Ibiza (ee-bee-thah) was once a virtually unknown and unvisited island; Majorca, its bigger neighbor, got all the business. But in the 1950s, Ibiza's art colony began to thrive, and in the 1960s it became the European resort most favored by the flower children. A New York art student once wrote, "Even those who come to Ibiza for the 'wrong' reason (to work!) eventually are seduced by the island's easy life. Little chores like picking up the mail from the post office stretch into daylong missions." Today, Ibiza is overrun by middle-class package-tour visitors, mainly from England, France, Germany, and Scandinavia. It has become a major mecca for gay travelers as well, making Ibiza a wild combination of chic and middle-class.

At 585 sq. km (225 sq. miles), it is the third largest of the Balearic Islands. Physically, Ibiza has a jagged coastline, some fine beaches, whitewashed houses, secluded bays, cliffs, and a hilly terrain dotted with fig and olive trees. Warmer than Majorca, it's a better choice for a winter vacation, but it can be sweltering in July and August. Thousands of tourists descend on the island in summer, greatly taxing the island's limited water supply.

Ciudad de Ibiza boasts Playa Talamanca in the north and Ses Figueretes and Playa d'en Bossa in the south, two outstanding white sandy beaches. Las Salinas, in the south, near the old salt flats, offers excellent sands. Playa Cavallet and Aigües Blanques attract the nude sunbathers. Other good beaches include Cala Bassa, Port des Torrent, Cala Tarida, and Cala Conta -- all within a short bus or boat ride from San Antonio de Portmany. The long sandy cove of Cala Llonga, south of Santa Eulalia del Río, and the white sandy beach of El Cana to the north, are sacred to Ibiza's sun worshipers. In Formentera, Playa de Mitjorn stretches 5km (3 miles) and is relatively uncrowded. Set against a backdrop of pines and dunes, the pure white sand of Es Pujols makes it the most popular of Ibiza's beaches, and deservedly so.

Many travelers still arrive dreaming of soft drugs and hard sex. Both exist in great abundance, but there are dangers. It's common to pick up the local paper and read the list of the latest group of people deported because of irresponsibilidad económica (no money) or conducta antisocial (drunk and disorderly conduct). Some young travelers, frankly, have forsaken Ibiza, taking a ferry 40 minutes away (and just 5km/3 miles as the crow flies) to the tiny island of Formentera, where they find less harassment (although anyone looking suspicious will be noticed out here too). Formentera is the most southern of the Balearic Islands, and because of limited accommodations, restaurants, and nightlife, it is most often visited on a day trip from Ibiza.

Eivissa is the local (Catalan) name for Ibiza. Catalan is the most common language of the island, but it is a dialectal variation -- called Eivissenc or Ibicenco. The same language is spoken on Formentera.