One of my favourite road trips in Ibiza, is the San Antonio to Benirras beach drive, through pristine natural countryside untouched for over 2000 years. The route brings you along small country roads, sheer cliff drops, and small traditional villages, with whitewashed churches and small local restaurants. Old ladies in traditional working garments can be seen tending the fields and vines along the route. Stopping off at one of the many local bars along the way for a bite to eat and a cooling drink, makes the experience all the more enjoyable. The return trip can take 3 hours to complete, even longer if a few pit stops for tapas and canyas are included. I normally pick a good chill out album, load it into my car cd player and set off on my journey with sounds of soft Ibiza caressing my ears. This is my favourite Chilled-Ibiza-Vol-1-Various-Artists

If starting in San Antonio, take the Santa Agnes road. (At the last roundabout if you have the time, take a left and this road brings you to Cap Negret and Hostal La Torre my favourite sunset venue. Take a right and you will find Sa Capella imo Ibiza’s best restaurant).This road soon starts to climb, twisting and turning up into the hills of pine trees. Not far along is the turn off to the excellent Cala Salada beach. I have always thought to myself that the road would make an excellent WRC rally stage. The drive keeps climbing for about 5k before its reaches its summit. Its worth parking the car here to take in the views of San Antonio Bay below. The decent is surrounded by sheer rockface and pine forrest with views of nature all about. Small farms and private Villas dot the route. There are stone markers on the side of the road to inform a traveller how far the distance from San Antonio is.

As the car descends into the Santa Agnes valley, famous for the beauty of its almond blossom in Springtime, its best to take the small turn off to the left which is signposted for Es Cucons Rural Hotel, arguably Ibiza’s best Hotel. The road is small and narrow but the effort is worth it, as it brings the car through traditional farming land with sheep, goats and almond trees in abundance. Small farms and buildings that have stood for centuries overlook the valley. The small road then starts to climb again as it meets the sea cliffs with stunning views out onto the crystalline blue Mediterranean. At the summit there is a small restaurant Las Puertas del Ceilo on the left that opens for sunset. Take a walk down to the right to find some ancient caves that suggest there were people living on the island before the arrival of the Phoenicians in 650BC. Views from here are taken in silence and solitude.

Back into the car, take the decent down into the village of Santa Agnes, with fields of farmland to the right and woods of pine to the left. The small road narrows even further with some blind corners so drive carefully. It then opens up as the car approaches the small sleepy village of Santa Agnes with its whitewashed church surrounded by two bars and restaurants and one or two small shops, one of which is a renowned shoe and leather maker called Cas Sabater. There is a large car park on the left that belongs to restaurante La Palmera which opens after 5pm. Also located in the village is the local bar and traditional grocery shop Can Cosmi, which is well known for its House Special Tortilla.

Leaving the village of Santa Agnes behind, the car heads out into untamed countryside along a small, winding and uneven road to San Mateu. On this road to the left, hidden along a dirt road, my favourite place to stay on the Island, Can Pujolet. After flirting with the Ibiza countryside on the drive into Santa Agnes, the land now becomes real and imposes its strong presence in the atmosphere. The red earth looks harsh and dry and is scattered with difficult stone. Farming this land was never easy, I thought to myself, from the cool interior of my air conditioned car. This side of Ibiza is hidden away but a person can feel the hardship that people down through the centuries must have experienced in trying to eke an existence from the tough terrain. Terry Calliers haunting vocals on Love Theme From Spartacus adds to the atmosphere.

The car starts to climb up into a pine forest, again twisting and turning until it emerges onto a plateau with great views of landscape to the right. As we enter another cluster of pine trees, we drive down a steep decline and meet a T-Junction where we turn left. Soon afterwards there is a turn to the right which is signposted for San Mateo. Straight on leads to Sa Rota Bodega which is open daily for wine tasting. The surrounding fields look much more inviting and tended as we approach the sleepy village of San Mateo. Public buildings and Tennis courts awaken you to civilised Ibiza again. A small restaurant on the left facing another traditional whitewashed church, along with a favourite haunt of mine Can Cires seems to be all that there is about San Mateo. The road to the right looks well maintained and inviting but feels too fast and modern. Instead we veer left and continue on the smaller, more leisurely country route.

