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San Francisco

It is the largest town on Formentera, and is stunningly beautiful because it is part of a rare occurrence where it has the Mediterranean on one side and two lakes on the other. Most official buildings of the island are found here, including the town hall, and the conservation efforts of the island are based here.

As Formentera has been designated a National Park, visitors are expected to adhere to the environmentally friendly restrictions that are in place. Much of the island is covered in Mediterranean pine trees and sand dunes that have board walks running through them. Salt mining was the only industrial activity that the island had, but that was eventually abandoned. The locals sustain themselves through tourism, agriculture and fishing. While you hire cars in San Francisco or ferry them from the mainland, it is easy to use bicycles or mopeds like the locals, as the island is quite flat and is more in keeping with the green culture. The two official languages are Catalan and Spanish. The beach culture has a bit of a hippy vibe, reminiscent of its past and you should be aware that clothing is optional on the beaches. Snorkelling is perfect here, as the waters are clear and quite calm most of the time.

San Francisco is just three kilometres inland from the port and is a good base even if you want to spend most of your time at the many beaches around Formentera. The town had inhabitants from before the 15th century, but by the 16th century the population dwindled because of pirates invading and looting the island frequently. The king of Spain began to give out land in the late 17th century to encourage new settlers to farm there. Till the early 18th century they populated the area around a 14th century chapel called Tanca Vella. They built a new church in 1726, called Church of St. Francis Xavier, which for a time also served as a fortress against marauding pirates that were still present in those days. There were cannons on the roof and residents of the town took shelter in the church. The main area of the church is rectangular and attached to the parish residence. Inside the church is a Byzantine-style alabaster baptismal font that dates back to the fifth century. Some believe that it originates from a Vandal monastery that may have been situated in the La Mola market area.

The houses in the vicinity of the church were called Poble de Formentera. Opposite the church stand the post office and town hall. The lively church square is the main meeting place of the town’s inhabitants and the sidewalks are filled with quaint cafes, shops and local craftsmen. Near the church are the Miranda flour mills where you can get a panoramic view of much of the island. There is a small Ethnological Museum that exhibits local artefacts. They also hold tasting sessions of local cuisine.

Outside San Francisco, you can visit a lighthouse from the 18th century, the ruins of a Roman settlement, a megalithic tomb consisting of stone dolmen in a circle and thought to be from 1800 to 1600 B.C., prehistoric remains from several caves, and the surround national park.

When looking for souvenirs, you can choose from jewellery, ceramics and artwork, and clothes and accessories. Local handmade crafts are also available. The la Mola market is the best place to do your shopping. Fish and seafood cooked Catalan style is the predominate cuisine here. Try Formentera cheese, which is good and with bread and fruit, and Frígola, a sweet drink made on the island.

Hotels in San Francisco are usually cheaper than the resorts close to the beaches. When booking hotel stay, keep in mind that summer is a busy tourist season for the island, so San Francisco hotels can get full early. Most hotels are 2 and 3 star. There are also several apartment buildings that rent out apartments for short stays.

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