Around Formentera in 49 hours – the desert island walk

Spain, Balearic Islands
11-13/01/2018

I noticed that our trips have a tendency to be influenced a lot by external forces, like out of our choice dates or flight options. The same happened this time. Having 3 days without our girls and Ryanair announcing sales, we ended up getting flights to Ibiza for less than 25 euros (two people, both ways), and a crazy idea to make a round tour in Formentera island, without a tent or any booked sleeping place. It ended up being quite an adventurous and intense hike full of new experiences.

Day 1
Caught by surprise

Morning started fluently even after a night with barely any sleep: everything packed, airport reached on time, flight without delays, and here we are in Ibiza just after 8am. First task was to get gas for our stove as we planned to eat the adventure food leftovers from our summer hike in Switzerland. Decathlon was still closed when we arrived, but waiting didn’t take long and few minutes after 9am we are ready to jump into our adventure. We walked straight to the harbor and… SURPRISE!!! The 9:30 ferry is cancelled due to a closed La Savina port.

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I saw in the forecast that the first day is going to be windy, but I surely didn’t expect that. Ladies at the ticket office couldn’t give any more information about when the port will be opened and just suggested to wait or come back tomorrow… So we waited. Then we walked around Ibiza old town (which is quite nice by the way). And waited a bit more. Burger King right next to the harbor was a savior for us, providing comforting drinks and snacks to kill the time. 4 hours of waiting seemed to be too long for our impatient souls.
Finishing the second beer we finally saw movement in the port and immediately ran there to get on the first boat leaving to Formentera island. The price for the ferry was far from being as friendly as flight costs but anxiety to get there ASAP kills it all. Half an hour later, on the way to Formentera in a yet quite stormy sea, I realized two things:

  1. The high price for the ticket is because it also includes amusement park roller coaster ride.
  2. Maybe it would be wise to take a second ferry when you already know that the first one actually did reach the destination successfully.

We reached the promised Formentera land just a bit after 2 pm and immediately hit the road, full of energy and excitement, determined to reach our 30 km goal today, and catch up for the lost time in Ibiza.

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The island looked completely desert. First day we only saw few people in the ferry, and couple of cars on the way. After that it’s just you and the nature. We started with a light stroll around Estany des Peix and then started to climb the first hill towards Torre de la Gavina. There is no official trail around Formentera, but a small path is visible most of the time and with some help of mobile maps it’s hard to lose your way. The weather was still very windy and gave us some amazing views of sea fighting the high stony shores of the island. It is amazing to see how erosion creates pieces of art in the landscape. First day consisted mainly of rocky hill walk, which wasn’t really tough, though sometimes forced us to make some detours to walk around dried rivers, avoiding steep down and up climbs.

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The time went so fast that we were saying goodnight for the sun together with hundreds of seagulls pretty much in the middle of the planned hike for today. We reached the first lighthouse (Faro de Cap de Barbaria) already in full darkness. In January sun sets at 6 pm, making it a very short day. Determined to continue we follow the tiny path in darkness but very soon we lose it and just try to follow the map in the phone, making a lot of zig zags and torturing our ankles on the rocky terrain. After crossing another dry river fighting steep rocks and dense bushes in complete darkness, I say enough for today, even though we only walked 20 km instead of the planned 30-35km. At 8 pm we start settling our “campsite” in the middle of nowhere: two mats, sleeping bags and a gas stove for cooking warm dinner. Right before falling asleep we saw a very bright shooting star. Definitely, sleeping without the tent under the clear sky is a nice experience that is hard to compare with anything else.

Day route:
Ibiza old town (3 km, 1 hour); La Savina to… somewhere on the rocks (20,8 km, 6 hours)

day1 day1-1

Day 2
The mirage

Woken up by the alarm just after 7am we started preparing for a new and long day – we need to catch up for the lost time if we want to finish our round tour on time. We pack and set off with the first light, having snack breakfast on the way. The path looked so clear and easy in a day light!! Quite a change after the night hike. Admiring wonderful views of a much calmer see, we got another gift from nature and saw a wale calmly greeting the new day not that far from the shore. Something amazing and completely unexpected.

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We continued the hike with a small detour to avoid another steep and exposed climb overcoming a river until we finally started going downhill and reached the sea. Formentera is the island best known for its amazing beaches with golden sand and a clear blue water. Well, that wasn´t exactly what we saw so far but reaching the sea and taking off the shoes was a pleasant relief.

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We started running out of drinking water and were hoping to reach some (live) civilization in a village next to the beach. The island was so empty all the way that we thought it´s a mirage when we saw a tiny bar with a sole man in it right in the beach. Kiosko 62 was simply irresistible so we stopped to have a beer. And then the tastiest burger in my life. And some more beer. Enjoying the sun, the sea and the silence. I swear this moment was threatening to destroy our round-trip plan more than a closed ferry. I felt like being in heaven and overwhelmingly lazy to get up and continue our hike.

