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Ibiza hippie: discovering the other side of the Balearic Islands

Written on : 26 January 2023
By : Steve Dunne
Ibiza hippie: discovering the other side of the Balearic Islands

Much more than just a summer party paradise, the gorgeous Balearic island of Ibiza has long set itself apart as a refuge for non-conformists, free-thinking radicals and hedonists looking to escape the traditional trappings of modern life. The pounding dance music of the island's super clubs might be the most well-known manifestation of the Ibiza's taste for the countercultural but it is far from the most representative. Take a trip (no pun intended!) to the hippy markets and quiet whitewashed towns of the north and east of the island and discover a side to modern Ibiza more in keeping with its original hippy ethos. 

>>> Our tips for a luxury holiday in Ibiza

The history of Ibiza in the 1970s: a haven for radicals and free-thinkers

As was the case for much of Spain, the 1950s saw the sleepy backwater of Ibiza open up to international tourism, forming a reputation as a laid-back, Mediterranean holiday destination. During the 20 years that followed a huge number of people moved from mainland Spain to the Balearics, drawn by the gorgeous weather and beautiful, unspoilt beaches and countryside, as well as the prospect of living relatively untroubled far from the repressive regime of Franco. Ibiza had always been a refuge for poets and free-thinkers, in particular during the Spanish Civil War, and so it should come as little surprise that at the end of the 60s, many of those belonging to the hippie movement also sought out Ibiza as the perfect place to start new lives of freedom, love and fraternity, in accordance with their utopian credo. 

The decision that brought them to the serene shores of Ibiza would have no doubt been helped by the myth and folklore surrounding the island, in particular around the famously mystical outcrop of Es Vedrà in the south-west of the island, about which all manner of rumours and lore abound, including the claim that it is the tip of the lost city of Atlantis and another that it is the island upon which Homer's mythical sirens sang many a sailor to shipwreck, alongside much hearsay surrounding supposed UFO sightings. Meanwhile, the island offered a vast number of uninhabited fincas (rustic country houses) with no electricity nor running water, for extremely low prices.

How could they possibly resist?  

Ibiza hippie: discovering the other side of the Balearic Islands

As a result, during the late 60s and early 70s a great many communes and cooperatives sprung up around the island. One young philosopher to emigrate to Ibiza was Antonio Escohotado, a disciple of Huxley among others who had recently submitted his controversial doctoral thesis (later blacklisted by The Vatican) on the moral philosophy of young Hegel, as well as a number of essays and articles espousing the benefits of the hallucinogenic experience, In 1976, he set about gathering like minds in a large finca he had recently leased in order to experiment with and exchange emerging philosophical ideas. This happening of sorts, with its live music and dancing was dubbed "El taller de los olvidadizos" or "the workshop of the forgetful", and centred around the idea that if you take people who are feeling troubled outside of their ordinary setting and routine and encourage them to dance all night, you will help to break the mental habits that cause their anguish, somehow altering their sense of themselves and, in turn, the perception of their problems. It didn't take long for El Taller de los Olvidadizos to change its name to a more concise one: Amnesia

The 1980s and 'the second summer of love'

Amnesia was just one of several hedonistic dance parties that emerged in the mid-to-late 70s, founded in the countryside and drawing hundreds of idealists who came in peace to bask in dance music, warm sunshine and the island’s resplendent natural setting. Among the most well-known were Pacha (the oldest nightclub on the island), Es Paradis and Ku Club (later Privilege), the latter earning itself a reputation in the early 80s as a sort of ‘Mediterranean Studio 54’, a polysexual bacchanal of drinking, drugs and, well, whatever you fancied. The popularity of these night clubs in the 1980s only grew, with the island achieving some fame as the best place to go to for a summer holiday of pure escape. 

The scene grew wilder, as rock and pop stars flocked to Ibiza to indulge in some no holds barred hedonism, with notoriously hard-living icons, such as Grace Jones, Freddie Mercury, Nick Cave, George Michael and James Brown, among those who let it all hang out (often literally!) at some of the now-mythical night spots across the island. The confluence of this rock and roll party lifestyle with the arrival of house music from Chicago and the increasing prevalence of euphoria-inducing drugs, culminated in 1987-88's Second Summer of Love. This monumental summer of blissed-out partying inspired a group of UK-based DJs and club-owners visiting the island to export this movement back to the UK and eventually worldwide. Today, 1987 is seen as very much the Year Zero for our modern perception of Ibiza as a haven for superclubs and a Mecca for dance music enthusiasts everywhere. 

