Fodor's Spain (2015)
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Welcome to Ibiza and the Balearic Islands
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Top Reasons to Go | Getting Oriented | What’s Where | Planning | Exploring Ibiza and the Balearic Islands | Eating and Drinking Well in the Balearic Islands | Best Beaches of the Balearics
Updated by Jared Lubarsky
Could anything go wrong in a destination that gets, on average, 300 days of sunshine a year? True, the water is only warm enough for a dip May through October, but the climate does seem to give the residents of the Balearics a sunny disposition year-round. They are a remarkably hospitable people, not merely because tourism accounts for such a large chunk of their economy, but because history and geography have combined to put them in the crossroads of so much Mediterranean trade and traffic.
The Balearic Islands were outposts, successively, of the Phoenician, Carthaginian, and Roman empires before the Moors invaded in 902 and took possession for some 300 years. In 1235, Jaume I of Aragón ousted the Moors, and the islands became part of the independent kingdom of Mallorca until 1343, when they returned to the Crown of Aragón under Pedro IV. With the marriage of Isabella of Castile to Ferdinand of Aragón in 1469, the Balearics were joined to a united Spain. Great Britain occupied Menorca in 1704, during the War of the Spanish Succession, to secure the superb natural harbor of Mahón as a naval base, but returned it to Spain in 1802 under the Treaty of Amiens.
During the Spanish Civil War, Menorca remained loyal to Spain’s democratically elected Republican government, while Mallorca and Ibiza sided with Francisco Franco’s insurgents. Mallorca then became a base for Italian air strikes against the Republican holdouts in Barcelona. This topic is still broached delicately on the islands; they remain fiercely independent of one another in many ways. Even Mahón and Ciutadella, at opposite ends of Menorca—all of 44 km (27 miles) apart—remain estranged over differences dating from the war.
The tourist boom, which began during Franco’s regime (1939-75), turned great stretches of Mallorca’s and Ibiza’s coastlines into strips of high-rise hotels, fast-food restaurants, and discos.
TOP REASONS TO GO
Pamper yourself: Luxurious boutique hotels on restored and redesigned rural estates arethehip places to stay in the Balearics. Many have their own holistic spas: restore and redesign yourself at one of them.
Enjoy seafood delicacies: Seafood specialties come straight from the boat to portside restaurants all over the islands.
Party hard: Ibiza’s summer club scene is the biggest, wildest, and glitziest in the world.
Take in the gorgeous views: Themiradores(lookouts) of Mallorca’s Tramuntana, along the road from Valldemossa to Sóller, highlight the most spectacular seacoast in the Mediterranean.
Discover Palma: Capital of the Balearics, Palma is one of the unsung great cities of the Mediterranean—a showcase of medieval and modern architecture, a venue for art and music, a mecca for sailors, and a killer place to shop for shoes.
The Balearic Islands lie 80-305 kilometers (50-190 miles) off the Spanish mainland, roughly between Valencia and Barcelona. In the center, Mallorca, with its rolling eastern plains and mountainous northwest, is the largest of the group. Menorca, its closest neighbor, is virtually flat—but like Ibiza and tiny Formentera to the west, it has a rugged coastline of small inlets and sandy beaches.
Ibiza. Sleepy from November to May, the island is Party Central in midsummer for retro hippies and nonstop clubbers. Dalt Vila, the medieval quarter of Eivissa, the capital, on the hill overlooking the town, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Formentera. Day-trippers from Ibiza chill out on this (comparatively) quiet little island with long stretches of protected beach.
Mallorca. Palma, the island’s capital, is a trove of art and architectural gems. The Tramuntana, in the northwest, is a region of forested peaks and steep sea cliffs that few landscapes in the world can match.
Menorca. Mahón, the capital city, commands the largest and deepest harbor in the Mediterranean. Many of the houses above the port date to the 18th-century occupation by the British Navy.
WHEN TO GO
July and August are peak season in the Balearics; it’s hot, and even the most secluded beaches are crowded. Weatherwise, May and October are ideal, with June and September just behind. Winter is quiet; it’s too cold for the beach but fine for hiking, golfing, and exploring—though on Menorca the winter winds are notoriously fierce. The clubbing season on Ibiza begins in June.
Note: Between November and March or April many hotels and restaurants are closed for their own vacations or seasonal repairs.
PLANNING YOUR TIME
Most European visitors to the Balearics pick one island and stick with it, but you could easily see all three. Start in Mallorca with Palma. Begin early at the cathedral and explore the Llotja, the Almudaina Palace, and the Plaça Major. The churches of Santa Eulàlia and Sant Francesc and the Arab Baths are a must. Staying overnight in Palma means you can sample the nightlife and have time to visit the museums.
Take the old train to Sóller and rent a car for a trip over the Sierra de Tramuntana to Deią, Son Marroig, and Valldemossa. The roads are twisty, so give yourself a full day. Spend the night in Sóller, and you can drive from there in less than an hour via Lluc and Pollenēa to the Roman and Moorish ruins at Alcúdia.
By fast ferry it’s just over three hours from Port d’Alcúdia to Ciutadella, on Menorca; the port, the cathedral, and the narrow streets of the old city can be explored in half a day. Make your way across the island to Mahón, and devote an afternoon to the highlights there. From Mahón, you can take a 30-minute interisland flight to Eivissa. On Ibiza, plan a full day for the World Heritage site of Dalt Vila and the shops of Sa Penya, and the better part of another for Santa Gertrudis and the north coast. If you’ve come to Ibiza to party, of course, time has no meaning.
In addition to the major public holidays, towns and villages on each of the islands celebrate a panoply of patron saints’ days, fairs, and festivals of all their own. Highlights include the following:
Held in Ibiza’s capital on the second weekend in May (Thursday to Sunday evening), this event celebrates the designation of the Dalt Vila as a UNESCO World Heritage site. | Eivissa, Ibiza.
Festa de Nostra Sanyora de la Victoria.
On the second Sunday in May in Sóller, mock battles are staged to commemorate an attack by Turkish pirates in 1561. | Sóller, Mallorca.
Festa de Sant Antoni d’Abat.
Celebrated on Ibiza and Mallorca, this festival, held on January 16 and 17, includes bonfires, costume parades, and a ceremonial blessing of the animals.
Festa de Sant Bartolomé.
Spectacular fireworks mark this festival, which takes place in Sant Antoni on August 24. | Sant Antoni, Ibiza.
Festa del Mar.
Honoring Our Lady of Carmen, this festival is celebrated on July 16 in the Ibizan towns of Eivissa, Santa Eulària, Sant Antoni, and Sant Josep, and also on Formentera.
Festa des Vermar.
The grape harvest festival, complete with processional floats and concerts, is held in Binissalem on the last Sunday in September. | Binissalem, Mallorca.
Festa Major de Sant Joan (Feast of St. John the Baptist).
Held on June 23 and 24, this festival is celebrated throughout the island of Ibiza. | Ibiza.
Festes de Sant Joan.
At this event on June 23 and 24, riders in costume parade through the streets of Ciutadella on horseback, urging the horses up to dance on their hind legs while spectators pass dangerously under their hooves. | Ciutadella, Menorca.
Festes de Santa Eulàlia.
Ibiza’s boisterous winter carnival, held on February 12, includes folk dancing and music. | Ibiza.
Fiestas de Gràcia.
Held from September 7-9 in Mahón, this celebration is Menorca’s final blowout of the season. | Mahón, Menorca.
Processo dels Tres Tocs (Procession of the Three Knocks).
Held in Ciutadella on January 17, this festival celebrates the 1287 victory of King Alfonso III over the Moors.|Ciutadella, Menorca.
Romería de Sant Marçal (Pilgrimage of St. Mark).
On June 30 in Sa Cabaneta, a procession of costumed townspeople heads to the church of their patron saint, to draw water from a consecrated cistern that’s thought to give health and strength of heart.|Sa Cabaneta, Menorca.
On August 8, this festival celebrates the Reconquest of Ibiza from the Moors; it’s capped with a watermelon fight beneath the walls of Eivissa’s old city and a fireworks display. | Eivissa, Ibiza.
This festival on March 19 is known for folk dancing, which you can also see in Sant Joan every Thursday evening. | Ibiza.
Celebrations of this saint’s day, which are held at the end of August in Menorca, center on equestrian activities. | Menorca.
Virgen del Carmen.
The patron saint of sailors (Our Lady of Mount Carmel) is honored on July 15 and 16 in Formentera with a blessing of the boats in the harbor. The holiday is also celebrated on Ibiza. | Formentera.
GETTING HERE AND AROUND
Each of the islands is served by an international airport, all of them within 15 or 20 minutes by car or bus from the capital city. There are daily domestic connections to each from Barcelona (about 50 minutes), Madrid, and Valencia: no-frills and charter operators fly to Eivissa, Palma, and Mahón from many European cities, especially during the summer. There are also flights between the islands. In high season, book early.
The Balearic Islands—especially Ibiza and Formentera—are ideal for exploration by bicycle. Ibiza is relatively flat and easy to negotiate, though side roads can be in poor repair. Formentera is level, too, with bicycle lanes on all connecting roads. Parts of Mallorca are quite mountainous, with challenging climbs through spectacular scenery; along some country roads, there are designated bike lanes. Bicycles are easy to rent, and tourist offices have details on recommended routes. Menorca is relatively flat, with lots of roads that wander through pastureland and olive groves to small coves and inlets.
Boat and Ferry Travel
From Barcelona: The Acciona Trasmediterránea and Balearia car ferries serve Ibiza and Menorca from Barcelona; Iscomar ferries ply between Ibiza and neighboring Formentera. The most romantic way to get to the Balearic Islands is by overnight ferry from Barcelona to Palma, sailing (depending on the line and the season) between 11 and 11:30 pm; you can watch the lights of Barcelona sinking into the horizon for hours—and when you arrive in Palma, around 7 am, see the spires of the cathedral bathed in the morning sun. Overnight ferries have lounges and private cabins. Round-trip fares vary with the line, the season, and points of departure and destination but from Barcelona are around €110 for lounge seats or €259 per person for a double cabin (tax included).
Fast ferries and catamarans, also operated by Acciona Trasmediterránea and Balearia, with passenger lounges only, speed from Barcelona to Eivissa (Ibiza), to Palma and Alcúdia (Mallorca), and to Mahón (Menorca). Depending on the destination, the trip takes between three and five hours.
From Valencia: Acciona Trasmediterránea ferries leave Valencia late at night for Ibiza, arriving early in the morning. Balearia fast ferries (no vehicles) leave Valencia for Sant Antoni on Ibiza in the late afternoon, making the crossing in about two-and-a-half hours. There are also ferries from Valencia to Menorca. Acciona Trasmediterránea and Balearia both have services from Valencia to Mallorca, leaving midmorning for Palma, arriving early evening, and to Mahón (Menorca). Departure days and times vary with the season, with service more frequent in summer.
From Denia: Balearia runs a daily three-hour fast ferry service for passengers and cars between Denia and Eivissa, another between Denia and Formentera, and a similar eight-hour service between Denia and Palma on weekends. Iscomar runs a car-and-truck ferry service between Denia and Sant Antoni, Ibiza.
Interisland: Daily fast ferries connect Ibiza and Palma; one-way fares range from €43 to €121, depending on the type of accommodations. The Pitiusa and Transmapi lines offer frequent fast ferry and hydrofoil service between Ibiza and Formentera. Daily ferries connect Alcúdia (Mallorca) and Ciutadella (Menorca) in three to four hours, depending on the weather; a hydrofoil makes the journey in about an hour.
