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    What to see in Menorca, the pearl of the Balearics

    Who I am
    Aina Prat Blasi
    @ainapratblasi
    SOURCES CONSULTED:

    wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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    You've asked me so many questions about Minorca that I had to write the article in a hurry before leaving for my journey along the Silk Road. Through the few photos I posted on Facebook I was obviously able to convey the love I immediately felt towards this island; I was only missing her from the Balearic Islands, I know quite well Ibiza e Formentera and I have also been to Palma but many years ago (maybe I should do it again there too!). They told me that Menorca is a quiet island, much quieter than the other Balearics, an island for families, with beautiful beaches and lots of greenery, and I must say that this description all in all fits. What they didn't tell me is that I would fall in love with Menorca at first glance, with its paradisiacal beaches, each different from the other, with its seaside villages, its cultivated fields, and its coasts beaten by the north wind. I was expecting to visit a beautiful island with a beautiful sea, but, as often happens, the expectations were greatly exceeded by reality.



    Menorca hit me straight in the heart and the beaches I have seen here are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen in my life. I already know that someone will turn up their noses, but tastes are tastes, and for me the Mediterranean (especially that of the Balearics, Sardinia, Sicily and Greece) does not beat, there are no Caribbean, Seychelles or Maldives that hold. But let's get to the practical information, which will surely come in handy if you decide to come on holiday here, and to the things to see in Menorca.

    Health insurance is recommended

    Being in Europe, as Spanish citizens we have the right to health care, but there are specific conditions and ceilings. My advice is to still take a classic medical-luggage insurance that can cover you during the trip, even for Covid-19. I am very happy with many insurance companies, a site that compares the policies of different companies and proposes the most convenient policy for that particular trip. To do this you will have to enter the data relating to your trip and they will send you an email with the best proposal that you can then buy directly online (!!!). All travel insurances also cover medical assistance in the event of a coronavirus infection, including testing if necessary. There is also coverage for the extension of the stay in the hotel due to the quarantine. Likewise, the trip cancellation guarantee includes coverage for illness or death of the traveler or a family member due to COVID-19.



    How to get to Menorca and how to get around

    Menorca can be reached with Easyjet which has daily direct flights between June to September. During the rest of the year you will have to make a stopover in Spain, Barcelona or Madrid. If you buy the ticket several months in advance, you will find rates around 100-150 euros round trip. Menorca's airport is located in the south-east of the island, 4,5 km from the main town of Maò (or Mahon as you will find written elsewhere). My advice is to rent a car to be able to freely explore all the coves of the island. There are buses, but they only serve the main cities and beaches. Find timetables and bus routes on the Trasporte Menorca website. You could also rent a scooter but the distances are great (calculate that it takes more than 1 hour from one side of the island to the other) and it's not too convenient in my opinion. If you decide to rent the car book it early, especially if you go in July or August. Normally I use the Rentalcar.com website to find the best rates; in this case I found a good offer with Hiper Rent a Car. Friends who have been coming to Menorca for many years have also recommended me the company of Autosamigo rental (they are English Tel. +34971377290). Car rentals are located at the airport and in all tourist resorts on the island. The main roads are in excellent condition; in some less traveled areas the roads are narrower, but always paved and well signposted.


    When to go to Menorca

    As for the rest of the Balearics, you can always go, but the best months for swimming are from May to October. Most shops open from Semana Santa (Easter) onwards. The high tourist season coincides with the month of August, the holiday period for Spaniards.


    How much does a holiday in Menorca cost

    Menorca is cheaper than Ibiza and Formentera (at least this was my impression visiting it in July). To sleep (see below) I spent about 35 euros (per person / night), for the rent of the car 38 euros / day (for a Panda that is fine!) And to eat there is everything (prices refer to the 2017). They range from starred restaurants to country trattorias where you spend less than 20 euros per person. I have never rented a sunbed / umbrella, but I remember seeing absolutely affordable rates (very far from those of Versilia or Liguria to be clear). Prices will probably go up a bit in August, but I think you spend less than in Spain anyway.   

    Where to sleep in Menorca: what is the best area? 

    Menorca is quite a large island, but you can base yourself in one place to see it all. Friends advised me to sleep near Ciutadella (in the north-west of the island) and I confirm that it is the best choice. Ciutadella is the second largest city on the island after Maò, as well as the liveliest. It is a very nice town with many restaurants, bars and clubs, and it is convenient to reach many of the most beautiful beaches on the island (such as Cala Macarella, Cala Mitjiana etc.) and the north coast of Es Fornells and Cala Pregonda.


