Fun In the Sun
Sunny Spain’s Balearic Islands, including Mallorca, the site of the lesbian ELLA Festival.
Images courtesy of ELLA Festival
The Balearic Islands of Mallorca and Ibiza, off the eastern coast of Spain, offer a panorama of events and excursions for lesbian travelers. From taking a boat ride on a subterranean lake, to tanning on gay-friendly beaches, the islands are a destination for every kind of girl. Popular landmarks include an imposing Gothic cathedral in Mallorca and the tranquil salt marshes in Ibiza, but the most exciting events these islands have to offer are the women-only weekends where pool parties and sports fill the day, and at night hundreds of women are packed into dance parties featuring European DJs.
Start your trip with a visit to Mallorca, the largest island in the Balearic Archipelago. The most recognizable landmark in the capital city of, Palma de Mallorca is the magnificent, light-filled La Seu Gothic cathedral. Built of golden sandstone and lined with flying buttresses that seem to rise out of the sea, La Seu was created during the rule of King James I of Aragon in 1229, but was not completed until four centuries later, in 1601. A small entrance fee allows you to glimpse its many wonders: The nave has one of the world’s largest rose windows, containing 1,236 pieces of stained glass; and above the altar you’ll see Antoni Gaudi’s controversial wrought-iron canopy, symbolizing the Crown of Thorns.
To experience life in the heart of the city, a stroll along the 100-year old, tree-lined Passeig de Born is a must. The Passeig de Born is a hub of fiestas and demonstrations, and a place where families go to enjoy the evening. The promenade is also lined with a selection of mid- to high-range shops, such as Zara, Boss, and Louis Vuitton. When you’re ready to leave the capital, pay a visit to the east coast of the island, known for its caves and stunning beaches. The eerie-looking Caves of Drach, one of the island’s most unique attractions, extend for over 3,900 feet, with craggy stalactite formations hanging from above. The caves can be explored on a one-hour guided tour, which includes a concert of classical music and a boat trip across Lake Martel, one of the largest subterranean lakes in the world.
A day on the isolated, rugged west coast of Mallorca will most likely land you in the quaint village of Valldemossa, where you’ll see that many of the residents hang a tile plaque on their doors depicting Santa Catalina Thomàs, in the hope that Mallorca’s patron saint will protect them from harm. The Royal Carthusian Monastery of Valldemossa, where the Carthusian monks were based for several centuries, is the main draw in the area. Lovers of classical music will find delight in the souvenirs and personal objects left by Chopin and George Sand, who spent a winter in Valldemossa.
As you head back into Palma, a walk through the Poble Espanyol (Spanish Village) will reveal the many distinct characteristics of Spanish architecture, showing its development through Muslim and then Christian influences. You can eat Spanish food in the Plaza Mayor, or sit outside a cafe watching passers-by browse for souvenirs at the village shops. Artists display handicrafts in workshops scattered throughout the village.
When it comes to nightlife, Palma is where lesbian travelers will find the best options. There are LGBT parties on Saturday nights at the gay club La Demence, as well as Harry’s Palma Bar, and various girls’ nights at Isi Pub. Although the gay clubs have a mostly mixed or majority male clientele, there is a week every year devoted entirely to the girls. The Ella International Lesbian Festival (ellafestival.com) will be in its third year in 2015, where beach events and night parties are packed into a late-summer extravaganza, September 1–9. Scheduled sports activities include beach volleyball, yoga, running, paddle boarding, and a bike tour of the island. There are also photography excursions, cooking classes, pool parties, and blowout night parties with popular European lesbian DJs and artists. Past DJs have included Michal Serr, Miss Cupcake, and DJ Nica. The Ella International Lesbian Festival allows for no down moments.
