Formentera (Catalan pronunciation: [furmənˈteɾə], Spanish: [foɾmenˈteɾa]) is the smallest and more southerly island of the Pityusic Islands group (comprising Ibiza and Formentera, as well as various small islets), which belongs to the Balearic Islands autonomous community (Spain).
The island’s name is usually said to derive from the Latin word frumentarium, meaning “granary”. The island was occupied in prehistoric times, going back to 2,000-1,600 BC. Archaeological sites from that period remain in Ca na Costa, Cap de Barbaria (multiple sites) and Cova des Fum. The island had been occupied by the Carthaginians before passing to the ancient Romans. In succeeding centuries, it passed to the Visigoths, the Byzantines, the Vandals, and the Arabs. In 1109 it was the target of a devastating attack by the Norwegian king Sigurd I at the head of the “Norwegian Crusade“. The island was conquered by the Catalans, added to the Crown of Aragon and later became part of the medieval Kingdom of Majorca.
From 1403 to the early 18th century the threat of barbary pirate attacks rendered the island uninhabitable.
The island (along with its surrounding islets) became a separate insular council (with the same territory as the municipality of the same name) after 1977. Before that, it was administered in the former insular council of Ibiza and Formentera (covering the whole group of the Pityusic Islands), but in a separate comarca (which already covered the current municipality of Formentera). This reform allowed Ibiza to unify its comarca (of five municipalities) with its new insular council (no longer administrating Formentera).
The main island of Formentera is 19 kilometres (12 mi) long and is located about 6 kilometres (4 mi) south of Ibiza in the Mediterranean Sea. More specifically Formentera is part of the delimitation of the Balearic Sea which is a northwestern element of the Mediterranean Sea. Its major villages are Sant Francesc Xavier, Sant Ferran de ses Roques, El Pilar de la Mola and La Savina.
Formentera comprises one municipality, also called Formentera, and has a population of 9,962 (as at 1 January 2010). Its land area is 83.24 square kilometres (32.1 sq mi). It is subdivided into several civil parishes (parròquies), themselves subdivided into vendas (véndes in Catalan).
North of Formentera is the island of Espalmador (Illa de s’Empalmador in Catalan), which is the second largest island of the municipality, and is itself surrounded by a few minor islets. Espalmador is a tombolo, separated from the main island of Formentera by a shallow sandbar, and during low tide, it is possible for one to wade between the two islands. This area is a popular stopping point for those in yachts heading between Ibiza and Formentera.