Ibiza and Formentera, pedalling against their clichés
John F. Kennedy used to say that ‘Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride’. Hemingway added that it was the best way of learning ‘the contours’. And if these contours are those of the Balearic Islands, you’ll be sure to enjoy it. Michael Douglas, the owner of an estate in Mallorca for over 25 years, once said that it ‘Astonishes for its mixture of civilizations, its strong international influence and especially because it keeps its own culture in an authentic way’. Hardly surprising, then, that so many people fall in love with the islands. However, the most interesting cycle routes for discovering Balearic culture are not on Mallorca, but on the so-called Pityusic Islands.
Ibiza isn’t only Pachá
Ibiza is a destination for young (and not so young) people who are in the mood for partying, though what used to be the hippy paradise of the 1960s also offers other options, including cycle tourism. It is so popular with local inhabitants and visitors alike that the Tourist Office has recognised 21 cycle paths. Each one comes with details of ‘the characteristics of the route, the degree of difficulty and recommendations such as distance, altitude, length and elevation profiles’.
In Menorca, Camí de Cavalls
The historic bridle path known as the Camí de Cavalls encircles the island of Menorca. The path is about 185 km long and is divided into 20 stages, meaning it is ideal for bikes. You can discover the coast that surrounds the island and stop at the beaches, pinewood forests and cliffs.
For those new to holidaying on two wheels, the tourism initiative offers simple routes, like the one between Santa Eulària des Riu and Santa Gertrudis. Even though it is mostly uphill, the asphalt surface makes life easier. The combination of coast and mountain, and wine and sobrasada sausage, makes it a very attractive option indeed, offering the chance to savour both the beauty of the scenery and the delicious food served along the way. You can stop at the architectural site, Puig de Missa, which stands atop a hill and comprises a church, cemetery, the Ethnographic Museum, Barrau Museum and traditional buildings.
There are also special routes for experienced cyclists, such as the one that follows the coast around the island, starting in picturesque Sant Antoni de Portmany. Cyclists ride on stony paths through forests and at the top of each one of the five climbs there is an observation point. When you start to feel tired you can get your energy back by having a dip in the sea at Benirràs beach. Other must-sees on this route are the natural freshwater spring of Broll de Buscastell and the cliffs of Na Xamena, just before you climb to the crystalline waters of Caló de s’Illa, or the ascent to Sant Joan, whose highest point, Puig d’en Teixidor, is 352 metres above sea level.
Then there are routes around the capital, like the one that passes through the Phoenician-Punic area and which includes entry to the fascinating archaeological sites found here. In all, over 20 routes that feature mountains, lush pine tree forests and water bubbling from natural springs which all help shape the island’s appearance, whose natural beauty more than competes with its party-filled nights.
Formentera beyond crystalline waters
The quiet island also offers adventure and adrenaline rushes with more than 30 cycling routes. Added to the extensive network of dedicated cycle lanes is a ‘green circuit’ that passes through beautiful landscapes. The paths enable you to experience the island’s salt mining history, either by setting off from La Savina beach or by following the old Sa Guia track, crammed with bushes to then enjoy a swim at beaches like Ses Illetes. You can also cross Porto-Salè, go around Estany des Peix lagoon or ride through rural areas with drystone walls and traditional houses. These are just a few ideas Formentera offers you: routes where cyclists are not only captivated by the green and blue landscapes, but where they can also discover places of historical interest like Gavina Tower, one of the watchtowers that remains on the island.
By two wheels rather than the usual four, both Ibiza and Formentera break down clichés and demonstrate that, parties and coves aside, they are an ideal destination for bike-lovers. Feeling the islands’ cool air on your face while riding along paths in the middle of nature is an unbeatable feeling. And if not, as the guitarist Bob Weir used to say, you’re always left with the knowledge that ‘Bicycles are almost as good as guitars for meeting girls’.