Ibiza’s local population of 130,000 is just a fraction in comparison to the six million tourists that come to the island each year. But with so much to see on the Spanish territory, it’s no wonder tourists come in their millions – Ibiza is so much more than a clubbing destination, it is also buzzing with culture. Hire a car in Ibiza with easyCar to effortlessly uncover the island’s past and to descend headfirst into its present.
Ibiza has appealed to foreigners for longer than anyone can remember. Hundreds of years ago, world leaders sent their armies here. Ibiza has been home to the invading Phoenicians, the Greeks and the Carthaginian-Romans. Norwegian Kings and the Catalans are also on the long list of conquerors. The Muslim Moors in particular left their mark, their influence rubbing off on the island’s architecture.
To get a glimpse of the island’s ancient history, head to the heart of Ibiza’s old town to find an ancient cemetery dating back to 600BC. This is the Punis Necropolis and here, around 3,000 tombs were uncovered on the hillside. Peer into the burial caverns (hypogea), carved into the earth. The on-site museum proudly displays artefacts found here such as terracotta figurines and amulets.
The pirate towers that are still scattered over the island are an emblem of Ibiza’s rich history. Years ago, marauding pirates were a big problem here. Originally these towers would have been able to see one another, so they could communicate.
If one watchman spotted a pirate ship, they would light a fire in their tower. The flames would attract the attention of the watchman in the next tower, who would light his own and so on. The fires would spread from one tower to another until a chain had started and the whole island was warned of the approaching pirates.
When Ibizans heard that the pirates were coming, they would flee inevitable destruction and hide in local churches. These churches also served as safe houses; many had extra fortified walls. They protected locals, not only from pirates, but also from Berber and Turkish attacks.
Visitors to the island today will notice how the defensive role of the church is written into its design. The church of Sant Antoni is the oldest on the island, dating from the 14th century and complete with fortified walls. Sant Antoni is not that unusual; in every town or village, visitors can find a white church. Because these churches were built in an experimental period, their design is eclectic and each one is different from the next. Today, the most famous is the Cathedral of Ibiza, complete with its iconic clock tower.
Pirate towers are not the only remnant of the past that litters the Ibizan countryside. Windmills are also a common feature. Once they would drag up water from deep below the sun-scorched earth. Today, many have fallen into disrepair but they still have their charm – they stand like geometric sculptures, emerging out of the sand.
Ibiza is not well-known for its art, but it was inevitable the scene would blossom as the island became a magnet for creative types and alternative culture back in the 50s. More recently, Ibiza has been reclaiming its artistic side with a flurry of new galleries opening last year. Galeria Blanca opened in March 2015 with a focus on contemporary work, from abstract to landscape and figurative art. On their books is John Swannell, famous photographer and former assistant of the legendary David Bailey.
P Art is a gallery, store and creative space. It’s where the island’s artists, photographers and fashion designers join forces to collaborate and display their works. Here, you’ll find international work as well as local. B12 Gallery is another creative hub located two minutes from the port of Ibiza. Its glitzy interior hosts a range of events from exhibitions to fashion shows.
Elvissa Contemporary Art Museum is one of the island’s more established galleries. It opened ‘69, in a building that pays homage to old town architecture. The museum is small but beautiful, offering a permanent collection alongside temporary exhibitions.
Re-think your pre-conceptions of Ibiza. Drag yourself off the beach to discover the island is alive with art and history.