Ibiza: More Than Just A Party Island
In 1999, UNESCO declared Ibiza a World Heritage Site because of the island's cultural diversity and historic value
By Olivia Gilmore
Located in the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean, there is one Balearic Island that is well known for its unique ambiance and cultural liveliness.
Despite its over-the-top party reputation, the island of Ibiza has plenty more to offer than just its rakish nightlife. With over 200 kilometers of coastline, there is nature and history waiting to be explored around every corner.
A visit to this Mediterranean island will awaken your soul to all the finer things in life, mostly those that involve extreme style, hidden beaches, and heaps of local seafood. If you’re an all-night party owl, then as I’m sure you know, this island will have no problem welcoming you.
However, if you’re like the rest of us, you might just end up chatting with some locals and learning that there's a whole different side of the island worth exploring, one filled with ancient Roman ruins, underwater Posidonia meadows and of course, endless bottles of wine.
When In Ibiza, you quickly learn that all parts of the island harmonize together, working as an intertwined oasis providing its guests with nothing but the vibe of pure luxury.
It’s no wonder that so many once visitors, now locals, recall their first visit to Ibiza as a spiritual awakening, an island full of personal freedom.
Whether you’re walking through the open-air markets, participating in Ibiza’s fashion culture, or watching the last speck of dawn slip below the horizon, you’ll surely feel yourself become one with the artistic energy of the island.
So go ahead and get a feel for the wild club scene with a stop at Flower Power Pacha, but make sure you leave time to explore the incredible history and authentic culture Ibiza has to offer.
Feel the magic of the island, breathe in the island vibes, and truly discover the island of Ibiza through these Four UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Burial Tombs in Necropolis of Puig des Molins
In Ibiza’s Old Town, over 4,000 sacred tombs are carved underground into the hillside, making it the largest necropolis in the entire world.
Near the end of 7th century BC, the Phoenicians founded a settlement in Ibiza, making it the center of life on the tiny island. Nowadays, the site is hard to miss, primarily because it sits right on top of a busy residential street.
But it’s easy enough to tune out the whizzing cars in the background as soon as you descend down into the burial chamber equipped with mummies…not real ones (I hope).
On-site, the Monographic Puig des Molins Museum displays an array of treasures discovered in the burial chambers. Different artifacts such as jewelry, mud figures, and lead tools can all be viewed from under dozens of glass display cases. Most intriguing of all are the painted ostrich eggs, a precious relic from the Phoenician period.
I didn’t miss the opportunity to chat up the museum's well-informed tour guides who walked me through this multi-floor museum and explained why this ancient culture was so dedicated to preserving their dead.
Turns out they even have a bust of the Punic and Phoenician goddess Tanit, quite neat!
Exploring the Posidonia of Ses Salines National Park
Deep within the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean sea lives an extremely important regional plant that supports the underwater ecosystem of Ibiza.
In Ses Salines National Park at Playa de Figueretas, a leafy green plant can be seen emerging from the ocean floor, providing nutrients and a safe haven for marine life. The Posidonia bears its own fruit and creates dense meadows of seagrass, making a perfect place to watch small fish glide through.
Having the chance to snorkel through this diverse marine life, I learned firsthand how threatened this endemic plant is by coastal runoff.
The quiet decay of this immense plant jeopardizes the entire marine life surrounding the island, so it’s no wonder Ibiza is working so hard to preserve this essential natural resource.
The underwater Posidonia meadows stretch across Ses Salines National Park. If you’re seeking adventures above sea level, check out the Salt Flats of Las Salinas, the Natural Park, or the pond at Espalmador Island.
Whether you walk, kayak, paddleboard your way through Ses Salines, you’ll be able to feel the way the marine life interacts with the island, and maybe even see some Posidonia washed upon the shore.
The Phoenician Settlement of Sa Caleta
Located between des Codolar Beach and the des Jondal Hill is the open-air Phoenician settlement site at Sa Caleta.
Encircled by breathtaking red-tinted cliffs, the ancient Phoenician site is situated on a peninsula with nothing but miles of clear blue ocean surrounding it.
The restored underground shelters allow a glimpse into the landscape where the Phoenicians first settled in 8th century BC.
The Phoenicians valued this location because of its close proximity to the island's natural salt marshes, which were exploited and used for commercial trade.
A tiny trek is required in order to view the fenced off archeological site, but the coastal views along the way make the trip worth it completely on its own. I was lucky enough to visit the site during sundown, catching a picture-perfect view of the Mediterranean sunset.
Small rural fishing villages are situated along Sa Caleta coastline and serve as the backbone of Ibiza’s established fishing industry.
Fisherman can be seen preparing their catch which will later be sold at local markets and restaurants throughout the island.
Ibiza is often portrayed as a party-central hub of luxury, but people rarely get the chance to see the side of the island that supports the islands party-centric tourism. Without these dedicated fishermen, I wouldn't have had the delightful (and delicious) opportunity to taste the local seafood every night!
The Ancient Walls of Dalt Vila
The residential area of Dalt Vila was proclaimed a world heritage site because of its historic features, such as the Ses Taules Gateway, impeccably preserved fortress walls, and the gothic style Catedral de Eivissa. Set on a hill overlooking the sea, the old cobblestone streets of Dalt Vila pave way for magnificent views of Roman statues, unique terraces, and ample courtyards.
Constructed during the Renaissance, the fortress in Ibiza's old town extended over 24 acres to protect from the Turkish Navy.
The fortress has 5 different entrances, but the most popular one has a ramp that extends up to the main drawbridge.
After making my way across the Ses Taules drawbridge I came upon the town's main square, where Ibiza’s fashion industry came to life.
A plethora of unique local shops lines the square, making it hard to miss the white bohemian dress-wear that is a staple of Ibiza’s fashion.
“Ibiza is a quite small island, with a not too huge population, but it's very diverse,” said our local tour guide.
Along the streets and squares within Dalt Vila, there are abundances of places to experience ancient Roman history.
What’s nice about this world heritage site is that it is all accessible via foot, just by wandering around I was able to come across the Contemporary Art Museum of Eivissa, the Hall of Arms, and the Es Portal Nou.
A must-see panoramic view of the Mediterranean can be found by looking down from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Snows.
The author was hosted by the Tourism board of Spain for this story, but the opinions are all her own.
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Olivia Gilmore is a travel enthusiast, writer, and cultural anthropologist who has traveled to West Africa, Europe and across the East and West Coast of the United States. As a member of Amnesty International, her interests include advocating for human rights, humanitarian volunteer work, and cultural immersion. She’s from Lunenburg, MA.