As 2023 comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on my highs and lows of the year. One high stands out as a shining moment of lesbian joy – the Velvet Ibiza festival. This past May, I had the opportunity to attend Velvet Ibiza and I spent the week surrounded by hot lesbians from all over the world. Yes, really. Over 300 queer women touched down on the island for 5 days of DJs, pool parties, sports, and activities to meet other queer women. My friend and I were really looking forward to attending Ibiza’s only festival for queer women, but we were not prepared for the transformative experience that Velvet Ibiza ultimately fostered. We were left with a set of memories that will linger far beyond the echoes of 2023.
We stepped off the plane, grabbed our overpacked suitcases, and headed to the crowd of queer women waiting for a bus, our bus, to take us to the east end of the Island where we were greeted by the Velvet team. It felt like lesbian summer camp, complete with cafeteria food, an open bar, and a community of bungalows that housed all attendees. On one hand, it was fantastical –waking up surrounded by hundreds of queer women, going to the pool surrounded by hundreds of queer women, and eating every meal surrounded by hundreds of queer women. On the other hand, it felt…normal? It’s easy to integrate into a setting so idyllic, the cultural shock happened afterwards in returning to the monotony of everyday heteronormative life.
After stepping into our room, screaming, jumping on the bed, and dancing to lesbian classics like “All The Things She Said,” we put on our bathing suits and headed right to the pool. It was early, but there were already many women lounging around, floating on the flamingo inflatable, and topless sipping gin and tonics. We sat alongside another woman from the states who pointed out and greeted guests as they arrived, “Oh, she came last year…” “Oh I know her from Brussels pride…” It was clear that the festival was not a one and done weekend, but many women come year after year, keep in touch, visit each other, and return for their annual balearic getaway.
I was immediately impressed by how warm everyone was, how folks transgressed language barriers, offered up space on their pool chairs, and welcomed attendee after attendee. There were women from all over the world, some came with friends, others with partners, and others totally alone. Some spoke about being from small towns where there wasn’t a vibrant community for queer women, mentioning how important this space was to them. Others had been partnered for 30+ years and simply wanted to vacation alongside other lesbians. The motivations for attendance varied, but all came with the intention to take part in a space that centered queer women. I’d never experienced anything like it.
The festival itself was incredibly well organized. Everyday began with an 11am outdoor Yoga class overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. DJ sets and other activities like water polo, DJ workshops, and speed dating followed. The majority of the events took place around the pool, and at night, the club was a simple 5 minute walk away. Attendees could sign up for additional activities like hiking, kayaking trips, or walking tours of the Island’s historic central neighborhood, which many chose to participate in to break from our party paradise for a few hours.
On the final afternoon of the festival, everyone is encouraged to participate in Velvet Ibiza founder Carine De Mesmaeker’s very own famous “Duck Race.” The activity consists of over 500 rubber ducks floating in the pool, all with numbers written on the bottom. One winner will get the duck that guarantees them a free bungalow for the following year. At the sound of Carine’s whistle, all participants jump in the pool and fight to secure as many ducks as possible.
Clad in our hottest poolside looks, we dove into the pool water determined to win a bungalow, or at least a vibrator or one of the other sex toy consolation prizes. Duck race participants were screaming, jumping on one another, and threats of disqualification rang over the crowd as participants splashed and stuffed rubber ducks into their bikinis. We quickly realized that we lacked the strategy and experience that many of the returning guests had. The scene combined protest level lesbian rage with Black Friday shopping excitement, and it became immediately clear that securing a 5-day all expenses paid lesbian trip to Ibiza was no joking matter.
We climbed out of the pool empty handed and headed back over to the open bar. While in line to order, I chatted with an older lesbian who had taken me under her wing that week. This was the fourth year that her and her wife would be at the festival and they looked forward to attending the following year. We met during the DJ workshop, spoke about the best European pride parties, and made soft plans to organize a lesbian rave on her property in the UK. I was amazed. I hadn’t ever really considered how much I lacked intergeneration queer friendships until that moment. I love my mom, but it’s different when a woman whose life is also shaped by her queer identity extends a kind of maternal care. We exchanged numbers and vowed to keep in touch —I’m happy to say that those communications have been sustained.
Leaving the vibrant and inclusive atmosphere of the festival was undoubtedly a challenging transition. My friend and I returned to the airport sunkissed and with a whole new set of friends and unforgettable experiences. But as we reentered the heteronormative world of school, work, and expensive bars, it felt like a stark contrast to our 5-day lesbian paradise. Luckily, I was able to take solace in feeling refreshed, and with a newfound pride in my queer identity. Velvet Ibiza promises a transformative experience. Whether you’re looking for an international queer community, intergenerational friendship, or simply an amazing week in a lovely location, attending the festival should be high on your list of 2024 priorities.
With 2024 right around the corner, we’re all looking to make this upcoming year better in every way. From dating and relationships, to friendships and personal growth, there’s one event on the horizon that promises to bring together the best of it all – the Velvet Ibiza festival in 2024.
If you’re interested in attending Velvet Ibiza 2024, bookings are open, and rooms are going fast! The festival will take place May 13th to 17th, and excitingly, this year brings a fresh upgrade as Velvet Ibiza transitions to a swanky new 4-star hotel. Hope to see you all at the Leonardo Royal Hotel this May! If you have more questions about the festival, check out GO’s piece Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Ibiza’s Festival for Queer Women.