With a population of just over 7000 and no airport, Formentera is usually quieter than its neighbor Ibiza. However, in the peak season of July-August, it draws huge numbers of tourists. The overwhelming majority are Italian and the Italian language is heard more often than any other. Some are independent travellers, but many come on package holidays. In peak season, advance booking for hotels is absolutely essential. The hotels on the island are mostly small and independently owned. The majority are in the one- and two-star categories. There are also many small apartment developments. There are no high rise buildings on Formentera. Camping is forbidden on the island.
The island is flat and sandy with magnificent, unspoilt beaches. There are a few places where the land rises to present spectacular cliffs to the sea. It is perfect for cycling, walking, snorkelling and sailing. However, it has very few cultural or historical attractions such as museums, castles, churches or art galleries. Its cultural attractions include some megalithic sites, a roman road, some watch-towers (18th century), the 18th century chapel of Sant Francesc Xavier and a small Ethnological museum.
Some of the islanders make their living from small-scale traditional fishing. In parts of the island, the soil is good enough to support vines and fruit trees. Several parts of the island are covered in Mediterranean pine trees. Salt marshes (now abandoned) are defining features of parts of the island. However, tourism is the biggest sector of the local economy.
Outside the peak season when the tourists are high spenders, Formentera has an atmosphere of simplicity and back-to-nature that is the heritage of its past hippie phase. More and more, parts of the island are actively managed as a national park with, for example, board-walks through the sand dunes to enable them to regenerate their vegetation. In addition, areas of the surrounding seas are designated as zones of particular scientific interest in which certain plant and fish species are protected.
The public authorities pursue a policy of responsible, sustainable tourism. It is questionable whether the saturation of tourists in the peak weeks of July and August is compatible with such a policy although, in reality, the revenues from this period are very important for the local economy.
On Formentera the Catalan dialect formenterenc is the main language, but Standard Spanish is spoken by everyone as well.
Getting to Formentera is quite easy, as you can catch a boat from the Spanish mainland with your car from either Barcelona, Valencia or Denia to Ibiza (Eivissa) and from there catch another ferry to Formentera. In the summer months there are direct ferries between Denia and Formentera. Alternatively, you can fly to Ibiza and Formentera can be reached by regular ferries from the Estacion Maritima in Ibiza Town and by tourist ferries from other parts of Ibiza during high season. The boat from Ibiza (Eivissa) to Formentera takes around half an hour, and leaves every half hour in the summer. The boat trip costs between 17 and 24 euros per person for a single trip. You can buy the ticket on the boat, and you do not need to reserve, but if you want to take a car it is best to reserve during the high season.
Next to the standard ferry there is a yellow speedboat ferry for around 30 euro per person for a return trip. The speedboat starts from the beach of Platja d'en Bossa near Figueretes.
Regular buses during the summer season go to all parts of the island from the port, where most visitors arrive by ferry, but are less frequent during the winter months. Normally they leave every half hour. When planning your bus trip, make sure that you check that the bus stops at your destination, because strangely each bus stops at different stops. The bus charges a fixed fee of between € 1 and € 2, independently of where you get on or off. You can pay cash. All buses are tourbuses, so you can easily put your (big) travelling luggage in the bottom of the bus.
On Formentera you must see under water. All of the waters are perfectly transparent, and with goggles and a snorkel you can see all the beautiful fish and the bottom of the waters. You can buy a set of goggles and a snorkel everywhere on the island, for a price ranging between € 10 and € 20.
The only other destinations on Formentera are the almost Caribbean beaches. Generally they are pretty empty (especially compared to Ibiza), with clean sands and clean, transparent water. Please note that most people sunbath nude on Formentera. The sun can be very strong on the island.
Some good beaches:
When choosing a beach for the day, consider the wind direction - some beaches may be rough while others are calm. Since the island is small, it is not difficult to change your plans at short notice.
Formentera also has two large lagoons, the Estany de Peix and Estany Pudent (Fish lagoon and Stinking lagoon). It's possible to swim on the south side of the Estany de Peix; the north is a boat harbour.
For the energetic traveller Formentera has a network of cycle tracks and green lanes, both around the lagoons and beaches, and going to the more wild upland areas of the Cap de Barbaria and la Mola.
There are many cycle tracks, some signposted, and the tourist office in Sant Francesc offers a leaflet with a number of mainly off-road cycle trails.
The Cami Roma, a Roman path which climbs steeply from Es Calo up to the plateau of La Mola, is well worth walking, with views from the cliffside down to the bay below and, at the top, a view of the whole island spread out below. A circular cycle track/hike connects the lighthouse at the tip of the plateau to the village of El Pilar de la Mola, running through fields and forests.
Coastal scenery is varied, with saltings near La Sabina, fine cliffs on the west coast near Punta de la Gravina and Punta Rasa, and majestic headland and bay at Casa de Baster, as well as heathland and cliffs at Cap de Berberia. Birdlife on the Estanh Pudent (stinky lagoon) is well worth taking your binoculars for.
Formentera has many, many small restaurants, varying in price and quality. Most are run by hippies, and are very cheap with medium quality.
There appears to be very little crime on Formentera (especially compared to Ibiza). You do not have to worry about leaving your bag on the beach when you take a swim, or worry about leaving your moped out on the street.
Be careful with walking on the (asphalt) road in the dark. The island is notorious for people (often tourists) drinking and driving. In general the car driving style on the island is not very subtle.