Sunset To Sunrise: A Stay At Ibiza Mountain Retreat La Montaña
Ibiza’s nightlife is mostly associated with driving beats and hedonistic parties. Yet, awake at 5am in the early hours of Friday morning, last week I found myself mesmerised by a spectacle of the different kind as I gazed up towards a vast sea of glittering stars instead of flickering lasers and shiny discoballs. La Montaña, a new retreat located on a mountaintop in the island’s tranquil North, invites visitors to connect with Ibiza’s natural side and take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. And, as I watched two shooting stars slice through the darkness, I was utterly convinced that the experience should be put on every White Isle fan’s Ibiza bucket list.
Just a few hours earlier we had met Toby Clarke – who spent four months turning the humble stone hut into a comfortable bolthole complete with three bunkbeds, a kitchen, an outdoor shower overlooking the forest-covered hills and the shimmering sea in the distance, and an eco-friendly toilet – in the picturesque village of San Joan to set off on our hike to reach the retreat. There is no running water or electricity at La Montaña, but I believe this adds to the spirit of the mountain adventure; and with the prospect of watching the sunset from one of the hammocks, sharing a home-made vegetarian dinner seasoned with herbs we foraged ourselves along the way, as well as the opportunity to sleep underneath the starry night sky, our group was excited to get going.
Best known as the founder of renowned local organisation Walking Ibiza, Toby is full of impressive knowledge where Ibiza’s flora and fauna, as well as the culture and history of the island, are concerned. Regaling us with fascinating facts about the plants and historic structures we encountered on our 45-minute walk up the winding mountain roads, we stopped to nibble on pine tree resin – a popular sweet snack in Egypt, we were assured – learned why every fig fruit you eat contains a little ‘meaty’ surprise and marvelled at the simplicity of abandoned stone structures that used to house Ibiza natives not quite the hundreds of years ago we guess-timated, but rather much more recently in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
La Montaña, in comparison, wowed us with its simple but stylish living areas and well thought-out design. Using mainly recycled materials and a lot of creativity, Toby and his helpers have created a space that is as homely as it is Instagram-worthy. And whether you are stopping by for a picnic or book an overnight stay, he ensures that drinking water and food aplenty await your arrival. (And for those who really can’t do without their gadgets, there is a huge power bank to recharge them.) For those planning a special occasion, extras such as fine wines and even premium quality sushi can also be arranged – this is still Ibiza, after all.
Speaking of special moments, as luck would have it we were accompanied on our walk up to La Montaña by priestess Graell Corsini, who conducted a cleansing ritual to help us reconnect with Mother Nature upon our arrival. As Ibiza is an island of yin and yang, we toasted the ceremony with a traditional ‘tinto verano’ or ‘summer wine’ that Toby had whipped up for us in the meantime. With the sun setting, some of us wandered off for a yoga session in the woods, while others began to chop veggies in preparation for dinner. Toby explained that special activities such as sunset walks, kayak tours and horse riding can also be arranged, however we decided to take it easy and watched the glowing fireball disappear behind the mountains cosied up on the sofa on the outdoor terrace.
Dinner – a hearty vegetable soup, rustic bread and aioli, spicy pickles and – for dessert – the traditional Ibicencan almond pastries, we ended our evening with a mini astronomy session conducted by Toby, who pointed out the star formations in the sky for us. As we were planning to get up early for sunrise, soon after it was time to choose a bunk, hammock or camping bed option and go to sleep. With the gentle breeze in my hair and the stars above me, I felt as snug as the proverbial bug in my sleeping bag.
The 6.30am alarm went off way too soon, but with a few encouraging words from Toby and a ‘natural energiser’ in the shape of wild rosemary – excellent for inhaling the aromatic fragrance and to use as an alternative toothbrush – we climbed atop the third-highest mountain of the island to enjoy the breath-taking views. Walking towards the pastel pink heavens glowing beyond the trees, we spotted ancient fossil formations in the rocks lining the path; another pinch-me moment if you are used to seeing them locked up in glass cabinets. Arriving at 400-metres above sea level, and with 360-degree views of the island’s valleys and sea, we greeted another glorious day on Ibiza with awe-induced silence.
Back at La Montaña, it was time for showers – for those who dared – and breakfast. Anticipating our most primal needs, Toby had ensured that there were coffee and croissants to help us stave off hunger pangs after our early-morning adventure, as well as yoghurt and fresh fruit. After a little chill-out session in the warm morning sun and a tidy to leave our little mountain home as pretty and clean as we had found it, and we reluctantly made our way back to reality. As well as a much needed ‘break from it all’, our stay was also a great bonding experience, a romantic wilderness adventure with all the creature comforts we needed and a fascinating insight into a simpler, more tranquil life in harmony with nature. It is easy to envision how the appeal of this special place will change with the seasons, moving from outdoor sleepovers onto cosy gatherings around the fire – and I, for one, cannot wait to return!