Why Menorca should be your next summer escape
We spent the afternoon relaxing on the golden sands of Cala Mitjana, the gentle crash of waves sending us into an unexpected nap. We’d made the most of our week on Menorca, the second largest (and least populous) of Spain’s iconic Balearic Islands, but the constant exploration had us weary. Morning walks along the rugged coast, long lunches in hidden cafes, afternoons spent on golden beaches, hikes through national parks, balmy evening meals under the moonlight; all had taken their toll. This nap, it turns out, was much needed.
A gentle breeze roused us in time for one last quick dip in the achingly beautiful turquoise waters, before setting off for our last dinner of our Menorcan escape. It was going to be hard to leave our new island paradise.
During our week on Menorca, we discovered an understated island packed full of surprises. It offers a combination of interesting history, natural beauty, varied outdoor pursuits, quality food and wine, and most importantly, over 100 stunning beaches.
Here are a few reasons why Menorca should be your next summer escape.
WHY MENORCA SHOULD BE YOUR NEXT SUMMER ESCAPE
THE ISLAND OF MENORCA IS ACTUALLY STUNNING
Yep, the whole damn island. We visited almost every single corner, and everywhere we went was exceedingly pretty.
The main towns of Mahon and Ciutadella are lifted straight from the ‘pretty old European town’ playbook, with pastel coloured laneways, gothic churches, medieval architecture, Moorish-style buildings, large Piazzas, pretty harbours, and a huge variety of restaurants.
Step outside the main centres and you’re met with rolling fields of gold, pretty white houses dotted across the landscape, winding country lanes enclosed by ancient stone walls, and farm stores selling local produce.
Menorca was declared a UNESCO Biosphere reserve in 1993, 42% of which encompasses this small island. As a result, the island is full of natural beauty, both on land and sea. S'Albufera des Grau is the largest nature reserve on the island, and it's possible to hike, bike, kayak, and swim in the reserve.
MENORCA HAS SOME OF THE BEST BEACHES, EVER
Menorca’s beaches are quite simply some of the best we’ve ever seen. Seriously.
To the south of the island lay the many amazing unspoilt coves of Mitjana, Macarella, Macarelleta, Turqueta, Binidali and Binigaus. Our pick/s, if we HAD to choose, would be Mitjana, and Macarelleta; both are dreamlike in their composition: pure white sand, turquoise blue waters, dense pine groves, enclosed by sandstone cliffs.
To the north, the beaches differ greatly. The sand is darker, the cliffs more pronounced, vegetation sparse, yet the water equally clear. Menorca’s northern beaches are quieter (although maybe not in August - the island's peak tourism season), which in many ways makes them more appealing. Our pick of the bunch is Cavallaria - 500m long, with incredibly clear water.
In many ways, the beaches are reason enough to visit Menorca, yet that would be a shame, because...
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THE PACE OF LIFE ON MENORCA IS WONDERFULLY SLOW
With a permanent population of just over 76,000, Menorca thankfully doesn’t have the infrastructure in place for mass tourism. Menorca is a ‘slow’ destination, and it’s great.
In Menorca, we walked down city streets without feeling like we were on the London tube, we had our own slice of brilliant sand, we never once had to make a dinner reservation, and had miles of hiking paths to ourselves. Locals stopped to chat, a foreign experience for any Londoner, often leading to delightful conversations.
Things are just slower in Menorca; it’s an island that ebbs and flows to a different tempo, with locals working in unison to maintain this enjoyable, slower pace. As a tourist, you can feel your heart rate relaxing as you exit the airport.
MENORCA IS A NATURE LOVERS PARADISE
Being a UNESCO biosphere reserve is kind of a big deal, and Menorca is one of them. It means the environment is prioritised over socioeconomic development, which has led to the preservation of many areas of the island. Skyscrapers are banned too, so there's no risk of having your view impeded by a wall of glass and steel!
If you’re like us and into your natural activities, there’s a heap to do. The famous Cami de Cavalls hike circles the island, and at 180 km in length, isn’t for the faint hearted. Alternatively, mountain-biking, horse riding and golfing are all possible on the island.
