All back to mine: Ibiza’s history of house parties


All back to mine: Ibiza’s history of house parties

Resident writer Maya Boyd charts the evolution of the private party scene on the Balearics’ most hedonistic island

Maya Boyd

BY Maya Boyd24 February 2023

‘You only had to invite one or two people and half the island would turn up. They arrived 10 to a car, hanging out of the windows of a Deux Chevaux, carrying baskets full of bread and wine and packets of hashish. There’d be sleepy children wrapped in blankets and someone always brought a chicken or two. I never did work out where the chickens ended up.’

My father lived in the north of Ibiza from 1969 to 1973 with a ragtag bunch of European drifters and American draft dodgers. Their home, a near-derelict finca, with no electricity or running water, was the scene of many a multi-day house party at a time when Ibiza’s hedonistic hippy movement was at its zenith.

Heritage photos of Ibiza

Drawn by word of mouth and following scrawled maps drawn on crumpled napkins, revellers would stay for days.

There’d be drummers and dancing, musicians and mystics, pipe-smoking peaceniks swathed in fabrics haggled in Afghan markets. There’d be fires blazing and incense burning and the sun setting and rising and setting again.

LSD was finding a foothold among the hippy set and the free love movement – in vogue in Ibiza since the Beatnik era of the 1950s – made pleasure-seeking a rite of passage.

When Joni Mitchell, poster girl for the flower power generation, arrived in Ibiza in 1971, it was the island’s freewheeling house party scene that she immortalised in her hit record ‘California’.

So, I bought me a ticket / I caught a plane to Spain 
Went to a party down a red dirt road / There were lots of pretty people there 
Reading Rolling Stone, reading Vogue / They said, “How long can you hang around?” 
I said a week, maybe two / Just till my skin turns brown’.

These were high times in Ibiza and the island had become, according to the writer Clifford Irving, ‘a wild place, where the watchword was “anything goes”’.

Group of people singing and playing guitar in Ibiza

In 1973, when Ibiza’s first nightclub Pacha opened its doors, the scene shifted from hillside to dancefloor. Although designed in the style of a traditional old finca, Pacha sprinkled sex and stardust on the homespun hippy party scene and the seed of Ibiza’s reputation as a clubbing mecca was planted.

House parties were replaced by afterparties, the first of which was inadvertently thrown by Pacha founder Ricardo Urgell when gaggles of wide-eyed flower children were ushered out of Pacha at dawn and onto sailing boats bound for the nearby islet of Es Palmador.

Amnesia opened in 1976 – again, housed in an old finca – and by 1979 the club had been joined by KU and the fabled Pikes Hotel. Pikes – a boutique hotel before the term was even coined – was itself a reformed casa payesa, or country house, and was helmed by the legendary raconteur Tony Pike. Pikes became a byword for excess, hedonism and sexual liberation, styled less as a hotel and more as the ultimate house party.

The early eighties were Ibiza’s most flamboyant years, as San Rafael’s celebrity-saturated KU picked up where Studio54 left off, but by the close of the decade and well into the nineties, nightlife had evolved again. First came Balearic beat, then acid house, then a chillout scene that focused on San Antonio’s Café del Mar. House parties took a back seat, replaced by San An sunsets, illicit beach parties and the infamous quarry raves.

When Jade Jagger bought and renovated a rambling San Juan estate in 2000, it was as though the hippy movement of the 1970s had come full circle. Her summer parties became the stuff of legend, with a revolving cast of the planet’s most beautiful and bohemian turning up to tune in and drop out on a northern mountainside.

Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie was on DJ duty, Mario Testino held court by the swimming pool and inhibitions were left at the door as clutches of louche and liberal rock’n’roll aristos rolled joints and French kissed on the hippy-trail-inspired Moroccan daybeds.

When a paparazzo snapped a photo of a lone, barefoot Kate Moss watching sunrise on the beach below the house, wearing a silver slip dress and holding an empty glass, Jagger’s infamy as the island’s hippest hostess was sealed.

By 2010 the villa-party scene was in overdrive. Ibiza’s bohemian appeal had been side-lined by both an influx of international wealth and the dawn of the superclub, and it was to flashy, modernist pads in Salinas or Es Cubells that we’d tumble after leaving Pacha or Amnesia at dawn.

These glossy, marble-clad pads and the parties that happened in them were the antithesis of the 1970s bohemian dream. There were flashy cars and overpaid DJs and girls of questionable repute. There were infinity pools and sound systems and enough shiny white surfaces that everyone could get up to no good. In these overpriced villas, a stone’s throw from the private airport, Ibiza had reached peak consumerism. The bubble needed to burst.

Of course, all scenes ebb and flow, but a decade and a pandemic later, there’s been a paradigm shift in the way locals party in Ibiza. In the wake of Covid, the island made a volte-face, a return to source, if you will.

Across the globe, the pandemic forced us to prioritise, and invariably it was family, nature and intimacy that came out tops. In Ibiza, this shift has paved the way for a more intimate and connected way of gathering.

While the appeal of raving face to face with 3,000 perspiring strangers in a nightclub has inarguably waned, the desire to dance, to release and to celebrate has not. The parties have moved from the dancefloors back to the hills, where ultra-luxe yet free-spirited houses in the north hold smaller gatherings for friends and family in bijou cave clubs, in firelit yurts and under the stars.

In stark contrast to the glossy marina scene, these parties are low-impact and ecologically aware, with local artists, conscious DJs and home-cooked vegetarian feasts adding to the community vibe. Kombucha and organic mezcal are the elixirs of choice and all ages – from eight to 80 – join to honour the summer solstice, the full moon in Libra or simply the arrival of the weekend.

If this all sounds a little worthy, however, then think again, because the intimate nature of these gatherings has seen a return to the liberal sensibilities of the 1970s.

The celebratory use of psychedelics is commonplace once more: peyote-laced chocolate mousse is the canapé du jour and you are far more likely to be offered magic mushroom drops than cocaine by a fellow reveller.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, consensual non-monogamy is back on the table: the pandemic brought with it a hunger for intimacy, and if that spills over into a bout of psychedelic tongue-tangling with someone other than your partner, then there’s a sense that there are perhaps bigger fish to fry.

Rental properties have taken note of the new tone: smart homes across the island are integrating sweat lodges, cave clubs and ceremonial tipis into their grounds. At Sabina, an ecologically inspired private villa estate on the island’s southwest coast, owner (and property tycoon) Anton Bilton oversaw the building of both a discreet private after-hours nightclub and a non-denominational temple, ‘for spiritual connection, meditation and contemplative reverence to the glory of the island.’

When the antipodean author Janet Frame spent a sun-drenched summer on Ibiza in 1956, she wrote that she had ‘wined and dined in the homes of men and women living with their chosen partners in the sensuous, sensual kind of luxury enjoyed by the lotus eaters’.

As the island’s community continues its shift towards a more conscious and connected way of gathering, it seems that we’ve come full circle.

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Maya Boyd is an award-winning Ibiza-based journalist, editor and brand consultant. She has written several books about Ibiza and Formentera, including Assouline’s best-selling coffee table book, Ibiza Bohemia, and is both the editorial director of L’Officiel Ibiza and a contributor at Condé Nast Traveller. She lives in the north of Ibiza with her husband and three children.