The Best Things to See and Do in Menorca in Winter
Archeological site and olive tree on Menorca
As one of the more unspoiled and undisturbed of the Balearic Islands, Menorca still attracts its share of tourist hordes to its many beautiful beaches. When the summer fades, however, this most easterly isle of the Mediterranean archipelago becomes almost deserted with its rolling hills, golden coastline and swathes of pine forests barely troubled by visitors – making it all the more attractive for those that do. Here’s what to do and where to go to make the most of this island gem over the winter months.
Explore Ciutadella Old Town
Set on the western tip of Menorca, Ciutadella – the island’s original capital – could hardly be further from the present-day capital. And the Mediterranean-style architecture of its Old Town also sets itself apart, with particularly elegant and picturesque buildings lining the quaint cobbled lanes and pretty plazas.
Located less than a mile outside Ciutadella is the bizarre and wonderfully photogenic sandstone quarry of Ses Pedreres de s’Hostal. While they fell into disuse in 1994, they have since been preserved in all their geometric glory, complete with stone labyrinth, botanical gardens and orchards.
One of the major things the British left behind after their occupation of the island was a taste for gin. And by far the island’s most popular and recognisable is Xoriguer, whose mix of botanicals are a closely guarded secret among the family behind the brand. Head to the Xoriguer Gin Distillery on the Mahón waterfront for an opportunity to try before you buy.
Menorca is renowned for its shoemaking, from the iconic and fashionable Avarcas, to buttery soft handmade leather shoes, espadrilles, and the many factory shops on the island. It’s even said part of the reason the island managed to escape mass tourism is down to the strength of its shoe industry.
Ria Menorcan Sandals | © Leon Beckenham
With a landscape mostly comprising of gentle rolling hills, Menorca might not offer the mountain challenges of its sibling Mallorca but it’s still great for cycling. Most of the island’s rainfall drops over the winter, so get there before the cold and squally weather sets in to take advantage of over 3,000 kilometres of paths, tracks and roads navigable by mountain bike.
Menorca boasts a wealth of archaeological sites that provide a fascinating insight into the architectural and cultural heritage of the island’s earliest inhabitants. And there are key sites to visit all over the island, including villages, burial tombs and an incredible necropolis in a system of caves carved out of the rocks.
Talatí de Dalt Megalithic Site | © Leon Beckenham
Located in the northeast of the island, the S’Albufera des Grau Nature Reserve covers over 50 square kilometres of forest, marshland, dunes and cliffs, including five small islands. It is home to a wide range of wildlife, including up to 90 different species of birds, and countless varieties of shrubs and wild flowers. There’s also a visitors’ centre with maps and videos about the park, plus guided tours can also be arranged.
Beyond its multitude of megalithic stone monuments, the numerous invasions and occupations by the Romans, the Moors, the British and the French have left an indelible mark on the island. And all of these have been documented and preserved in a range of museums, together with everything from the island’s agricultural past to its diverse natural history.
Originally used as a part of early 14th-century defences, the Cami de Cavalls – or Path of Horses – is a trail that runs along the entire circumference of Menorca. The whole island can therefore be explored by foot, horseback or bicycle, though the 185 miles should obviously be tackled in stages, and best over the milder start or end of winter.
Cami de Cavalls | © MontanNito / Wikimedia Commons
Climb (or drive up) Mount Toro
Located in the centre of the island just outside the town of Es Mercadal, El Toro is Menorca’s highest mountain at just over 350 metres. While the walk up from town is certainly tiring and can be up to two hours, the panoramic views from the top are genuinely breathtaking. There’s also a 13th-century church and elevated statue of Jesus at the summit, as well as a café to refuel before the (much quicker) journey back down. It’s also a popular and pretty challenging cycle to the summit, or alternatively it’s an easy drive with space for parking.