The bohemian chic side of the white island today

The bohemian chic side of the white island today

A combination of technological advancements and the hyper-capitalization of the late 80s and 90s saw Ibiza take a different trajectory to the one originally intended by its hippy forebears, with the perception being that this era of superclubs, charging super-prices apparently at odds with the original ethos of the island. And while there is more than a little truth in that idea, it's not quite as clearcut as it may seem. Even in the most packed superclubs of San Antonio and beyond, the atmosphere has remained faithful to the original pillars of fraternity, openness, experimentation and a taste for the eccentric. If you look beyond the superficial, these are still essentially gathering places for people to dance their troubles away.

Meanwhile, venture outside of the main cities and traces of the hippies’ original vision can still be found in many of the small pueblos, quieter beaches and hidden corners of the pine-topped Balearic island. This hippie legacy is perhaps most easily appreciated in the scattering of hippie markets held regularly across the island, where all manner of exotic items can be discovered and which point to the island's bohemian past. 

Ibiza hippie: discovering the other side of the Balearic Islands

Hippy Markets to visit 

In the hippie heyday of the 1960s and 70s, many hippies would seek warmer climes during winter, making their way to Indonesia’s heavenly island of Bali and India’s bohemian paradise Goa. Upon returning to the Mediterranean in spring they would bring with them fabulously exotic garments and fascinating trinkets to share and exchange on Ibiza. From this sprung the tradition of the hippie market, a phenomenon that is every bit as part of Ibiza’s identity today as that of clubbing and electronic music. We take a brief look at some of the most charming and most famous.

Punta Arabi, Es Canar

Every Wednesday throughout the summer close to Es Canar, stalls and tents, dappled with the light filtering through the pines, line a path in Punta Arabi, along which pass friendly tourists looking to take back a souvenir of their stay, in the form of clothes, accessories, jewellery and musical instruments, many of which are made by local artisans. The sound of drummers, street performers and other live music infuse the air with a delightfully friendly atmosphere, while the kids area ensures that all are welcome.

Las Dalias Market, San Carles

Another classic, is Las Dalias Night market, which is held every Saturday in San Carles all year round, and in the evenings on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday throughout the summer months. Alongside a rich array of creations and wares on offer from local artisans and traders, you can find excellent food stalls and even stalls offering massages and a look into your future.

Ibiza hippie: discovering the other side of the Balearic Islands

Cala Llonga, San Rafael and Forada

Venture a little further down the east coast during the summer season and you will stumble upon the large cove and verdant hills of Cala Llonga, every Thursday the site of a handful of stalls selling local handicrafts, while live music wafts gently through the soft summer evening.  

Upon the inland road between Eivissa Town and Sant Antonio sits the charming town of San Rafael, designated as Ibiza’s artisan zone, given the abundance of ceramics and other handicrafts sourced from local artisans. Take a trip on a Thursday evening during summer and expect to find fascinating contemporary designs, alongside delicious fruit sourced from the local orchards.

Following the main road further north you will find the town of Forada, and its charming market, held every Saturday, where local products include paintings and sculptures, as well as vials of a local liqueur known as hierbas alongside ceramics, jewellery and other handicrafts.

Other hippy market towns and villages

It would be impossible to profile every hippie market on the island, but alongside those mentioned you may want to explore those of Santa Gertrudis, San Miguel, and San Juan, all of which will leave your mind at ease that some of the relaxed, welcoming atmosphere of Ibiza’s hippy movement has been retained in these charming local gatherings.

