Menorca (Spain) Travel guide

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As a proud member of the Islas Group of Travel Guides, we’re not here to sell you a holiday to Menorca, we do not operate any form of on-line booking service, and being totally independent from all Travel Agents and Tour Operators we derive no benefit from giving you a glossy tour operators view of the island.

Our mission is simple…, to provide you with practical first hand objective advice, from “real” paying visitors to the resorts, hotels and attractions that Menorca has to offer.

This web site can only be maintained with feed back from your comments. So, if you’ve already visited the island in the last few months, any help, comments or contributions would be greatly appreciated.

Menorca or Minorca, whatever way you prefer to spell it, and whatever way you wish to pronounce it, is the second largest of Balearic Islands, and along with its sister islands of Majorca and Ibiza, lies in the Mediterranean Sea off the south east coast of mainland Spain.

Flying time from most UK airports is around 2 hours and on arrival local time is 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. The international Aeropuerto de Menorca,some 5km to the south of the capital Mahon, is a fairly small but nevertheless modern facility, however, on departure please be aware that although the luggage trolleys are free of charge you will need either a 50 cent or 1 Euro coin to release them.

Once you have cleared Customs Control and collected your luggage, there are always large numbers of taxi waiting outside of the arrivals hall, although during busy periods you should also be prepared to stand and wait your turn in a queue for the next one to become available. Taxis on Menorca do represent good value for money by European standards, and can instantly be recognised as being the large eggshell/white cars with a green light on the roof.

One thing that you should be aware of is a standard taxi on the island is only licenced to carry a maximum of 4 passengers plus a “reasonable” amount of luggage, so for larger groups of travellers, or those with special needs, it is our recommendation to make provision for a pre-booked taxi to be waiting for you at the airport, and clearly specify at the time of booking that a larger, or specially adapted, vehicle is needed for the journey.

Despite the onset of mass tourism in the 1960′s, Menorca still remains relatively un-spoilt and quiet when compared to its neighbours. The most popular resorts do tend to be concentrated along the island’s south coast and are almost all purpose-built in the last 30 years to meet the ever increasing demand for holiday accommodation. In contrast to the south of the island, the north coast is very rugged with picturesque horse shoe bays that are often featured on the front covers of the major tour operators Summer Sun brochures.

At 354 metres above sea level Mount Toro is the only real mountain on Menorca, and a visit to the 17th Century Sanctuary of the Mare de Déu del Toro at its peak is often included in many of the tour operators “see Menorca in a day” type island tours. The ME-1 is the only main road on the island which joins Mahon on the east coast to the former capital Ciudadela in the west, and this road effectively splits the island in two.

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History of Menorca

From prehistoric times until the present day Menorca has seen and lived different cultures due to its strategic position in the centre of the western Mediterranean so since the dawn of time different peoples have coveted it as a way-point and a refuge. One civilisation then another left a rich historic legacy on the island, making Menorca a land with a great historic patrimony.

We know there has been a human presence on the island since the early Bronze Age (2000 BC), known as the pre-talaiotic period, in Spanish “pretalayótico”. About 1400 BC this culture produced some great stone structures known as talayots, which is the word that gives the name to the period, the talaiotic, boasting a single monument called the “taula”.

From the year 123 BC Menorca became part of the Roman Empire which brought the transformation of the talaiotic villages and the rise in importance of three main towns next to three large ports: Mago (Maó), Jamma (Ciutadella) y Sanisera (Sanitja).

As on the rest of the Iberian peninsula following the decline of Rome, Menorca suffered successive invasions of Vandals and Bysantines until at the beginning of the X century when it became part of the Islamic world, firstly linked to the Emirate of Córdoba and then to the Taif Kingdom of Denia.

Following nearly 400 years of Moorish rule, in 1287 the Christian King Alfonso III the Liberal conquered Menorca first making it part of the kingdom of Aragón than then that of Mallorca. In the time between the XIII to XVIII centuries, covering the Gothic to the Baroque periods, the island treasured its main jewels of artistic and architectural patrimony.

During this period, however, especially in the XVI century was when Menorca lived the most tragic periods of its history with incessant pirate attacks causing a dreadful instability among the inhabitants and which culminated through the attacks by Turks, with the destruction of Maó in 1535 and Ciutadella in 1558, wreaking devastation to such an extent that the island was nearly abandoned.

In the XVIII century Menorca was involved in what was going on in the rest of Europe and as a result of the War of Succession fell into British hands in 1713. The Island remained under British rule for a hundred years except for some brief periods of French or Spanish dominion. The British reinforced the coastal defences and undertook important public works.

