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Photo by Xescu Prats, Consell Insular d'Eivissa
The islands Es Vedrà and Es Vedranell in Ibiza
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Photo by Fundació Destí
Cala Morell on the northern coast of Menorca
Explore paths-less travelled and discover the best the Bealearics have to offer.
Compared to its larger neighbour Mallorca, Menorca is often described as being the more underdeveloped of the two. So, while tourist resorts are a dime a dozen here too, intimate beaches are this island’s treasure. Some of the most breathtaking coves can only be reached on foot, but with the help of some old-fashioned spirit of adventure, stumbling across a secluded strip of coastline could be the making of your trip.
Beaches are certainly not all this Mediterranean gem has to offer, however. Hop on a glass-bottom boat tour (€34 for a group of four) or rent a small boat to explore secret caves, untouched over centuries, and all the nooks and crannies this idyllic coastline keeps hidden. Historical attractions include the 18th-century architecture in the capital city of Maó (Mahón in Castilian), the often-overlooked town of Ciutadella and megalithic sites such as Talatí de Dalt. Whether you’re staying at a picturesque masía-style hotel, like the upmarket, eco-conscious Sant Joan de Binissaida, or budget retreats such as Villa Abeurades that are ideal for self-sufficient group travellers, there’s something in Menorca for everyone.
Tip: As a rule, the golden beaches on the north of the island tend to be less crowded than the southern hotspots of Macarella and Mitjan.
We’ve all heard of Mallorca’s postcard beaches, Palma’s stellar resorts and Magaluf’s wild nightlife, but without a doubt the island’s best kept secret is its mountainous north-eastern coastline. Take the scenic route from the capital to Sóller, a port town embraced by the green Tramuntana mountain range, on a 1912 wood-panelled train. The one-hour journey is well worth the €12.50 ticket price and takes you through valleys and dense forests before reaching the coast. Dotted around the town are charming villages such as Deià, Valldemossa and Fornalutx. Another worthwhile excursion is to the Coves del Drach. These mesmerising limestone caves are a short distance from nearby Porto Cristo, 65 kilometres from the capital, on the eastern shores of the island. For €12, visitors journey deep into the four chambers of the cave and across the still waters of Lake Martel, one of the world’s largest subterranean lakes. The classical music and eerie lighting give this underground landscape a magical atmosphere.
Tip: The Coves del Drach are open all year round but due to their popularity, Porto Cristo can become congested during peak holiday season with coaches bringing trippers from Palma.
The smallest, southernmost island is, understandably, the most overlooked of the four Balearic Islands. You could say it is as quintessentially off-the-beaten-path as it gets when visiting this Mediterranean archipelago. Completely overshadowed by the reputations of its much larger neighbours, Formentera holds one major advantage: it avoids the marathon ravers and sun-starved tourists elbowing their way through heaving nightclubs and packed beaches, instead attracting the more environmentally-conscious traveller. Great pride is taken in the island’s natural beauty and its inhabitants have welcomed the development of eco-tourism. Visitors are encouraged to take part in ‘Green Tours’, navigating the island on foot or by bicycle on scenic paths and routes carefully mapped out to maximise the Formentera experience. Begin at its capital, Sant Francesc Xavier, and explore one of the Mediterranean’s few remaining oases of unharmed coastline.
If you’re thinking about travelling to Formentera, though, you’ll have to be prepared to brave the open sea as part of the exclusivity of the island lies in its limited access. A seat on the half-hour Balearia Sirena ferry service to Sabina Port costs from €24.50. For accommodation in the area, try beach-front apartments such as the Apartamentos Sabina Playa (€135 per night for two in peakseason) or the Casas Rurales Illetas, both near Sabina Port.
Tip: Due to the unusual shape of the island, its crystal-clear waters and warm weather, the conditions for water-sports are unbeatable. So snorkelers, kayakers, divers and swimmers, you’re in luck!
Ibiza is widely seen as the party island but, venturing beyond stereotypes, there are a wealth of historical sites that come as a pleasant surprise for most visitors. Dalt Vila on the southern coast is a fortress of museums, craft shops and important buildings, not to mention centuries of untold history. From the early Phoenicians to the Romans, Moors and Christian Catalans, this old town and its winding streets bear the remnants of past settlers and their diverse cultural influences.
Countless viewing-points line the island’s coast and, if travelling around the island is on the cards, the view from Sa Pedrera in the south-west is one not to be missed. The panorama of Es Vedrà, an island said to be the home of the Sirens in Homer’s Odyssey, is well worth the trip. Push the boat out and spend the weekend at Hotel Mirador de Dalt Vila, a five-star converted colonial house, to sample agroturismo. A double room during the high season costs €390 per night.
Tip: For a taste of spontaneity visit S’Estanyol, just a 10-minute drive from Eivissa (Ibiza Town). Its tranquil bay, always the right temperature, is often the venue for secret events, after-parties and laidback live concerts.
When it comes to deciding how to get there, you’re spoiled for choice. There are several airlines (Air Europa, Ryanair, Vueling and Iberia) that will fly you out in under an hour. Obviously prices vary, but for a Friday in July, Ryanair was offering flights starting at €40, compared to Iberia’s €52. Alternatively, if you want to avoid airports or plan on bringing the car there is a range of ferry services (and prices) from companies such as Trasmediterránea and Baleària, which could take you there in around eight hours. Trasmediterránea ferries run once a day from Barcelona to Ibiza costing €58 for foot passengers, or €195 if you’re taking a car. However, the Baleària Barcelona-Menorca fast ferry takes just four hours and runs twice a day; an August one-way ticket could cost around €106. A cabin on the overnight Baleària boat to Palma costs around €144.50pp this month.