Boat and Ferry Information
Acciona Trasmediterránea. | 902/454645 | www.trasmediterranea.es.
Balearia. | www.balearia.com.
Formentera port. | Formentera | 971/322057.
Iscomar. | www.iscomar.ferries.org.
Mediterránea Pitiusa. Fares for the shuttle ferry from Eivissa port to La Savina on Formentera are €26.80 (Jet Line) and €23.80 (Express Line) one-way, €46 and €43 round-trip. | Eivissa, Ibiza | 670/771297, 650/694743 | www.medpitiusa.net/en.
Trasmapi. | 902/314433 | www.trasmapi.com.
There is bus service on all the islands, though it’s not extensive, especially on Formentera.
Ibiza is best explored by car or motor scooter: many of the beaches lie at the end of rough, unpaved roads. Tiny Formentera can almost be covered on foot, but renting a car or a scooter at La Sabina is a time saver. A car is essential if you want to beach-hop on Mallorca or Menorca.
On Ibiza, taxis are available at the airport and in Eivissa, Figueretas, Santa Eulàlia, and Sant Antoni. On Formentera, there are taxis in La Sabina and Es Pujols. Legal taxis on Ibiza and Formentera are metered, but it’s a good idea to get a rough estimate of the fare from the driver before you climb aboard. Taxis in Palma are metered. For trips beyond the city, charges are posted at the taxi stands. On Menorca, you can pick up a taxi at the airport or in Mahón or Ciutadella.
The public Ferrocarriles de Mallorca railroad track connects Palma and Inca, with stops at about half a dozen villages en route.
A journey on the privately owned Palma-Sóller railroad is a must: completed in 1912, it still uses the carriages from that era. The train trundles across the plain to Bunyola, then winds through tremendous mountain scenery to emerge high above Sóller. An ancient tram connects the Sóller terminus to Port de Sóller, leaving every hour on the hour, 8 to 7; the Palma terminal is near the corner of the Plaça d’Espanya, on Calle Eusebio Estada next to the Inca train station.
On the Balearic Islands many restaurants tend to have short business seasons. This is less true of Mallorca, but on Menorca, Ibiza, and especially on Formentera, it might be May (or later) before the shutters are removed from that great seafood shack you’ve heard so much about. Really fine dining experiences are in short supply on the islands; in the popular beach resorts, the promenades can seem overrun with paella and pizza joints. Away from the water, however, there are exceptional meals to be had—and the seafood couldn’t be any fresher. Prices in the reviews are the average cost of a main course or equivalent combination of smaller dishes at dinner.
Many hotels on the islands include a continental or full buffet breakfast in the room rate.
Ibiza’s high-rise resort hotels and holiday flats are mainly in Sant Antoni, Talamanca, Ses Figueretes, and Playa d’en Bossa. Overbuilt Sant Antoni has little but its beach to recommend it. Playa d’en Bossa, close to Eivissa, is prettier but lies under a flight path. To get off the beaten track and into the island’s largely pristine interior, look for agroturismo lodgings in Els Amunts (The Uplands) and in villages such as Santa Gertrudis or Sant Miquel de Balanzat.
If July and August are the only months you can visit, reserve well in advance. Accommodations on Formentera, the best of them on the south Platja de Mitjorn coast, tend to be small private properties converted to studio apartment complexes, rather than megahotels.
Mallorca’s large-scale resorts—more than 1,500 of them—are concentrated mainly on the southern coast and primarily serve the package-tour industry. Perhaps the best accommodations on the island are the number of grand, old, country estates and townhouses that have been converted into boutique hotels, ranging from simple and relatively inexpensive agroturismos to stunning outposts of luxury.
Apart from a few hotels and hostals in Mahón and Ciutadella, almost all of Menorca’s tourist lodgings are in beach resorts. As on the other islands, many of these are fully reserved by travel operators in the high season and often require a week’s minimum stay, so it’s generally most economical to book a package that combines airfare and accommodations. Alternatively, inquire at the tourist office about boutique and country hotels, especially in and around Sant Lluís. Hotel prices are the lowest cost of a standard double room in high season.
Ibiza resorts run trips to neighboring beaches and to smaller islands. Trips from Ibiza to Formentera include an escorted bus tour. In Sant Antoni, there are a number of tour organizers to choose from.
Most Mallorca hotels and resorts offer guided tours. Typical itineraries are the Caves of Artà or Drac, on the east coast, including the nearby Auto Safari Park and an artificial-pearl factory in Manacor; the Chopin museum in the old monastery at Valldemossa, returning through the writers’ and artists’ village of Deià; the port of Sóller and the Arab gardens at Alfàbia; the Thursday market and leather factories in Inca; Port de Pollença; Cape Formentor; and the northern beaches.
The resorts also run excursions to neighboring beaches and coves—many inaccessible by road—and to the islands of Cabrera and Dragonera. Boats generally depart from Colònia Sant Jordi, 47 km (29 miles) southeast of Palma, six times daily from 9 am. Tickets for the 2½-hour trip are €40, which you can buy on the dock at Carrer Babriel Roca. Visitors to Cabrera can take a self-guided tour of the island’s underwater ecosystem—using a mask and snorkel with their own sound system; the recording explains the main points of interest as you swim. Contact Excursions a Cabrera or the National Park Office in Palma.
On Menorca, sightseeing trips on glass-bottom catamarans leave Mahón’s harbor from the quayside near the Xoriguer gin factory; adult fares are €12. Departure times vary; check with the tourist information office on the Moll de Ponent, at the foot of the winding stairs from the old city to the harbor.
Excursions a Cabrera. | 971/649034, 627/881885 | www.excursionsacabrera.es.
Mahón Port. | Moll de Llevant 2, | Mahón, Menorca | 971/355952, 902/929015 | Pl. Explanada s/n, | Mahón, Menorca | 971/363790, 902/929015.
Parque Nacional del Archipiélago de Cabrera.
For guided tours of the Illa de Cabrera, and diving excursions offshore, inquire first at the Visitor Center (Centro de Vistantes Ses Salines) in Colònia Sant Jordi. Three companies in the Colònia are authorized to take groups of visitors to this protected area: Excursions a Cabrera (971/649034), Transports Gregal (971/657012), and Marcabrera (622/574806 or 971/656403)—this last one operates every day, year-round. If you have a self-charter, and want to lay over off the island, you will need to apply for permission to dock and scuba dive at the Oficina Administrativa del Parque Nacional Maritimo in Palma. | Visitor Center, Carrer Gabriel Roca s/n, corner of Pl. Es Dolç, | Colònia Sant Jordi, Mallorca | 971/656282 for Visitor Center, 971/177641 for Administration Office, Palma.
EXPLORING IBIZA AND THE BALEARIC ISLANDS
Ibiza and Mallorca are the most heavily developed of the islands, in terms of resorts and tourist infrastructure, and draw most of the foreign visitors, especially from Germany, Italy, and Great Britain. The north coasts of both have spectacular rocky coastlines, undeveloped areas, and clear waters. Menorca is the preferred destination of Spanish and Catalan families on holiday, and much of it is still farms and pastures, separated with low stone walls, and nature reserves. Formentera has virtually no tourism outside the summer months.
EATING AND DRINKING WELL IN THE BALEARIC ISLANDS
Mediterranean islands should guarantee great seafood—and the Balearics deliver, with superb products from the crystalline waters surrounding the archipelago. Inland farms supply free-range beef, lamb, goat, and cheese.
Ibiza’s fishermen head out into the tiny inlets for sea bass and bream, which are served in beach shacks celebrated for bullit de peix (fish casserole), guisat (fish and shellfish stew), and burrida de ratjada (ray with almonds). Beyond the great seafood, there are traditional farm dishes that include sofrit pagès (lamb or chicken with potatoes and red peppers), botifarro (sausage), and rostit (oven-roasted pork). Mallorcans love their sopas de peix (fish soup) and their panades de peix (fish-filled pastries), while Menorca’s harbor restaurants are famous for llagosta (spiny lobster), grilled or served as part of a caldereta—a soupy stew. Interestingly, mayonnaise is widely believed to have been invented by the French in Mahón, Menorca, after they took the port from the British in 1756.
Almonds are omnipresent in the Balearics, used in sweets as well as seafood recipes. Typically used in the picada—the ground nuts, spices, and herbs on the surface of a dish—almonds are essential to the Balearic economy. After a 19th-century phylloxera plague decimated Balearic vineyards, almond trees replaced vines and the almond crop became a staple.
The tumbet mallorquin is a classic Balearic dish made of layers of fried zucchini, bell peppers, potatoes, and eggplant with tomato sauce between each layer. It’s served piping hot in individual earthenware casseroles.
There are several seafood dishes to look out for in the Balearics. Burrida de ratjada (ray with almonds) is boiled ray baked between layers of potato. The picada covering the ray during the baking includes almonds, garlic, egg, a slice of fried bread, parsley, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Caldereta de llagosta (spiny lobster soup) is a quintessential menorcan staple sometimes said to be authentic only if the menorcan spiny lobster is used. Guisat de marisc (shellfish stew) is an Ibiza stew of fish and shellfish cooked with a base of onions, potatoes, peppers, and olive oil. Nearly any seafood from the waters around Ibiza may well end up in this staple.
Rostit (roast pork) is baked in the oven with liver, eggs, bread, apples, and plums. Sobrasada (finely ground pork seasoned with sweet red paprika and stuffed in a sausage skin) is one of Mallorca’s two most iconic food products (the other is the ensaimada, a sweet spiral pastry made with saim, or lard). Sobrasada originated in Italy but became popular in Mallorca during the 16th century.
Mahón cheese is a Balearic trademark, and Menorca has a Denominación de Origen (D.O.), one of the 12 officially designated cheese-producing regions in Spain. The curado (fully cured) cheese is the tastiest.
With just 2,500 acres of vineyards (down from 75,000 in 1891), Mallorca’s two D.O. wine regions—Binissalem, near Palma, and Pla i Llevant on the eastern side of the island—will likely remain under the radar to the rest of the world. While you’re here, though, treat yourself to a Torre des Canonge white, a fresh, full, fruity wine, or a red Ribas de Cabrera from the oldest vineyard on the island, Hereus de Ribas in Binissalem, founded in 1711. Viticulture on Menorca went virtually extinct with the reversion of the island to Spain after its 18th-century British occupation, but since the last half of the 20th century, a handful of ambitious, serious winemakers—mainly in the area of Sant Lluís—have emerged to put the local product back on the map.
BEST BEACHES OF THE BALEARICS
When it comes to oceanfront property, the Balearic Islands have vast and varied resources: everything from long sweeps of beach on sheltered bays to tiny crescents of sand in rocky inlets and coves called calas—some so isolated you can reach them only by boat.
Not a few of the Balearic beaches, like their counterparts on the mainland coasts, have become destinations for communities of holiday chalets and retirement homes, usually called urbanizaciónes, their waterfronts lined with the inevitable shopping centers and pizza joints—skip these and head to the simpler and smaller beaches in or adjoining the Balearics’ admirable number of nature reserves. Granted you’ll find few or no services, and be warned that smaller beaches mean crowds in July and August, but these are the Balearics’ best destinations for sun and sand. The local authorities protect these areas more rigorously, as a rule, than they do those on the mainland, and the beaches are gems.
Be prepared: services at many of the smaller Balearic beaches are minimal or nonexistent. If you want a deck chair or something to eat or drink, bring it with you or make sure to ask around to see if your chosen secluded inlet has at least a chiringuito: a waterfront shack where the food is likely to feature what the fisherman pulled in that morning.
