The most rural of the Balearic Islands, Menorca is a green and rolling, lush island. Like the other islands in this chain (Majorca, Ibiza and Formentera) the sunny climate and beautiful beaches are guaranteed. The rocky coves and headlands around those beaches help to make this the perfect family holiday destination. There’s plenty of opportunity for safe paddling and rock-pool discovering.
Despite its small size, Menorca has had two capital cities. When the British took control of the island in 1713, they moved the capital from Ciutadella, an old Moorish city in the west of the island, to Mahon (Mao to Menorcans). Mahon has one of the largest natural harbours in the world. Today, it is a bustling town with stately public buildings, such as the Palace Torre Saura, an atttractive Old Town and a lively harbourfront. Ciutadella is the more beautiful city and, perhaps, the more atmospheric. It has been the island’s religious centre since the 4th century. Search for cheap flights to Menorca at the end of June to see the city at its best, this is when the festival of Saint John takes place, complete with bucking horses.
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- If not tied to school holidays, late September, with temperatures of about 25 degrees, and fewer crowds, is a great time to visit the island.
- In the south of the island the beaches of Sant Tomas and Son Bou are white-sanded and lapped by clear, blue waters. One of the most popular resorts on the island is Binibeca Vell. One of the island’s earliest resorts, it was built to resemble a traditional fishing village. Its sandy cove at Binibeca Nou is one of Menorca’s best beaches.
- Cala Macarella beach, at the south of the island, features on many local postcards. It is one of the most beautiful spots. It’s well serviced too. A free car park is a 20-minute walk and there is a restaurant and a life guard on duty.
- Menorcan festivals are just as lively as the celebrations on mainland Spain: Sant Joan (June 24), held in Ciutadella, marks King Juan Carlos’s name day; Sant Agustin (August 28), held in Felantix, includes horse-riding shows and dancing; Diada de Catalunya (September 11), a national holiday throughout the Balearic Islands.
- Balearic cuisine features such hearty fare as suckling pig, tumbet (a local version of ratatouille), sopas mallorquinas (a meat and vegetable broth with slices of brown bread) and snails. Pa amb oli is the local snack, bread rubbed with olive oil and tomato and topped with ham or cheese.
- The three main islands of Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza are well linked by ferry. Trasmediterranea and Baleària operate fast ferries from Palma to Eivissa, a journey of two hours. Baleària also sails from Port d’Alcúdia on Majorca to Ciutadella in Menorca. For a day trip, Cape Balear sails between Cala Rajada on Majorca and Ciutadella on Menorca.
- Gin has been made on Menorca for hundreds of years. To make pomado, the island’s national drink, mix gin with lemonade. Visit Xoriguer gin distillery in Mahon for a demonstration on how gin is made and a free sample.