Menorca is the most laid-back and traditional of the major Balearic islands. Compared to neighbours Majorca and Ibiza it’s been relatively unchanged by tourism, with the major resorts balanced by stunning natural beauty, secret beaches and historic architecture.
Menorca’s two focal points are Mahón in the east and Ciudadela, the former capital, in the west. Thanks to sensitive planning laws in the 1970s the cities haven’t turned into chains of mega-hotels, and both cities have a classy, 18th-century colonial feel.
Menorca is ringed by beaches and unlike some other Mediterranean destinations, they’re almost never full. The island gets the balance of nature and convenience just right: well-managed resort beaches are within walking distance of unspoilt natural coves where you might not see another soul all day.
Throughout the summer there are traditional fiestas across the island, featuring fireworks, music, parades and most importantly jaleo – amazing displays of horsemanship featuring the famous jet-black Menorcan horses. The big ticket is the Sant Joan festival in Ciudadela around midsummer’s day.
In 1993 Menorca was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and the government is careful to develop tourism in harmony with the unique natural environment – maintaining beautiful woodland paths for quiet walks linking the coves around the coast. Take the chance to find some of the prehistoric stone monuments dotted around the island.
There are more sandy beaches on Menorca than on Ibiza and Majorca combined, and most have gentle slopes that make them ideal for kids. One of the best starting points is Cala Galdana – fantastic for watersports and activities. From here, you can walk through the forest to the spectacular virgin beach of Cala Mitjana. On the north coast, check out Binimel-la and Cala Pregonda.
It’s worth taking the time to visit both Mahón and Ciudadela – both beautiful old cities but each with its own character. Ciudadela still has the feel of a medieval city centred on the cathedral, while Mahón reflects its 18th-century colonial past as a naval port of global significance. In Mahón take a tour of the traditional Xoriguer Gin distillery to see how the island’s most famous drink is made. For a spectacular panoramic view of the island walk (or drive!) to the top of Monte Toro.
Menorca is a treat for foodies and the local wineries are earning a good reputation too. The Viñas Binifadet vineyard, just south of Mahón, is open all year round for tours – with wine tasting included of course! If you fancy something a bit more sporty, the clear warm seas are great for watersports – sea kayaking is particularly popular – or you can hire a mountain bike and explore the clearly signed and well-maintained woodland trails.
As you’d expect from a Mediterranean island Menorca has fantastic fish and shellfish: treat yourself to the local lobster stew of caldereta de llagosta. The cheddar-like Mahón cheese is famous throughout Spain, while the British colonial period has left its mark in a fondness for gin – mixed with lemonade and ice for a pomada, or with soda and a lemon twist for pellofa.
Menorca is more about markets than mega-malls. Mahón and Ciudadela both have daily fresh food markets, with clothes and local crafts sold two days a week. Many of the other island towns also have a market at least once a week. To stock up on basics there are plenty of decent-sized supermarkets, especially near the bigger towns.
Menorca isn’t a clubbing superpower like Ibiza, but if it’s a spectacular venue you want you can’t beat the Covas d'en Xoroi. These natural caves in the cliffs above Cala en Porter host an atmospheric bar and club – sunset is the perfect time to be there. For a relaxed meal out or your pick of bars with live music, check out Mahón’s harbourside.
Menorca (or Minorca) is the easternmost of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, off the east coast of Spain. Its nearest neighbour is Majorca, with Ibiza and Formentera further west. The airport is 4.5km from the capital, Mahón, which is on the eastern side of the island. The other main city is Ciudadela, 50km away on the western side.
Time differenceGMT +1 hour
Beeraround €2.50 a bottle
3 course meal€15 to €20