Ses Salines, Ibiza
Easy to reach from Eivissa, Ibiza’s capital, this is one of the most popular beaches on the island, but the setting—in a protected natural park area—has been spared overdevelopment. The beach is relatively narrow, but the fine golden sand stretches more than a kilometer (nearly a mile) along the curve of Ibiza’s southernmost bay. Two other great choices, on the east coast, are Cala Mastella, a tiny cove tucked away in a pine woods where a kiosk on the wharf serves the fresh catch of the day, and Cala Llenya, a family-friendly beach in a protected bay with shallow water.
Platjes de Ses Illetes, Formentera
The closest beach to the port at La Savina, where the ferries come in from Ibiza, Ses Illetes is Formentera’s preeminent party scene: some 3 km (2 miles) of fine, white sand with beach bars and snack shacks, and Jet Skis and windsurfing gear for rent.
Es Trenc, Mallorca
One of the few long beaches on the island that’s been spared the development of resort hotels, this pristine 3-km (2-mile) stretch of soft, white sand southeast of Palma, near Colònia Sant Jordi, is a favorite with nude bathers—who stay mainly at the west end—and day-trippers who arrive by boat. The water is crystal-clear blue and shallow for some distance out. The 10-km (6-mile) walk along the beach from Colònia Sant Jordi to the Cap Salines lighthouse is one of Mallorca’s treasures.
Platja de Magaluf, Mallorca
At the western end of the Bay of Palma, about 16 km (10 miles) from the city, this long, sandy beach with a promenade makes Magaluf Mallorca’s liveliest resort destination in July and August. The town is chock-a-block with hotels, holiday apartments, cafés, and clubs, and there are also two water parks in Magaluf—Aqualand and the Western Waterpark—in case the kids tire of windsurfing or kite surfing.
Cala Macarella/Cala Macaretta, Menorca
This pair of beautiful, secluded coves edged with pines is about a 20-minute walk through the woods from the more developed beach at Santa Galdana, on Menorca’s south coast. Macarella is the larger and busier of the two; Macaretta, a few minutes farther west along the path, is popular with nude bathers and boating parties. Cala Pregonda, on the north coast of Menorca, is a splendid and secluded beach with walk-in access only: it’s a lovely crescent cove with pine and tamarisk trees behind and dramatic rock formations at both ends, though it’s more difficult to get to.
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Eivissa (Ibiza Town) | Santa Eulària des Riu | Santa Gertrudis de Fruitera
Settled by the Carthaginians in the 5th century BC, Ibiza has seen successive waves of invasion and occupation—the latest of which began in the 1960s, when it became a tourist destination. With a full-time population of barely 140,000, it now gets some 2 million visitors a year. It’s blessed with beaches—56 of them, by one count—and also has the world’s largest nightclub. About a quarter of the people who live on Ibiza year-round are expats.
October through April, the pace of life here is decidedly slow, and many of the island’s hotels and restaurants are closed. In the 1960s and early 1970s, Ibiza was discovered by sun-seeking hippies and eventually emerged as an icon of counterculture chic. Ibizans were—and still are—friendly and tolerant of their eccentric visitors. In the late 1980s and 1990s, club culture took over. Young ravers flocked here from all over the world to dance all night and pack the sands of built-up beach resorts like Sant Antoni. That party-hearty Ibiza is still alive and well, but a new wave of luxury rural hotels, offering oases of peace and privacy, with spas and high-end restaurants, marks the most recent transformation of the island into a venue for more upscale tourism.
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Getting Here and Around
Ibiza is a 55-minute flight or a nine-hour ferry ride from Barcelona.
Ibizabus serves the island. Buses run to Sant Antoni every 15-30 minutes from 7:30 am to midnight, June through October (until 10:30 pm November through May) from the bus station on Avenida d’Isidor Macabich in Eivissa, and to Santa Eulàlia every half hour from 6:50 am to 11:30 pm Monday to Saturday (until 10:30 November to April), with late buses on Saturday in the summer party season at midnight, 1, and 2 am; Sunday service is hourly from 7:30 am to 11:30 pm (until 10:30 pm November to April). Buses to other parts of the island are less frequent, as is the cross-island bus between Sant Antoni and Santa Eulàlia.
On Ibiza, a six-lane divided highway connects the capital with the airport and Sant Antoni. Traffic circles and one-way streets make it a bit confusing to get in and out of Eivissa, but out in the countryside driving is easy and in any case is the only feasible way of getting to some of the island’s smaller coves and beaches.
Ibizabus. | www.ibizabus.com.
Cooperativa Limitada de Taxis de Sant Antoni. | Sant Antoni | 971/343764, 971/340074.
Radio-Taxi. | Carrer Galicia 9, local 26, | Eivissa | 971/398483.
Aeropuerto de Ibiza. | Eivissa | 971/809118, 971/809132.
Sant Antoni. | Passeig de Ses Fonts s/n, | Sant Antoni | 971/343363.
Santa Eulària des Riu. | Carrer Mariano Riquer Wallis 4, | Santa Eulària des Riu | 971/330728.
Cruise Ship Travel to Ibiza
Marina de Botafoc, where the cruise ships from Barcelona, Palma, and Valencia tie up, is at the eastern end of the harbor, about 1½ km (1 mile) from the Passeig Vara de Rey, the Tourist Information Center, and the heart of Eivissa (Ibiza Town). It’s a brisk 15-minute walk along the Passeig Joan Carles I, by way of the beach at Cala Talamanca, but you can also opt for a shuttle bus (€1.50) or a water taxi (€2.60) to the marina.
Ibiza is only a recent addition to the itineraries of the major Mediterranean cruise lines. Since the 1990s at least, the island has been the destination of choice for dance-till-dawn clubbers, and a retreat for the rich and famous, but by day—especially before June, when the club season starts—the capital city is a charming and relaxed destination, rich in history, that’s easily navigable on foot.
Best Bets for Cruise Ship Travel
Dalt Vila. This medieval city on the hill dominates the port. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it has a 13th-century cathedral, castle walls, and a winding labyrinth of cobblestone streets. Note that it’s a steep climb to reach it, and cabs are not allowed inside.
Shopping. Browse the stalls of the “hippie market” in Sa Penya.
Santa Gertrudis. One of the prettiest little interior villages is only 20 minutes or so by cab (under €20) from Eivissa.
Nightlife. The megaclubs, which don’t usually open until midnight, are unlikely options even for late-departing cruisers, but there are lots of hip venues on Carrer de la Virgen, Carrer Felipe II, and Carrer Alfonso XII that get going earlier.
Playa d’En Bossa. Take the No. 14 local bus (€1.90), hop a ferry (€3.70), or grab a cab (about €10) to the longest beach on the island, also the location of megaclubs like Space and Ushuaia, and kick back.
EIVISSA (IBIZA TOWN)
Hedonistic and historic, Eivissa (Ibiza, in Castilian) is a city jam-packed with cafés, nightspots, and trendy shops; looming over it are the massive stone walls of Dalt Vila—the medieval city declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999—and its Gothic cathedral. Squeezed between the north walls of the old city and the harbor is Sa Penya, a long labyrinth of stone-paved streets with some of the city’s best offbeat shopping, snacking, and exploring.
Eivissa. | Paseig de Vara de Rey 1 | 971/301900, 971/301740 | Mon.-Sat. 9-3.
Dalt Vila tours.On nearly every Saturday evening, a one-hour dramatized tour of Dalt Vila departs from the old market, at the foot of the walls. Three performers in period costume enact a legendary 15th-century love story as they move through the medieval scenes. Reservations are essential. | Es Mercat Vell, Pl. de la Constitució | 971/399232 | email@example.com | €10, audio guide in English €6 | Mid-May-Aug., Sat. 9 pm; Sept. and Apr., Sat. 8 pm; Oct. and Mar., Sat. 7 pm; Nov.-Feb., Sat. 6 pm.
Bastió de Sant Bernat (Bastion of St. Bernard).
From here, behind the cathedral, a promenade with sea views runs west to the bastions of Sant Jordi and Sant Jaume, past the Castell—a fortress formerly used as an army barracks. In 2007 work began to transform it into a luxury parador, but archaeological discoveries under the work site have delayed the reconstruction indefinitely. The promenade ends at the steps to the Portal Nou (New Gate). | Eivissa, Ibiza.
Ibiza’s cathedral has a Gothic tower and a baroque nave, and a small museum of religious art and artifacts. It was built in the 13th and 14th centuries and renovated in the 18th century. The site has been used for temples and other religious buildings since the time of the Phoenicians. | Pl. de la Catedral s/n, Dalt Vila | 971/312774 | Museum €1 | Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Sat. 10-1:30 and 5-8; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sat. 10-1:30.
Centre d’Interpretació Madina Yabisa.
A few steps from the cathedral, this center has a fascinating collection of audiovisual materials and exhibits on the period when the Moors ruled the island. | Carrer Major 2, Dalt Vila | 971/399232 | www.madinayabisa.eivissa.es | €1.50 | Apr.-June and Sept., Tues.-Fri. 10-2 and 5-8, weekends 10-2; July and Aug., Tues.-Fri. 10-2 and 6-9, weekends 10-2; Oct.-Mar., Tues.-Fri. 10-4:30, weekends 10-2.
Museu d’Art Contemporani.
Just inside the old city portal arch, this museum houses a collection of paintings, sculpture, and photography from 1959 to the present. The scope of the collection is international, but the emphasis is on artists who were born or lived in Ibiza during their careers. There isn’t much explanatory material in English, however. | Ronda Pintor Narcis Putget s/n, Dalt Vila | 971/302723 | Free | Apr.-June and Sept., Tues.-Fri. 10-1:30 and 5-8, weekends 10-2; July and Aug., Tues.-Fri. 10-2 and 6-9, weekends 10-2; Oct.-Mar., Tues.-Fri. 10-4:30, weekends 10-2.
The roof of this 16th-century church is an irregular landscape of tile domes. The nearby ajuntament (town hall) is housed in the church’s former monastery. | Carrer de Balanzat s/n.
Very much a place to see and be seen, the beach at Ses Salines is a mile-long narrow crescent of golden sand about 10 minutes’ drive from Eivissa, in a Wildlife Conservation area. Trendy restaurants and bars, like the Jockey Club and Malibu, bring drinks to you on the sand and have DJs for the season, keeping the beat in the air all day long. The beach has different areas: glitterati in one zone, naturists in another, gay couples in another. There are no nearby shops, but the commercial vacuum is filled by vendors of bags, sunglasses, fruit drinks, and so on, who can be irritating. The sea is shallow, with a gradual drop-off, but on a windy day breakers are good enough to surf. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (fee); showers; restrooms; water sports. Best for: partiers; nudists; windsurfing; swimming. | Eivissa, Ibiza | 10 km (6 miles) west on the E20 ring road from Eivassa toward the airport, then south on local road PM802 to the beach.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
SPANISH | A bit of a climb from the main gate into Dalt Vila, this intimate restaurant has two dining rooms—one medieval, with heavy beams, antiques, and coats of arms; the other modern, with dark-orange walls and sleek black furniture. There’s also a terrace for alfresco dining. The spaces are perfect metaphors for the traditional cuisine with contemporary touches served here. Excellent offerings include pato con salsa de moras (duck with mulberry sauce), rape (anglerfish), and baked dorada (sea bream). | Average main: €18 | Pl. Desamparados 1-2 | 971/303901 | Closed Sun. Nov.-Easter. No dinner Sun. Easter-Oct.; no lunch Mon.-Sat.