The XIX and XX centuries were as cosmopolitan as the centuries before, mostly due to the continual arrival of foreign legions to the port of Maó, which for the first years was a free port. The Lazareto and the Fortaleza (Fort) of Isabel II in la Mola were built in this period as were both in Maó Port. Also during the XX century Menorca did not escape full involvement in the Spanish Civil War which lasted from 1936 to 1939.

The XX century is when the primary, secondary and tertiary economic sectors became balanced; clearly from the eighties onwards the tourism sector that has grown most assisted by the implantation of democracy with the development of the autonomous government and the island’s own self-governing institutions.

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Thing to do in Menorca

Take a trip around Maó Harbour

Maó Harbour

Maó Harbour - Photo by

See Máo from the water and enjoy tour around the historic port on one of the glass bottomcatamarans or boats that run regular excursions which last around an hour and see the fascinating landmarks that have shaped Menorca’s past as well as wonderful underwater views. La Mola Fortress, the Isla del Rey British Military Hospital, Lazaretto Quarantine Island, Fort Malborough and the Sant Felip Castle are just some of the fascinating sights you will see. Commentaries usually given in several languages.

Enjoy a view from the top

Mount Everest it is most certainly not, but rising 358 metres above sea level Monte Toro is Menorca’s highest point from which the panoramic views across the island and even as far as Mallorca are spectacular. Located just outside the pretty town of Es Mercadal, the summit is approached by a steep winding road at the top of which there is a sanctuary dating back to the17th century, parts of which are still in use today by a community of Franciscan nuns. There is a little chapel which houses a statue of the Black Madonna, known as the Verge del Toro, and a large statue of ‘Jesus of the Sacred Heart’, dedicated to Menorcan’s who died in the Spanish Moroccan wars of the early 20th century, stands at the entrance to the sanctuary.

 Explore Menorca on horseback…

Horses are often referred to as one of the pillars of Menorcan culture and have playing an important role throughout the island’s history, from its defensesystems and working in the fields to being the stars at the traditional local fiestas. There are many riding clubs where many equestrian activities can be enjoyed, allowing you to enjoy the Menorcan countryside from a new angle. Menorca’s mostly flat terrain makes it ideal for horse riding whatever your level of experience, from complete novices to experienced riders, making it perfect for pony trekking through beautiful woodlands and hidden rural countryside. Horse riding is very popular in autumn, so advanced booking is essential.

Or from the sea in a kayak


kayak - Photo by

Menorca’s numerous coves and natural harbours make it ideal for enjoying of all kinds of water sports from the experienced enthusiast to absolute beginners. The island is particularly very well suited to sea kayaking and canoeing with plenty of sheltered coves to explore. Many of the virgin beaches can only be accessed from the sea, so kayaking is a great way to discover them. There are centres specialising in kayaking and canoeing courses and equipment hire in most of the main resorts.

With plenty of sea breezes, autumn is also an ideal time to practice your sailing and windsurfing skills and perhaps take a course after the heat and rush of the summer months and while the sea is still warm with temperatures of around 25º C.

Experience the ultimate sundowner

Cova d’en Xoroi at Cala’n Porter is a spectacular bar with outside terraces is set within natural caves 25 metres above sea level. Watching the sunset while sipping a cool drink, accompanied by ambient music and breathtaking sea views, is one of the most memorable pleasures on the island that can’t fail to impress. By night, the caves are transformed into a very popular night club with live performances and playing all the latest dance music until sunrise.

Check out the Ambient session from 18.30 – 21.00, May to end September (weather permitting). Opening times are subject to change, so it is best to check, and an entrance fee is charged.

Join in the party

Menorca’s fiestas are a spectacle of colour, music and equestrian skills enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. Menorca, fiestas are held from June to September and are in honour of each town’s patron saint. Although religious in origin, today they are a good excuse to stop work, enjoy life and party non-stop for a couple of days.

During each fiestas, the magnificent Menorcan horse has a star role, the focal point without doubt being the ‘Jaleo’. This is where the horses adorned with ribbons and rosettes, together with their riders dressed in black tail coats and white riding breeches, parade through the streets to the main square. Here, they show off their equestrian skills, the horses dancing on their hind legs and even jumping in time to the traditional Jaleo music, played by the local brass band.

As well as horses, these colourful events also involve drinking plenty of Pomada – a combination of gin and lemon juice that dates back to the English occupation – and Coca amb Xocolati, a traditionally baked cake accompanied by a sweet chocolate drink. There are also games, races and competitions during the day, and concerts, live music and markets in the evenings, including a grand firework display on the final night. Menorcan fiestas are spectacle that it not seen anywhere else in the world and the atmosphere is infectious.

