Menorca

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Menorca (Minorca) is the second largest of the  Spain’s  Balearic Islands, located to the northeast of Mallorca and is the least overrun and most tranquil of the Balearics.

With a population of around 92,000, the island is dominated by tourists, particularly during the summer tourist season of May – October. Due to its unspoilt beauty, it allows the more adventurous the opportunity to discover new charms and experiences. Despite its smaller size among other Spanish islands, being just around 30 miles long and around 10 miles wide, the number of beaches that Menorca has equals the number of beaches that can be found in Mallorca and Ibiza combined.

Regions
The island is split into eight administrative divisions: Mao, Es Castell, Sant Lluis, Alaior, Es Mercadal, Es Migjorn Gran, Ferreries and Ciutadella. Each division is responsible for the beaches and resorts within it.

Mao (1 )
Also known as Mahon, Mao is the capital city notable for bars, restaurants and its port. Mao’s harbor is its most impressive feature and is a strong drawcard for visitors, especially the British, who today flock to the island in droves. The town is built atop cliffs that line the harbor’s southern shore, with the majority of the architecture in the 18th century Georgian style. Some nearby resorts include:
1 Es Castell,an example of a fine Mediterranean resort very close to the Island’s capital.

2 Punta Prima is a resort with an exceptional family resort and lots of space for everyone in its many apartments and villas.

Ciutadella (2 )
Also known as Ciutadella de Menorca, this was the former capital city until the first British occupation, where it was transferred to Mao. Full of beautiful Italian architecture due to 17th Century rebuilding, with one exception being the Cathedral de Menorca which was built in the 14th Century Gothic style. There are a few resorts on this western end of the island, including:
3 Cala en Bosc, a huge resort south of Ciutadella with lots to keep families occupied, including a surf school and water park. There’s plenty for adults too, with adult-only hotels and spas throughout. The western end of the resort in particular is popular with all-inclusive hotels

4 Cala en Blaines is a resort just north of Ciutadella with a vibrant mix of family-friendly hotels, bars and restaurants, and private villas. Lots for everyone.

Alaior (3 )
An authentic Menorcan town, home to the local cheese and shoe industries, as well as some great family resorts:
5 Son Bou, favored by many for its many holiday villas and the longest beach on Menorca.

6 Cala en Porter, with villas to rival Son Bou and dramatic coastline and cliffs perfect for evening walks.

Es Mercadal (4 )
A town and municipality is located right in the center of the island, close to the highest point on the island El Toro, and home to a bustling open-air market. Home to the resorts of:
7 Fornells, a fishing resort built on the seafront with a small port and lots of seafood restaurants. No real beach here, so popular with adults looking to avoid kids.

8 Arenal d’en Castell, another horseshoe bay this time on the north coast. There’s plenty of space on this gorgeous beach for everyone.

Ferreries (5 )
A town nestled within some rolling hills, home to lots of local industry, including the main Avarca (Menorcan Shoe) stores.
9 Cala Galdana, a perfect turquoise horseshoe bay popular with adults due to a wide variety of adults-only hotels.

Es Migjorn Gran (6 )
A quiet town, with the only landmark being a small church. There are lots of narrow streets and a collection of tapas bars, as well as some great nearby calas (beaches) that are rarely busy as most can only be accessed on foot.
10 Santo Tomas, a popular sleepy family resort with many hotels, villas and apartments coupled with attractive restaurants and long beaches.

Understand :  One of the many ‘Taulas’ across the island. Historians are still unsure of their significance.
The harbour at Mao, the island capital, is the second largest natural deep water port in the world – the largest being Pearl Harbour. The whole island is a European Biological Reserve and Unesco Biosphere Reserve aiming to preserve environmental areas. More than a 75% of the territory is protected. You can watch some of the last turtles of the Mediterranean, birds and protected species.

The main tourist area is along the south coast and includes the resorts of Santo Tomas, Son Bou, Cala en Porter, Binibeca, Punta Prima and S’Algar. Menorca is a relatively quiet island, which means more wholesome, family fun holidays. If you prefer a more vibrant night scene, head to nearby Ibiza or Mallorca for a bustling city atmosphere.

