Welcome to Menorca
Camí de Cavalls
Sport and Nature
Nature and wellbeing
Made in Menorca
Special events in Menorca
Menorca all year round
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Welcome to Menorca, the island that’s all about tranquillity, nature and slow living
Menorca has always been a crossroads, a haven of many cultures. Nowadays the island remains a place of welcome, open to the world, a wonderful place for unique experiences.
Menorca’s best known attractions are without a doubt its coves and untouched beaches. However there is so much more: countryside activities, outdoor sports, local culinary delights, handicrafts and products Made in Menorca, a history thousands of years old as well as a whole range of cultural activities. Menorca is infinite.
Before going into more details about the island, here are a few facts to get to know the place:
- Location: northeast of the Balearics
- Coordinates: 39° 57’ N, 4° 3’ E
- Surface area: 701.8 km2.
- Protected territory: 66%
- Population: 94,300 inhabitants
- Languages: Spanish and Catalan.
- Councils: Maó, Ciutadella, Alaior, Es Castell, Sant Lluís, Es Mercadal, Ferreries and Es Mig jorn.
- Length of coastline: 216km.
- Number of coves and beaches: over 100.
- Highest point: 358 metres.
- Annual hours of sunshine: 2,630 hours
- Sea temperature in the summer: between 22 and 24 degrees.
- Average yearly temperature: 16º
In summer, average high temperature 28º and average low 20º
In winter, highs of 14º and lows of 7º
- Average rainfall: + 540mm/year
- Ports and airport:
Menorca airport located in Maó
Ferry ports located in Maó and Ciutadella
- Flight times:
One hour from most Spanish towns
Under two hours from main European capitals.
- Number of visitors yearly: approximately 1.5 million
Menorca is a remarkable place, like an iceberg of nature and tranquillity right in the heart of the western Mediterranean. Like an iceberg because there is so much more here than at first glance: most of the island’s treasures are apparent only to those who actively seek them out. Only then is Menorca’s essence revealed.
The island is calm and serene, but there is at the same time an impression of strength and energy. Over the centuries Menorca has been a prized possession, strategically and commercially; its history of invasions and dominations have contributed to its cosmopolitan nature.
The landscape is like a mosaic of shades and contrasts, over a surface area of just over 700 square km. The island is about 53km across from east to west. Right in the middle is Monte Toro, the highest point at 358 metres. The northern coast is compelling: harsh and wild, with scarce vegetation and islets and beaches of dark reddish sand.
The southern coast is formed of beautiful sheltered ravines and woodland groves leading down to picture postcard coves of white sand and turquoise seas.
The climate is particularly mild and temperate, although a characteristic of the island is the force of the tramontana wind. It’s a wind that is so strong it has molded the landscape. The island is divided into eight administrative councils: Maó, Ciutadella, Alaior, Es Castell, Sant Lluís, Es Mercadal, Ferreries and Es Mig jorn Gran.
Farming has altered the shape of the land significantly over the centuries, traditionally in a sustainable way. Economic growth strives to be compatible with the preservation of the island’s natural heritage. The whole island was declared a Biosphere Reserve in October 1993 by virtue of the close association between man and territory.
Local farming practices are perceived quite clearly in the landscape, in the ancient custom of making use of natural resources. Miles of dry stone walls traditionally lattice the farmlands. Menorca is highly valued for its environmental diversity because most Mediterranean ecosystems can be seen here.
The Natural Park Albufera des Grau is the nucleuszoneoftheBiosphereReserve,anarea of about 5.006,7 hectares that includes a saline lagoon, a stretch of coastline and several islets. The wetlands in particular are of great interest for the quantity of birds of prey and sea birds that nest here. The ravines afford shelter to a wealth of fauna and flora, including a number of endemic species and endangered species such as red kites and Lilford’s wall lizards. The dunes, torrents, ravines, groves of holm oaks, wild olives and pine trees, all contribute to the singularity of Menorca as a Biosphere Reserve, not to mention the sea grass meadows of neptune grass which greatly contribute to the conservation of the seashore.