This month sees the fiestas of Maó from 6 to 9 September and Cala’n Porter from 16 to 19 take place.

Step back to prehistoric times

Discover the amazing prehistoric monuments scattered all over Menorca. These include Navetas which date back to around 1400 BC and resemble aninverted boat built from large stones and are thought to have been a collective tomb. Located just west of Ciutadella, the Nateta d’es Tudons is the most famous of these structures. Talaiots, dating back to around 1000 BC arw rounded, stone structures, built from large rocks thought to have been watchtowers, dwellings or burial places. The Talaiot at Trepuco near Maó is a particularly good example. Then there are Taulas, unique to Menorca, from around 800 BC consisting of two huge, rectangular, limestone slabs one vertical and the other placed horizontally across it in a T shape thought perhaps to be sacrificial alters, roof supports or places of worship aligned with constellations.

 Swim to an isolated beach

Menorca’s beautiful unspoiled beaches surrounded by crystal blue waters are one of the island’s main attractions. With a coastline of just 216 kilometres,Menorca claims more beaches than Ibiza and Majorca put together – some say there is a beach for every day of the year while other reports state around 120, with around 70 that can be accessed relatively easily. Each has its own personality, ranging from large stretches of fine white sand to tiny hidden rocky coves, and some can only be reached by sea.

What could be better than seeing Menorca from the sea and swimming to one of its spectacular virgin beaches where you can sunbathe, snorkel, enjoy something to eat or simply sit and relax under the cool shade of the surrounding pine trees. There are companies offering organised boat trips from resorts and harbours around the island to these beautiful beaches, passing hidden coves and magical places symbolic of Menorca’s unique coastline.

 Have a flutter at the races

Trotting Races are very popular on the island. This is where the jockey sits in a small cart behind the horse and has to prevent the horse from breaking into a

Aero Club and Hippodrome. Adjacent to the Aeroclub on the main Maó to Sant Lluís road, trotting races are held every Saturday evening at 18.00 hours in summer and Sunday mornings at 11.30 hours in winter, entrance free.

Hippodrome Torre del Ram. Trotting races take place on Sundays at 18.00 hours at the Hippodrome, Torre del Ram, near Cala’n Blanes, Ciutadella.

Drive ‘off piste’ around a fortress

This well preserved 19th century fortress at the entrance to Maó Harbour is open daily throughout the summer months, playing host to wide range of guided tours by foot, bike, buggy or even horse. However, for something completely different, why not participate in a Jeep Safari which take place on Mondays at 10.30 hours. Led by an experienced guide, you can explore interesting areas on the site in one of the all-terrain vehicles, some of which are closed to the public, enabling you to gain a broader view of the architecture and natural environment of this historic landmark.

Fantastic fun for all al family from 5 or 6 years upwards. Duration 2 hours, advanced reservations only.

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Menorca: Restaurants

As well as the delicious locally-caught fish and shellfish, you must of course have some mayonnaise, which was invented here, and also try the artisan cheeses made on the island.

Café Balear

Café Balear

Café Balear - Photo by

Caldereta de Langosta – lobster cooked in a rich stock – is the great speciality of Menorca. Although this waterside restaurant in Ciutadella  is one of the best places to try it on the island, the restaurant is not stuffy or formal. All the emphasis is on the best fresh produce – whether fish, meat or vegetables – and friendly service.

Address: Es Pla de Sant Joan 15, Ciutadella
Contact: 971 380 005;
Prices: £30-£80. Reservations only taken for indoor tables. Cards accepted
Opening times: Closed Sunday in summer, Monday in winter

Cap Roig

On a clifftop just north of Mahón, there are fabulous views of the rocky coast and the bay from the terrace of this popular restaurant. Try the local clams, or maybe some prawns or crab, and one of the rice dishes.

Address: Urbanización Cala Mesquida, Sa Mesquida
Contact: 971 188383
Prices: £20-£30. Reservations advisable. Cards accepted
Opening times: Closed Monday and from December to March


Grab a stool at the bar and survey the array of montaditos – slabs of bread with tasty toppings. Kick off with the squidgy sobrassada sausage, a real Balearic speciality, and then see what takes your fancy. Order a cold beer or a glass of Balearic wine.

Address: Plaça Ses Palmeres 3, Ciutadella
Contact: 971 380029
Prices: About £8-£15. No reservations. Cards accepted
Opening times: Closed Sunday

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