Spain, Ibiza: Experience an even wilder side of this party isle

For four consecutive summers, starting in 2004, I came to the white island of Ibiza. This was towards the end of Ibiza's heyday as the world's party capital and for my friends and I, it represented a pure kind of hedonism. Ibiza then had a reputation as a trashy, perhaps dangerous, place and, looking back, I was probably part of the problem. I had tremendous fun and remember the island, if not all of my own conduct, with deep affection.

When I decided to go back 12 years had passed since my last visit. Now aged 36, I was not really in the target demographic for San Antonio, the boozy, pounding heart of Ibiza. I wasn't even sure what the demographic might be these days.

Shamefully, in all the weeks I'd previously spent on the island, I'd never left San Antonio, other than to head to the airport or to one of the island's mega clubs. The best of these was Amnesia and, while others including the seemingly unstoppable Space have since closed, Amnesia endures. Sadly, my will to go there did not.

Instead of trying to replicate my old Ibiza experiences, I hire a car and drive out to Can Lluc, a one-time farm turned family-run hotel. It's only a few kilometres from Amnesia, but may as well be on another planet entirely. There's a serenity to the place, a peace and quiet (and no phone signal) that is absolutely more my tempo these days. The owners advise me to take a drive further still, to "get lost in the north". I travel through forests and discover secluded bays. I could hardly believe I was in Ibiza at all.

For old times' sake I make a point of at least going for a sundowner at Cafe Del Mar, which has been playing chill out tunes at the end of the day for 40 sun-kissed seasons. Waiter Curro has been there for 10 of them, and thinks of nowhere else he'd rather work. I tell him about some of my own experiences of the island and he replies: "See, that is the A-side, but now you are ready to experience Ibiza's B-side." This, he insists, must include a visit to the fabled Ibiza Old Town or Dalt Vila.

My visit happens to coincide with Ibiza's annual Medieval Festival, which celebrates the island's 1999-inscription on to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The second weekend of May sees Dalt Vila host the sprawling, often bizarre, festivities. The ramparts are awash with sangria salesmen, barbecue stands and wandering minstrels. It feels so impossibly different to the Ibiza I was used to.

These islanders, the real Ibizans, seem to have set up an exclusion zone around San Antonio, writing it off as others might a nuclear disaster zone. For a long time I never thought I'd want to be outside of that neon border, but some things really should be left in the past.

TRIP NOTES

Jamie Lafferty was a guest of the Ibiza tourist board.

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FLY

Emirates and Qatar Airways offer daily flights to Ibiza via Madrid and their hubs from Melbourne and Sydney. See emirates.comqatarairways.com

STAY

Can Lluc, one of the most secluded hotels on the island, offers a side of Ibiza that the majority of visitors never see. Doubles from $325. See canlluc.com

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