An identifying sign of Menorca is its fascination with horses. All things centre around horses and the people love them. Menorca has its own race of black horses. In all the festivities the horses and their “caixers” (riders) are the centrepieces. The “Cami de Cavalls” is a pathway surrounding the island for horse riding and it was used in the past for defense of the coast by horse, literally translating to horse path.

If you do take time to explore the interior you will discover a wealth of interesting and historic landmarks from El Toro (the highest point on the island) to the most significant prehistoric sites at Trepuco and Torre d’en Galmes.

To this day no one is certain of the significance of these prehistoric monuments in the form of Taules, T-shaped stone formations thought to be spiritual sanctuaries; Talayots which are stone towers that local people believe were once used as look-out points. There is little evidence to support these theories about Menorca’s prehistoric past nor the original function of these breathtaking creations . Taules are named after the Menorqui word for table. (Menorqui is the local dialect of Catalan which is widely spoken on the Island). Menorca is by far the richest place in Europe for sites of prehistoric settlements, mostly dating from the Talaiotic Period, which was the period of civilisation between 2000 and 1000 BC. The term Talayot is believed to originate from the Arabic atalaya meaning “watch tower”

History : Since prehistoric times, the Island has been controlled by the Romans, Moors, Catalans, Spanish, French and English. All these nations have left their mark on the Island and monuments to visit from Sanisera, the archaeological site close the port of Sanitja on the north coast of the island to the ruins of the 5th century Bascilica on the beach at Son Bou.

During the 18th century, Menorca was a bone of contention among the British, French and Spanish powers. This was due to the Port of Mao, the finest natural harbour in the Mediterranean, and one of the best in the world, which could protect the largest fleets of the time in their entirety. The Utrecht Treaty, signed in 1713, gave place to the first British presence on Menorca, which lasted until 1755. The first British Governor was John Campbell (Argyll) nominated by the Queen Anne. Richard Kane, from County Antrim in Ireland, the second British Governor, is still fondly remembered for his effective support of agriculture on the island; he introduced the cultivation of the apple, promoted cattle breeding and built roads and reservoirs which are still in use today. The Scottish Col.Patrick Mackellar (Argyll) was the chief engineer of Menorca and responsible for the main constructions of the British legacy. The main contribution of Mackellar was the design and construction of Georgestown (Es Castell) near to Sant Felip fortress at the entry of Mahon harbour.

There were two later periods of British presence on Menorca, from 1763 till 1781 and 1798 to 1808. The British left more than their earthworks and ramparts behind. Things as varied as the growth of Mao, which enthusiastically accepted the opportunities for trade and the abolition of the Inquisition, the traditional woodworking and boat building techniques and designs and Menorca’s most popular drink, gin.

Access : Coordinates :39.966667, 4.083333 / Menorca is a member of the Schengen Agreement.

There are normally no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. This includes most of the European Union and a few other countries.
There are usually identity checks before boarding international flights or boats. Sometimes there are temporary border controls at land borders.
Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty.
Please see Travelling around the Schengen Area for more information on how the scheme works, which countries are members and what the requirements are for your nationality.
By plane
1 Menorca Airport (Mahon Airport MAH IATA), Carretera de Sant Climent, s/n, 07712 Mao, Illes Balears, Spain (Drive down the ME-14, where you’ll reach the dual layered arrivals/departures roads.). There are regular flights available to Menorca Airport (sometimes known as Mahon Airport) from mainland Spain and the sister islands of Ibiza and Mallorca through Iberia and their subsidiary Air Nostrum. Flights from Spain are also available from Barcelona with Vueling. If travelling from the UK, various airlines offer regular scheduled services during the summer tourist season. Airlines Jet2, TUI Airways, EasyJet and Thomas Cook all fly from various regional and main UK airports direct to Menorca. British Airways offer services from London Heathrow, Gatwick and City airports.
To get to your resort, Menorca’s airport is served by buses to Mao (€1.50, 15 min) every half hour from around 06:00 to 22:00 and then hourly to midnight. The bus stops at the bus station, the Estacio Maritima and a couple of other intermediate points. Buses are then available to various resorts and towns across the island from the bus station.
Taxis are available directly in front of the airport terminal and there is a range of car hire options to get to your resort. There are also various services (bookable online) that allow direct coach transfers to resorts across the island.

