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The Pirate Towers of Ibiza

By Jerry Brownstein

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One of the most interesting features of the Ibiza coastline is the presence of ancient towers located around the island at panoramic viewpoints. You may hear people call them the “pirate towers”, but what does that actually mean? Their story is woven into the history of the island, and it begins after the great “Reconquista” that expelled the Moors from Spain in 1492. Ibiza was primarily a subsistence farming society in those years, and most of the people worked very hard just to provide food for their families. However, their work was made much more difficult by the fact that pirates from North Africa were continually attacking the island. The pirate ships would swoop down on villages without warning; robbing and pillaging through the towns and the surrounding countryside. 
An Ibizan Church
Churches were fortified for defence against pirates

To defend against these raids, some of the churches were constructed to be fortresses where the people could take refuge from the pirate attacks. You can still see this design in the churches of Santa Eulalia and San Miguel. But the pirates always arrived without warning, so there was no time for the people to secure their valuables or prepare a defence. They could only watch from the church as their homes were ransacked. Early in the 17th century, the Spanish government finally took action to protect Ibiza from the pirates by building the incredible fortifications around Dalt Vila. This made the capital city secure, but the pirates were still able to raid the coastal villages and farm houses. 
A pirate tower (backside)
Something more was needed, and so they came up with the idea of the towers. Each one was built at a strategic point where approaching ships could be seen from a distance. When pirates were spotted from one tower they sent up smoke signals that could be viewed by the next tower in the system. That one then sent up smoke to alert more towers, and on and on. In a relatively short amount of time the entire island would be alerted to the approach of pirates, and could prepare for defence and the hiding of valuables. 
A pirate tower (frontside)
Some of these vestiges from Ibiza’s history have crumbled over the years, but many have been restored and are easy to walk to. There is a stunning tower at the point between the beaches of Las Salinas and Es Cavallet. It’s a short lovely walk from Salinas, and upon reaching the tower you feel like you are at the end of the land, looking out toward Formentera. Another special tower is the one near Cala Compte that has views up the coast all the way to San Antonio. Perhaps the most iconic of all is the tower that overlooks Es Vedra. Three other “Pirate Towers” that are easy to access are the ones at Pou des Lleo, Puerto San Miguel and outside of Portinatx. The only tower open to the public during the summer months is the Sa Sal Rossa Tower (or Torre des Carregador) at the end of Playa d’en Bossa beach. Being around these ancient towers brings forth a feeling of timelessness that resonates deeply within you. The views are stunning, and if you focus your vision far out to sea, you just might spy some pirate ships approaching on the horizon.  

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