Ses Salines Natural Park

May 22, 2012

One of the most surprising environments in the Balearic Islands is found in the Pitiüsas Islands (Ibiza and Formentera).

These are Ses Salines of Ibiza and Formentera, salt pans and marshes which were designated a Natural Reserve in 1995 and Natural Park in 2001. Endemic plant and animal communities co-exist here in a rich ecosystem where salt is a dominant feature. All this makes their landscapes and beaches unique and unrepeatable.

In earlier times, Ibiza was called the island of salt, and it is so to such an extent that its inhabitants were guaranteed a supply of the condiment by law. The first ones to exploit the marshes were the Carthaginians, towards the 5th Century BC. After the re-conquest of Spain from the Moors, they passed over to being the property of the University and became one of the most important saltworks in the Mediterranean. For various centuries they belonged to the Crown, until they passed into private hands in 1871. Today the extraction of salt continues as in the past, using traditional methods and creating a landscape of white mountains which seem to have come from another world.

Since 1995 this area has formed part of the Sea and Land Natural Reserve of Ses Salines declared Natural Park in 2001. It includes almost all the southern tip of Ibiza, the north of Formentera and the islets which separate both islands. The sea beds, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, are carpeted with fields of posidonia oceanica, which gives the water its crystal clear appearance and makes it the ideal place for scuba-diving.
It is an ecosystem with a rich diversity, designated an Area of Special Protection for Birds. Among the 210catalogued species are herons and flamingos which are easy to sight on their migratory journeys from July to October and from February to May.

The vegetation is conditioned by the salinity of the ground. There is a predominance of the endemic sempervivum, reeds and plants which thrive in brackish water. The hills, with a lower concentration of salt, are covered with savin juniper bushes, pine forests and shrub land of rosemary and rock roses.

Mythical beaches

But Ses Salines also has another side with beautiful landscapes and lovely beaches. Thus, in the part on Formentera, we have the coastal lagoons of s’Estany d’es Peix, Estany Pudent and the Bassa de s’Espalmador and on Ibiza, the pebbly beach of Es Codolar and the white sandy beaches of Illetes, Cavallet (very special because of its dunes and traditionally a nudist beach) and Trinxa or Salines, close to the saltworks, from where you can see them loading cargoes of salt.

Dotted all around the Park, with its surface area of 1,988 hectares, are traces of man’s presence in earlier times, such as the Phoenician settlement of Sa Caleta declared UNESCO World heritage Site in 1999 (between Es Codolar and the Puig des Jondal), the 16th Century watchtower of Sal Rossa, the small church of Sant Francesc de s’Estany, Sa Revista church and Ses Portes tower, all dating from the 18th Century.

A cycle ride around this area is an excursion which is difficult to forget. If we can make it to Puig del Corb Marí we can enjoy a full panoramic view of Ses Salines, a place where the mountains are neither green nor brown, but white as salt.

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