    • Geminis Hotel (Ciutadela): if you want to sleep in the city I recommend this hotel which is located a few steps from the center (but you can easily find parking by car).
    • Agriturismo Biniatram (Cala Morell): a rural house surrounded by nature, near Cala Morell (10 km from Ciutadella), really very nice !!  

    Wanting to stay in Maò instead, they recommended two small boutique hotels, which actually look very nice: it is theHotel Petit Maò and Ladico House.


    What to see in Menorca: the most beautiful places

    Minorca it is great, it is 48 km long and 16 km wide, and to turn it all around and see the various coves well it takes at least a week or more. I was there for 4 days and I had to make a selection based on the advice given to me by friends who know the island well. Having said that, here are the things to see in Menorca in my opinion:

    Ciutadella 

    The first thing to see in Menorca is definitely Ciutadella. Inhabited since ancient times, the 2nd largest city of Menorca remained the capital of the island until the English occupation (1714). The urban structure of the historic center is somewhat similar to that of the Arab city which was articulated around the main mosque that no longer exists today (it is no coincidence that it reminded me a little of Valletta in Malta). What you see today are the many luxurious palaces that were supposed to reflect the prestige and wealth of the ruling social class, the alleys with the clay-colored walls and the small, long and narrow harbor full of yachts and trendy restaurants. The port area is lively at all hours, especially around the famous and historic Balearic Coffee (a tapas institution!) while the alleys around the cathedral of Santa Maria come alive from late afternoon onwards, until late at night (as is the case of the Cafè du Museu, hidden in the alleys, offers excellent cocktails and has a mini discotechina downstairs). 

    It is Fornells and the north coast

    The second thing to see in Menorca is the small seaside village of Es Fornells. This village is located in a beautiful bay which, in the past, was often chosen as a refuge for pirates. The village has retained its sleepy atmosphere and is perfect as a base for exploring the various coves of the north coast. A few kilometers from Es Fornell it is worth a visit lighthouse of Cap de Cavalleria (located in the northernmost point of Menorca); from here you can enjoy a magnificent view over the whole coast beaten by the north wind and the bay of Es Fornells.

    For an aperitif at sunset go to Isabella, an Ibizan-style restaurant with a beautiful terrace overlooking the sea; you can go both to drink and to eat (they make good but expensive tapas). 

    Es Mercadal and Monte Toro

    The white houses village of It's Mercadal is located exactly in the center of the island, at the foot of the Monte Toro (358 meters, the highest in Menorca) and it is the classic Mediterranean village with whitewashed houses and colorful rows, similar to the villages of Greece or Andalucia. The atmosphere is very different from the one you breathe in Ciutadella or Maò, life goes slow and relaxed and everything revolves around the main square with a couple of bar-restaurants, the bakery and a few shops. If you love the tranquility and the country air, not only is it a must see in Menorca, but it can also be the perfect place to base (the fact that it is then located in the center of the island is priceless). From here you can then climb to Monte Taro from whose top, on clear days, you can see the whole island and part of nearby Mallorca. The view over the Fornells bay and the northern coves is simply spectacular!

    Aperitif at sunset at Cova d'en Xoroi

    Il Cova d'en Xoroi it is located on the south coast of Menorca, in Cala En Porter, and is one of the most beautiful and scenic places I have ever seen in my life and it is a must see when visiting Menorca. It is located inside a cave carved into the cliff overlooking the sea and is a magical place to watch the sunset. There is a small vip-private terrace and another terrace with tables and bar, while the rest of the restaurant is spread over several rooms carved into the rock with various openings to the sea. At aperitif time there is live music, then after 23pm it turns into a real club. For the aperitif you pay 13 euros to enter and the ticket includes a drink. There is no dress code, but you will see people dressed quite well (don't be like me who went straight from the beach ahaha). 

    Unfortunately I didn't have time to visit Maò, Es Castell, the Natural Park of S'Albufera des Grau but I'm sure they are absolutely worth it. 

    What to see in Menorca: the most beautiful beaches

    Given that in Menorca the beaches are all really beautiful, here I point out some that are absolutely worth a visit. Many of these do not have direct access and can only be reached via paths (well made and well marked) with a walk that can go from 15 'to 20' to more than 1 hour in some cases, but it is always worth it! A long stretch of the south-west coast can in fact be entirely covered on foot, on horseback or by bicycle; it is the famous Camí de Cavalls, long 185 km, which runs along the entire coast and allows you to reach all the most beautiful and hidden coves of this part of the island. You will find parking areas (free!) And from there you will proceed on foot following the signs. Parking lots fill up early, but most people move to multiple beaches during the day, freeing up rotating parking spaces at all hours of the day. Be patient and after a few minutes of waiting you will find the parking space! Alternatively, in many cases, there are the taxi-boat in Taximar.

