Before Ibiza became synonymous with clubbing culture and electronic music, it was a haven from political oppression for the Bohemian-seeking hippie wave of the 60s. Now the White Isle is experiencing a renaissance as a European hotspot of spiritual & wellness tourism.
So, what is Ibiza famous for? For a start, attracting the rich & famous and the contradiction of being consistent at changing what it is known for.
Ibiza is a rare destination that allows you the freedom to explore hedonism in its many shapes and forms.
So keep reading to discover how this magnetic Balearic island went from a hippie movement to party central and then to spiritual escape.
The hippie movement
Let’s cast our mind’s eye back to the 1960s and the Beat Generation. This was the beginning of the hippie movement in California that spread throughout the globe—finding its way to Ibiza.
The Franco regime that ruled Spain from 1936 to 1975 meant that many opposers from mainland Spain settled on the island. Attracted by the rumours of majestic natural beauty, affordable lifestyle and freedom from the dictator, they were the first wave of ‘foreigners’ to popularize Ibiza.
During this stage, the initial celebrity association began to take hold and thrust the island into the international spotlight. The Rolling Stones were about as famous as you could be in 1964, so their San Antonio holiday brought fame to the island.
Today a sizeable cultural aspect of Ibiza is its hippie heritage. 11 established hippie markets take place all over the island each day of the week. The most famous of them is Las Dalias Market in San Carlos.
Many of the island’s permanent residents live what many consider to be a hippie lifestyle. And while much of the present-day tourism is targeted at higher spending visitors, these island stalwarts retain their place as part of the history.
The hippie movement reached its peak in the late 60s as Europe’s political leaders squeezed other established hippie movements into conformity and caused an influx of rebellious wanderers onto Ibiza’s shores.
Again Ibiza found itself in the Hollywood spotlight after the cult film Dream (1969) depicted it as a sun-drenched Garden Of Eden for the free-spirited. But underpinned by the excessive drug use of the time. And to this day, Ibiza has never shaken this recognition.
Parties, discotecas & nightlife
The iconic twin cherries of Pacha can lay claim to being the first discotheque in Ibiza. But it wasn’t until an ex-navy sailor built a hotel that Ibiza would gain notoriety as the party capital of Europe.
Tony Pike sails into the Balearic islands
Revellers that visit Ibiza in the summer months can thank the late, great hippie at heart, Tony Pike. The original raconteur, vagabond and playboy of the Balearic islands first arrived in Ibiza Town on a whim that would shape the island’s trajectory forever.
Mr Pike spotted a 500-year-old finca on the outskirts of San Antonio with no electricity, running water or adequate access. The former yachtsman spent nearly 2 years renovating the property into what is now Pikes Hotel.
Build it, and they will come. And the celebrities did. This was when the debauchery and excess of the Ibizan party lifestyle became infamous. Freddie Mercury, Boy George, Grace Jones, George Michael, Bon Jovi and Kylie Minogue were just some of the names to frequent Pikes in its glory years.
Read Next: Pikes Ibiza | 9 Things You May Not Know
Paul Oakenfold takes ecstasy at Amnesia
Both Pacha and Amnesia were around before the late Tony Pike built his celebrity, Taj Mahal. But they were somewhat different from the super clubs they are today. Ibiza had not yet established its all-day and all-night clubbing culture.
A British hip-hop DJ named Paul Oakenfold visited Amnesia and was immediately infatuated with the Balearic Beat that was unique to the venue. This mixture of house (from Chicago), disco and pop music were the seedlings of the electronic clubbing experience.
The story goes that Oakenfold and his friends tried ecstasy for the first time at Amnesia while the father of Balearic Beat, Alfred Fiorito (DJ Alfred), soundtracked their experience. This experience resulted in the beginnings of the Acid House wave back in the UK, championed by the likes of Oakenfold and Andrew Weatherall.
The success of Acid House, particularly in the Northern cities of the UK, brought the clubbing spotlight firmly onto Ibiza. The party scene kicked into gear, and nightclub-loving Brits began to flock to Ibiza.
The UK press dub this time the ‘second summer of love’. In a way, it’s poetic that the second significant change in what Ibiza became known for is tied to the first.
Read Next: Musical Ibiza: A Brief History
The 90s and 00s clubbing reaches new heights
The decades of the nineties and noughties were awash with raves, drugs and the consistent beat of electronic music. This era stamped its mark on the island in a way that none of the others quite could. And it’s the only one the authorities actively try to steer away from at every chance they get.
The slew of nightclubs that emerged are still around today, and many are highly influential brands within the music industry. Even the likes of Space and Sankey’s still inspire the next generation of electronic music producers and DJs.
This was when Ibiza became forever interlinked with the all-day and all-night party scene. The association is so strong that when most tourists think of Ibiza, they think of this.
Spiritual retreats & upmarket family-friendly resorts
The hard-partying reign of Ibiza’s nightclubs had long been challenged by those not directly involved in the island’s clubbing underbelly. And in 2018, a significant change was brought in by the government of the Balearic islands.
The regulation of outside venues limited to playing music at 65 dB (decibels) has resulted in daytime parties becoming the rarity rather than the norm.
When you think of Ibiza, you would typically think of nightlife, music and the party-loving tourists. But in the words of Bob Dylan, the times they are a-changin’.
But that wasn’t the only regulation that was significant. Around the same time, lawmakers also forced that all new hotels must be built to a 5-star level. So there is a new target of tourists that Ibiza would like to attract to its beautiful beaches.
The Six Senses resort in Xarraca Bay near Portinatx is the latest addition to attract wealthy, spiritually-minded visitors to this part of the mediterranean sea. The 20-acre retreat has 137 accommodations that include 10-bedroom mansions on site.
The hippie community has regained favour over the party culture, and it is this image that the government would like Ibiza to be associated with. Many of these new properties offer full-service spas, mindfulness workshops and layered approaches to wellness.
The island has long had the type of magnetism that keeps those who have visited coming back for more. And now that the nightlife-seeking generation of the 90s are all grown up, Ibiza can offer them something else.
Indeed, Ibiza is typically thought of as a party destination full of raucous debauchery set on a beautiful island. And that still holds. However, Ibiza is trying hard to wash that image away and continue its ever-changing metamorphosis into something fresh.
Ibiza has come full circle from its artistic and creative past to captivating the hard-partying celebrities and rock stars of yesteryear and back into a more tranquil island of escape.
If you were wondering what Ibiza is known for, you might also be interested in finding out what Ibiza is like.