BASQUE | Some of the best Basque cuisine on Ibiza is served at this restaurant, just 2 km (1 mile) outside town in Sant Jordi. Marine prints hang on the white walls and ships’ lanterns from the ceiling; the bar is adorned with ships’ wheels. Lomo de merluza con almejas (hake with clams) and kokotxas (cod cheeks) are among the specialties. | Average main: €23 | Carrer de les Begonies 17| Playa d’en Bossa, Ibiza | From Eivissa, take the highway toward the airport and turn off for Playa d’en Bossa; S’Oficina is on the left in the first block past the roundabout on the road to the beach. | 971/390081 | www.restaurantesoficina.com | No dinner Sun.-Tues. Oct.-Mar.
HOTEL | The island’s first hotel, the Montesol, opened in 1934 and retains its grand exterior—fashion photographers love the balconies facing the promenade. The rooms aren’t nearly as fancy, but they’re clean and comfortable (expect bare, white-tile floors and flower-print bedspreads mismatched to plaid drapes), and if you are wondering why it’s so popular, it’s the location—the hotel sits on the northwest corner of the Vara de Rey, Eivissa’s central promenade, where everyone comes to see and be seen. Pros: value for price; convenient; good for meeting people. Cons: noisy; small rooms; minimal amenities; no pets. | Rooms from: €127 | Paseo Vara de Rey 2 | 971/931493 | www.hotelmontesol.com | 55 rooms | No meals.
B&B/INN | Inside the medieval walls, this intimate hillside hotel has fine views of the old town and the harbor from some of the rooms. Painted in soothing pastel blues and yellows, all have beds draped in white canopies; ask for a third-floor room to get the view. The little roof terrace offers a chill-out space with Moroccan-style sofas. Pros: historic setting; good value. Cons: rooms are small; lots of stairs to climb, especially if you want a room with a view; surroundings can be noisy until the wee hours. | Rooms from: €165 | Sa Carrossa 13 | 971/390857 | www.laventanaibiza.com | 12 rooms, 2 suites | No meals.
Ibiza’s discos are famous throughout Europe. Keep your eyes open during the day for free invitations handed out on the street—these can save you expensive entry fees. Between June and September, an all-night “Discobus” service (971/313447 | www.discobus.es) runs between Eivissa, Sant Antoni, Santa Eulàlia/Es Canar, Playa d’En Bossa, and the major party venues. The cost is €3 for one ride, €12 for a five-trip ticket.
This popular club in San Rafael opened in 1980 and it’s still going strong, with several ample dance floors that throb to house and funk. | Ctra. Eivissa-Sant Antoni, Km 5 | San Rafael, Ibiza | 971/198041 | June-Sept.
Carrer de la Verge.
Gay nightlife converges on this street in Sa Penya.
Casino de Ibiza.
This is a small gaming club with roulette tables, blackjack, slots, and poker. You need your passport or other picture ID/proof of age to enter. There are Texas Hold’em tournaments every Friday, from 9 pm. | Paseo de Juan Carlos I 17, Ibiza Nueva | 971/806806 | www.casinoibiza.com | €5 | July-Sept., daily 6 pm-6 am; May, June, and Oct., daily 8 pm-5 am; Nov.-Apr., Tues.-Thurs. 8 pm-4 am, Fri.-Sat. 8 pm-5 am.
Clubbers start the evening here, where there’s no cover and the action starts at 11 pm. The indoor space at Keeper can get a bit cramped, but out on the terrace freedom reigns. | Paseo Marítimo s/n,Ibiza Nueva | 971/310509 | www.keeperibiza.com.
A young, international crowd gathers after 2 am at the flagship club of this empire, where each of the five rooms offers a diffent style, including techno, house music, R&B, and hip-hop. | Av. 8 de Agosto s/n | 971/313612 | www.pacha.com.
Billing itself as the largest club in the world, the long-running center of Ibiza’s nightlife has a giant dance floor, a swimming pool, and more than a dozen bars. | Ctra. Eivissa-Sant Antoni, Km 7 | San Rafael, Ibiza | 971/198160.
Space is the word for it: the main room here would make a comfortable fit for an airplane hangar or two. The opening and closing parties of the season here are legendary. | Playa d’en Bossa s/n | 971/396793 | www.space-ibiza.es.
The stylish lobby bar here opens for breakfast at 9 am Monday to Saturday and just keeps on going, morphing from bar to live music club—when the prices of drinks go up—to the wee hours of the morning. Teatre Pereyra is open year-round. | Carrer del Conde de Roselló 3 | 971/304432 | www.teatropereyra.com.
SPORTS AND THE OUTDOORS
Ibiza Mundo Activo.
This company can organize many kinds of outdoor activities, including walking and hiking tours, rock climbing, cycling, snorkeling and kayaking. | Carrer Arquebisbe Cardona Riera 19 | 676/075704 | www.ibizamundoactivo.blogspot.es.
You can charter all sorts of seaworthy craft with this company. | Marina Botafoc, Local 323-324 | 971/313926 | www.coralyachting.com.
Rent motorboats and Jet Skis here, as well as a 40-foot live-aboard sailboat for weekend or weeklong charters. | Ctra. Eivissa-Portinatx, Km 16.5 | Sant Joan, Ibiza | 971/325264, 607/907456 | www.ibizazul.com.
You can rent mountain bikes, cars, and scooters here. | Avda. Santa Eulária des Riu 17 | 971/191717, 900/506013.
Club de Golf Ibiza.
Ibiza’s only golf club combines the 9 holes at the Club Roca Llisa resort complex with a more challenging 18-hole course nearby. | Ctra. Jesús-Cala Llonga s/n | Santa Eulària, Ibiza | 971/196118 | www.golfibiza.com | 18-hole course: 6000 meters (6564 yards). Par 72. Greens fees €90/day. 9-hole course: 2865 meters (3134 yards). Par 36 in/35 out. | Driving range, putting green, golf carts, pull carts, rental clubs, lessons, restaurant, bar.
Hire horses here for rides along the coast and inland. Can Mayans has a riding school, and has a gentle touch with beginners. | Ctra. Santa Gertrudis-Sant Lorenç, Km 3 | Santa Gertrudis, Ibiza | 971/187388, 626/222127 | Summer, Tues.-Sun. 10-1 and 6-9; winter, Tues.-Sun. 10-1 and 4-6.
Instruction and guided dives, as well as kayaking, parasailing, and boat rentals are available here. | Carrer S’Embarcador s/n | San Antoni, Ibiza | 971/341344, 670/364914 | www.active-dive.com.
Ibiza Diving College.
Book lessons and dives here, from beginner level to advanced, with PADI-trained instructors and guides. | Carrer Santa Rosalia 30 | Sant Antoni, Ibiza | 680/394619, 971/347436 | www.ibiza-diving-college.com.
Policlínica de Nuestra Señora del Rosario.
A team with a decompression chamber is on standby throughout the year at this hospital. | Via Romana s/n | 971/301916.
Sea Horse Sub-Aqua Centre.
A short distance from Sant Antoni, this aquatic center offers basic scuba training as well as excursions to nearby dive sites. | Edificio Yais 5, Playa Port des Torrent s/n | Sant Josep, Ibiza | 629/349499, 678/717211 | www.seahorsedivingibiza.com.
This is one of the best places to come for diving in Sant Joan. | Cala Portinatx | San Joan, Ibiza | 971/337558, 677/466040 | www.subfari.es.
Ibiza Club de Campo.
With six clay and two composition courts, this is the most extensive tennis club on the island. Nonmembers can play here for €6 per hour. | Ctra. Sant Josep, Km 0.4 | 971/300088 | www.ibiza-spotlight.com/clubdecampo.
Although the Sa Penya area of Eivissa still has a few designer boutiques, much of the area is now given over to the so-called hippie market, with stalls selling clothing and crafts of all sorts between May and October. Try Avenida Bartolomeu Rosselló for casual clothes and accessories.
This store has a good range of wines, including labels produced in the Balearics, and spirits. | Avda. d’Isidoro Macabich 43 | 971/399167 | www.enotecum.es.
This shop sells trendy casual gear, sandals, belts, and bags. | Carrer Antoni Mar 15 | 971/314175.
SANTA EULÀRIA DES RIU
15 km (9 miles) northeast of Eivissa.
At the edge of this town on the island’s eastern coast, to the right below the road, a Roman bridge crosses what some claim is the only permanent river in the Balearics (hence des Riu, or “of the river”). The town itself follows the curve of a long sandy beach, a few blocks deep with restaurants, shops, and holiday apartments. From here it’s a 10-minute drive to Sant Carles and the open-air hippie market held there every Saturday morning.
Getting Here and Around
By car, take the C733 from Eivissa. From May to October, buses run from Eivissa every half hour Monday to Saturday, every hour on Sunday. Service is less frequent the rest of the year.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
ITALIAN | This charming little portside restaurant has just 12 tables, softly lit with candles and track lighting. In summer, the seating expands to an interior patio and tables on the sidewalk—and the service can get a bit ragged. The kitchen prides itself on hard-to-find fresh ingredients flown in from Italy. The linguine with jumbo shrimp, saffron, and zucchini or with bottarga (dried and salted mullet roe from Sardinia) is wonderful. The prix-fixe menu, served at dinner in summer and lunch in winter, is a bargain. | Average main: €18 | Paseo de s’Alamera 22 | Santa Eulària | 971/319498 | Closed Jan., Feb., and Sun. No lunch June and Aug.
B&B/INN | The traditional architecture here, reminiscent of a Greek Island village, features a cluster of low buildings with thick whitewashed walls, the edges and corners gently rounded off—and each room has one of these buildings to itself, with a private patio artfully separated from its neighbors. Rooms have deep, comfortable sofas, upholstered in warm tones, built-in pine closets, and red-brown tile floors, and the overall effect is very soothing. Suites have fireplaces and jetted tubs. The place has its own stables, as well as orange and lemon groves. The restaurant serves an excellent five-course tasting menu, too. Pros: superbly designed; friendly, efficient staff; riding stables. Cons: pricey; bit of a drive to the nearest beaches; no pets. | Rooms from: €275 | Ctra. de Sant Carles, Km 12 | Santa Eulària | 971/335280 | www.cancurreu.com | 3 rooms, 15 suites | Breakfast.
Fodor’s Choice | Can Gall.
B&B/INN | Santi Marí Ferrer remade his family’s finca (farmhouse), with its massive stone walls and native savina-wood beams, into one of the island’s friendliest and most comfortable country inns. Rooms are huge, with original stone arches separating sleeping and bathroom areas—and at sunset you can relax in the pergola, with a view of the mountains, and nurse a glass of homemade five-year-old ierbas (herb liqueur). Oranges, lemons, olives, meat, and eggs all come from the family farm. The 25-meter pool has an access ramp for guests with disabilities. Pros: family-friendly; espresso maker in room; fluffy terry robes. Cons: 15-minute drive to beaches; no pets. | Rooms from: €220 | Crta. Sant Joan, Km 17.2, Sant Llorenç | 971/337031, 670/876054 | www.agrocangall.com | 2 rooms, 7 suites | Closed Oct.-Apr. | Breakfast.