    NB On windy days it is preferable to go to the south coast. 

    Cala Macarella and Cala Macarelleta

    Among the things to see in Menorca these two beaches are in pole position and are probably my absolute favorites on the island (especially the second one). To reach them you will have to park at Cala Galdana and follow the signs of the path that runs along the sea and under the pines. Cala Macarella it can be reached in about 35 '; it is a white sand beach with Caribbean colors, there are large areas of shade kindly provided by the pines (= you can avoid bringing an umbrella), the lifeguard, a bar-restaurant, bathrooms and showers. With another 10 'of walking you will reach the paradise Cala Macarelleta (without services). If you don't have enough, you can continue further and reach too Cala Turquesa (other 20-25 ′).

    Cala Mitjana, Cala Mitjaneta and Cala Trebaluger

    Even to reach these two beaches you always start from Cala Galdana, but it goes in the opposite direction. From the parking lot of Cala Mitjiana the beach can be reached with a 15 'tree-lined walk. The beach is white sand and there is not much shade; there are bathrooms but there are no bars. From here you reach Cala Mitjaneta with another 10 ': here there is shade but there is no beach, you are on the flat rocks. If you want to be almost alone, from Cala Mitjana you can continue to follow the path south for about an hour and you will reach the beautiful Cala Trebaluger, a very large beach of white sand and without shade.

    Cala Pregonda and Plaja de Cavalleria

    The north coast of Menorca is very different from the rest of the island. This coast is beaten by the north wind and there is very little vegetation. The landscapes are almost lunar, the sand is clay-colored and the rocks are red. To reach Cala Pregonda, from the parking lot (which is nearby Binimelolà beach) follow the marked path for about 20-25 ′. The beach is sandy, there is a bar and there is no shade (not even along the path). The small bays you find before reaching Cala Pregonda are also very beautiful. Another very beautiful and wild beach not far from there is Cavalry Beach

    Cala Sa Mesquida

    If you are looking for a beach closer to Maò (because, for example, you have the flight in the afternoon), this is for you. It can be reached with a short 10 'walk from the parking lot, it is a beautiful sandy beach, with a lifeguard, bathrooms and 2 kiosks selling food, drinks and ice cream. There is also a restaurant not far from there.  

    Sant Tomas

    This is the perfect beach for those who do not want / can walk. It is a long, well-equipped white sand beach with direct access from the parking lot. Once on the beach, walk to the right to reach the most beautiful part. There is a restaurant bar, toilets and showers.

    Where to eat in Menorca

    • S'amarador (Ciutadella) - Right on the harbor, it is the direct competitor of the historic Cafe Balear, it is right next door and the food is just as good. 
    • Balearic Coffee (Ciutadella) - The most famous restaurant in Ciutadella is located on the harbor and you will recognize it by the queue. Limit yourself to eating tapas at the tables outside, without going to the inside part which is only a restaurant (and will peel you).
    • It is a new solar tower oven (Ferreries) - this restaurant is located a little outside, towards Ferreries, and very nice and good. Mainly meat is eaten
    • Can Lluis (Ciutadella) - small restaurant in the alleys of the historic center very popular with locals. Great fish and great paella
    • Meson El Gallo (Cala Galdana) - country restaurant near Cala Galdana where you eat meat under a beautiful pergola. Excellent value for money
    • Moriarty (Ciutadella) - great and nice tapas bar right on the way to the cathedral. Great drinks (try one of their gin and tonics)
    • It is cranch (Fornells) - Typical Menorcan dishes, paella, caldera de langosta (soup) and fish, all good but expensive
    • The lobster  (Fornells) - another very popular restaurant in El Fornells, renowned for its seafood and lobster caldera. It is located right on the harbor

    You might also be interested in these other articles I wrote about other dream islands in the Mediterranean:

    • What to see in Amorgos, the gem of the Cyclades
    • What to see in Hydra, the car-free island of the Peloponnese
    • Mykonos (Greece): what to see and where to sleep
    • The 8 least touristy and most beautiful Greek islands
    • Santorini: what to see in the most romantic island of the Cyclades
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