The Balearic Islands are always a big hit with vacationers but out of the three, with Formentera, Menorca is one of the lesser-known. Its name says it all “Menorca” means, the “Small one”. And true, It does not have the appeal of Mallorca or the party vibe of Ibiza but if you are looking for an island getaway that’s both mindful of its environment and removed from mass tourism, then Menorca should be on your list.
Contrary to her sister-islands, Menorca did not benefit from development subsidies during the Franco era which means it did not see the rise of huge hotels and mass tourism. In fact, the island is so preserved that it was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1993! It’s one of the last intact Méditerranean islands and covers both land and sea environment. One of the most important pieces of the reserve is the Albufera Natural Park at El Grau, A 2 kilometers-long marshy lagoon teeming with birds. A perfect place to hike and get lost in the beauty of nature.
One of the main features of Menorca are its “calas”, little coves that dot the island with secluded beaches and turquoise water. In fact, Menorca has more length of beaches than Mallorca and Ibiza combined! From the lusher landscape and white sand beaches of the South to the more arid and wild spots in the north, the only problem you will face is choosing which one you’d like to go to. If lying in the sand is not your thing, there’s also a lot to do in terms of water activities.
One of the slowest and best way to discover the marine part of the Menorca Biosphere Reserve is kayaking. Given its pristine waters, Menorca is also a prime spot for snorkelling and scuba-diving. Cala Blanca is a favourite for scuba-divers while Cala Turqueta, Macarella and Son Saura are great for snorkelers. There are even several shipwrecks… and even plane wrecks that have become artificial reefs and a home for all kinds of marine life.
If you like to be a little more active, with prevailing winds, the Bay of Fornells is the main spot for windsurfing.
There’s also plenty of land-based activities in Menorca, starting with one long hike that goes all around the island: the Cami de Cavalls. This old “horse path” had first a military use. It goes the whole length of the island’s coast and was patrolled by soldiers on horseback, hence the name. And guess what? You can still ride along the path with a horse… but with the more peaceful design of just taking in the landscape. The Cami can also be explored by foot or bike. If you’re walking, it would take about 7 days to complete the loop but you can decide to just try one or more of its 20 segments. It’s not only a great way to enjoy Menorca’s beauty but also to discover its history and culture along the way.
There’s more to Menorca that only natural beauty, the island has also a lot to offer in the cultural and heritage department Menorca has been inhabited for a very long time. In fact, it’s an archaeologist’s paradise as the islands boast hundred of megalithic sites dating as far back as 4000 years ago. Amongst the must-see, the Naveta des Tudons (a common funeral chamber), the Torre d’en Galmés (one of the largest Talaioitic sites with round-shaped houses).
Closer to us, the city of Ciutadella is the pearl of Menorca. It’s not the capital (Mahón is) but it’s certainly the most appealing. The charming old town is often a visitor’s favourite. Don’t miss the visit to the Santa Maria cathedral. This gorgeous gothic church was built on top of a mosque that was there previously. The Balearic Island saw a lot of rulers: Romans, Moors, Byzantines, French, British and now Spanish… History lives on top of history here!
And if you’re more into “living” culture, why not visit the island’s vineyards (and of course try the wine)? Look also for the perfect pair of Menorcan sandals! They look a little bit similar to the French espadrilles but are made of leather instead of fabric.