HOTEL | The longtime residents and civic boosters Toni and Tanya Molio, who are credited with the idea of dredging sand from the bay to create the beach at Santa Eulària, run this simple lodging on the little promenade in the heart of town. Rooms are fairly spacious, with tile floors and twin or double beds; rooms in back have private terraces overlooking a small garden, while those in front have narrow balconies with views of the sea. Windows are double-glazed for a modicum of quiet. A comfortable lounge, off the bar-café, has an extensive library of left-behind books, sorted by language. Pros: friendly service; ideal location; good value. Cons: bathrooms a bit cramped; minimal amenities. | Rooms from: €80 | Paseo S’Alamera 13 | 971/330160, 650/100120 | www.hostalyebisah.com | 26 rooms | No meals.
SPORTS AND THE OUTDOORS
Kandani. | Carrer César Puget Riquer 27 | 971/339264 | www.kandani.es.
SANTA GERTRUDIS DE FRUITERA
15 km (9 miles) north of Eivissa.
Blink and you miss it: that’s true of most of the small towns in the island’s interior and especially so of Santa Gertrudis, not much more than a bend in the road. But Santa Gertrudis is worth a look. The brick-paved town square is closed to vehicle traffic—perfect for the sidewalk cafés. From here, you are only a few minutes’ drive from some of the island’s flat-out best resort hotels and spas and the most beautiful secluded northern coves and beaches: S’Illa des Bosc, Benirrás (where they have drum circles to salute the setting sun), S’Illot des Renclí, Portinatx, and Caló d’En Serra. Artists and expats like it here: they’ve given the town an appeal that now makes for listings of half a million dollars or more for a modest two-bedroom house.
Getting Here and Around
By car, take the C733 from Ibiza Town. From May to October, buses run from Eivissa every 90 minutes on weekdays, less frequently on weekends and the rest of the year.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
SPANISH | Ibiza might pride itself on its seafood, but there comes a time for meat and potatoes. When that time comes, take the 20-minute drive to the outskirts of Santa Gertrudis to this family-style roadside restaurant. Feast on skewers of barbecued sobrasada, goat chops, lamb kebabs, or grilled sweetbreads with red peppers, onions, and eggplant—most of the ingredients are from the restaurant’s own farms. Most people eat at the long wooden tables on the terrace. | Average main: €16 | Ctra. Sant Miquel, Km 3.5 | 971/197516 | www.cancaus-ibiza.com | Closed Mon. Sept.-June.
Fodor’s Choice | Sa Cornucopia (Chez Paul).
MEDITERRANEAN | Dine by candlelight in one of this lovely little restaurant’s four intimate rooms. On a chilly, late-spring evening, there may be a fire in the fireplace; in the summer, book a table on the terrace, which has jasmine and grapevines hanging overhead. Chef Oscar Bueno’s dishes, a mix of Ibizan, North African, and Provençal, are served in heroic portions; try the couscous with lamb and black sausage or the country-style roast chicken, and choose from a small but distinguished list of wines from La Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Sa Cornucopia has been a fixture in Sana Gertrudis for decades and just keeps getting better. | Average main: €21 | Venda de Sa Picasa | 971/197274 | www.sacornucopia.com | Reservations essential | Closed Sun. No lunch.
Fodor’s Choice | Cas Gasí.
B&B/INN | A countyside setting makes this a quiet escape in a lively destination, with photo-ready views of Ibiza’s only mountain (1,567-foot Sa Talaiassa), set in a lovely late-19th-century manor house on a hillside overlooking a valley. The intimate hotel is only seven or so miles from the beach and main attractions, but it places a premium on privacy—which is why celebrities like Richard Gere and Claudia Schiffer are drawn here. There’s a monitored gate at the driveway, and the Mediterranean-style restaurant (which uses homegrown organic products) and spa (offering a mix of Eastern and Western therapies) are available exclusively for guests. The airy, rustic guest rooms with wood-beam ceilings are gracefully furnished, each in a different style, and bathrooms have Moroccan-style tiling. If you’re up for leaving the idyllic grounds, bicycle tours and sailing charters can be arranged. Pros: countryside setting; great views; attentive personal service; peace and quiet; on-site organic garden used for menus; free yoga classes in the morning. Cons: minimum stay required in July and August; not geared to families; very expensive. | Rooms from: €395 | Cami Vell a Sant Mateu s/n | 971/197700 | www.casgasi.com | 9 rooms, 1 suite | Breakfast.
QUICK BITES: Bar Costa.
This is just the right place to sit out under the awning with a coffee and croissant or a bocadillo (sandwich) and contemplate your next move. Inclement weather? The back room has a fireplace, and the walls are covered with funny, irreverent modern art from the owner’s collection. | Pl. de la Iglesia s/n | 971/197021.
This store specializes in hand-tooled leather bags and belts with great designer buckles. November through February the store tends to keep irregular hours, so call ahead. | Pl. de la Iglesia s/n | 971/197100 | Closed Sun.
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Beaches | Where to Stay | Shopping | Sports and the Outdoors
Environmental protection laws shield much of Formentera, making it a calm respite from neighboring Ibiza’s dance-until-you-drop madness. Though it does get crowded in the summer, the island’s long white-sand beaches are among the finest in the Mediterranean; inland, you can explore quiet country roads by bicycle in relative solitude.
From the port at La Sabina, it’s only 3 km (2 miles) to Formentera’s capital, Sant Franēesc Xavier, a few yards off the main road. There’s an active hippie market in the small plaza in front of the church. At the main road, turn right toward Sant Ferran, 2 km (1 mile) away. Beyond Sant Ferran the road travels 7 km (4 miles) along a narrow isthmus, staying slightly closer to the rougher northern side, where the waves and rocks keep yachts—and thus much of the tourist trade—away.
The plateau on the island’s east side ends at the lighthouse Faro de la Mola. Nearby is a monument to Jules Verne, who set part of his 1877 novel Hector Servadac (published in English as Journey on a Comet), in Formentera. The rocks around the lighthouse are carpeted with purple thyme and sea holly in spring and fall.
Back on the main road, turn right at Sant Ferran toward Es Pujols. The few hotels here are the closest Formentera comes to beach resorts, even if the beach is not the best. Beyond Es Pujols the road skirts Estany Pudent, one of two lagoons that almost enclose La Sabina. Salt was once extracted from Pudent, hence its name, which means “stinking pond,” although the pond now smells fine. At the northern tip of Pudent, a road to the right leads to a footpath that runs the length of Trucadors, a narrow sand spit. The long, windswept beaches here are excellent.
Getting Here and Around
Formentera is a one-hour ferry ride from Ibiza or 25 minutes on the jet ferry. Both Balearia and Iscomar operate ferry services to Formentera from Ibiza and Denia, the nearest landfall on the Spanish mainland.
On Ibiza, you can also take ferries from Santa Eulària and Sant Antoni to Formentera’s La Sabina (1 hour, €23) as well as numerous ferries to the coves and calas on the east and west coasts of Ibiza. Day-trippers can travel to Formentera for a few hours in the sun before heading back to Ibiza to plug into the nightlife.
A very limited bus service connects Formentera’s villages, shrinking to one bus each way between San Francisco and Pilar on Saturday and disappearing altogether on Sunday and holidays.
Balearia. | www.balearia.com.
Iscomar. | www.iscomar.com.
Parada de Taxis La Sabina. | La Sabina | 971/322002.
Formentera. | Poligon de la Marina s/n, | Port de La Sabina | 971/322057.
Platjas de Ses Illetes.
The closest beach to the port at La Savina is an exquisitely beautiful string of dunes stretching to the tip of the Trucador Peninsula at Es Pau. Collectively called Ses Illetes, they form part of a national park. Ibiza clubbers like to take the fast ferry over from Eivissa after a long night and chill out here, tapping the sun for the energy to party again; this sort of photosynthesis is especially popular with young Italian tourists. The water is fairly shallow and the meadows of seagrass in it shelter colorful varieties of small fish; the fairly constant breezes are good for windsurfing. Nude and topless sunbathing raises no eyebrows anywhere along the dunes. Be warned: there’s no shade here at all, and rented umbrellas fetch premium prices. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: nudists; snorkeling; swimming; windsurfing. | 4 km (2½ miles) north of La Savina.
WHERE TO STAY
B&B/INN | With only five apartments, this converted stone farmhouse can feel like a family compound, especially when everyone is gathered on the sundeck or around the communal barbecue. Rooms are spacious, furnished in laid-back modern style with a touch of luxury. Can Aisha is an oasis of calm within reach of Formentera’s most popular beaches. Book early. Pros: all apartments have private terraces; shops and restaurants nearby; kitchenettes with basic equipment. Cons: no kids and no pets; short season. | Rooms from: €280 | Venda de Sa Punta 3205 | Es Pujols | 616/654982 | www.canaisha.com | 5 apartments | Closed roughly Oct.-May | Breakfast.
El Pilar is the chief crafts village here. Stores and workshops sell handmade items, including ceramics, jewelry, and leather goods. El Pilar’s crafts market draws shoppers on Sunday afternoon May through September, and also Wednesday June through August. May through September, crafts are sold in the morning at the San Françesc Xavier market and in the evening in Es Pujols.
SPORTS AND THE OUTDOORS
Moto Rent Mitjorn.
This company rents bicycles and motorcycles. | Puerto de la Savina s/n | 971/323201, 971/321111 | www.motorentmigjorn.com.
You can take diving courses from Monday to Saturday here. | Puerto Deportivo, Local 14-16, Marina de Formentera | La Sabina | 971/322105.
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Palma de Mallorca | Valldemossa | Deià | Jardins d’Alfàbia | Sóller | Alcúdia | Pollença | Lluc
Saddle-shaped Mallorca is more than five times the size of Menorca or Ibiza. The Sierra de Tramuntana, a dramatic mountain range soaring to nearly 5,000 feet, runs the length of its northwest coast, and a ridge of hills borders the southeast shores; between the two lies a flat plain that in early spring becomes a sea of almond blossoms, the so-called snow of Mallorca. The island draws more than 10 million visitors a year, many of them bound for summer vacation packages in the coastal resorts. The beaches are beautiful, but save time for the charms of the northwest and the interior: caves, bird sanctuaries, monasteries and medieval towns, local museums, outdoor cafés, and village markets.
Getting Here and Around
From Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca is a 50-minute flight, an 8-hour overnight ferry, or a 4½-hour catamaran journey.
If you’re traveling by car, Mallorca’s main roads are well surfaced, and a four-lane, 25-km (15-mile) motorway penetrates deep into the island between Palma and Inca. The Vía Cintura, an efficient beltway, rings Palma. For destinations in the north and west, follow the “Andratx” and “Oeste” signs on the beltway; for the south and east, follow the “Este” signs. Driving in the mountains that parallel the northwest coast and descend to a corniche (a cliffside road) is a different matter; you’ll be slowed not only by the winding roads but also by tremendous views and tourist traffic.
Oficina de Turismo de Mallorca. | Aeropuerto de Palma, | Palma | 971/789556 | www.illesbalears.es.
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PALMA DE MALLORCA
If you look north of the cathedral (La Seu, or the seat of the bishopric, to Mallorcans) on a map of the city of Palma, you can see around the Plaça Santa Eulàlia a jumble of tiny streets that made up the earliest settlement. Farther out, a ring of wide boulevards traces the fortifications built by the Moors to defend the larger city that emerged by the 12th century. The zigzags mark the bastions that jutted out at regular intervals. By the end of the 19th century, most of the walls had been demolished; the only place where you can still see the massive defenses is at Ses Voltes, along the seafront west of the cathedral.
A torrent (streambed) used to run through the middle of the old city, dry for most of the year but often a raging flood in the rainy season. In the 17th century it was diverted to the east, along the moat that ran outside the city walls. Two of Palma’s main arteries, La Rambla and the Passeig d’es Born, now follow the stream’s natural course. The traditional evening paseo (promenade) takes place on the Born.