By ferry

2 Mao Harbour (Mahon Harbour), Moll De Ponent, 0 S N, 07701 Mahon. Regular ferries from both mainland Spain and Majorca are also available to Mao from Palma de Mallorca, Valencia, and Barcelona. Modest-sized cruise ships occasionally visit. They use Mao’s deep harbour, which offers highly scenic views of homes, hotels/resorts and historic structures and fortifications.

3 Ciutadella Harbour, Via Mestre Vives 07769 Ciutadella de Menorca (If in Ciutadella, head down the ME-24, then turn right onto the RC2 which takes you directly to the port.). Regular car ferries from Alcudia and Barcelona are also available to Ciutadella. Some cruise ships also do visit Ciutadella, but most use the port of Mahon.

Get around :  By taxi :  Taxis are a popular form of transport for those not looking to move as much. They can be somewhat expensive if using them a lot, so be careful! A taxi can be booked using Radio Taxis, which is an English speaking service.

By car : Companies :  There are numerous agents and companies, both international and local, specialising in car hire in Menorca – both at the airport and in resorts – although it may be important to organise it from home before you arrive to avoid disappointment during peak periods. Scooter hire is also possible at some of these agencies. Car Hire companies include the International Firms, that usually cost a little more but have dedicated desks and a separate pickup facility directly at the airport, which means there’s no shuttle bus and you can just drive away. Companies based at the airport are: Hertz, Avis, Europcar, and Enterprise. There are other firms dedicated to Menorca, which will often be cheaper than the main firms, but have no dedicated desk at the airport and require a shuttle bus to their offsite destinations.

A word of warning on Car Hire: If possible, do not get a ‘full to empty’ fuel policy; there is no way that you will use a full tank of fuel on the tiny island of Menorca. Instead, opt for a ‘full to full’ policy wherever possible. It does mean you’ll have to use a petrol station before your return, but you’ll save the over-the-top cost of a full tank of fuel from the rental agency.

Roads
The roads on Menorca are very simple: there is one main road, the ME-1. It connects Ciutadella and Mahon and every other major road on the island branches off it.

By bus
If you’re planning to travel around by bus, then there are three main public bus companies in Menorca: TMSA, Torres, and Autos Fornells.

Transportes Menorca (TMSA), who run buses throughout the island, including to Ciutadella, but operate mainly around the east coast (including Mao and the Airport), as well as to many of the southern resorts. Their buses leave from the Bus Station in Mao and from Placa de Menorca in Ciutadella.
Torres run buses from Ciutadella to locations and resorts on the west coast. Their buses leave from the main plaza (Placa des Pins) in Ciutadella.
Autos Fornells run buses from the major towns to the northern resorts, including Fornells.
The main bus route which serves Mao, Alaior, Es Mercadal, Ferreries and Ciutadella runs along the centre of the island. Most buses leave hourly and are very inexpensive, at around €4 to €5 to travel between Ciutadella and Mao.

You can always find the latest timetables for every route on each operators’ website.

On foot
The Cami de Cavalls footpath encompasses the entire island, and is a popular walking route along the coastline. It is a fully signposted long distance Spanish walking route around the edge of the island, and is a part of Spain’s network of paths, the Gran Recorrido (GR) Network. If you’re planning to visit a nearby beach or resort, it’s often quicker to use the Cami de Cavalls due to the island’s road structure; you can walk directly to your destination instead of travelling all the way inland only to head back down to the coast again.