The geology of the island constitutes a breathtaking landscape, with mosaics of rock formations up to 400 million years old. There are two distinct geological areas, the northern ‘tramuntana’ and the southern ‘mig jorn’ side, separated by an imaginary line going across the middle of the island, more or less along the main road from Ciutadella to Maó. The Centre de Geologia de Menorca, located in Ferreries, has a permanent exhibition and some unusual exhibits about the island’s geology.
The ancient land that is Menorca accumulates a vast archaeological heritage unique in the world. Spread out over the island, these monuments are in a magnificent state of conservation, two thousand year old witnesses of the era when they were built. The density of these archaeological sites is remarkable: there are on average two monuments to every square kilometre, forming a lasting element of the Menorcan landscape.
The most emblematic buildings are the navetas, although the proposed UNESCO World Heritage Site has been named after the talayot (cone shaped stone towers built between 1000 and 700 B.C.). There are a number of different monumentsof the island’s prehistory included in the proposed Site: hypogea, tombs, caves, talayots, navetas, as well as taulas (sanctuaries found only in Menorca).
Trepucó, Talatí de Dalt, Torre d’en Galmés, Torralba d’en Salort, Cornia Nou and Naveta des Tudons are all archaeological sites well worth visiting in order to get a general idea of the island’s prehistory. It is quite impressive to see the sheer size of these monuments that were built using cyclopean masonry (fitting together large stones without mortar). There remains to this day some mystery surrounding their precise use and the rituals performed by those who were the first inhabitants of Menorca.
The countryside in Menorca is generally unspoiled. Most of the ecosystems typically found in the western Mediterranean can be seen here. They are still biologically very diverse as a result of diligent preservation of natural resources. Almost 70% of the island territory is protected. There is also a Marine Reserve on the northern coast which includes the longest stretch of unspoiled coastline of the island.
There are a hundred or so islets dotted along the coastline, unblemished by humans and of great ecological value. These little islands are inhabited by endemic animals, including eight subspecies of Lilford’s wall lizard, each subspecies unique and different. There are a number of ecosystems well worth exploring: woods, cliffs, wetlands, torrents, vernal pools, as well as ravines carved by erosion of the limestone rock.
The best known aspects of Menorca’s scenery are its beaches. Along the 216km of coastline, there are about eighty sandy bays, as well as numerous coves and inlets tucked into the shore. Such picturesque settings and crystal-clear seas are perfect for spending an idyllic day at the seaside. Son Bou, with over 2.5km of sand, is the longest beach. The smallest beaches are barely 100 metres long, although size is beside the point when you are talking about genuine natural paradise placed in what is one of the best preserved holiday destinations in the Mediterranean.
The island is geologically differentiated rather curiously into two separate halves: tramontana and mig jorn. This is why the beaches along the northern and southern coast are dissimilar: they have different coloured sand, textures and rock formations.
Along the northern coast the landscape is wild and untamed, with predominantly earthy, ochre and golden tones. There are amazing beaches and coves, as well as fantastic snorkelling and scuba diving locations. Cala Pregonda might well be the best known natural beach, but Cavalleria and Cala Pilar are equally stunning. The beautiful landscape of La Vall is where Es Bot and Es Tancat are located, the twin beaches of Algaiarens. Cala Presili and Cala Tortuga are neighbouring beaches located in the nature reserve Parque Natural la Albufera des Grau. Those who prefer beaches with some facilities but still want a stunning setting will love the beaches at Cala Morell, Arenal de Son Saura (Son Parc), the wide sandy beach at Es Grau, or Cala Mesquida.
The southern coastline is irresistibly appealing, with turquoise blue sea, fine white sand and leafy woods providing shade almost down to the water’s edge. The best known natural beaches are: the twin beaches of Son Saura, the famous beaches of Cala en Turqueta, Cala Macarella y Macarelleta, as well as Cala Mitjana and Mitjaneta. Trebalúger and Cala Escorxada beaches are two jewels which are somewhat quieter as it is quite a long walk to reach them. Binigaus is another delightful option: it is the widest unspoilt beach of the south coast and is easily accessible for a day at the beach, as is tiny Atalis beach, at the end of Son Bou beach. The most beautiful beaches next to resorts are: Son Xoriguer; majestic Cala Galdana, which is almost always calm, sheltered as it is by the cliffs; the long stretch of sand at Sant Tomàs and Cala en Porter. The beaches at Binibèquer, Punta Prima and Binissafúller stand out among the beaches in the Sant Lluís area.