In the surrounding crystal clear waters, sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding, windsurfing, and even surfing, is possible.
Our favourite activity was definitely swimming - how could we resist those crystal clear waters?
MENORCA IS SMALL ENOUGH TO TRAVEL IN A DAY
Menorca is quite small, 47 kms in length, and 17 kms at its widest, and it’s possible to traverse the island in one day. Admittedly, it’ll be a busy day, but done right you’ll be able to pack in a lot of fun - we spent a day road-tripping around the island and managed to see a lot!
A car can be hired for as little as €30 for the day, while fuel should only set you back €30 depending on how far and wide you decide to venture.
As a minimum, we recommend exploring the old town of Ciutadella, a swim at the beaches of Cala Mitjana in the south, and Cavallaria in the north, a walk to Favàritx Lighthouse, cheese tasting at Subaida cheese farm (Ctra. Alaior-Arenal Castell, 07730, Alaior, Minorca, Spain), visiting the highest point on the island, El Toro, admiring the white town of Binibecca Vell, cocktails at the Cova d'en Xoroi (Cala N'Porter, Minorca, Spain) cave bar, and dinner and wine at Bodegas Binifadet (Carretera Ses Barraques S/N, 07710, Sant Lluis, Minorca, Spain).
THE PRODUCE ON MENORCA IS EXCEPTIONAL
For a small island, the quality and variety of food on Menorca is exceptional. We can safely say we never had a bad meal, even accounting for Mark’s distaste for all things seafood. For those that DO love seafood (Mim), the bounty is endless.
Curiously for an island, Menorca’s two famous dishes are cheese and sausage. The British imported Friesian cows in the 1740’s, and over the following years Mahon cheese was perfected. There are many cheese farms dotted throughout the countryside towards El Toro, the best being Subaida (Ctra. Alaior-Arenal Castell, 07730, Alaior, Minorca, Spain).
Sobrasada is the local sausage made of pork and red paprika, and by all reports, delicious (being mostly vegetarian meant this was off the menu for us). Other famous Menorcan dishes include oliaigo (Menorcan tomato soup), caldereta (fish stew), and amargos (similar to macaroons).
La Minerva (Lugar Moll de Llevant 87, 07701 Mahon, Minorca, Spain), located on a platform in the port of Mahon, was our best meal on the Island. A ridiculously good cheese platter, delicious vegetarian paella, too many mussels, and a mouthwatering dessert concoction of berries and chocolate.
If you’re into Gin (who isn’t), Menorca is a brilliant place. A legacy of the British occupation of the island was Menorcan Gin, and you can find and enjoy a Pomada (Menorcan gin with cloudy lemonade) just about anywhere. Warning, they're extremely 'moreish'...!
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THE TOWN OF CIUTADELLA IS PICTURE PERFECT
Ciutadella was actually an afterthought for us - we’d planned on overlooking it to spend more time on Menorca’s glorious beaches. Thankfully, we changed our mind and ended up being blown away by Menorca’s former capital.
Formerly under the influence of the Romans, Muslims, Turks and the British, the city was destroyed in 1558 and rebuilt in the 17th century. Little has changed since then, and the old town remains mostly untouched.
The cobblestone streets of the old quarter, coupled with pretty pastel facades at every turn make Ciutadella incredibly photogenic. The narrow laneways are filled with medieval, gothic and Moorish architecture, the best example being the 13th century Ciutadella de Menorca cathedral.
It is worth noting - this is one part of the island where you can feel the presence of tourism. Fortunately, a quick detour into one of the quaint laneways off the main will have you in peace and quiet.
The port is far more picturesque than Mahon, and a just short walk from the old quarter.
BINIBECA VELL IS A PHOTOGRAPHER'S DREAM
In the south east of Menorca lies Binibeca, a quaint seaside village made up of gleaming white houses, built to mirror traditional fishing villages of years past.
Reminiscent of the Greek island villages made so famous by Instagram, Binibeca is the perfect little town to explore, camera in hand. In fact, we ended up spending far longer here than we expected, such was the lure of the pretty cobbled streets, afternoon shadows and angles. Just remember, this is a village with private dwellings, so act responsibly!
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