 >>> 10 of the best luxury villas in Ibiza

Ibiza hippie: discovering the other side of the Balearic Islands

The mystical and mythical areas of Hippy Ibiza

The aforementioned islet of Es Vedrá is a favourite spot among hippies, although it is out of bounds to humans, in order to preserve its rare wildlife. Some of the more fantastical folklore surrounding the rock has already been touched upon, but another claim about the island, that it is the third most magnetic place on Earth due to the high concentration of limestone, has unfortunately been proven false.  However, that hasn’t stopped people from recounting stories of its magical status, nor from flocking to the nearby Sa Pedrera in Cala d’Hort to watch the stunningly beautiful sunsets over the fabled rocks. In fact, the former quarry of Sa Pedrera (where limestone was excavated to build the walls of the Dalt Vila) was once believed to provide further evidence of the existence of the Lost City of Atlantis, due to the man-made cuttings into the rock resembling that of former roofs and buildings. Whether the stories behind the iconic rock are true, one thing that cannot be denied is the beauty of the view from the coast.

Another spot dealing in the more mystical side of the hippie movement is the Crystal Mountain. Populated with large crystals brought back from trips to India and beyond, the Crystal Mountain is a hub for alternative health experts and healers who gather to exchange ideas and benefit from the mythical healing power of crystals, as well as take part in shamanic rituals.  

Ibiza hippie: discovering the other side of the Balearic Islands

One of the island's must-see places is the spectacularly beautiful Aigües Blanques (Aguas Blancas) beach, located in Santa Eulalia; a wild, untamed nudist beach at only 10 minutes from the village of San Carles. Much frequented by hippies, you will also meet locals and families. Its long stretches of golden sand and crystal clear waters make it one of the most beautiful beaches in all Ibiza. At the end of the beach you will discover the Chiringuito, a bar where you can sip a cocktail while gazing out at the glistening sea. Another place frequented by hippies, the beach of Benirras. Backed by a gorgeous, forest-covered mountain, this charming beach offers the achingly beautiful vista of the shapes of friendly people moving to the primal pounding of the local drums, all silhouetted by the setting sun. As paradisiacal an image as you could hope to find.


The earthier part of Ibiza's hippy legacy

The earthier part of Ibiza's hippy legacy

The history and legacy of Ibiza’s hippie movement can also be found in other important bars, restaurants, and landmarks throughout the island.

In the hippie village of San Carles de Peralta (San Carlos) lies the unassuming Ca n’Anneta (Anita’s Bar), one of the oldest bars on the island. This friendly bar restaurant, named after the patron in the 1960s, was an important meeting point for the local hippie community during the 60s and 70s and even doubled as the local post office, the traces of which can be seen in its wall of post boxes. The rest of the walls are adorned with selections by local artists, with the restaurant acting as an exhibition space for their talents. The local hierbas liqueur (made on site, using an ancient family recipe) is an absolute must.

Meanwhile, Bar Costa in the aforementioned Santa Gertrudis de Fruitera is another splendidly modest-looking establishment with a rich history, as well as local fame for serving the best bocadillos (sandwiches) on the island. A favourite hangout of the creative community of this quaint village, they would often pay for their meals with their works, many of which still line the walls of the bar to this day.

Ibiza hippie: discovering the other side of the Balearic Islands

In Ibiza Town, close to the Dalt Vila, you can find Las Comidas Bar, another hippy hub famous during the 70s and beyond for its commitment to cultivating links between the local community and the newly arrived hippies. Not far from Las Comidas bar, inside the old town, a bronze statue was unveiled in 2016 to honour the island’s hippy heritage. Created by Catalan artist Ció Abellí, it depicts a hippy and his daughter walking on a world map. The work was inspired by a photo of the famous photographer Toni Riera taken in the 1970s, who also captured Ibiza’s idyllic 1970s on film. You can find the statue at the intersection of Carrer Lluis Tur i Palau and Carrer Guillem de Montgrí, near the port of Eivissa.

Today, the hippy legacy is mostly that of a state of mind than a way of life, as the hippies of the 70's left the island due to the rising price of housing, food and party tickets. While it is easy to become cynical of the often shallow iconography and superficial language associated with the movement, what stands out, upon visiting the island, is a commitment to a hippie ethos of sharing and a rustic simplicity that is far humbler than the flowery hippy aesthetic we are often accustomed to; a reminder that the legacy of the hippie movement in Ibiza (and indeed beyond) is to be found in the substance - the warmth, diversity, tolerance and conviviality that is prevalent from shore to shore - rather than the style.

Perhaps it is precisely this everyday kindness of spirit and openness, more than any mystique surrounding Es Vedrà, that lends Ibiza its magical aura; something to consider as you wander the mythical streets of this most beloved of islands.


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