After a spell in Mallorca, take Air Berlin’s short, one-hour flight to Ibiza. Air Berlin is an IGLTA member and also has an LGBT information site to promote travel within the gay community (airberlin.com/lgbt). Ibiza is renowned for bringing in the world’s best DJs to sell out events during the party season, which runs from May through September. AfroJack, David Guetta, Carlcox, and Avicci are some of the headliner DJs seen on billboards all over the island. But Ibiza is not just for the party crowd—the island experience is replete with adventure, gourmet cuisine, and ancient landmarks to discover.
Stay at the Ushuaïa Tower Hotel, in the lively area of Playa d’en Bossa. As you approach the lobby, you’ll most likely hear music by the resident Brit DJ, Paul Reynolds, spilling from the pool area. This is a sign that the party has already started, even if it’s not yet 1 p.m. As a prelude to the wild night that is sure to come, relax on the gay-friendly Ses Salines public beach, which is 10 minutes from the hotel. During the drive, you can see miles of natural salt marshes, as well as the Church of Sant Francesc de s’Estany, Mediterranean pinewoods, and thickets of gnarled sabina trees. The Ses Salines Park salt marshes date from 600 BC, and locals favor biking or running along its scenic path.
If the sun has begun to set by the time you arrive back at the hotel, you might decide to head over to the Ushuaïa Club next to the hotel, where dancers dressed in slinky outfits move to the DJ’s house music and a crowd forms around the massive 50-foot stage. Ushuaïa was the first property created as a combination hotel and open-air club on the island, and it’s the premier destination in Ibiza for an adults-only playground experience. The wristband you receive at check-in will give you free access to all the Ushuaïa parties. Even the breakfast buffet offers premier grown-up food, like lump black roe caviar and air-dried beef from the Alps. If all this doesn’t sell you, then the hotel’s inclusive corporate philosophy surely will. According to Guille Rodriguez, a marketing manager for Ushuaïa’s parent company, the Palladium Group, “There is no such thing as gay-friendly here because everyone is treated the same.”
On the western side of Ibiza, a beautiful beach called Cala Salada, a tucked-away paradise, is more familiar to the locals than to tourists. Warm sand and crystal-clear blue waters beckon you for a swim, or you can rent a paddleboat for an up-close perspective of the coast. If you go on to dine at the see-and-be-seen Cotton Beach Club atop the cliffs overlooking Cala Tarida Beach, you’re in for a breathtaking sunset, with sweeping views of the rocky outcroppings below you.
On Tuesday and Saturday nights, the Hard Rock Hotel, across the street from Ushuaïa, offers dinner and show on the rooftop. At the Heaven restaurant, guests can enjoy a four-course tapas menu while watching a series of performances—ballet dancers, sexy sailor dances, contortionists— in a setting that is very Las Vegas and Miami wrapped together.
Although lesbian travelers usually attend mainstream parties and events, there is a weekend in May devoted entirely to women. The Velvet Ibiza party (velvetibiza.com), described as “The Wildest Women Only Weekend,” takes place May 28–31, 2015, and includes pool parties, concerts, yoga, and beach events. The Lesbiathalon and the mountain bike excursion are for the daring women in your group. Uh Huh Her headlines the Saturday night concert. Some of the European DJs scheduled to perform include DJ Gunn, DJ Hildegard, and Kamikace.
Mallorca and Ibiza both sparkle with centuries-old history and offer adventuresome activities on the Mediterranean Sea. With year-round mild weather and popular annual lesbian weekends, these Balearic Islands should be on your to-vacation list.
ALL ABOUT ELLA!
The ELLA Festival has two parts, the Corporate events and the ELLA Festival.
ELLA Corporate, held on September 1-2, consists of fascinating lesbian discussion panels featuring high profile international lesbian speakers, productive networking events, informal talks, and colorful a 'marketplace' where lesbian goods, services and information are on display and available for sampling or purchase.
ELLA Festival, held on September 3-9, is an amazing array of diverse events including: ELLA Beach and activities, a Mallorcan dinner with music and show, ELLA 'Around the World' Party, ELLA Circus Party, beach activities and games, boating and culinary excursions, and an outdoor film festival.
More information on the ELLA Festival here: www.ellafestival.com