Menorca (Minorca) is the second largest of the 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 48 km (30 miles) long and around 16 km (10 miles) wide, the number of beaches that Menorca has equals the number of beaches that can be found in Mallorca and Ibiza combined.
The island is split into eight administrative divisions: Maó, Es Castell, Sant Lluis, Alaior, Es Mercadal, Es Migjorn Gran, Ferreries and Ciutadella. Each division is responsible for the beaches and resorts within it.
Also known as Mahón, Maó is notable for bars, restaurants and its port. Mao's harbour is its most impressive feature and is a strong drawcard for visitors, especially the British, who flock to the island. The town is built atop cliffs that line the harbour's southern shore, with the majority of the architecture in the 18th-century Georgian style. This article also covers Es Castell, and Sant Lluis:
1 Es Castell is a fine Mediterranean resort very close to the Iiland's capital.
2 Punta Prima is an exceptional family resort with many apartments and villas.
Also known as Ciutadella de Menorca, this was the former capital city until the first British occupation, where it was transferred to Maó. 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 are also 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.
An authentic Menorcan town, home to the local cheese and shoe industries, and to some great family resorts:
6 Cala en Porter, with villas to rival Son Bou and dramatic coastline and cliffs perfect for evening walks.
|Es Mercadal (4)|
A town in the centre 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 it is 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.
A town nestled within some rolling hills, home to lots of local industry, including the main Avarca (Menorcan Shoe) stores.
|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.
The harbour at Maó, 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 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 Trepucó and Torre d’en Galmés.
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 Menorquí word for table. (Menorquí 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”.
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 Maó, 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. This included things as varied as the growth of Maó, 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.
The locals speak a form of Catalan language called "Menorquí", which is itself a sub-dialect of the regional "Balear". It is a language not easily understood by Spanish speakers, but most inhabitants also speak Spanish. Most also speak English to a reasonable standard, especially in the tourist areas and resorts.
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.
- 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.
1 Menorca Airport (Mahon Airport MAH IATA) 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, and EasyJet 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 Maó (€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.
2 Maó Harbour (Mahon Harbour), Moll De Ponent, 0 S N, 07701 Mahón. Regular ferries from both mainland Spain and Majorca are also available to Maó from Palma de Mallorca, Valencia, and Barcelona. Modest-sized cruise ships occasionally visit. They use Maó'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.
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. Call +34 971 367 111 and state your current location and destination.
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.
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.
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 Maó and the Airport), as well as to many of the southern resorts. Their buses leave from the Bus Station in Maó 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 Maó, 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 Maó.
You can always find the latest timetables for every route on each operators' website.
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.
El Toro, east of Es Mercadal, is the highest point on the island. Visit for a fantastic panoramic view of the island.
In Maó , the Xoriguer Gin Distillery makes gin that is distinctively aromatic and very tasty. You can sample and purchase on-site gin and the many other types of liquor that the Xoriguer Distillery manufactures. The Museu de Menorca is in a 15th-century former Franciscan monastery. It exhibits the earliest history of the island, the Roman and Byzantine eras and Muslim Menorca, and includes paintings from more recent times. La Mola Fortress is a magnificent, mid-19th-century Spanish fortress set over Maó harbour.
In Ciutadella de Menorca, enjoy the Plaça d'Alfons III, a plaza lined with restaurants and cafés that are worth more than a passing glance. Outside of the town, you will find Líthica, a sandstone quarry you can explore. It has wonderful gardens, a sandstone maze, and brilliant views of the quarry and the surrounding greenland. Naveta des Tudons is an ancient megalithic chamber tomb and the final resting place for 100 skeletons buried up to 750 BC. The exterior is open to visits.
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 is a great, long beach north of Maó with shallow water ideal for families that is very close to a nature reserve that has some great walks. Punta Prima Beach, southeast of Maó, is a relatively small beach with some great facilities in Punta Prima.
Cala Macarella, west of Cala Galdana, is undoubtedly one of the best beaches on Menorca, with crystal clear blue waters, a brilliant natural cove and a small cafe/bar. Cala en Turqueta also west of Cala Galdana, is a brilliant beach with great soft sand and the same turquoise water (where it gets its name from) as Macarella.
1 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 Pregondó. Free.
2 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.
At Son Bou, 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.
3 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.
Glass-bottomed catamaran cruises from Maó offer a chance to view the underwater marine life.
There is a scuba centre at Son Bou.
Avarcas, the traditional Menorcan sandal, is available in shops and markets throughout the island. They are now a fashion icon and can be found across the world, but were originally designed as a shoe for farmers. Only the original Avarca manufacturers are allowed to sell shoes with the label "Avarca de Menorca". This is only given by the local Balearic Government as a guarantee that the avarcas accomplish minimum quality standards and that they have been really manufactured on the island.
1 MIBO Cosits, S.L. (Abarcas Menorquinas MIBO Cosits), Polígono Industrial, Nave, B-6, 07749 Es Migjorn Gran (enter the industrial area by turning left from the ME-18 (if approaching from the main road) and the shop is on your right), ☏ . M-Sa 09:30 - 14:00 , 16:00 - 18:00. Su 10:00 - 14:00. A small store that sells products directly from the factory behind. Sells official avarcas de Menorca, in a range of adults and childrens' sizes and colours Shoes range between €40-60 for an adult pair..
Menorca is packed with good restaurants whose menus especially feature fish and seafood. Menorca also has a great variety of bars and cafes, with some open for 24 hours a day.
Nightlife in Menorca is low key compared to nearby Mallorca or Ibiza. For a drink with a waterside view, head to the waterfront which is where the majority of bars are situated.
On Menorca there were a great many junipers, (there still are), and in the harbour lay the British fleet. The twain met and Ginet was the result, a spirit far removed from the Spanish and Mediterranean traditions and with notable difference from the English Gin.
It is a kind of cross between London Gin and the Mediterranean spirit, invented in Menorca. It was very successful and was drunk throughout the British Fleet and it surprised more than one distinguished visitor to declare "the best of the sprits found in Europe today" was historian Vargas Ponce's opinion on visiting Menorca in 1781.
The major difference between London Gin and Menorcan Ginet, is that Menorcan Ginet is based on a spirit distilled from the grape, as is usual in the Mediterranean, and not on a cereal based spirit. The juniper now comes from the mainland, but the distilling continues to be done in old copper stills. The spirit rests in oak barrels cured in gin so that the end product does not take the colour of the wood.
Gin is found all over Menorca, drunk neat or in a mix. One such mix, named Pomada, is created by adding bitter lemon. It's the drink of choice during the many fiestas which take place throughout the summer on the island.
You can find information about how to visit the distillery shop in the Maó article.