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Now is time to visit Ibiza.

Byline: IBIZA Sarah Marshall

Cheering low-flying aircraft as they cruised overhead became a bit of a tradition at clubs along Playa d'en Bossa, Ibiza's longest and liveliest beach. Whoops of joy welcomed a new influx of clubbers and applauded the fact someone somewhere in the venue had probably missed their flight home.

But today, only gulls spread their wings against the deep blue sky. Standing alone on an empty beach, I'm an audience of one.

Spain, including the Balearic Islands, experienced one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe, and Ibiza's famous club scene has been put on hold for this year. Mass gatherings are forbidden, dancing banned, and bars must close by 10pm. It paints a very different picture of the Ibiza familiar to most.

When I land at the airport, only a scattering of people fills the terminal. Outside, weathered posters advertise parties that ended months ago.

Foreigners, though, are starting to return. Borders are open to visitors from the UK, and inclusion in the government's safe list (meaning no quarantine restrictions in either direction) has given a green light for tourism to the island (though Scots still currently need to isolate).

Several weeks ago, the idea of a summer holiday in Europe felt like a fantasy, but leading package holiday operator TUI promises 2020's summer is back on, with regional departures to increase over the next few weeks. In terms of destinations, by August, Greece and Turkey will be sold alongside their Spanish programme.

Newly refurbished during lockdown, 495-room dual tower resort The Ibiza Twiins is one of the properties hosting TUI guests. Perspex screens on reception and multiple hand sanitiser dispensers are designed to keep Covid-19 at bay; in every room, slippers and bathrobes come with a complimentary disposable face mask.

From July 13, mask wearing became mandatory in all public areas across the Balearics. Beaches, swimming pools and sun loungers are exempt; when sitting down to eat or drink, face coverings can also be removed. Anyone who breaks the rules could be fined E100 (PS89).

In the absence of crowds, social distancing is easy, and I never struggle to find ample space in the sun. I'm one of only 90 guests - a fraction of the capped 70% capacity.

The other surprise is the breakfast buffet, an institution most hoteliers have retired in our new germophobic world. When I enter the restaurant, a member of staff registers my temperature with an electronic zapper; anything above 37.5C and I'll be whisked into quarantine. Inside, a oneway system weaves past counters of food, although only serving staff can plate items.

Along with sickness, fear of quarantine is one of the big stumbling blocks preventing people from booking holidays in 2020. TUI recently announced details of a new Covid-19 Cover programme, available to every guest until the end of the year, which promises to take care of costs associated with self-isolation abroad.

Most tourists I meet are simply relieved to be on holiday. It's unanimously agreed the only peculiarity is how normal it feels to be away.

Like everywhere in 2020, though, Ibiza looks different.

Local guide Pepe Costa says this is the quietest he's ever seen the island. "But it's still as beautiful as ever," he says from beneath a plastic visor, as we explore the breezy, hilltop ramparts of Dalt Vila, Ibiza's fortified old town. Many agree this is a chance to revel in Ibiza's past glories - from discovering early Phoenician settlements at Sa Caleta, to celebrating the free-spirited, hippy vibe that's made Ibiza such an inclusive place.

The disco lights may have temporarily dimmed, but there are still opportunities to party and have fun.

Owned by Duane Lineker (nephew of famous former footballer Gary), O Beach was one of the first venues to relaunch its daytime pool parties at the beginning of July.

The chic venue overlooks the bay of San Antonio, Ibiza's beating heart of entertainment, but today the typically hectic promenade ambles along at a gentler pace. Inside the bar, I'm allocated my own seating area and poolside day bed, and politely asked not to move around too much. Using my phone to zap a QR code, I can order drinks and platters of food from masked waiters, while DJs spin a suitably laidback set.

A boutique day club for families, neighbouring bar Bam- Bu-Ku, also owned by the company, only launched a few weeks ago. Teens queue up to ride a surf machine and toddlers play in a sandpit, while parents sip extravagantlycrafted cocktails.

Up in the rural hills of San Antonio, where olive groves and almond trees advertise Ibiza's beauty far more effectively than glitzy billboards, iconic hotel, bar and restaurant Pikes is also having a good summer so far. Although numbers have been reduced and plugs are pulled at 2am, the atmosphere is still carefree. A couple play tennis on a court dominated by a giant roller blade, once used as a dancer's podium, while others laze in the pool with inflatable flamingos.

According to Dawn Hindle, co-owner and creative director at Pikes, now is the time to experience real Ibiza: amazing restaurants, superb, spacious beaches and 'back to mine' vibe chilled sessions.

TUI Blue For Families offers seven nights on an all-inclusive basis at the 4T TUI Blue Aura in Port des Torrents (close to San Antonio), from PS537 per person based on two adults and two children sharing. Includes flights from Manchester in October.

TUI Platinum is offering seven nights B&B at the 4T Ibiza Twiins in Playa d'en Bossa, from PS513 per person (two sharing). Half board and all-inclusive options are available. Includes flights from Gatwick in October.

More regional departures are also available. Visit, visit your local TUI holiday store or download the TUI app.

Clubs have closed and dancefloors are empty, but Ibiza is swinging to nostalgic beats


Bar staff at O Beach in Ibiza

Pikes in Ibiza is having a good summer so far

The sea view from Dalt Vila

Shops open in Ibiza Old Town

Cleaning sun loungers at the TUI Aura Blue resort
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:IBIZA Sarah Marshall
Publication:Express and Star (Wolverhampton, England)
Geographic Code:6BURK
Date:Jul 25, 2020
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