The city we know today as Ibiza goes back its history to the VII century b. C., when it was thought to be a key point in the famous phoenician trade route. Since then, Ibiza has welcomed romans, byzantines, vandals, arabs and christians; the influences of these cultures can be found in the art and architectural styles of the island.
The strategic importance of the island in the mediterranean, equidistant between the peninsular coast and north Africa, made it the goal, not only of the great civilizations and empires, but also of pirates.
The island of Ibiza has a past indelibly marked by piracy and deserving of its nickname “the island of pirates”. The legendary ibizan pirate, Antoni Riquer Arabí, sacked more than one hundred ships in his piracy life in the late XVIII and early XIX centuries.
The caves that cover the coast of Ibiza were useful tools for these clandestine operations, originally used by pirates and smugglers, such as the Can Marçà Cave on the north coast of the island. This cave is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Ibiza, and offers a 40 minutes tour of stalactites, stalagmites, waterfalls and small underground lakes. Located on the cliffs of the port of Sant Miquel, it was discovered by smugglers who accessed it through an opening located 10 meters above sea level.
From their boats, they raised the treasures and hid them inside.
Cova Santa it is another understandably popular tourist destination for Ibiza. It was once a refuge for pirates, but the site has been transformed today with the construction of a restaurant as well. Cova Santa is accessed by an open fracture in the mountain structure. Following this path will take you to a cave, which then shows you a giant cave more than 30 meters deep. Further inside, a staircase descends to a show that is increasingly difficult to imagine as well as surprising. The landscape of stalactites and stalagmites in the cave creates a surreal world of natural wonder.
There is another Holy Cave in San Antonio. Legend has it that, on a stormy night in the year 1300, the desperate and fearful crew of a ship promised that, if they were lucky enough to escape the storm alive, they would deliver the image of Santa Agnès to the first port they reached. San Antonio became the coveted sanctuary and the carving was preserved in the Holy Cave. This cave, next to the hermitage of Santa Agnès (now Sa Capella restaurant), has been a place of prayer throughout history, considered by many experts as one of the oldest churches in Ibiza.
Also in San Antonio is the Cova de Ses Llegostes. This natural cave was long used by fishermen as a fish farm, but now houses an aquarium, which is an interesting distraction for young sea lovers if they are nearby.
Other historical sites that deserve an underground visit include the Necropolis of Puig des Molins in the city of Ibiza, one of the largest and best preserved underground tombs in the world. The 50.000 square meter space provides the visitor with an understanding of the phoenician civilization.
There is also another set of caves of the Bronze Age hidden in the mountains of Sa Cala de Sant Vicent, 150 meters above sea level. Hidden in the forest, Cova d´Es Culleram is dedicated to the goddess Tanit, the main carthaginian deity linked to fertility and fortune.
The caves of Ibiza offer a unique and surprising walk through the centuries of history of Ibiza, from phoenicians to carthaginians and from pirates to smugglers. There is also the possibility of exploring caves by sea, either on your private yacht or renting a luxury boat to go wherever you want.
There were dozens of pirate attacks in Ibiza throughout the middle ages. The island became accustomed to fending off marauders and created a fairly intelligent system of watchtowers and church bells to sound the alarm. But as the pirates moved across the Mediterranean, they would surely have had to deposit their loot somewhere. But where? Maybe they are still there, buried under some secluded cove… somewhere… out there!