If you come to Palma by car, park in the garage beneath the Parc de la Mar (the ramp is just off the highway from the airport, as you reach the cathedral) and stroll along the park. Beside it run the huge bastions guarding the Almudaina Palace; the cathedral, golden and massive, rises beyond. Where you exit the garage, there’s a ceramic mural by the late Catalan artist and Mallorca resident Joan Miró, facing the cathedral across the pool that runs the length of the park.
If you begin early enough, a walk along the ramparts at Ses Voltes from the mirador beside the cathedral is spectacular. The first rays of the sun turn the upper pinnacles of La Seu bright gold and begin to work their way down the sandstone walls. From the Parc de la Mar, follow Avinguda Antoni Maura past the steps to the palace. Just below the Plaça de la Reina, where the Passeig d’es Born begins, turn left on Carrer de la Boteria into the Plaça de la Llotja (if the Llotja itself is open, don’t miss a chance to visit—it’s the Mediterranean’s finest Gothic-style civic building). From there stroll through the Plaça Drassana to the Museu d’Es Baluard, at the end of Carrer Sant Pere. Retrace your steps to Avinguda Antoni Maura. Walk up the Passeig d’es Born to Plaça Joan Carles I, then right on Avenida de La Unió.
Getting Here and Around
You can hire a horse-drawn carriage with driver at the bottom of the Born, and also on Avinguda Antonio Maura, in the nearby cathedral square, and on the Plaça d’Espanya, at the side farthest from the train station. A tour of the city costs €30 for a half hour, €50 for an hour. TIP Haggle firmly, and the driver might come down a bit off the posted fare.
Boats from Palma to neighboring beach resorts leave from the jetty opposite the Auditorium, on the Passeig Marítim. The tourist office has a schedule.
Empresa Municipal de Transports.Palma’s Empresa Municipal de Transports (EMT) runs 65 bus lines and a tourist train in and around the Mallorcan capital. Most buses leave from the Intermodal station, next to the Inca railroad terminus on the Plaça d’Espanya; city buses leave from the ground floor, while intercity buses leave from the underground level. The tourist office on the Plaça d’Espanya has schedules. Bus No. 1 connects the airport with the city center and the port. Bus No. 2 circumnavigates the historic city center. Bus nos. 3 and 20 connect the city center with Porto Pi; No. 46 goes to the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró. The No. 21 connects S’Arenal with the airport. Fare for a single local ride is €1.50; to the airport it’s €3. | Estacio Intermodal, Pl. d’Espanya | www.emtpalma.es.
Palma de Mallorca. | Plaça d’Espanya | 971/177777.
Associación Servicios Fono-Taxi. | Passeig Santa Catalina de Sena 2 | 971/728081.
Radio-Taxi. | Francesc Sancho 7 | 971/201212.
Tour Bus Information
The open-top City Sightseeing bus leaves every 20-25 minutes starting at 9:30 am and makes 16 stops throughout the town, including Plaça de la Reina, the Passeig Marítim, and the Castell de Bellver. Tickets are valid for 24 hours, and you can get on and off as many times as you wish. All Palma tourist offices have information and details. | Av. Antoni Maura 24, behind the Palau de la Almudaina | 902/101081 | www.city-sightseeing.com | €17.
Palma Train Station. | Ferrocarriles de Mallorca, Pl. d’Espanya | 971/752224.
Palma. | Pl. de la Reina 2 | 971/173990 | www.palmademallorca.es. | Parc de Ses Estacions s/n, across from Pl. d’Espanya | 902/102365
Cruise Ship Travel to Palma de Mallorca
With some 450 cruise-ship arrivals a year, Palma is the major port of call in the Balearic Islands; ships dock at either the Estacio Mariimo or Porto Pi, at the far west end of the harbor, where the docking facilities include eight berths, six passenger terminals, a permanent gangway with a luggage conveyor belt, and a bank. From the landing, it’s a brisk 6-km (4-mile) walk along the harbor via Avenida Gabriel Roca to the historical center of Palma. The promenade is essentially a waterfront row of restaurants, hotels, car- and bike-rental agencies, and cafés: it makes more sense to ride into town than walk. Cruise lines provide their own shuttle buses; a taxi from the stand at dockside to the Plaça de la Reina, just below the Cathedral, costs about €10. Alternatively, you can take the municipal bus No. 1 to Plaça d’Espanya (€2.50), which is just outside the disembarkation point.
The parts of Palma most worth seeing lie within the ring of boulevards, from the Passeig Mallorca around to Avenida Gabriel Alomar i Villalonga, that trace the long-gone medieval walls of the city. To do justice to Palma’s rich repository of medieval monuments and museums, and the glories of its modernist art and architecture takes at least a full day. An overnight stay in port would give you time for an excursion to Valldemossa, Deià and the Tramuntana mountains, or to Sóller —all of them highly recommendable trips.
Best Attractions for Cruise Travel to Palma de Mallorca
La Seu. Palma’s cathedral is glorious, inside and out. The altar canopy, by the renowned architect Antoni Gaudí, and the chapel by modern sculptor Miquel Barceló, are not to be missed.
Bellver Castle. The only circular castle in Spain comes with a spectacular view of the city.
Museu d’Es Baluard. This major collection of modern art, including work by Miró and Picasso, is built into a surviving section of the city’s 16th-century fortified walls. Linger for lunch at the café-terrace, overlooking the harbor.
Plaēa Major. Browse the outdoor craft market in this busy central square.
Train to Sóller. Relax in one of the retro wooden rail cars on the hour-long trip to the delightful little town of Sóller, on the island’s north coast.
Banys Arabs (Arab Baths).
One of Palma’s oldest monuments, the 10th-century public bathhouse has a wonderful walled garden of palms and lemon trees. In its day, it was not merely a place to bathe but a social institution where you could soak, relax, and gossip with your neighbors. | Carrer Can Serra 7 | 637/046534 | €2.50 | Apr.-Nov., daily 9:30-7; Dec.-Mar., daily 9:30-5:30.
Castell de Bellver (Bellver Castle).
Overlooking the city and the bay from a hillside, the castle was built at the beginning of the 14th century, in Gothic style but with a circular design—the only one of its kind in Spain. It houses an archaeological museum of the history of Mallorca, and a small collection of classical sculpture. The Bus Turistic and the EMT municipal bus nos. 3, 4, 20, 21 and 22 all stop near the entrance. | Camilo José Cela s/n | 971/730657, 971/735065 | €4 (free Sun.) | Apr.-Sept., Mon. 8:30-1, Tues.-Sat. 8:30-8, Sun. 10-5; Oct.-Mar., Mon. 8:30-1, Tues.-Sat. 8:30-6, Sun. 10-5.
Fodor’s Choice | Catedral de Mallorca.
Palma’s cathedral is an architectural wonder that took almost 400 years to build. Begun in 1230, the wide expanse of the nave is supported by 14 70-foot-tall columns that fan out at the top like palm trees. The nave is dominated by an immense rose window, 40 feet in diameter, from 1370. Over the main altar (consecrated in 1346) is the surrealistic baldoquí (baldachin) by Antoni Gaudí, completed in 1912. This enormous canopy, with lamps suspended from it like elements of a mobile, rises to a Crucifixion scene at the top. To the right, in the Chapel of the Santísimo, is an equally remarkable 2007 work by the sculptor Miquel Barceló: a painted ceramic tableau covering the walls like a skin. Based on the New Testament account of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, it’s a bizarre composition of rolling waves, gaping cracks, protruding fish heads, and human skulls. The bell tower above the cathedral’s Plaça Almoina door holds nine bells, the largest of which is called N’Eloi, meaning “Praise.” The 5-ton N’Eloi, cast in 1389, requires six men to ring it and has shattered stained-glass windows with its sound. TIP February through November, there’s an organ concert here on the first Tuesday of the month, starting at noon. | Pl. Almoina s/n | 971/723130, 902/022445 | www.catedraldemallorca.org | €6 | Apr., May, and Oct., weekdays 10-5:15, Sat. 10-2:15; June-Sept., weekdays 10-6:15, Sat. 10-2:15; Nov.-Mar., weekdays 10-3:15, Sat. 10-2:15. Sun. Mass year-round 8:30-1:45 and 6:30-7:45.
Fodor’s Choice | Museu d’Es Baluard (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Palma).
West of the city center, this museum rises on a long-neglected archaeological site, parts of which date back to the 12th century. The building itself is an outstanding convergence of old and new: the exhibition space uses the surviving 16th-century perimeter walls of the fortified city, including a stone courtyard facing the sea and a promenade along the ramparts. There are three floors of galleries, and the collection includes work by Miró, Picasso, Henri Magritte, Antoni Tàpies, Alexander Calder, and other major artists. The courtyard café-terrace Restaurant del Museu affords a fine view of the marina. To get here, take the narrow Carrer de Sant Pere through the old fishermen’s quarter, from Plaça de la Drassana. | Pl. Porta de Santa Catalina 10 | 971/908200 | www.esbaluard.org | €6 Wed.-Sun., €4.50 Tues. | Tues.-Sat. 10-8, Sun. 10-3.
Museu Fundació Pilar y Joan Miró (Pilar and Joan Miró Foundation Museum).
The permanent collection here includes a great many drawings and studies by the Catalan artist, who spent his last years on Mallorca, but it exhibits far fewer finished paintings and sculptures than the Fundació Miró in Barcelona. Don’t miss the adjacent studio, built for Miró by his friend the architect Josep Lluis Sert. The artist did most of his work here from 1957 on. | Carrer Joan de Saridakis 29, Cala Major | 971/701420 | miro.palmademallorca.es | €6 (free Sat.) | May 16-Sept. 15, Tues.-Sat. 10-7; Sept. 16-May 15, Tues.-Sat. 10-6, Sun. 10-3.
Museu Fundación Juan March.
A few steps from the north archway of the Plaça Major is the Museu Fundación Juan March. This fine little museum was established to display what had been a private collection of modern Spanish art. The building itself was a sumptuous private home built in the 18th century. The second and third floors were redesigned to accommodate a series of small galleries, with one or two works at most—by Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Juan Gris, Salvador Dalí, Antoni Tàpies, and Miquel Barceló, among others—on each wall. | Carrer Sant Miguel 11 | 971/713515 | www.march.es/museupalma | Free | Weekdays 10-6:30, Sat. 10:30-2.
A crafts market fills this elegant neoclassical space from 10 to 2 on Friday and Saturday (Monday to Saturday in July and August). Until 1823, this was the local headquarters of the Inquisition. A flight of steps on the east side of the Plaça Major leads down to Las Ramblas, a pleasant promenade lined with flower stalls.
The 13th-century monastery church of Sant Francesc was established by Jaume II when his eldest son took monastic orders and gave up rights to the throne. Fra Junípero Serra, the missionary who founded San Francisco, California, was later educated here; his statue stands to the left of the main entrance. The basilica houses the tomb of the eminent 13th-century scholar Ramón Llull. The cloisters (enter via the side door, on the right) are especially beautiful and peaceful. | Pl. Sant Francesc 7 | 971/712695 | €1.50 | Mon.-Sat. 9:30-1 and 3:30-6, Sun. 9:30-1.
Carrer de la Cadena leads to this imposing Gothic church, where, in 1435, 200 Jews were forced to convert to Christianity after their rabbis were threatened with being burned at the stake. | Pl. Santa Eulàlia 2 | 971/714625.
