Menorca, the lesser famed of the Balearic islands has begun finding mentions in the must visit lists of avid travelers from across the globe. And there's good reason for that; serene virgin beaches, quaint village towns, boat tours and watersport options, a burgeoning gourmet industry and a layered cultural fabric that binds it all together are the elements that make a getaway vacation to the island a deeply fulfilling experience. Despite being the "smaller island", as the name suggests, Menorca actually packs quite a few surprises in the narrow untrodden streets of its medieval looking towns waiting to be unravelled.
While most of the beaches and resort towns are situated on the southern coast, the extensive road network has made all parts (even the rugged northern villages) of the island accessible. The list of options in terms of accomodation options is endless, but we are here to help. Here, we have listed some of the best neighbourhoods of Menorca and what they might have in store for you, traveller!
The capital city of Mahón has become known as the home of one of the world's finest harbour, and while that's quite a distinction in itself, that's not the only appealing thing about it. We'll go through all of that, but let's talk about the famed waterfront first. The beautiful harbour is centred around an elongated inlet channel, which also serves as the route for ferries and boats. The setting is serene as the turquoise water stands in stark contrast with the vast cover of white georgian houses that dominate the cityscape. You should not miss out on the boat tours as they give you a great opportunity to take in the stunning natural landscape; endless walks along the waterfront can be just as rewarding.
The cultural heritage is one of the most underrated aspects of Mahón and is often overlooked by visitors. For starters, Mahón is an absolute delight for the artistically inclined audience. Music is an integral part of the daily lives of people living in the city, and you are very likely to come across live performers, jazz clubs and concert venues at about almost every turn. The performances are varied and transcend the limits of a single genre, making for a rewarding experience.
The city is also lined with art galleries and museums, some of which showcase exhibits that are deeply connected with the island's history. When out on a sightseeing tour, start from the central public square, which is the site of the historic Santa Maria church and find your way around to the city's other major landmarks. And while you're at it, keep an eye out for the city's bakeries as they serve some great desserts and cakes. The Menorcan cheese is another local produce that you simply cannot miss out on trying!
Mahón, being the capital city of the island, is the preferred choice for many travellers so it can get a little busy (as busy as it gets in the otherwise quaint island). That said, it is the best choice in terms of accessibility and hotel options. It is also the most developed part of the island, so if you wish to stay in the midst of modern entertainment options, this is definitely the place for you.
A resort town in the southeastern municipality of St. Lluis, Punta Prima is one of the first names that you will be suggested when looking for a beach heavy vacation prospect. There's quite a few reasons for that, but the first major one is its proximity to the airport and capital city of Mahón. Just a 20 minute drive from the travel hub, Punta Prima is a prime spot for people looking to enjoy the island's sandy beaches without wanting to travel too far out. The Platja de Punta is a small white sand beach popular with families and small groups. The place is a great spot for swimming and sunbathing and has a nice range of eateries dotting the entire stretch.
The town in itself is plain; you have a large number of home-grown restaurant businesses serving the best local delicacies and seafood so you do not have to worry about running out of options to choose from. Tampa bars close to the beach are a great option to spend your afternoons at. Try the range of custom made cocktails that have become increasingly popular at one of these establishments as there are fewer things that will help you beat the afternoon sun better. The main town of St. Lluis, home to the gigantic Es Moli de Dalt windmill and a beautiful eponymous church, is not far off and makes for a great one day trip.
The town is a short car or bus ride away from Mahón and the international airport; for local travel, consider getting a rental bike. Punta Prima is known for its many rental villas, but finding a nice hotel should not be too difficult either.
Cala en Porter
Travel a little eastward along the southern coast and you will come across another beach resort town, Cala en Porter. As one of the earliest resort towns of the island, Cala en Porter has developed a loyal fanbase that comprises largely of British travellers. The neighborhood has a handful of great bars and restaurants in the most exceptional of settings; none however, can compete with Cova d'en Xoroi, a restro-bar housed in a cove with a large terrace on an overhanging cliff. You will not find a better spot to enjoy drinks and marvel at the sunset anywhere in the Balearic sea.
