The Pirate towers nowadays point the way to some of the most spectacular coastal views of the islands – which was exactly what the builders had in mind when they chose their locations.

Es Vedra Tower

Ibiza and Formentera have been a popular destination for visitors from overseas for thousands of years, but unfortunately it is only during the last few decades that these frequent visitors have brought money with them on their visits to the islands!

Previously their interest was inspired by the important strategic position of the islands – midway between Africa and the European mainland. In times when all trade and travel was waterborne Ibiza was a perfect place to break a long journey to or from ports all over the Mediterranean . It also attracted hungry invaders and pirates on a regular basis with its fertile soils, rich harvests, valuable salt and a far flung population that could be sold as slaves.

Pirate Tower in San Miguel

Tower Entrance

For this reason island dwellers recognized the importance of protecting the island with a surveillance system almost 3,000 years ago. The tenants in those days were the Phoenicians, who already used high points on the island as lookout posts to warn of impending visitors.

Pirate Tower Playa Den Bossa

Tower near beachAs the centuries rolled by and the population of the islands slowly grew the matter of defense was taken more seriously and eventually culminated in the construction of the fifteen pirate towers that ring the islands’ coastline to this day.

The first pirate towers were built near to the three main population centers – Ibiza, San Antonio and Santa Eulalia – in the 16th & 17th centuries. They were primarily designed as shelters for the lookouts, in case they were surprised by the enemy and therefore unable to run back to town in time to fortify themselves with the other villagers inside the local church. Later more substantial towers were built in the 18th century to cover the coastline far away from the villages. These later towers were built with active defense in mind, as running back to back to town was not an option!

Pirate Towers usage

Pirate Tower & SeaThey were equipped with stores of muskets, kegs of gun powder, shot and a small cannon, had no entrance at ground level and stone walls ten feet thick. The occupants entered through an opening at first floor level accessed by a rope ladder which could easily be pulled up into the tower at the first sign of danger. However, at the first sign of danger the tower’s defenders would raise the alarm, with smoke signals during daylight or fire at night, alerting the civilian population to take refuge in the local fortified church. Meanwhile soldiers would be dispatched from the Ibiza town fortress to relieve the tower in question. Those on watch keeping surveillance from the tower would then direct the troops to the attackers who were no match for regular soldiers.

Pirates soon discovered that attacking the towers was a mistake as they were well armed and their defenders had no compunction about pouring boiling water or pitch onto their attackers. Word soon got around amongst the piracy fraternity and with the growing reputation of the local corsairs the marauders soon decided that there were better pickings to be had elsewhere than Ibiza or Formentera. Not a single watch tower was ever taken by pirates or other marauders – the only damage ever done occurred when two bored watchmen chose to regularly sew their wild oats when they should have been on watch duty.

Pirate Tower view to Es VedraLegend has it that a jealous, youthful population lit a fuse that blew up the gunpowder store and most of one of the towers! In a similar vein, although the towers have been restored and reconstructed, they are kept locked to the general public nowadays to prevent further vandalism and even ritual suicides from being committed inside them or, or on their inspirational observation platforms with the unbelievable views…

 

 

Pirate Towers locations around the Island of Ibiza

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