Full article published in Northern Woman Magazine, September 2019.
The Mediterranean’s Hidden Gem
Menorca is often undermined by its neighbours, Mallorca and Ibiza. Traditionally a lot more low-key than the other Balearic Islands, Menorca is known for its sheer natural beauty, secluded coves and turquoise-tinted waters. Thanks to the relaxed atmosphere that rolls throughout the island, Menorca is the perfect destination for families, friends and romantic getaways. Despite its small size, the island offers a lot to see and do.
Mahon is the capital town and should be a first port of call for visitors. The town centre is traditional and quaint with a chilled ambiance. Mahon offers independent trinket stores, food markets and traditional shops.
With a 5km-long stretch of land, Mahon has one of the largest natural harbours in the world. Make sure to say “hola” to Mô, the copper mermaid who guards the port while waiting for her lost lover to return from sea. Hop on a glass bottom boat from the port. Tours operate regularly, and audio guides provide detailed information on the island’s long and complicated history. Admire the extravagant boats while taking an evening stroll along the port. Visit Sa Tintina, a new and original bar for traditional dishes, street food and nachos. A firm favourite with locals, Sa Tintina is the perfect spot to people watch along the port and appreciate the lively Spanish vibe.
Menorca’s beaches are generally uncrowded and different to typical beach resorts. You will find pleasant, tranquil coves. For families, there are holiday resorts with waterparks close to Ciutadella, the second largest town. Visit the beautiful bay of Cala en Porter and rent a kayak, boat or paddleboard. From here you can explore mysterious caves and embark on a seaborne journey to discover the spectacular cliffs on the south of the island.
Walking in Menorca is the best way to discover its idyllic beaches and jagged cliffs. Camí de Cavalls is an ancient path, stretching for 185km along the island’s rugged coastline. The walk is split into 20 stages, suitable for walkers of all abilities.
Food and drink
For those with deep pockets, try Lobster Stew: Menorca’s prized speciality dish at a price.
Queso Mahon is Menorca’s famous cheese and the public can visit the dairy farm in Alaior where it is produced. There are ten wine vineyards on the island, some offering guided tours and wine tasting. Visit Hort Sant Patrici in Ferreries for an authentic and luxurious culinary experience. Set in the grounds of an old country house, stroll around the sculpture garden. Taste their wine, hand-made cheese and olive oil. Legend has it: mayonnaise was created in Menorca at the time of French occupation.
The Xoriguer Gin Distillery is open to the public for gin sampling. The favourite drink at fiesta time is ‘Pomada’ – Menorcan gin mixed with crushed ice and bitter lemon juice.
A strong equestrian tradition pulses through Menorca’s veins. Attend the horse show, ‘Somni’, with performances from the most stunning Menorcan horses, this is a production that mixes the equestrian art with music, magic and fantasy.
The best time to experience Menorca’s rich cultural history is during the fiestas (street parties), running from June to September. Each town has its own flavour but they all follow the same pattern of visual wonder and ceremonial practice. Menorcans show off their native black horses, embellishing them with coloured ribbons and braided mains during a procession through the town. Evenings at the fiestas are exhilarating and extremely busy. The most eagerly awaited moments are when riders bring their horses to their rear legs amongst crowds of people. It is custom to try to touch the horse for good luck.
Despite the amount of Pomada consumed, the fiestas are good humoured and well behaved. With fun fairs, live music and firework displays, fiestas are enjoyed by all and are unmissable events on a summer visit to Menorca.
Menorca isn’t known as a party island, making it a safe choice for families and relaxed breaks. Nightlife is far from crazy and reflects the laid-back atmosphere on the island.
Cova d’en Xoroi is a hotspot venue and must-visit. It is a cave bar, built into the side of a cliff. Imagine sipping on a cool drink, listening to ambient music and taking in breath-taking sea views. It is rustic yet sophisticated and utterly astonishing. Under 18s can attend the caves during the day.
By night, Cova is transformed into an exclusive club with special themed evenings. You won’t find gangs of teenagers, it is a chic venue for adults and couples. Regular events include GinTonic Sundays – dance to the sound of the 80s and Spanish pop music through the ages. Make sure to attend Fiesta Blanca Fridays – wear something white and listen to live music performances. The entry price of €20 includes a drink on arrival.
A holiday in Menorca should be finished with a trip to Monte Toro, the island’s highest point. Situated close to Es Mercadal, it is the place to go to catch the sunset. The drive takes you on a steep, narrow and winding road. Monte Toro is the spiritual centre of the island and has traditionally been a site of pilgrimage. There is a chapel, café and large gift shop. The imposing statue of ‘Jesus of the Sacred Heart’ greets visitors on arrival. With 360° panoramic views over the whole island, it is a splendid location to appreciate the Mediterranean’s hidden gem.
Look out for Avarcas, traditional Menorcan leather sandals. They are the symbol of the island and form the staple fashion of its citizens. You may recognise these sandals as they are starting to perforate their way into UK high street fashion brands. Travelling markets and shops across the island have a good collection of the coloured sandals.