Is Menorca worth visiting? Why are you even bothering to ask? Just flick open that Spanish travel brochure, navigate to the Balearic Islands section, and viola – it’s a veritable montage of glimmering coves and waters of pure aquamarine blue, of cliffs topped by stone pines and handsome towns painted perfect white.
What’s more, among the whole of that much-loved string of rocks in the Med, we think there’s something truly special about this one. Mhmm…Menorca is more chilled than the DJ-spinning White Isle of Ibiza, more authentic than the uber-famous hub of Majorca. It’s the place to go for R&R, for raw Spanish culture, fine food, and a real escape.
Anyway, we’ll stop waxing lyrical about it all now and delve into the meat of it. What follows is seven reasons why we think Menorca really is worth adding to your travel itinerary this year. It’s got blinding-white beaches, picture-perfect villages that ooze charm, and hotels that would be spot on for that romantic escape with the other half. Let’s begin…
There’s no doubt in our mind that it’s the beaches that really elevate Menorca among the Balearics. Yep, Majorca has the glowing coves that scuttle down from the hills of the Serra de Tramuntana. For sure, Ibiza is famed for its glorious runs of talcum-white sand beneath rows of sunbaked cocktail bars.
But there’s something undeniably unique about the shorelines of the easternmost isle. Cue the medley of small inlets and bays known locally as the cala. These are long, twisting, fjord-like fissures in the coast that poke inland through grottoes and limestone outcrops to give uber-protected, uber-inviting places to snorkel and swim. The best of them include pine-topped Cala Mitjaneta and secluded Cala del Pilar but there are tens to get through.
You can also score more traditional beaches that run along below the cliffs for hundreds of meters. We especially love the lagoon-like sand hooks at Platja de Cavalleria and the horseshoe bay of Platges Son Saura.
Menorca is steeped in many millennia of history. Seriously, there are standing stones dotted around the isle that experts believe date back more than 3,000 years. Known as taules, they’re at their most impressive at the Talatí de Dalt site near Mahon and at Torralba d’en Salort in the district of Cala en Porter.
That’s just to set the ball a-rolling, though. Later centuries saw the islands become a base for pirates, who raided Roman trading vessels from the coves here. Then, the isle fell into the control of the Moorish Caliphate of Cordoba, eventually being reconquered by the Catalans. It’s at this time that many of the most iconic monuments were raised, including the Ciutadella de Menorca Cathedral from the 1200s.
In the 19th century, Menorca passed from British to French hands. That’s the time that saw big changes in the port areas of Ciutadella and Mahon town, and the construction of muscular forts like the Martello tower.
The good news is that hotels in Menorca don’t tend to cost the hefty packet that they can elsewhere in the Balearic chain. That’s not to say that they are cheap. They aren’t. However, we think you get some of the best bang for your buck in this corner of the islands, particularly if you’re willing to travel in the shoulder-season months of May and September.
Here’s a look at some of the top hotels Menorca can muster; the ones that we think you should totally consider if you’re planning on heading to the isle this year…
- Villa Le Blanc, a Gran Meliá Hotel ($$$) – Pure, unadulterated luxury awaits at this five-star hotel. A member of the Leading Hotels of the World league, it’s got a gorgeous outdoor pool space and unbeatable views over the Mediterranean Sea.
- Hotel Petit Sagitario ($$-$$$) – Let the romance flow in this charming, adult-only hotel in Son Carrio. Water views and a minimalist pool are the main draws but there are plenty more besides.
- S´Estancia Suites ($$) – A series of spacious suites that spill out into their own pool and deck area. We put these down as fantastic couples’ apartments. The location is prime for exploring the whole island, since you’ll be staying close to the very heart of it in Es Mercadal.
Menorca doesn’t have a booming capital a la Palma de Majorca just over the strait. In fact, the largest town you get here is the historic port of Ciutadella de Menorca on the west coast. That’s home to 29,000 people and occupies just two small inlets and a sloping hillside, which is now inundated with handsome mansions built by the British in the 1800s and topped by a cathedral from the 12th century.
Over on the east coast, the town of Mahón is the principal place to dock up on a yacht. It’s known for its grand and imposing 19th-century palaces and fortified port area, which is also laden with open-air bars that get positively buzzy during the golden hours.
Once you’ve visited both of the above, consider heading inland to seek out the white-painted cottages of Es Mercadal. It’s a different vibe there, what with medieval streets unfolding under red-tiled roofs. The spot hosts a fantastic market that’s great for shopping for Menorcan wine and foods, and also offers access to the wild interior of the isle.
The Balearics hardly have bad weather – they’re firmly established as one of the main summer escapes in Spain for a reason, you know? However, we’d actually pick out Menorca as the rock with the finest weather of all…
First off, the eastern location in the chain and the exposure to the dominant north winds that roll off the mainland sierras means that it’s often just one or two degrees cooler in this corner of the archipelago than on, say, Majorca. That’s a gift in the peak summer, when thermometers are routinely reading 82-90 F (28-33 C).
Then you see the rainfall stats and you realize there’s very little to worry about in Menorca. Sun seekers can rest assured that there’s a mere day of precipitation in July, and a meager seven days of the stuff even in the height of the winter. AKA – beach weather reigns supreme in these parts!
A jaunt to Spain is bound to be a tasty affair. This is the country that gave the world tapas, paella, jambon Iberico, and a whole medley of other mouthwatering treats! Down in Menorca, all that and more awaits on the menu, in a land that fuses culinary influences from the mainland, the Maghreb of North Africa, and from a whole range of different cultures and peoples who’ve come and conquered the rock over the centuries.
Here are just a few of the taste-bud-tingling dishes that we think you simply have to sample before your holiday’s finished…
- Queso de Mahón – A local cheese made in and around the town of Mahon. Notice the distinctly salty flavor, supposedly a product of the pasturelands that the cows graze on, all close to the Med.
- Arroz de la Tierra – An earthy and rich dish that resembles paella, only rice is swapped out for bulgur wheat. Especially great in winter.
- Oliaigu – A cold but refreshing tomato broth that’s sort of Menorca’s answer to gazpacho.
- Buñuelos – Move over churros, sample Menorca’s dough balls dusted with sugar and you’ll never go back!
Let’s frame this one with a stat, a population stat: There are over 920,000 people that live on Majorca, the main island in the Balearic chain, but only 90,000 that live on Menorca. Mhmm…you find just 10% of the people here compared to the more popular islands in the archipelago. On top of that, Menorca Airport handles just one million people to Majorca’s six million and Ibiza’s 2.5 million per year, meaning fewer travelers come to boot.
The upshot? Menorca is very much the off-the-beaten-track member of this Mediterranean-washed part of Spain. Even in the peak of the season you’ll notice it’s nowhere near as busy as its near compadres and certainly doesn’t come with the sprawling developments and out-of-control resorts that you get elsewhere.
Of course, the busiest times to hit Menorca are the summer months of June, July, and August. But if you’re keen to experience the authentic and less-touristy vibe mentioned above, we’d be tempted to plan a trip for the quieter shoulder seasons of spring and fall, which are cheaper and calmer all round.
Is Menorca worth visiting? Our conclusion
Is Menorca worth visiting? Well, let’s just say this…Shimmering beaches run along the south shore, while hidden coves offer snorkeling in some of the most secluded spots in the whole Balearic region. On top of that, there are deluxe hotels with a price tag that can often beat destinations like Ibiza and Majorca, along with history-oozing towns and archaeology sites. So, is Menorca worth visiting? Yep. It really, really is!