Dancing til Dawn in Ibiza PDF Print E-mail
Travel - New Travel
Written by TK   

When a hedonist thinks of a world-famous place to party, Ibiza is often at the top of the list.  An island of the south coast of Spain, Ibiza is one of three main Balearic Islands and has been the centre-point of the dance-music community and a desired destination for nearly two decades now.

When a hedonist thinks of a world-famous place to party, Ibiza is often at the top of the list.  An island of the south coast of Spain, Ibiza is one of three main Balearic Islands and has been the centre-point of the dance-music community and a desired destination for nearly two decades now.

When one of the most famous DJs in the world, Pete Tong, was spotted on my flight from London to Ibiza by a dance-music enthusiast from Manchester, I knew that all signs boded well for my week on the island.  I was not proven wrong.

Landing at the airport at nearly 1am, I was shocked to see a taxi line about 400 people deep, most of who were in their young twenties and ready to party.  So what exactly is it about Ibiza that has proven to be the key ingredient to its never-ceasing popularity?

There certainly has been a substantial amount of publicity - somewhat overly-exaggerated - during the previous years about the death of dance-music.  There has also been reports that Ibiza has been overtaken by English lager-louts causing mayhem in the town of San Antonio and that it is not as “cool” a place as it used to be.   However, despite some of the above being true to a degree, it is also true that the island continues to dish up top-quality dance-music in some of the world’s biggest and best clubs to an international crowd week-in and week-out every summer.  Pete Tong described to me how the island’s vibe had changed since he first played in 1987-1988.  “It has changed hugely – everything used to be a lot smaller.  Now it is an international dance scene”.      

So you can imagine how excited I was to have finally touched down at every DJ’s favourite island.  Although it takes some time to gather your bearings on the island, you soon work out the old town of Ibiza is by far the most picturesque of the tourist areas and the best part to stay.  And that San Antonio and Bossa Beach are best avoided and hiring a car a necessity on a surprisingly large island.

And within a couple of days I was in the swing of lounging by the pool or on the beach by day, hitting up the old town for Spanish tapas and vinos at dusk (around 10pm in the European summer) and then heading to one of the clubs (but not before 2am).  If only life could always be this kind! 

First up on my agenda as far as clubs go was Space, which is built just alongside Bossa Beach.  Although there were no particularly famous DJs playing on a Wednesday night, the club was still packed to the brim with revellers.  Space features a surprisingly glamorous interior despite its drab exterior, and the crowd itself was busily showing-off the best of European fashion.  The crowd was a little aloof early on in the night, however this changed throughout the course of the night as the on-stage dancers (whose costumes left little to the imagination) inspired everyone’s moods to greater heights.   In the wee early morning, the crowd was still going strong and I soon realised why the island was usually desolate until at least early-afternoon – clearly everyone is in recovery mode until at least that time.  Space is by far one of the best clubs in the world, and has the reputation to prove exactly that.  When I returned there for “We Love” featured on Sundays, my impression of the club was confirmed as I experienced a great all day party.

El Divino club, although not having the same reputation as Space, arguably has the best location of all of the island’s clubs as it fronts the port of Ibiza old town and has an outside balcony featuring an untarnished view across to the walled old town.   However, I was disappointed with the vibe of the club on a Thursday night and also with the clunky and uninspiring music.  The club features attractive Eastern-European dancers who entertain the largely male contingent of the club with their saucy dance moves.  However, unfortunately this merely inspires the club to feel akin to a strip club rather than a top nightclub, and distracts the dance-floor from interacting amongst themselves as there is quite the performance onstage.  With the bouncers treating the crowd with the contempt of overly strict schoolteachers, and with bottles of water being sold at nine euro a pop, I was glad when I pulled up stumps early.

By the next night I was grateful for my El Divino experience as it made my night at Pacha even the more satisfying.  Pacha is the clubber’s club.  A family enterprise, Pacha has a club in Barcelona that is over forty years old, and the Ibiza Pacha is by far the most glamorous of the island’s clubs.  Although built on an obscure road leading out of Ibiza town, the multi-level club packs in thousands of partiers like clockwork.  When Pete Tong began his set in the early morning, the crowd erupted with excitement.  And he did not fail to impress.  Performing in one of the world’s super-clubs is clearly something he gets immense pleasure out of.  With a sophisticated lighting and sound system, Pete Tong had all the utilities to put together a great performance, and he did not fail to impress.   Live dancers whirled around the podiums and danced in time with the thumping beats of Pete Tong, and the crowd at capacity milled around the bars, stairs and dance-floors in a trance-like state.  Glancing around the dance-floor, I could see why Pete Tong had described Ibiza as being one of the “biggest and best stages you can play in”.  He equates the long-lasting success of the club as being largely related to the fact that it is a family enterprise – “If you put as much time as this family does in running a club then it is going to be successful”.  There is no doubt in my mind that Pacha on a Friday night and Sunday afternoon at Space were definitely the pick of my clubbing experiences on the island.

Further to the club scene, another favourite activity for tourists to do on Ibiza is to head to Cafe Del Mar to watch the sunset.  The cafe, which is more like a bar than a cafe, is older than me and has been operating since 1978.  It is, of course, world-famous because of its mixed CD compilations.  When the sun finally set, the crowd erupted with applause.  Another bar that is worth checking out is the Bora Bora Beach Bar on Bossa Beach, where from the mid-afternoon swarms of dancers make their mark on the beach to house music.

So what is the main activity to do when you are trying to wind down after a night in one of the bars or clubs?  Well, the Mediterranean Sea beckons.  Unfortunately, the beaches close to Ibiza town and Bossa Beach are a little uninspiring having been damaged by throngs of tourists over the years, however only short distances away are coastlines of immense beauty.  It is well worth a day trip to head towards beaches such as Es Figueral and Cala D’Hort, both of which are quiet remote.  The beauty of driving to these remote areas is the countryside that you pass through on the way there, often featuring olive groves, villas and natural bushland.  Every beach, even remote, are quite busy (this is after all Europe in the middle of Summer), however the remote beaches are where to get away from the touts and wall-to-wall tourists.   Cala D’Hort is my personal favourite, and is set at the base of a steep cliff-face.  The water colour reminded me of a tropical paradise, and a rugged rocky island rises from the ocean about three kilometres out which adds an impressive backdrop to the area.  Es Figueral and Las Salinas are more commercial but still beaches of beauty.

One of the main indelible impressions left with you from a holiday on this island paradise is the fact that the whole local economy seems to have been set up around the dance-music and tourist scenes.  Billboards scream out big names such as Felix Da Housecat, David Morales and Carl Cox, some of who play on a weekly basis.  What strikes you the most initially is that clubs that are world-famous have emanated from the island, and have been the antecedent to successful club franchises the world over.  “There is nowhere else on the planet like it, being dedicated to dance music.  It is a mad international crowd, and people travel from all over.  All clubs have a different feel”, says Pete Tong.

Ibiza, even after all these years, remains a prime tourist destination for seeking pleasure, sun and sand.  And the dance-music scene continues to evolve on the island at pace.   Pete Tong equates playing in Ibiza as being similar to “playing at the World Cup final every week as a DJ”.  The only problem with Ibiza would appear to be that I got separation anxiety as soon as I left it.

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