  • Highlights :
  •  El Toro (Monte Toro), ME-13 (Head east out of Es Mercadal on the ME-13, until you reach the summit.). The highest point on the island, near Es Mercadal. Visit for a fantastic panoramic view of the island. There’s also a monastery, cafe and shop at the summit. The highest point is 342 m (1,122 ft) tall. Free.
  • Xoriguer Gin Distillery (Destilerias Xoriguer), Moll de Ponent, 07701 Mahon, (On the main port road next to the harbour in Mahon.). M-F 08:00-19:00, Sa 09:00-13:00. Menorca’s very own Xoriguer Gin Distillery, constructed during the 18th century, is on the Moll de Ponent dockside. Menorcan gin is distinctively aromatic and very tasty, and generally offered only there and by select European retailers elsewhere. You can sample and purchase it on-site, as well as the many other types of liquor that the Xoriguer Distillery manufactures. Free to enter, a bottle of gin can be €30-50.
  • Museu de Menorca, Pla des Monestir, 07701 Mao. Tu-Sa 10:00-14:00, 18:00-20:00, Su and holidays 10:00-14:00. This 15th-century former Franciscan monastery contains the earliest history of the island, the Roman and Byzantine eras and Muslim Menorca and includes paintings from more recent times times.
  • Lithica (Pedreres de s’Hostal), Cami Vell, km. 1, 07769 Ciutadella de Menorca (Turn left off the ME-1 near Ciutadella onto the RC-2, then take a left at the next roundabout.). A unique chance to visit and explore a Sandstone quarry near Ciutadella. A walk around encompasses some wonderful gardens, sandstone maze, and brilliant views of the quarry and the surrounding greenland. There’s great insights into the early tools used in quarrying and a chance to buy a small, engraved piece of sandstone from the quarry to take home with you. Well recommended.
  • Naveta des Tudons, Carretera Mahon – Ciudadela, Km. 40, 07760 Ciutadella de Menorca. An ancient megalithic chamber tomb and the final resting place for 100 skeletons buried up to 750 BC. The exterior is open to visits and is brilliant to see and remark how our ancestors lived. Recommended on the journey either to or from Ciutadella, as it is just outside on the Main Road.
  • Placa Alfons III, Placa D’ Alfons III Conqueridor 07760 Ciutadella de Menorca (in close proximity to Avda de la Constitucio). 24 hr. This plaza is lined with noteworthy restaurants and cafes that are worth more than a passing glance. Check out the aged windmill, which now serves as headquarters for the town’s tourist information office. Free.
  • La Mola Fortress (Fortalesa Isabel II La Mola), c/La Mola s/n (Mao). Daily. A magnificent Spanish fortress set over Mao harbour, a fine example of mid-19th-century Spanish military architecture. €7.

Activities : Beaches : Note: It is important to bear in mind that resorts, particularly on the north side of the island, are generally built on cliffs and so have either very small beaches or very full beaches. As a result, it’s best to rent a car (see ‘Get Around’) and get out to explore some of the great beaches, or else you will be fighting for space. Moreover, the larger family resorts have beaches that, again, do fill up quickly – so go and explore some of the more obscure beaches listed below.
Menorca has its share of beautiful coastline that deserves recognition. Non-resort Menorcan beaches are generally not crowded, so finding a nice relaxing spot of your own is not hard to achieve, provided you have access to a car or scooter.