Camí de cavalls
The Camí de Cavalls is a great way to discover Menorca’s magnificent landscape. It is a 185 km trail round the island’s coastline taking in a variety of different sceneries
Its exact origin is unknown; what is known is that the Camí de Cavalls was used for many centuries as a link between defence towers that had been built to keep a lookout and to safeguard the island from any possible attack or invasion. The path has had various uses over the centuries and was eventually restored and opened to the public in 2010. Nowadays it is part of the European long distance footpaths network, numbered GR-223.
The trail circles right round the island, starting off in the port of Maó. It is divided into twenty sections clearly marked by wooden posts along the whole way. Whether you want to go for a gentle stroll or to undertake a sporting challenge, there is no better way to explore the island; although Menorca is a fairly small place, it does have amazing natural beauty in abundance.
The Camí de Cavalls can also be explored by bike or on horseback. As some sections are not adequate for bikes or horses, it is best to select the routes that are specifically suitable for bikes and horses.
Sport and Nature
The island is not just about stunning landscapes – there are also lots of ways to enjoy the scenery. It is a great destination for exciting adventures and outdoor sports.
Kayaking. Whether on your own or in a group, with or without a guide, you can explore the most out of the way places of the Menorcan coastline in a kayak.
Scuba diving. Dive into the depths of the Menorcan sea and discover another haven of fauna, flora, reefs and underwater caves.
Sailing. The port of Maó and the bay of Fornells are both great places for learning to sail or for honing your sailing skills – there are courses tailored to all levels. Navigate the coastline by chartering a sailing boat (with or without a skipper).
Windsurfing. Skimming over the waves when the wind is blowing is an amazing feeling, a sport you can do throughout the year here in Menorca.
Stand up paddle boarding. This is a sport that is suitable for people of all ages. You can go paddle boarding from a number of beaches on the island.
Boat charters. Sailing is a great way to enjoy the beauty of the coastline.
Boat trips. There are a number of boats trips available, round ports and along the coastline, as well as private boat trips.
Rambling. There is lots of rambling in Menorca. There is the Camí de Cavalls along the coast and a grid of paths and tracks inland that are delightful to explore and can be used to reach interesting places like beaches, lighthouses, prehistoric monuments, ravines, defence towers, quarries, and so on.
Trail running. Menorca has become a buzz word among trail running enthusiasts because a number of competitions take place here every year.
Cycling and mountain biking. There are countless routes for cycling enthusiasts, over and above the Camí de Cavalls: tracks crisscrossing the countryside, lanes leading out from villages into the country and coastal paths. The choice is extensive and the routes are suitable for everyone. There is a clearly signposted network of 21 cycle touring routes.
Horse riding. Horse riding has long been popular in Menorca, bolstered by the recognition of the Menorcan horse as an indigenous breed. The Menorcan horse plays a key role in the local patron saint festivities. The island’s equestrian heritage has given rise to range of organised horse riding hacks along some of the Camí de Cavalls. Some horse breeding stables on the island put on Menorcan dressage shows.
Golf. There is an 18-hole golf course in Menorca in Son Parc, a haven of tranquillity.
Nature and wellbeing
The scenery in Menorca is so beautiful and unspoiled – the island has become known as a destination for healthfulness and wellbeing. Its tranquillity makes it the perfect place for physical and mental equilibrium.
Yoga. Yoga retreats on the island are on the up and up. Enjoy a mix of mind and body care with the beautiful scenery of Menorca.
Botanical routes. The Natural Park Albufera des Grau has a number of self-guided routes for discovering the area’s rich fauna and flora. The quarry Pedreres de s’Hostal also has a botanical circuit.
