The lighthouse of cape Barbaria, shining at the edge of the Balearic Islands

The lighthouse of Cape Barbaria, seventeen and a half meters high, is located in the western part of the Balearic island of Formentera and belongs to the municipality of Sant Francesc. Located in the least populated enclave of the island, it dominates a rocky environment and large cliffs. Presiding over an impressive vertical cut meters above sea level, it is the southernmost point, further south, of the Balearic Islands. A singular landmark that receives its name due to its peculiar history, always related to the African coasts to which it looks.


Sunset at the lighthouse of Barbaria. | Shutterstock

The most famous lighthouse of Formentera

The first proposal for a lighthouse in this location was made in 1924. Its first luminous indications consisted of a group of three white lightning flashes that reached 25 miles of range. As in the case of Sa Mola, the Barbaria lighthouse no longer has lighthouse keepers and its system is telecontrolled. It exhibits groups of two white flashes every 15 seconds, visible from more than 35 miles away.

Cape Barbaria

View of Cape Barbaria with the lighthouse in the background. | Shutterstock

Although the Barbaria lighthouse was already a popular tourist attraction, after being immortalized in the film Lucia and Sex by Basque filmmaker Julio Medem it became much more famous. Among the places the protagonist visits is this landmark, which also illustrated the promotional poster for the film. That is why many people know it as the lighthouse of Lucia and sex.

It is important to note that access to the place is forbidden. In fact, it is located in a small rectangular property bordered by a stone wall that cannot be entered either. However, the views from a distance and the cape of Barbaria itself are worth it. Also, as a seafaring curiosity, it is worth mentioning that since 1972, the lighthouse of Barbaria projects a light that splices with that of the lighthouse of La Mola or Sa Mola. This covers this segment of the Balearic coast.

Cape Barbaria, a place to defend against pirates

In the south, 65 meters above sea level, this arid and rocky elevation constitutes the most extreme southern point of Formentera and of all the Balearic Islands. It is also the closest geographical enclave to the African coasts, which is why it became an important strategic point to defend against the attacks of the pirates of the African coasts or “barbarian coasts”. With hardly any vegetation, there are no restaurants, bars or stores in this place.

Es cap de Barbaria or Barbaria cape is one of the most famous sites on the island of Formentera. | Shutterstock

To reach cape Barbaria from Sant Francesc Xavier de Formentera, the island‘s capital, you have to travel a narrow asphalt road ten kilometers long. Between May 15 and October 15, motor vehicles are restricted to just over two kilometers from the lighthouse. This regulation, active since the summer of 2017, is intended to regulate car access and avoid crowds. The only way, therefore, to access the cape is to walk or pedal those two kilometers.

On the left hand side of the road you can see the vestiges of the island’s ancient inhabitants. The remains of multiple settlements show that the area, now dominated by stones, was intensely populated in ancient times. The deep deforestation due to the need for resources of an isolated and forgotten population, gave rise to the arid landscape of Cape Barbaria. On the way, little by little, civilization is left behind until reaching a treeless place, with a ground full of stones, over a spectacular cliff and an infinite horizon.

Barbaria lighthouse

Last stretch of the road leading to the Barbaria lighthouse. | Shutterstock

To the right of the lighthouse extends a rocky plain, with low bushes of rosemary, fennel and thyme, an ideal enclave to enjoy nature. The magic of this place is also projected in the light of its sunsets, when the sun goes down behind the silhouette of Ibiza. On clear days, due to the great height of the cap of Barbaria, it is possible to distinguish the mountainous elevations of the peninsula, which is almost 100 kilometers away.

The curious etymology of the cape and lighthouse of Barbaria

Barbary or Barbary Coast is the term used by Europeans from the 16th to the 19th century to refer to the coastal regions of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. The name derives from the barbarians, not only from the fearsome Berbers. The origin of the word Barbary comes from the word barbarian and dates back to 1500 in Italy. In today’s language it refers exclusively to the inhabitants of “Barbaria”, the coasts of North Africa.

Spots near the lighthouse Barbaria

A curiosity of this cape is the Cova Foradada, a prehistoric cave located a few meters from the lighthouse. At the bottom of the cave are preserved some of the “sculptures” that the hippies created in the sixties. The final point of the hollow, which must be crossed with great caution, leads to one of the most hidden spots of the island. At the end of the cliff awaits a fascinating viewpoint overlooking the sea. As if it were a balcony, it allows you to look out over the immense waters of the Mediterranean. In any case, always use caution.

Cala Savina

View of Cala Savina in Formentera. | Shutterstock

Another of the great attractions of the surroundings of Barbaria cape is the tower Des Garroveret. Walking 150 meters to the west stands this watchtower, erected in the 18th century, built for defensive purposes against the continuous pirate attacks on Formentera. There are also remains of three megalithic sites from the first half of the 2nd millennium BC.

The sunsets of Cala Sabina are some of the most beautiful in the area. It is an must-stop if the option to get to Barbaria cape is from the road that goes from Savina cove to the lighthouse of Formentera. It is also worth visiting, on the other side of Sant Francesc, the organic garden Formatierra Bio. A project carried out by local farmers who sell certified organic fruit and vegetables.

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