The Greatest Party Place in History
How Ibiza became famous without a single paid ad
Ibiza is a Balearic Island that promises ethereal fun and freedom. I’d known about the European party mecca long before Mike Posner’s hit single, “I Took a Pill in Ibiza.”
The island has built an international reputation without paying for a single ad. Millions arrive every year to celebrate life and dance till dawn. Why is this island famous? And how come you know about it, even if you don’t necessarily party in that way?
I’ve spent summers under the Baleric sun, lived in Ibiza, and have explored the origins. International jet-setters of the ‘80s tell the story of how this party scene comes to life.
Grace Jones, Tony Pike, George Michael, Freddie Mercury, Julio Iglesias, and Pepe Roscoe stand behind the greatest party branding in history.
The Tourist Destination
Ibiza is one of the sunniest places in Europe, with more than 2,732 hours of sunshine. The place had been a yoga retreat, hippie community, and family vacation spot long before the first sound system played the Balearic beat.
- 130K local population
- Three million arrivals each year
- The sunniest island in Europe
- The most profitable hotel industry in Spain
- Home to Unesco World Heritage sites
But Immerse Yoga retreats, Unesco Heritage, and long sunny days are not exactly what makes this place a party destination.
Ibiza holds a special place in British hearts. European families have seen the Spanish Balearic Islands as a vacation spot and an escape from the British grind for centuries.
My first flight to Ibiza was full of school kids that went with their teachers for the summer holidays. You might not expect such a demographic in a global party mecca.
The island is much bigger than clubs and parties and has a rich history. You can see historic city walls and impressive forts. Yet, every other person knows Ibiza as an international party destination.
The local population is trying to escape the wild-drugs-and-party narrative, but rumors are more viral than any other news. The celebrity culture is adding fuel to the fire, and probably the biggest reason why this place is so infamous.
Ibiza officials took Mike Posner for a ride around the island to show the artist that there was another side to summer holidays, a side that was not necessarily riddled with drugs and out-of-control parties.
Dusk Until Dawn
Electronic music and the Balearic beat is what makes this place a party destination. But the origin story comes from pop music and rock ‘n’ roll, even though there were hardly any concerts held on the island.
Tony Pike was the name behind the Ibiza craze, and his story is wild as the island itself. Mr. Pike was a British-born Australian playboy that loved sailing boats and going to parties.
The Ibiza story starts with Tony Pike looking to buy an apartment in Europe during the late ‘70s. A friend recommended Ibiza to Tony, and they went together after a 48-hour party in France.
Tony Pike tried to buy the newly built apartment, but the construction was not finished a year later. Frustrated, he took a ride on the hillside of the inner island and accidentally stumbled upon a broken-down farm. He decided to abandon the original deal and buy the house instead.
Tony was nearing his 50s and he decided to rebuild the Spanish farm. He thought about organizing dinner parties for his friends, but one of his guests liked it so much that he proposed opening a real business.
The farm soon became one of the first boutique hotels, with six or seven rooms that mostly hosted international hotshots and celebrities.
A young music crew stumbled upon Pikes’ construction site, looking for a cheap location to shoot a music video. The band’s budget was tight, and Tony made a deal with the band’s lead singer.
The group's name was Wham!, and George Michael was a charismatic 19-year-old singer at the time of the shooting. If you watch the “Club Tropicana” music video, you can see exactly where it all started.
“Club Tropicana” was the group’s first international hit single. MTV and every major music channel around the world played the summer pop tune. Wham! soon became one of the most famous pop bands of the ‘80s. George Michael told his new celebrity friends about this quiet retreat on the hillside of the inner Spanish island.
The rumor spread faster than wildfire, and Freddie Mercury, Julio Iglesias, and Grace Jones started frequenting the island to get away from the world. Freddie Mercury celebrated his infamous 41st birthday at Pike’s place.
Then Julio Iglesias came around to solve Tony’s police problem. Julio Iglesias was one of the biggest names in the Spanish-speaking world, and the local police dropped constant harassment over a chance to meet the soccer player-turned-pop celebrity.
Some of the most famous places, like Pacha, Amnesia, and Privilege popped overnight. Pepe Rosello figured out the afterparty microniche and started organizing the 7 a.m. parties at his club, later known as Space.
Modern-day partygoers hardly remember the original story. Hotel Pikes is still a special retreat on the inner island, where you can book a room and enjoy the Balearic vibe. You can still order drinks from Freddie’s bar and stay in Julio’s room.
The rest of the island is wilding, and expensive prices made Ibiza the most profitable hotel business in Spain, judging by RevPAR.
Ibiza welcomes more than three million international guests each year, which is 25 times more people than the local population of the island.
Ibiza officials are trying to shed the infamous drug part of culture brought by today’s electronic music scene, but the celebrity culture of the ‘80s is hard to erase even 40 years later. Grace Jones is among the rare people that are alive from the original Ibiza team.
Ibiza features immense yoga retreats, cultural heritage, and rockstar parties. The place definitely offers more than just the electric music scene, and you can find immense inspiration in the Balearic beat.