Bird watching. Menorca is a perfect destination for spotting birds in the wild.
Painting outdoors. Painting holidays are on the increase. The unique brightness of light on the island is a source of inspiration for artists’ creativity.
Photography holidays. Menorca’s nature allows for capturing beautiful shots and will inspire creativity in every photographer.
You can go on a journey through time when you visit the many monuments that have been built over the centuries. They reflect all the different cultures that have come to the island over the course of its chequered history. Menorca is traditionally very artistic; the oldest opera house in Spain is located here, putting on frequent productions.
One way of discovering the extensive cultural wealth of the island is by following the themed routes round the island.
Megalithic legacy. Menorca’s archaeological heritage is colossal. Talayotic Menorca is all about a heritage unique in the world. It consists of monuments up to 4000 years old, which are still in a magnificent state of conservation.
Roman and Muslim legacy. Sanisera was an important Roman site; its remains can be seen in the natural port of Sanitja, to the north of Es Mercadal. On the top of Santa Águeda hill are the remains of one of the main defence buildings of Al-Andalus, which were built between the 10th and the 13th century.
British legacy. There are quite a lot of buildings dating from when the island was under British domination: the water reservoir in Es Mercadal, the old naval hospital built on Isla del Rey, the Martello tower in Fornells, Fort Marlborough in Cala Sant Esteve and the inland road named after the Irish military commander Sir Richard Kane, who was Governor of Menorca in the early 18th century.
Fortifications. There are a large number of defence constructions built here because of the island’s strategic geographical location. A network of watch towers was built along the coast. At the mouth of the port of Maó there are the remains of San Felipe castle. Originally built in the mid 16th century, it was to become one of the most famed and imposing fortresses of its time in Europe. Its underground galleries are open to the public. Other constructions well worth the visit are La Mola fortress, built on the orders of Queen Isabel II, and the Lazaretto quarantine station, built in 1817 on an island within the port of Maó.
Maritime heritage. Whether during the day or at night time, exploring the island’s lighthouses is magical. They were built at strategic points on the coast, the most emblematic ones being Favàritx, Punta Nati and Cavalleria. There is a visitor centre all about the northern coastline in Cavalleria lighthouse and the Artrutx lighthouse houses a restaurant.
Religious heritage. From early Christian basilicas in Fornàs de Torelló and Son Bou to the emblematic Cathedral of Menorca in the heart of the old town centre of Ciutadella, the island’s historic places of worship form a great architectural treasure. Worthy of note is Santa Maria Church, known for its magnificent organ, Monte Toro sanctuary and the hermitages located in the countryside.
Museums. A great way to find out about the island’s history is by visiting its museums. The main ones are the Museo de Menorca (located in the cloisters by Sant Francesc church in Maó), the Museo Municipal de Ciutadella (housed in a bastion that was part of the town’s fortifications), and Ca n’Oliver, a neoclassical manor house in Maó where the 18th and 19th century Hernández Sanz-Hernández Mora collection is kept.
Menorca has long been a source of inspiration to artists. This small Mediterranean island has earned a solid reputation over the years as a land of culture where all the art forms – music, art, theatre, and cinema – are embraced.
Music lovers can enjoy live performances of the highest standard. There is the Opera Season that has been taking place every year since the 1970s. The Jazz Festival of Menorca and the Classical Music Festivals (in both Maó and Ciutadella) are yearly events. The latest addition to the musical calendar is the Festival Pedra Viva.
The performing arts hold annual events in Menorca. The main event is the Premi Born de Teatre award, one of the most important drama awards in Spain. The Teatre Principal de Maó is the oldest opera theatre in Spain and schedules a full programme every year. The Teatre des Born and the Orfeó Maonès are two other theatres regularly staging performances.
The International Film Festival of Menorca and the micro theatre shows are both getting bigger and more popular every year. There is a range of activities regularly held in the Museu de Menorca and the Museu Municipal de Ciutadella, as well as in other museums, art galleries and exhibition halls.
The patron saint festivities take place all over the island during the summer months. Horses play a prominent part in these festivities, but the local councils also put on a range of cultural events for everyone to enjoy.
