Authentic, Spanish and tranquil – with its unspoilt nature, picture book beaches, great food and countless sporting options, Majorca’s little sister offers everything the holidaymaker’s heart could desire for some quiet summer time out.
Just short of 200 kilometres of coastline, 87 sandy bays, lush green meadows, dense pine woods and idyllic villages – Minorca may not be the best-known of the Balearic Islands, but it is far and away the most chilled and least touristy of the holiday hotspots. You won’t find any vast hotels or industrial-scale discos packed with package holidaymakers here (or very few, anyway), but the island is home to beaches every bit as lovely as its sisters just across the water, Majorca and Ibiza. In Minorca, the focus is very much on untouched nature, Spanish joie de vivre and Mediterranean culinary delicacies. Outdoor pursuits such as riding, hiking, sailing, surfing and diving also make the island a great space for fans of activity holidays.
The south of the island is composed of sand-limestone, with white sandy beaches reminiscent of the Caribbean. You’ll find impressive cliffs here, with idyllic bays and turquoise blue water. The craggy, more raw northern coast, on the other hand, is home to larger bays with coarser sand in alternating colour tones. You can expect to find peace and quiet and a pristine natural experience at pretty well all the beaches in Minorca, while the often-underestimated island is also incredibly family-friendly.
Most popular beaches
Cala Macarella With its pine forests, white sand and turquoise-coloured waters, this natural beauty of a beach – like so many other on Minorca – can only be reached on foot or by ship. That means you can only really claim to have had the ‘Macarella beach experience’ if you make the 15-minute foot march to the smaller, sister bay Cala Macaraletta first. The views down onto the sea and picture book bays from the high cliffs here are just breathtaking.
Cala Turqueta and Cala Mitjana are also gems with their fine, white sand and azure-blue water – and you can reach these from the car park in just a minute or two.
The most popular bay in the north by far is Cala Pregonda, with its golden sands. Here, too, you’ll need about 30 minutes to walk from the car park to the beach itself – but with a spacious natural beach, crystal-clear water and amazing views of two islets just off the coast, it’s worth every moment of your time. The Camis des Cavalls hiking trail also leads to the beautiful sand dune, the Cala de Cavalleria, protected from the wind by its great location and hugely popular thanks to its beauty.
The entire northern coast, and particularly the idyllic fishing village of Fornells, is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. This is where the Tramuntana northerly wind fills the sails of windsurfers, kite surfers and yachting enthusiasts with the required force. Windfornells (http://www.windfornells.com/en/) is the town’s water sports centre, and where you’ll find the required kit, courses and connections.
As well as sailing, the most popular sporting activities in Fornells include windsurfing and diving on the cliffs, as well as renting kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. With paddle in hand, you can head for lonely stretches of beach in the surrounding fjord landscape – while basking in the completely risk-free conditions.
The ancient coastal path of Camis des Cavalls, which was reopened to the public in 2010, is the perfect spot for hiking, mountain biking or riding. This 185-kilometre-long route – literal translation, ‘horses‘ path’ – stretches all the way along the Minorcan coast, and once served to let locals sight enemy besiegers as early as possible. Today, the Camis des Cavalls is mainly used by locals and tourists to reach all those beautiful bays and beaches.
Ciutadella is the former capital of the island, and with its tiny alleyways, historic buildings and squares, also the perfect place to take for a stroll. Santa Maria Cathedral is worth a look, as is the town hall. Ciutadella is a typically Spanish town, with wonderful arcades, narrow alleyways and small shops. Ciutadella is frequently described as Minorca‘s loveliest town, and not without good reason.
With a population of 90,000, the modern capital of the Balearic Islands boasts the world’s second-largest natural harbour in the world (after Sydney). A harbour tour in the fjord-like harbour basin is always worth a try – all the more so in a glass-bottomed boat, as that lets you observe the wide and diverse underwater world all the more easily.
In the town itself, it’s the English who have visibly left their traces behind. The serpentine alleyways are packed with shops – including boutiques belonging to internationally successful shoe brand Pretty Ballerinas, which are produced here on the island. A fortress, churches, old opera house and lively harbour promenade make the buzzy capital totally worth a look.
Son Bou Basilica
This excavated basilica is an early-Christian structure discovered on the beach at Son Bou in 1951. The church is thought to have burnt down in the eighth or ninth century, and is now protected by a dry stone wall. A magical spot by the sea, and definitely worth a visit.
Open-air archaeological museum
With over a thousand finds dating back to 2,200 years before Christ, Menorca is a veritable open-air archaeological museum. From Bronze Age (and later) hunter-gatherers through to the Romans, Greeks, Carthaginians and Phoenicians, they’ve all left behind their architectural and cultural traces for us to admire to this day. The high point (in every sense of the word) are the Talaiots, large towers used to guard the island which can be seen for miles around, and Navetas, which look like upside-down ships and once served as living and burial sites.
‘Bon appetit’ – or as they say in Minorca, ‘bon profit’! Produce of the Minorcan fields and freshly-caught seafood delicacies from the sea are brought to the table in the typical ‘Greixoneres’, or earthenware pots. By far the best-known dish – if not exactly the cheapest – is the richly traditional Caldereta de Llagosta, or lobster soup. The former King of Spain, Juan Carlos, liked to anchor his yacht off Minorca once a year just to enjoy this very dish. Equally steeped in tradition is Mahon-Minorca cheese, a hard cheese made from cow’s milk which has been a symbol of the island since time immemorial.
The Cafe Balear in Ciutadella is prized by locals as the best fish restaurant on the island. Here, in a great atmosphere, you can dine on tapas, lobsters and sea bream while enjoying an almost equally delicious sea view. Be sure to book in advance!
Another favourite with Minorcans themselves and a handful of highly initiated tourists is fish restaurant Rias Baixas, in the village of Ferreries, at the centre of the island. Friendly service, traditional surroundings and uncomplicated but exquisite dishes (look out for the creations coming off the grill in the particular).
Halfway between the capital Mahon and Cap Roig nature reserve is Cap Roig restaurant, close to Mesquida village. We can recommend the outstanding fish dishes here, particularly the fish soup, which can be enjoyed along with a simply beautiful view of the sea and the bay.
Excellent mussels, or more precisely ‘Escopinias’, also known as ‘Majorcan Oysters’, are available at the restaurant S´Espigo. The small restaurant with a raised ambience is located directly on the promenade, with an amazing view onto the marina in Mahon.
The most unusual disco in the Balearic Archipelago – Cova de en Xoroi, a.k.a. The Caves, near the holiday resort of Cala En Porter in the south-east of the island – is an absolute must for any visitor to Minorca. This stalactite cave, with its incredible views and artificially created entrances, rooms and terraces, is perched 30 metres above the sea. Well worth a visit during the day as a tourist site and lounge-café, Cova de en Xoroi then metamorphosises into a dance palace at sunset, with live concerts and international DJs. Viva Minorca! A place to truly enjoy life from its loveliest side!
If you like the idea of spending your activity, family or beach holiday on the Spanish Balearic Island of Minorca, just click here to book a flight straight away. Flight time from Vienna to Mahon is just two-and-a-half hours…