It may be called ‘the little one’ but Menorca has more than enough to stand up against its big brother Mallorca.
Like its Canarian cousin Lanzarote, Menorca has actively avoided the huge tourist developments of Tenerife and Mallorca. With over 40% of the island being protected as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, it’s fair to say that’s unlikely to change.
It has complexes of hotels and villas, though not on the same scale as Mallora, around the edges but otherwise this rural Island looks much like it has for over 100 years.
The capital of the island, though certainly not a city, Maó (Mahón is the Spanish name) is likely to be the first place on your visting list. Looking out over the largest harbour in the Mediterranean, the town is pretty tiny – it’ll take you ten minutes to walk from end to end – but has lots of natural charm that makes it well worth visiting.
Despite being a major port in the past, Maó is not your typical port town. The harbour is home to a number of cafés and restaurants that are always popular with tourists. The charm of the town comes from wandering the maze of narrow streets looking at the fantastic architecture. A mixture of Georgian townhouses, reflecting the British history of the Island, and Spanish apartment blocks, combine to make a town that’s a pleasure to view and can be thoroughly explored in a day.
Whilst it doesn’t have much in the way of ‘must-see’ attractions – the town itself is the attraction – the Costa se Ses Voltes, a great stone staircase leading up from near the ferry terminal, will take you right into the heart of the old town. There’s a series of small squares to explore and the view across the bay from the Plaça Espanya is very impressive indeed. This square also hosts the town’s popular fish market that has been selling locally caught produce since 1927.
Ciutadella was the capital of Menorca for much of the Island’s history. Like Maó, it sits above its harbour though its harbour is much harder to navigate, though, for all but the smallest of cargo ships.
Narrow, cobbled streets are the order of the day with some fantastic palaces and a collection of Baroque and Gothic churches throughout its compact and fortified centre.
Most of the action in Ciutadella takes place around the main square – Plaça d’es Born – where you’ll find accommodation and points of interest only a few short strides away. The centre of the square houses a huge obelisk to commemorate the defence against the Turks in the 16th Century.
There’s more to see in Ciutadella so you will probably want to spend a couple of days exploring its sights. The town is also very close to a number of great cove beaches, such as Cala Turqueta, offering a chance to take in some sun and sea in a beautiful, sheltered location.
Getting around the island
Menorca has an odd and slightly confusing system of buses where each region is in charge of its own public transport. If you want to travel around the island you’ll have to change at either Ciutadella or Maó, which act as hubs for local services.
Alternatively, you can rely on the well-regulated taxis that are reasonably priced and reliable. You can obviously hire your own car and if you drive this may well be the best way to explore the island. If you’re feeling adventurous you can also hire scooters!