The local bar and restaurant associations organize culinary events every year featuring the island cuisine.
Made in Menorca
Menorca is an island full of flavours. Enterprising restaurants have given a delightful modern twist to traditional homely dishes. Local products such as the cheese, wine and gin have gained worldwide renown.
A cradle of entrepreneurs, Menorca exports fashion and design. Shoe manufacturing is the most important element of the local economy; Menorcan designers are however also well known for their artisan crafts and costume jewellery design.
Simplicity is the essence of Menorcan cuisine; its foundation lies in people who are down-to- earth, but who know how to enjoy life and how to make the most of what they have. Within every apparently humble dish there lies a touch of refinement, a delightful hint of foreign cultures.
Traditional cookery books all contain recipes for oliaigua and other vegetable dishes, seafaring delicacies such as caldereta de langosta, meat and game recipes, stuffed aubergines and other oven baked dishes like perol. There are lots of recipes for pastries as Menorcans have a very sweet tooth. Carquinyols, flaons, pastissets and amargos are some of the sweet and savoury pastries that are made here.
The one Menorcan product known worldwide is surely mayonnaise. Experts agree that it was originally a local sauce made here on the island and that it spread to the rest of the world after the French invaded Menorca in the 18th century. The theory is that the Duke of Richelieu tasted the sauce while he was on the island, and then took the recipe back to the French court where it became known as mahonnaise, in reference to the town Maó.
The local food industry has created a hallmark of guarantee Made in Menorca. A prime example is the cheese which has obtained the protected designation of origin (PDO) Mahón-Menorca and has recently been classified among the best in the world. Menorcan cheese is square in shape, with a darkish reddish brown rind and a slightly salty flavour.
The Gin from Maó has been attributed a protected geographical indication (PGI) and is very well known both in Menorca and abroad. The Menorcan gin is the oldest gin in Spain. It is distilled from wine alcohol with juniper berries and a selection of herbs in old copper stills heated by wood fires and is one of the most aromatic gins on the market.
There are some traditional liquors and spirits as well as the Menorcan gin that are produced on the island, such as herb liquors, the native camomile liquor and citric fruit liquors which are drunk after a meal as a digestif. In recent years some artisan breweries have started up. The beer they brew is made from natural unpasteurised ingredients. The result is a range of signature brews of different flavours and characteristics ‘Vi de la Terra Illa de Menorca’ is a geographical indication of quality of wine. There are several wineries that have brought back traditional wine making methods to the island, producing wines of a distinctive island character. A couple of wineries offer tours and wine tastings.
Olive oil is another quality food product. There are a few extra virgin olive oils produced in Menorca, thanks to enterprising local producers, although only very small amounts are made at the moment.
The hallmark ‘Made in Menorca’ recognises some of the local meat products, particularly cured pork. Carn-i-xulla is the most characteristic product, dating back to ancient roman curing methods. Other types of cured pork products are ‘sobrasadas’ (both mild and mature), ‘botifarrons’ and ‘cuixots’.
There is a small amount of honey made on the island. Prized for many centuries, the Roman author Pliny claimed the island’s honey was the best in the world next to Greek honey.
On an island surrounded by sea, there can be no shortage of salt. By the end of the 20th century, however, sea salt production had ceased, but it has started up again very recently, the result being high quality sea salt sold either pure or mixed with herbs and spices.
Special mention must be made of the Menorcan chamomile, a particular variety of Santolina chamaecyparissus subspecies magónica, which grows here. The plant is exceptionally aromatic and is renowned for its many health benefits.
Manufacturing plays an important part in Menorca’s economy. The island is in fact the one with the highest percentage of manufacturing companies. Ferreries is in the lead, followed by Ciutadella and Alaior.
Among the various manufacturing activities, the most important one is shoe design and production, an industry going back to the 18th century. Nowadays there are prestigious firms known internationally for the design and quality of their products. One particular item made in Menorca is the abarca. This summer footwear has become remarkably popular and its production has increased over the last few years.