And when it comes to the natural surroundings, Cala en Porter is well endowed. A serene cove surrounded by lush forest cover is the setting for the town's main beach, the eponymous Cala en Porter. Its shallow water makes it ideal for swimming. You can also find local service providers offering snorkelling excursions in the crystal clear water. Just behind the beach is a vast lush valley which is perfect for morning strolls and cycling trips. In short, Cala en Porter should be on the top of the list for travellers looking for a relaxing outdoorsy vacation. While you're here, do not miss out on catching a glimpse of historic Cale Coves, a unique cliffside burial sight dating back to the bronze age.
Bus service is frequent and connects Cala en Porter to other major towns on the island including Mahón. You can also get a direct taxi to the town from the airport. Several hotels and apartment buildings have sprung up alongside the coastline and offer a nice range of variety in terms of accomodation options.
The western coastal town and former capital Ciutadella is the cultural centre of the island. The town is a testament to Menorca's eclectic past and has all the charms of a rustic Mediterranean setting. The cityscape, which comprises pastel-coloured townhouses and a vast network of meandering alleys, will give you plenty to capture for your Instagram profiles. Plaça des Born, the ventral public square, which is home to a Baroque church, a Gothic town hall, and another Catalan cathedral becomes a microcosm of sorts representative of the cultural fabric of the town. The city is best explored on foot as the remarkable cityscape will surprise you with how much character it packs.
The city's harbour, although not as extensive as some of its eastern counterparts, is definitely a major draw. Just the sight of the colourful fishing and tour boats parked along the waterfront, with the whitewashed townhouses in the backdrop is a sight to behold. Take a stroll in the area during the evening as the warm lighting of these waterside houses and buildings will surely transport you to a different realm altogether. The addition of many restaurants and cafes in the vicinity of the harbour has been a major success story as the area has now become centres of the city's gastronomy. The harbour area boasts of top-notch eateries, most of which offer not just stunning views of the waterfront but also some of the island's best seafood dishes; the lobster stew served here will keep you coming back for more!
Quite a few of the city's quintessential townhouses have been converted into homestays and hotels. They're the best option for travellers looking to stay in the city centre. Several smaller beach resorts and hotels have sprung up in the outskirts closer to the coast. As an aside, you can time your visits to coincide with the summer festivals and the Capella Davidica concerts, which are major highlights of the calendar year.
And for the last town on the list, we are looking to go back to the basics that make Menorca such a great vacation spot. A stunning natural landscape, virgin beaches, and burgeoning gourmet industry are all the things that make this offbeat island a top choice for so many travellers. And the rugged northern town of Fornells epitomises all these qualities like no other. To be fair though, the nearest sandy beach is Cala Tirant, a 20 minutes bike ride from the town (in the vicinity of a resort town called Playa de Fornells). And while Cala Tirant is great for a day of swimming and sunbathing, you don't have to travel that far out for all the perks promised earlier.
The harbor in Fornells has some great restaurants and local eateries that will give you a sense of the best Menorcan food (the fish meatballs being the highlight for many). This part of the island is also extremely popular with the ones seeking an adventure owing to the presence of many watersporting prospects. Snorkelling, windsurfing, kayaking, sailing, waterskiing, you name it and there's a local company for all of it. The scenery is also a welcome change from the lush surroundings that you see along the southern coasts. Rocky cliffs make for a rugged setting in Fornells; many travellers take on cycling and walking tours along the coast and the legendary Camí de Cavalls route. The Fornelles Tower fortress sits atop a cliff and offers sweeping views of the sea. Surprisingly, this hidden gem of a town probably has the most varied set of activities in the offing in all of Menorca.
The town is serviceable through a bus service that runs from Mahón, but getting a taxi from the city centre of the airport is also a good option. Several rental apartments have sprung up in Fornells, but you will have to travel the distance to Playa de Fornells for your regular beach resorts.
That's all from our side, traveller! Take a pick and get packing for your off-beat Balearic vacation!