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We spent almost two hours relaxing in the bar until we got ourselves together to start moving again. When it was time to pay the bill it occurred that they don’t accept cards and all the cash we had on hand was enough to pay the food but not to refill our water supplies. Oops… Even though we were quite well hydrated from the beer, the bar attendant didn’t let us go dry and gave us a bottle of water to survive a bit longer (thank you!!!). It is not that easy to find anything working around this island in January.
We continued our hike through all the beach, at the end of which we stopped by in another bar for a quick drink and some water refill as they accepted cards. There were only 3 working places in the whole long beach and only few human beings in all these kilometers of walk. Quite a drastic emptiness knowing that in summer these places are crowded with all kinds of life.

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We reached another rocky hill at the end of the beach and started a new climb. This part of the island is the highest yet not complicated at all to our standards (except couple of exposed moments). The walk goes through well visible (some even marked) paths and we reached a second lighthouse (Faro de la Mola) still with some light, at the time of sunset. Realizing the painful truth that we are not ready to hike all around this hill in the darkness, we had to shortcut a bit and take a car road for a while until we were able to hop back on the trail before descending to the beach. We found a working shop in Pilar de la Mola village and finally refilled our water supplies properly.

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The night walk was quite long and tiring, but we passed through another village (Es Calo) and, even if we didn’t fully catch up for the lost time, we felt we are still ok to finish the round trip properly tomorrow. We settled for the night right in beach only around 9:30pm, had a quick dinner and collapsed in our sleeping bag. The night was very humid and cold, we even thought it rained at some point in time, but we tried to rest as much as possible despite the conditions.

Day route:
Somewhere on the rocks to somewhere in the beach (32,7 km, 12:45 hours)

day2

Day 3
The promised beach

Another early start gave us amazing sunrise views during breakfast. Even though we had more km left for today than initially planned, we knew it won’t be a difficult day as most of the climbs were left behind us and the only challenging part for today was the pain in our untrained legs and blisters in feet. After counting the time, we set a goal for doing 3 km per hour, including all the pit stops for photos, pee or food, and off we go.

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The last climb took us to the Torre de sa Punta Prima, another typical tower for this island (third one on our way) through another typical rocky terrain. I didn’t imagine that this island would be mainly about rocks, not about beaches. Yet, it was amazing to see along the island how rocks are shaped by water, sun and wind, how plants try to survive in this harsh terrain and how humans try to exploit it, sometimes in a very ugly manner.
After passing the tower, we quite soon descent to the beach, the promised beach, but the sun today was quite pale most of the time, hiding the full spectrum of nature colors and you could only see that amazing crystal clear blue water in short glimpses of sunshine.

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What surprised us most in the beach part was that actually many of them are extremely polluted with sea grass, sometimes forming huge piles and making water splash into them with black, instead of white color. I hope they clean that up for the summer season as otherwise it makes hard to imagine how all the tourists fit in there. Despite all that, the beach walk was nice and easy for a change. Unfortunately, my blisters prevented me from taking of boots today and letting my feet rest walking in the cold water, but I enjoyed all the walk in the sand nevertheless. We reached the end of the spike a bit earlier than expected looking at the map, as it was cut off by high water, and we turned back heading to the port.

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Even though we were doing really well with the time and could have rested our tired bodies a bit longer in this beautiful island, we decided to hurry up to the port as the wind was rising and we didn’t want to end up getting stuck in the closed port again and losing out flight. We reached La Savina 3pm, 49 hours after we started our intensive hike all around Formentera. Even though we had few hours left before the flight once we got back to Ibiza, we were too tired to do anything. After having some nice fresh juice with a croissant, we headed towards the airport to wait calmly for our flight. We didn’t really expect it to be THAT calm, as Ibiza airport on Saturday afternoon looked ghostly empty, with only one food kiosk opened and more staff than travelers.

Day route:
Somewhere in the beach to La Savina (18,34 km, 6 hours)

day3

Sitting cozy in the sofa, still with the pain in my toes, and looking back on this amazing hike I can reflect that the island is 100% worth visiting, especially in the low season for those who love silence. It offers mild weather even in January, spectacular views, fairly easy hiking routes, beaches, hills, caves, endless sea, natural wildlife and much more. The famous Formentera beaches are only a tiny part of this beautiful island undermining the importance of the whole picture. If you ever happen to come over to Formentera, we encourage you to go wild and explore everything it has to offer.

P.S. Don’t forget to take enough drinking water with you as there are no natural sources to refill it and off season civilization almost equals zero.

Route map

 

 

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