The Menorcan way of life is reflected in the bond the islanders have with the sea, giving rise to the creation of the llaüt, the traditional Menorcan boat. Traditionally built by mestres d’aixa, or ship’s carpenters, the design and technology of these boats has been improved on by leading shipbuilders over the years.
Menorca is moreover a land of costume jewellery makers. The island is in fact home to the headquarters of the Asociación Española de Fabricantes Exportadores de Bisutería, the Spanish Association of Fashion Jewellery and Accessories Exporting manufacturers. One of the main international trade fairs was held here for a number of years.
Menorca has a history of craftsmanship that continues to this day. Today’s artisans are professionals, the quality of their work acknowledged by the hallmark ‘Artesanía de Menorca’ (Craft of Menorca). Materials used in crafts are: wood, stone, leather, visual arts, fabrics, clay, paper, shoes and clothes, food, etc.
The Menorca Craft Centre ‘Centre Artesanal de Menorca’, is a reference for local crafts. It has an exhibition room and a shop selling local handmade products. Many artisans have their own shop as well as stalls in the evening craft markets held weekly all over the island during the summer months.
Special events in Menorca
Beautiful sandy bays, ancient quarries, country houses, rural hotels, fortresses steeped in history: Menorca has lots of exceptional places for celebrating all kinds of special events, making them unforgettable.
There are of course a number of specialist firms that will handle event planning and organizing down to the very last detail, making sure every celebration is a huge success.
Menorca has the benefit of enjoying a mild climate during most of the year. Added to the fact that it is at most a couple of hours’ flight away from many European cities, the island is an excellent choice for celebrating all kinds of events.
There are a number of venues suitable not just for leisure, but also for business meetings or for scientific and academic events. There is ample choice of places, from hotel conference rooms to public buildings and even the beautiful opera house, the Teatre Principal de Maó. Menorca is moreover an ideal place for filming commercials or video productions.
Menorca all year round
From October to April is when the island gets its second wind, when everything calms down. This is the time of year when the island reveals its lesser known aspect, its true unspoilt side. It’s a great time for those who want to get away from a frantic city pace, getting back in touch with nature for a well earned rest. It is without a shadow of a doubt a great place for a break whatever the time of year.
There are cultural events all year round. It is true they are lots in the summer months, but Menorca still has an interesting range of cultural activities in the winter months, including the Jazz Festival of Menorca, the Opera Season, the Day (Diada) of Menorca and the Festivity of Santa Cecilia. There is a full programme put on by the local entities such as the Teatre Principal in Maó, the Orfeó Maonès, the Cercle Artístic in Ciutadella and the Teatre de Calós.
The archaeological and architectural heritage of Menorca is of course an excellent reason to come for a cultural break. Many talayotic sites are open all year round, as are the monuments that are part of the British route, the Fortifications route, the Religious monuments route and the Museums route.
There are moreover a number of craft fairs and farmers’ markets and culinary events promoting local cuisine and Made in Menorca products.
There is another side to Menorca: tranquil and serene, when it’s all about disconnecting and winding down. This is all about wellbeing, when mind and body are in a longed-for state of equilibrium.
More and more people come to Menorca for this kind of holiday. There are retreats for healthier life styles, for yoga and meditation or for physical and spiritual exercises. There are arts workshops and courses. The range of activities on offer is in perfect harmony with an island declared a Biosphere Reserve.
The Camí de Cavalls is an outstanding footpath whatever the season. Visitors to the island can enjoy the spectacular beauty of this historical path during the autumn, winter and spring months without the density of visitors of the summer months. Coves and untouched beaches, cliffs and woodlands, ravines and wetlands: every single aspect of the island is more attractive in the colder months.
The main sporting events take place out of season. The mountain bike race Vuelta a Menorca en BTT, the international cycling tour of Menorca Vuelta Cicloturística Internacional and the Half Marathon all take place in October. Other events are the trail running race Camí de Cavalls Epic 360o (in March), the National Football Tournaments Base and International – Mecup (in March-April), the trail running Compressport Trail Menorca Camí de Cavalls (in May) and the Half Triathlon (in September).