Ajuntament (Town Hall).
Along Carrer Colom is the 17th-century Ajuntament. Stop in to see the collection of gigantes, the huge painted and costumed mannequins paraded through the streets during festivals, which are on display in the lobby. The olive tree on the right side of the square is one of Mallorca’s so-called olivos milenarios—purported to be more than 1,000 years old. The adjacent building is the Palau del Consell, the headquarters of the island’s government, a late 19th-century building on the site of a medieval prison. The Palau has its own collection of gigantes, and an impressive stained-glass window over the ornate stone staircase; visits inside can be arranged by appointment (firstname.lastname@example.org). | Pl. Cort 1 | 971/225900.
Bodega Antonio Nadal Ros.
Binissalem, about a half-hour drive (25 km [15 miles]) from Palma, is the center of one of the island’s two DO (Denominación de Orígen) registered wine regions and has a riotous harvest festival in mid-September, when surplus grapes are dumped by the truckload for participants to fling at each other. Some of Mallorca’s best wineries are here, many of them open for tastings and tours. This winery is hard to find, but it’s worth a detour as it exports none of its production. It’s open for tasting visits on weekdays 9-1 and 4-6, and weekends 10-2, when it’s best to call ahead. | Camino de Son Roig s/n | Binissalem | 630/914511 | www.bodegasantonionadal.es | €6.
Bodegas José Ferrer.
One of the largest of the Majorca’s wineries, Bodegas José Ferrer can be visited for tastings (€6) on weekdays at 11 am and 4:30 pm. | Carrer Conquistador 103, Crta. Palma-Alcudía | Binissalem | 971/511050 | www.vinosferrer.com.
On the corner of Carrer de Jaume II is this gem of Palma’s early Moderniste architecture, designed in the 1890s by Nicolás Lliteras. | Pl. Cort 3.
Can Forteza Rei.
Designed by Luis Forteza Rei in 1909, this Art Nouveau delight has twisted wrought-iron railings and surfaces inlaid with bits of polychrome tile which are signature touches of Antoni Gaudí and his contemporaries. A wonderful carved stone face in a painful grimace, flanked by dragons, ironically frames the stained-glass windows of a third-floor dental clinic. There’s a chocolate shop on the ground floor. | Pl. Marqués Palmer 1.
QUICK BITES: Ca’n Joan de S’aigo.
This café, on a side street behind the church of Sant Francesc, is one of Palma’s venerable institutions, in business since 1700. Drop in for coffee or hot chocolate with an ensaimada crema—a spiral-shape Mallorcan pastry with a rich cream-cheese filling. With its green-glass chandeliers, cane-back chairs, and marble tabletops, the setting is a treat in itself. | Carrer de Ca’n Sanç 10 | 971/710759.
The ornate facades of these buildings, on opposite corners of Costa de Can Santacilia, were designed by the Moderniste architect Francesc Roca Simó in 1908. | Pl. del Mercat 13-14.
Caixa Forum (Grand Hotel).
Built between 1901 and 1903 by Luis Domènech i Montaner, originator of Barcelona’s Palau de la Música Catalana, this former hotel has an alabaster facade sculpted like a wedding cake, with floral motifs, angelic heads, and coats of arms. The original interiors are gone, however. The building is owned and used by the Fundació La Caixa, a cultural and social organization funded by the region’s largest bank. Don’t miss the permanent exhibit of paintings by the Mallorcan Impressionist Hermenegildo Anglada Camarasa. | Pl. Weyler 3 | 971/178500, 971/178512 | www.lacaixa.es/obrasocial/caixaforum.palma | €4 | Mon.-Sat. 10-9, Sun. 10-2.
On the seafront west of the Plaça de la Reina, the 16th-century Llotja connects via an interior courtyard to the Consolat de Mar (Maritime Consulate). With its decorative turrets, pointed battlements, fluted pillars, and Gothic stained-glass windows—part fortress, part church—it attests to the wealth Mallorca achieved in its heyday as a Mediterranean trading power. The interior (the Merchants’ Chamber) and patio are only open to the public during special exhibitions organized by the local government; dates and hours are unpredictable. The adjacent garden and chapel are open only on March 1, the Dia de les Illes Balears (National Day of the Balearic Islands). | Pl. Llotja 5 | 971/711705.
Palau Reial de l’Almudaina (Almudaina Palace).
Opposite Palma’s cathedral, this palace was originally an Arab citadel, then became the residence of the ruling house during the Middle Ages. It’s now a military headquarters and the king’s official residence when he is in Mallorca. Guided tours generally depart hourly during open hours. If you want to explore on your own, audio guides are available. TIP Try to catch the changing of the Honor Guard ceremony, which takes place in front of the Palace at noon on the last Saturday of the month. | Carrer Palau Reial s/n | 971/214134 | €9, €15 with guided tour; €2 audio guide (free Wed. and Thurs. after 5 and for EU passport holders) | Apr.-Sept., Tues.-Sun. 10-7; Oct.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-5.
On Plaça del Mercat, this 14th-century church has a hexagonal bell tower. | Carrer Orfila 1.
Take time to appreciate the neoclassical symmetry of this theater, Palma’s chief venue for classical music; there are guided tours of the building (€5) on Saturdays at noon. The opera season here is April and May. Near the steps on the right is the Forn des Teatre bakery, famed for its pastries. | Carrer de la Riera 2A | 971/219691 | www.teatreprincipal.com.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Illa de Cabrera.
Off the south coast of Majorca, this verdant isle is one of the last unspoiled places in the Mediterranean—the largest of the 19 islands that make up the Cabrera Archipelago. To protect its dramatic landscape, varied wildlife, and lush vegetation, it was declared a national park in 1991. Throughout its history, Cabrera has had its share of visitors, from the Romans to the Arabs. Today, the only intact historical remains are those of a 14th-century castle overlooking the harbor. Tours are operated daily by the Marcabrera company. Boats depart from Colònia de Sant Jordi, 47 km (29 miles) southeast of Palma. Full-day trips, starting at 10 a.m. and returning at 3:00, with a stop to swim or snorkel in the mysterious Cueva Azul (Blue Cave), are €54, or €64 with a guide; 2-hour excursions by speedboat, leaving six times a day between 9 and 7, are €44. | 971/656403, 622/574806 | www.marcabrera.com.
Even though it’s nearly an hour’s drive from Palma, this pristine 2-km (2¼-mile) stretch of fine white sand on Mallorca’s southern coast, much longer than it is wide, is one of the most popular beaches on the island—arrive late on a Saturday or Sunday in summer, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a space to stretch out. At times the water can be a bit choppy, and there are occasional patches of seaweed—but otherwise the clear, clean water slopes off gently from the shore for some 30 feet, making it ideal for families with younger kids. Es Trenc is in a protected natural area free of hotels and other developments, which makes for good bird-watching. Naturists lay their claim to part of the beach’s eastern end. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (fee); toilets. Best for: partiers; nudists; swimming; walking. | MA6040 s/n, 10 km (6 miles) south of Campos, 6½ km (4 miles) east of | Colònia Sant Jordi.
Platja de Magaluf.
Magaluf is Mallorca’s Party Central and the site of one of the island’s best beaches—a 1.5-km-long (1-mile-long) gentle curve of fine white sand that rates a Blue Flag designation for cleanliness and safety. The water is calm and clear, without strong currents or sudden drop-offs. A promenade of shops, bars, and restaurants runs the length of the beach, which is at the west end of the Bay of Palma, 15 km (9 miles) from the city. A favorite with young British and Scandinavian tourists, the beach is also first-rate for families—especially in the mornings, before the clubbers roll out of bed—but the town itself is pretty rowdy most of the time. The little knob of Black Lizard Island, about 440 yards offshore, is a challenging swim. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking (fee); showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: swimming; walking. | 7 km (4 miles) south of Calvia, Magaluf.
WHERE TO EAT
Café la Lonja (Sa Llotja).
TAPAS | A great spot for hot chocolate or a unique tea or coffee, this classic establishment in the old fishermen’s neighborhood has a young vibe that goes well with the style of the place. Both the sunny terrace in front of the Llotja and the bar inside are excellent places for drinks and sandwiches. The seasonal menu (served two doors down, at the Orient Express) might include a salad of tomato, avocado, and Cabrales cheese; fluffy quiche; and tapas of squid or mushrooms. It’s a good rendezvous point and watering hole. | Average main: €9 | Carrer Sa Lonja del Mar 2 | 971/722799 | Closed Dec. 10-Jan. 17.
TAPAS | Within hailing distance of the Llotja, this popular restaurant serves tapas and inexpensive platters such as chicken or ham croquettes, grilled cod, garlic shrimp, and revueltos de ajos con morcilla (scrambled eggs with garlic and black sausage). The tables in the back are always at a premium (they’re cooler on summer days), but there’s additional seating at the counter or on stools around upended wine barrels. The huge portions of traditional tapas are nothing fancy but they are very good. | Average main: €12 | Carrer de la Botería 3 | 971/714863 | Closed Sun.
CONTEMPORARY | While Palma suffers no dearth of rough-and-ready eateries, Simply Fosh has little or no competition in the fine-dining category. The renowned chef Marc Fosh may only offer a few menu choices, but he executes them superbly. Surprising twists transform the best local seasonal produce into dishes such as a duck and foie gras terrine with orange blossom, quince, and chocolate salt, and slow-cooked rump of lamb in a saffron crust, with red pepper and a black olive sauce. The restaurant occupies the glorious medieval former refectory of the Mission of San Vicente de Paul, with high vaulted ceilings, a 210-foot gallery with stone arches, and an interior courtyard. White walls display contemporary art, and the smaller dining room has palm trees growing through the ceiling. There is a tasting menu at €75 (plus €40 with matching wines), and a seasonal prix fixe at €50. | Average main: €22 | Carrer de la Missió 7A | 971/720114 | www.simplyfosh.com/en | Reservations essential | Closed Sun.
WHERE TO STAY
Fodor’s Choice | Born.
HOTEL | Romanesque arches and a giant palm tree spectacularly cover the central courtyard and reception area of this hotel, which occupies the former mansion of a noble Mallorcan family. Guest rooms are modest, though some have the original coffered and painted ceilings. The rates are more than reasonable, and a buffet breakfast is included. Pros: convenient for sightseeing; romantic courtyard floodlit at night; good value. Cons: small rooms on the street side; poor soundproofing; no elevator. | Rooms from: €115 | Carrer Sant Jaume 3 | 971/712942 | www.hotelborn.com | 30 rooms | Breakfast.
Fodor’s Choice | Cap Rocat.
HOTEL | What was once a 19th-century military fortress on the southern flank of the bay of Palma has been converted into one of Mallorca’s—and arguably Europe’s—most distinctive hotels. On a rocky outcrop some 25 minutes from Palma, in a protected nature reserve, the sprawling complex of redoubts and ramps and stone-walled vaulted armories covers some 70 acres; guests can get from one part to another in electric carts. The decor, courtesy of owner-architect Antonio Obrador, pays homage to the property’s past with stylized bullets for door handles and lamps made of old cartridge cases, for instance, as well as touches of Morocco and Turkey: carpets, divans, wall hangings. The suites have huge bathrooms, locally sourced upholstery and textiles, including soft curtains in earth tones and specially commissioned carpets, and individual rooftop terraces. The two restaurants are open to the public; the more informal waterside Sea Club, with its own boat landing, is perfect for romantic candlelit dinners. Take your ease by the saltwater infinity pool; there’s a push-bell on the table by your deck chair, to summon your drink. Pros: stunning backdrop; superb cuisine; impeccable service. Cons: isolated from the bustle—and nightlife; lacks a sandy beach; sky-high prices. | Rooms from: €650 | Ctra. de Enderrocat s/n | Cala Blava | 971/747878 | www.caprocat.com | 25 suites | Closed Nov.-Feb. | Breakfast.