  •  Es Grau (Platja Es Grau), Carrer Pas des Tamarell, 11, 07701 Es Grau (Car Park on the ME-5 road directly links to a bridge to access the long beach.). Daily 24 hr. A great, long beach with shallow water ideal for families that is regarded by many as the closest decent beach to the capital, Mahon. Very close to the nearby nature reserve that has some great walks. Connected to Mahon by local bus. Free.
  • Punta Prima Beach (Platja de Punta Prima), Carrer Bellavista, 11-13, 07713 Punta Prima (Head down the Carrer Mestral de Punta Prima then turn right onto the beachfront, then right again into the large car park.). Daily 24 hr. A relatively small beach with some great facilities in Punta Prima, another decent beach close to the Capital. Part of a busy family resort, there are lots of bars and cafes on the seafront and a large car park just next to the beach. There’s lots of sunbed hire and pedalo hire available here too. Access can also be by local bus from Mahon. Free.
  • Cala Macarella & Cala Macarelleta, parking available on Cami de Macarella (Can be reached from Cala Galdana or Ciutadella, but parking is a few hundred metres from the beach so prepare to walk!). Macarella is relatively easily accessible and is undoubtedly one of the best beaches on Menorca, with crystal clear blue waters, a brilliant natural cove and a small cafe/bar to keep you topped up. Macarelleta involves a small walk over the clifftop but is even better than Macarella, being quieter, smaller and less noisy. Both are worth a visit. Arrive early to get a spot – these beaches fill up fast, especially Macarella!
  • Cala en Turqueta (Cala Turqueta), Marjal Vella, 07769 Ciutadella de Menorca (A car park is available on Marjal Vella when approaching from Ciutadella, but is a few minutes walk to the beach.). A brilliant beach with great soft sand and the same turquoise water (where it gets its name from!) as Macarella and Macarelleta. Split in two by some rocks, there are often sailing boats floating in the shore. Spaces fill up fast, so arrive early. There is a small snack bar and toilets. Free.
  • Cala Pregonda, Son Ametller 07740 Es Mercadal (Access is via a long road up from Es Mercadal town.). Pregonda is a medium sized beach on the north side of Menorca with golden fine sand. It has clear, blue, inviting water, and is unparalleled on Menorca, with its island in the middle of the bay that is definitely worth a climb, and the golden rocky sea beds behind the island. There is a smaller, quieter sister beach to the east of Pregonda called Pregondo. Free.
  • Cala en Porter, Platja de Cala en Porter, 07730 Cala en Porter (Head down the ME-12, then follow signs for the beach. There’s a car park at the beach.). 24 hr. Cala en Porter is possibly one of the best beaches for families, with a playground, great sand and shallow water. The beach itself is stunning too, being at the end of a great bay surrounded by cliffs, with pedalo hire and sunbed hire. Gets busy but it’s a wide beach, so there’s plenty of space for everyone. Popular with families. Free.
  • Son Bou (Playa de Son Bou), Carretera de Son Bou (Head south through the town, following signs for the beach. There’s a large car park at the beach.). 24 hr. The longest beach on Menorca means there’s plenty of space for everyone if you don’t mind walking a few minutes from the crowd. Pale sand and loads of room make this beach great for kids: Sunbeds and pedalos are available at the resort end of the beach. Brilliant for families. Free.
  • Santo Tomas (Playa San Adeodato, Binigaus), Urbanizacion Santo Tomas, 07749 Menorca. (Head down the ME-18 from Es Migjorn Gran, then turn right just before the mini-roundabout at the bottom of the road to enter a large car park perfect for the beaches.). Santo Tomas has three very long beaches; the first, Playa de Santo Tomas, is a long winding strip of sand near the resorts’ hotels, and so is popular with families. San Adeodato, west from Playa de Santo Tomas, is thinner and strewn with pebbles with a shallow shore, ideal for sun-worshippers and those looking to spend a few hours there. The third, Binigaus, is further west still, and is only accessible by a long path from the west of Santo Tomas. As a result, it is not suitable for those with young children and so is a brilliant spacious beach for adults looking to unwind away from the noise.

Cruises :
9 Glass Bottomed Catamaran Cruises, Carrer Moll de Llevant, 12, 07701 Mao (Most depart from next to the Ferry Terminal in the Mao Port – tickets can be booked from their offices in the port.). Numerous operators offer glass-bottomed cruises around the harbour and port of Mao, offering a chance to view the underwater, marine life and learn about some of Mahon’s history in the process. They are always fun and very recommendable.

Scuba
10 Son Bou Scuba, Centro Comercial San Jaime s/n (Son Bou). Professional PADI staff available to take you to visit underwater caves and caverns, wrecks and the protected Marine Reserve on the North Coast. Novices and experienced divers alike are welcome. From €35

Go next : Mallorca / Ibiza / Balearic Islands / Barcelona

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