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Don't fancy clubbing? You'll still rave about Ibiza

For many, Ibiza is synonymous with clubbing and Katie Price, but the image of the island as a playground for lager louts and celebs is as wrong as wearing white socks with sandals.

A hippy hangout in the sixties and clubbing mecca in the 80s and 90s - the Balearic island has matured.

Ibiza Town 'Eivissa' is the sensible place to stay. It has the best transport links and, in the Old Town and marina area, it's very pretty.

The five star Gran Hotel makes for a luxurious base for the week. Entering the lobby you could be forgiven for thinking you have stumbled into a modern art museum.

The clean-lined and contemporary rooms don't disappoint. With stunning views of the historic old town and Mediterranean sea it it can be a difficult choice between relaxing on the spacious balcony or hopping into the jacuzzi bath - plonked, for your convenience, right next to the bed.

The Renaissance-era walls of Dalt Vila, a UNESCO World Heritage site, give a glimpse into Ibiza's history. A crossroads for different cultures for centuries the best-preserved coastal fortress in the Mediterranean is now the site of concerts and cultural activities throughout the year.

Most people head straight to the cathedral (Santa Maria d'Eivissa) and ruined castle at the top, but it is better to wander up the streets behind the marina through the gates and into the lanes. As you gradually near the top you are rewarded with breathtaking views.

Much of island's landscape is unmarred by development with ancient architecture showing the marks of Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, and Catalans, with Carthaginian relics among the best in the world.

After a stroll around the bougainvillea-scented cobbled lanes and atmospheric plazas, dipping into the cafes and boutiques, you are already persuaded that there's more to Ibiza than clubs and partying.

Beach-lovers don't have to stray far to find the longest stretch of beach on the island, Playa d'en Bossa, dotted with bars and cafés. A 15-minute drive south of Ibiza Town takes you through shimmering salt flats and rocky coastlines to Ses Salines. A paradise of white sand and brochure-blue waters.

With superb restaurants on the bay it is one of the trendiest places during the summer months. But those seeking to escape the crowds can head to one of the many secluded coves.

The biggest retail event on the island is Santa Eulària's hippie market. A fine array of craftwork and trinkets is set out for tourists to snap up. The attitude on Ibiza is 'live and let live' and here you come across all sorts. The 'chill out' bars and live entertainment make for an enjoyable spot to rest tired feet while watching fellow tourists and the odd new age traveller flounce by.

The relaxed and 'chilled out' vibe is exemplified as you drive north through the olive and almond groves. Hotel Hacienda Na Xamena on the coast is a lot easier to enjoy than it is to pronounce. Built into the top of a cliff and surrounded by lush pine tree forest it manages to integrate perfectly with the surrounding landscape.

The proprietor Alvar Lipsyc and his staff create a unique experience for guests and visitors. This is not just any five-star accommodation - the Moorish villa has an almost magical feel to it. There is none of the stuffiness you might expect at a retreat frequented by supermodels and Premier League footballers.

Those lucky enough to be a hotel guest can lounge in the cascade spa. While immersed in a pool 180m above sea level and overlooking one of most secluded and spectacular bays in the Balearics it is hard to imagine a more serene way to enjoy the white island. For those who aren't checking in it is still an unforgettable experience and lunch or dinner at the aptly named Eden restaurant is gastronomic nirvana.

Of course no trip to Ibiza is complete without watching the sun go down. The 'sunset strip' at the end of Calle Vara de Rey in Sant Antoni is the traditional place to be as the sun sinks. Ambient beats ease from the speakers at the infamous Cafe del Mar and less well-known, but equally enjoyable, SunSeaBar. Grab a cocktail, sit back and enjoy.

Even if you haven't come for the clubbing - and there are some of the best clubs in the world - it's worth going to one just for the experience. Just about any night will do at clubbing's grande dame, Pacha, in Ibiza Town. Although there can be a hefty entrance fee and drinks are expensive - Pacha-goers don't seem to mind. Most are there, not to get wasted, but for electrifying atmosphere and banging music that leaves the hairs on your neck standing for quite a while.

Midsummer is when most visit - towns are at their liveliest and the sun is guaranteed. But for those who don't mind the temperature a little cooler Ibiza still has much to offer in the later months. Culture vultures, hippies, foodies, families and beach-lovers will all be hugely satisfied. Most of Europe may be warm right now but this island paradise is always chilled.


Ibiza Factfile

Getting there

Fly to Ibiza from Belfast with Jet2.com from £29.99 per person one way including taxes. Flights depart twice a week throughout the summer. Visit www.jet2.com for more information. Upgrade to Jet2Plus from just £29.99 per person (only available UK outbound on flights to Ibiza). Jet2Plus includes priority check-in, fast track security, VIP lounge access and premium in-flight meal.

Where to stay

Stay at the Ibiza Gran Hotel, Elvissa, www.ibizagranhotel.com. A junior suite during July and first two weeks of September is around £515 per night, including breakfast and taxes. Cost in August is around £580 per night.

Eating out

Highly recommended: La Brasa, Ibiza Town; Can Curreu, Sant Carles; Yemanja, Cala Jondal and Club Nautico, Sant Antoni and the converted chapel restaurant Sa Capella also in Sant Antoni.

Getting around

Ibiza is roughly oval in shape, with the tiny capital, Ibiza Town and airport in the south, the huge Sant Antoni resort in the west, rural villages in the east and a good variety of beaches circling the whole thing. The island is just 40km tip to toe, and it's easy to get around. Buses between the towns and resorts are cheap and you will find timetables at the tourist centres. Water taxis ply between the towns and beaches, usually for about €3-5 per hop; Ibiza Town marina is the main hub. Renting a car is another good option. Twenty to thirty minutes drive from Ibiza Town will get you to most of the furthest destinations.

Ibiza Tourist Board

There are tourist information offices at the airport and in several towns including Sant Antoni and Ibiza Town. For more information visit www.ibiza.travel

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