Soon the road opens up onto fertile looking and farmed countryside. Large stretches of land on both sides of the road slope down from a hill covered in pine. With Michael Woods beautiful remix of Cafe Del Mar still playing in my mind, I change the excellent CD1 to the less enjoyable CD2, which starts off in an upbeat mood with one of the Prodigys most relaxed tracks Kilos. Still, its a fresher sound and matches the surrounding vibrancy of the natural terrain. Veering to the right we start to climb again and into thick wooded pine both to the right and left of the road. Evidence of the Moors Feixes contour farming techniques remain in place after two millennium of existence. The ancient ambience that surrounds this area feels almost alive, as if it exists in a land that time forgot. There is something different about this place, hiding beneath the surface not wanting to be seen. Vines heavy with full black grapes can now be seen in the fields next to the road.

We meet a T-Junction and turn right, twisting and turning following the road through more arable and farmed land with vines, orange and lemon trees. We soon come along to a sharp bend in the road that opens out to reveal a small country bar and restaurant called Can Sulayetas nestled amid a few trees which offer shade from the heat. A few old men with character dripping from their sun beaten faces, play a game of cards outside on the terrace as I make my way to the bar. A young black haired Ibicenco serves me a cool glass of Estrella which I gladly sink back, quenching my thirst. Another follows and I take it outside to the terrace where raised eyebrows dismiss me as a passing tourist. I sit back and take in the local charm of the place, peaceful and relaxing and a world away from the hustle and bustle of San Antonio.

As I leave the small local restaurant, the car turns right and joins the San Miguel road. Its a better road and we start to pick up some speed. The area is full of lemon and orange trees and after a mile or so we pass Can Planells, which overlooks a fertile valley can planells. I stayed there once and it was very peaceful, with an excellent host by the name of Juan. Homemade farm produce and good value accommodation in a traditional Ibicenco setting.

As we approach the village of San Miguel, we merge onto the main road. Its important to take a left turn here rather than travelling out the signposted Benniras road. Not much to recommend in the village except for the Church, which is located on the hilltop overlooking the hamlet. Its well worth a visit, so I drive up the hill and park in the square, where there is a small bar that doubles up as a Tabaconist shop. Its been in the same family for many generations and it reeks of character. Its one of my favourite places to sit back and have a drink outside on its cobbled courtyard. After a visit to the church, which also defended its population from pirate attacks within its fortified walls, I travel back down the hill and take a left turn heading out the Puerto San Miguel road.

 

Its a dangerous road, with twists, turns and sharp bends, all on a descent into the bay of San Miguel, which was developed into a small tourist resort, complete with all inclusive hotels built into the cliff face without any regard to the environment. Some beautiful areas of Ibiza suffer from the bad planning of hotels, which stain the complexion of its beauty, like an ugly scar to the face. The Bay of San Miguel, despite the concrete, is still beautiful and  a resort I enjoy visiting with my family, for its laid back and safe, environment. The well known Hotel Hacienda de Xamena hotelhacienda-ibiza a 5 star property with stunning cliff top views out over the Mediterranean, is on a small road that veers off to the left as we drive into Puerto San Miguel. The turn to the right is the road I want to take to Benirras beach, but instead I drive to the end of the road to visit Restaurant Balansat, a fresh fish restaurant renowned for its fish stew. The owner Miguel is a friend and we sit back and have a chat over a glass of Can Rich. He persuades me to stay for something to eat, which is not hard to do, as the food is always fresh, homemade and unpretentious.

 

I leave Restaurant Balansant with a refreshed body and a smile on my face and head out the Benirras road. I take the left turn signposted for the Can Marca caves and climb up into the hills again. Its a steep accent along the small road, which also provides access to the hotels built into the cliff face of the bay. When we reach the summit, the views out over the bay and Isla De Sa Ferradura, a private Island with a €25k per week price tag are spectacular. Madonna, is one of many celebrity’s, who have reputably stayed there. The road is cut into the cliff face and its twists and turns dangerously, with the contour of the coast. We soon pass the popular Can Marca caves at Cova Can Marca, a 10,000 year old cave discovered by smugglers in the 1500’s. The decent into Benirras is one of the most exciting drives in Ibiza. Flashing glimpses through the pine trees of sharp blue sea and the famous “Finger of God” builds the anticipation of reaching somewhere special.

 

The area around Benirras projects a raw energy about it. Its as if the bay of Benniras was once a port of reverence in ancient times. You almost expect a boat from Homers Odyssey to come sailing around the rocks. Its here, that every Sunday, the local Hippies come to witness the special sunset that only the bay of Benirras can provide. The beat their drums and dance at the imposing rock that points to the heavens like a finger from the sea, giving the sunset at Benirras its unique vibe. Its almost primeval and has to be experienced to fully understand its energy.
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