Did you know that Menorca has more beachy coastline than the whole of Mallorca and Ibiza combined? With nearly 200 small coves, or calas to explore, pristine white sand and turquoise waters, the island will satisfy any beach lover seeking their little slice of paradise. The majority of beaches are pristine or very lightly developed, meaning you are always guaranteed to find some peace and quiet somewhere, even in high season.
There is a wonderful bridleway that circles the entire circumference of Menorca called the Cami de Cavalls. The whole island can therefore be explored by foot, horseback or bicycle, though you may want to tackle the 185 miles in small chunks or you could be travelling for at least a week. Originally used as a part of early 14th-century defenses, the Path of Horses is not one to be missed.
Travelling through the island you will often spot piles of stones and primitive structures that date back thousands of years. The famous Torre d’en Galmes in Alaior is perhaps one of the greatest examples of Talayotic architecture featuring circular or square shaped stone buildings. Here you can still examine the extraordinary traces of underground houses and storage areas. Alternatively, head to Torre Trencada, to see an almost perfect stone circle, and taulas (tables) which consist of a huge slab of rock mounted on two equally large vertical planks.
As a direct result of General Franco denying it funds during the civil war, unlike much of the Balearics, Menorca has relatively little mass tourist development. This together with UNESCO declaring the Menorca a biosphere reserve in 1993 has resulted in most of the island remaining a genuine oasis of unspoilt beauty. While around one million tourists still visit each year, this is still significantly less that Mallorca’s 13 million tourists visiting in 2017.
Also thanks to the UNESCO biosphere reserve designation, the island is committed to the protection of its natural landscape. Species such as secretive pine marten, peregrine falcons in the ravines of the Barrancs, and turtles thrive in five beautiful parks and numerous reserves across the island.
You want sunshine? Head to the Balearics. High temperatures throughout the summer and a coastal climate make it a sun-seeker’s hotspot. Albeit slightly cooler, from October through to May, for most of the year the sun will shine with the slightly breezier north taking the edge off the more excessive sweltering highs. In addition, Menorca as the most easterly island of them all, boasts the best sunrises with its uninterrupted views across the Med.
Located on the far eastern end of the island and Menorca’s original capital, Ciutadella features a particularly gorgeous Old Town with wonderful mix of historical buildings, fantastic shops and buzzy cafes. Visit its gothic Santa Maria cathedral, built on the foundations of a 13th-century mosque, to see some stunning architecture that can also serves as a welcome relief from the summer sun.
Both Ciutadella and Mahon have their own hippodromes where you can enjoy the excitement of a horserace. Smartly dressed jockeys ride Roman style chariots to the delight of a roaring crowd. Alternatively, take the reigns yourself along one of many of Menorca’s bridleways and tracks which cover the island. Horses are also celebrated island-wide at many events throughout the year and the dancing stallions at the festivals of Saint Jaume and Saint Lluis, are also not to be missed.
Menorca is rapidly developing as a centre for watersports. With strong prevailing winds, Fornells is one of the best resorts to enjoy windsurfing, sailing and kite surfing. Head to Binibeca to search for underwater shipwrecks while scuba diving. Alternatively, with its spectacular range of coves to choose from there will always be a quiet spot perfect for snorkelling or paddle-boarding for those seeking a calmer activity.
While nightlife across the island is generally subdued, there’s still plenty for those who don’t want to turn in early. You can refine your salsa moves at Tse Tse Club in Mahon, unwind to live music at the Akelarre Jazz Club and for weekend fun, dance at the H2O in the pretty harbour. Probably Menorca’s most famous bar-nightclub is Cova d’en Xoroi, set into cliffside caves and renowned for its incredible sunset terraces, things certainly liven up after nightfall with live music and DJs.
With its lush climate and fertile ground, Menorca is dotted with vineyards that produce some great local wines. Tourists often book a whole holiday around tours of the many wine estates and festivals dedicated to the grape throughout the year. Be prepared to catch a bottle during the Festes de Gràcia (Festival of Gracia) in Mahon when they are thrown into the crowd from the town hall. Alternatively, for those with a taste for the stronger stuff, the Xoriguer Gin Distillery is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon. The local drink of choice? Just ask for a pomada – a simple and refreshing mix of gin and cloudy lemonade.
Set in the most spectacular setting of the magnificent abandoned limestone quarries, Pedreres de s’Hostal, this annual event pulls together all kinds of arts ranging from music concerts, poetry recitals, dance and theatre. Festival Director Joan Taltavull Carretero originally intended Pedra Viva to be a short, one-off project for sharing the arts and culture with the public, but its huge success has kept the festivities alive year after year.
Often seen on the feet of Spanish royalty and replicated on the catwalks of Prada, the Avarca sandal is one of Menorca’s most renowned products. The humble origins began as a peasant’s necessity – recycled rubber tyres and dyed cowhide were used to create a footwear capable of treading the island’s rugged landscape. Nowadays, no visit to Menorca is complete without a few pairs in the suitcase to take home. Visit Ca’n Doblas Artesania stores for the best versions of these sandals, in anything from suede to embroidered leather to faux crocodile skin as well as the more traditional types.
Due its relatively diminutive size, hiring a car and exploring the island is easy. The towns are a photographer’s dream – all quaint cobbled streets and whitewashed facades – while the verdant landscape in between is brimming with wild flowers, pine forests, and fruit orchards. Catch the stunning views of the whole island from El Toro, a 350 metre (1,200 foot) hill in the middle of the island with unrivalled panoramic vistas.
Surrounded by the waters of the Mediterranean, the island’s seafood is naturally excellent. Look out for the local lobster stew caldereta de llagosta which is Menorca’s most celebrated traditional dish. Sample delicious pongy cheeses at cheese factories mostly in the centre of the island, or try the popular locals’ tapas of sobrassada, cured pork sausage seasoned with paprika and served on toast.