including music and dancing.
Several attractive paths lead from the valley through the pine forests to the cliffs. Cala d’Albarca is a bay with bizarre limestone walls that cut deep into the land. On the right side, a steep, arduous serpentine path meanders down to the water, where the remains of a former boathouse can still be seen between the rocks.
Sant Rafel de sa Creu (San Rafael)
In the interior of the island, halfway between San Antonio and Ibiza Town, lies the village of San Rafael. Since the new expressway was finished, people in a hurry rush past him in the tunnel. The church from 1735 is definitely worth a visit, if only because of the wide view over half the island down to Ibiza’s old town by the sea. A whole series of small restaurants with a wide variety of cuisines await guests, two are right next to the church. There are also three ceramic workshops in San Rafael, whose handicrafts are among the best on the island (Ceramicas Es Molí, Icardi and Can Kinoto).
Further down from San Rafael in the direction of Ibiza town, directly on the expressway, are the two large discotheques Privilege and Amnesia, which, with their lavish parties and international DJs, have established Ibiza’s world reputation as a disco island.
Santa Agnes de Corona (Santa Ines)
When the almond trees blossom at the end of January/beginning of February, Santa Inés in the north of the island attracts day-trippers like honey attracts bees. The whole valley is one big almond plantation. The otherwise quiet village is pure Ibiza. At the end of the street you drive directly to the old village shop Can Cosmi, whose family also runs the associated restaurant. Here you can get the best tortilla on the island, an egg omelette with potatoes, onions, peppers and tomatoes. From the terrace there is a tranquil view of the small 18th-century church next door. Another restaurant and a leather shop complete the panorama; the school, grocery store and a few homes are scattered around the countryside. Time seems to stand still in Santa Inés.
A hike from Santa Inés to the sea is very nice. The Camí des Pla Corona path leads from Can Cosmi to the cliffs of Ses Balandres with a fantastic view of the small islets of Ses Margalides. There is now also a restaurant on a small square in the pine forest.