B&B/INN | In an ideal location in the old part of Palma, a minute’s walk to the cathedral, this townhouse, dating back to the 15th century, was the Sancho Moragues home until 2001, when the family opened it as a hotel. Most of the furniture, paintings, and decoration were their own, handed down for generations, but with modernization came enormous whirlpool tubs in the tile bathrooms, and a pleasant rooftop terrace with a knockout view of the Cathedral. Weather permitting, a basic breakfast is served in the lovely interior garden, overgrown with bougainvillea and orange and lemon trees. Pros: helpful service; homey. Cons: thin walls; no parking; no pets. | Rooms from: €110 | Carrer Almudaina 6A | 971/425300 | www.daltmurada.com | 23 rooms, 2 suites | Closed Nov.-Apr. | No meals.
HOTEL | A favorite among budget travelers, this lodging in the heart of the old town, within strolling distance of the bustling Passeig d’es Born, has a rooftop terrace with what is arguably the city’s best view—overlooking the cathedral and the sea. Though rooms are spartan, without much closet space or bathroom amenities, they are a decent size for the price; ask for one with a balcony. Open year-round, the hotel draws a mix of young and older couples, from Spain and elsewhere in Europe. Pros: good value; good place to meet people. Cons: can be noisy; the cheapest rooms share bathrooms. | Rooms from: €65 | Carrer Apuntadores 8 | 971/713491 | www.palmahostal.com | 27 rooms (18 with bath) | No meals.
HOTEL | Business travelers from the mainland favor this comfortable, central hotel and it’s an excellent choice for vacationers as well. Rooms have pebbled white walls, with furniture and color schemes in soothing tones of brown, cream and orange, and though the rooms are mostly singles and doubles, there are also a few family-friendly ones for three or four guests. Open year-round, the Almudaina has just three of its own parking spaces, which are understandably hard to reserve. lYou might want to try paying a little more for the “Double Star” No. 804: the hotel’s rooftop terrace-solarium is right next door, with wonderful views of the Cathedral, the Old Town, and the harbor. Pros: steps from Palma’s upscale shopping; courteous, efficient service. Cons: public spaces are small and not for socializing. | Rooms from: €140 | Avda. Jaume III, 9 | 971/727340 | www.hotelalmudaina.com | 78 rooms | Breakfast.
Misión de San Miguel.
B&B/INN | Conveniently between the transportation hub at Plaza Espanya and the Plaça Major, this boutique hotel has rooms that are simply but stylishly furnished. The better doubles overlook the elegant courtyard, and its suites are truly spacious. As an added bonus, it shares a cul-de-sac and courtyard with the excellent Braseria Misa restaurant. Open year-round, the hotel draws a mix of British and European guests, and is especially popular in summer with younger couples. Private parking—a rare commodity in Palma—is €10.50 a night. Pros: close to major city attractions; friendly, multilingual staff. Cons: not especially child-friendly; no elevator; can be noisy at night. | Rooms from: €119 | Can Maçanet 1a, Carrer de Can Perpinyà | 971/214848 | Fax 971/214545 | www.urhotels.com/en/hotel-ur-mision-san-miguel-majorca.html | 26 rooms, 6 suites | No meals.
Palau Sa Font.
B&B/INN | Warm Mediterranean tones and crisp, clean lines give this boutique hotel in the center of the shopping district an atmosphere very different from anything else in the city. Occupying a 16th-century former Episcopal palace, it has ample rooms with linen curtains and plump comforters, and from the terrace in the tower, you have a 360-degree view of Palma’s old quarter. Pros: buffet breakfast until 11; helpful English-speaking staff; chic design; family-friendly. Cons: pool is small; surroundings can be noisy in summer. | Rooms from: €165 | Carrer Apuntadores 38 | 971/712277 | Fax 971/712618 | www.palausafont.com | 4 singles, 12 doubles, 3 suites | Breakfast.
Mallorca’s nightlife is never hard to find. Many of the hot spots are concentrated 6 km (4 miles) west of Palma at Punta Portals, in Portals Nous, where King Juan Carlos I often moors his yacht when he’s in Mallorca in early August for the Copa del Rey international regatta. Another major area is on Avinguda Gabriel Roca. This section of the Passeig Marítim holds many taverns, pubs, and clubs.
BCM Planet Dance.
June through September, head to the nearby suburb of Magaluf and dance the night away at this gargantuan disco. | Av. S’Olivera s/n | Magaluf | 675/746729, 971/132715 | www.bcmplanetdance.com/en.
This fun little venue for live blues (with occasional forays into reggae and rock) is on a hard-to-find alleyway between Carrer d’Estanc and Carrer d’Apuntadores. Bands hit their stride around midnight, and keep going till 4 am. | Carrer Ma del Morro 3 | 634/537202.
On the west side of Passeig d’es Born in the old town, this street is lined with casual bars and cafés that appeal to night owls in their twenties and thirties. On the weekend, you can often come across impromptu live rock and pop acts performing on small stages.
Gran Casino de Mallorca.
Palma’s casino is a short distance from the harbor. You can get a free first-visit pass from the Casino’s website, but you’ll need your passport, driver’s license, or other official photo ID to enter. Dress is informal, but T-shirts, shorts, and sandals are frowned on. No-limit poker tables and Texas Hold-’em tournaments are the big attraction here. It’s open daily, except between 5 and 10 am. | Gabriel Roca 54, Porto Pi Centro Comercial | 971/130000 | www.casinodemallorca.com.
Jazz Voyeur Club.
Some of Palma’s best jazz combos—and the occasional rock group—play this small, smoky club in the old portside neighborhood. | Carrera Apuntadores 5 | 971/720780 | Weekdays and Sun. 8:30 pm-1 am, Sat. 8:30-3.
Plaça de la Llotja.
This square, along with the surrounding streets, is the place to go for copas (drinking, tapas sampling, and general carousing).
Giving a touch of elegance to what’s otherwise a fairly funky neighborhood, this bar sits you down amid bouquets of flowers, plants and bowls of fruit, soothes you with mostly baroque music, and plies you with tasty cocktails. Open from 8 pm (except Sunday), you can languish here until midnight (until 3 am on Friday and Saturday). | Carrer de Sant Joan 1 | 971/714939 | www.barabaco.com.
Outdoor elevators transport you from the street to the dance floor at the sleek and futuristic Tito’s. | Passeig Marítim s/n | 971/730017 | www.titosmallorca.com.
SPORTS AND THE OUTDOORS
For spectacular views of the island, float up in a hot-air balloon, which lift off daily from March to October, weather permitting, at sunrise and sunset. Call for a reservation: the office is open from 10 to 1, and 5 to 8. | Autovia Palma-Manacor NA15, Exit 44 | Manacor | 971/596969, 639/818109 (cell phone) | www.mallorcaballoons.com | 1-hr flight €160.
Mallorca has two notable nature reserves.
S’Albufera de Mallorca.
This is the largest wetlands zone in Mallorca. | Ctra. Port d’Alcúdia-Ca’n Picafort | Alcúdia | 971/892250 | www.mallorcaweb.net/salbufera | Daily 9-5 (until 6 Apr.-Sept.).
This island and its large colony of sea falcons are accessible by boat from Sant Elm, at the western tip of Mallorca. The boats, run by the operator Cruceros Margarita, leave from in front of the restaurant El Pescador at the port of Sant Elm daily every 30 minutes. No boats run November through March. | Sa Dragonera | 971/180632 for Sa Dragonera, 639/617545 for Cruceros Margarita | www.crucerosmargarita.com | €12 | Departures Feb. and Mar., Mon.-Sat. 10:15-1:15; Apr.-Sept., daily 9:45-3:45; Oct., daily 10:15-1:15.
With long flat stretches and heart-pounding climbs, Mallorca’s 675 km (420 miles) of rural roads adapted for cycling make the sport the most popular on the island; many European professional teams train here. Tourist-board offices have excellent leaflets on bike routes with maps, details about the terrain, sights, and distances. The companies below can rent you bikes for exploring Palma itself.
Some 10 km from the city center, on the beach in Platja de Palma, Embat has both standard touring and electric bikes for rent, and will happily assist with organizing tours of the island. | Bartolomé Riutort 27, Can Pastilla | 971/492358 | www.embatciclos.com.
Palma on Bike.
This bike-rental shop, just below the Plaça de la Reina in Palma, is open seven days a week, 9:30-2 and 4-8. | Avda. Antoni Maura 10 | 610/355570, 971/718062.
Federación Balear de Golf (Balearic Golf Federation).
Mallorca has more than 20 18-hole golf courses, among them PGA championship venues of fiendish difficulty. The federation can provide more information. | Cami de Son Vida 110 | 971/722753 | www.fbgolf.com.
This club, some 64 km (40 miles) from Palma, at the far eastern tip of the island, has wonderful views of the sea. | Av. d’Es Cap Vermell s/n | Capdepera | 971/841313 | www.canyamelgolf.com | 18 holes, 6196 meters (6778 yds). Par 73. Greens fee €76-€97 for 18 holes, €53-€63 for 9 holes, depending on the season. | Driving range, putting green, pull carts, buggies, rental clubs, restaurant, bar.
This 18-hole course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Sr., is widely regarded as the best club on the island, with spectacular views of the bay and lighthouse. Fees for nonmembers are €130 for 18 holes and €66 for 9 holes. | Ctra. del Faro s/n | Alcúdia | 971/545944 | www.golf-alcanada.com/en | 18 holes, 6499 m. (7110 yds), par 72 | Driving range, golf carts, pull carts, rental clubs, putting green, pitching area, lessons, restaurant, bar.
Club Vol Lliure Mallorca.
Weekend and intensive hang-gliding courses are conducted here. | C. Bellavista s/n | Petra | 655/766443, 871/950859.
Escuela de Parapente Alfàbia.
Paragliding courses and tandem flights are available here year-round, weather permitting. | Camino del Puig s/n, Sineu | Alcúdia | 687/626536, 971/891366 | www.parapentealfabia.com.
Escuela de Ultraligeros El Cruce (Club de Vuelo ULM Es Cruce).
For memorable views of the island, glide above it on an ultralight hang glider. | Ctra. Palma-Manacor s/n | Vilafranca de Bonany | 629/392776, 971/832073.
Mallorca is excellent for hiking. In the Sierra de Tramuntana, you can easily arrange to trek one way and take a boat, bus, or train back. Ask the tourist office for the free booklet 20 Hiking Excursions on the Island of Mallorca, with detailed maps and itineraries.
Grup Excursionista de Mallorca (Mallorcan Hiking Association).
This associaton can provide hiking information. | Carrer dels Horts 1 | 971/718823 | www.gemweb.org.
Club de Mar.
Famous among yachties, this club has its own hotel, bar, disco, and restaurant. | Av. Gabriel Roca s/n, Muelle de Pelaires | 971/403611 | www.clubdemar-mallorca.com.
Cruesa Mallorca Yacht Charter.
A wide range of sailing craft and motor boats are available for rent here, by the day or the week. | Carrer Contramuelle Mollet 12 | 971/282821, 663/947005 | www.cruesa.com.
Federación Balear de Vela (Balearic Sailing Federation).
For information on sailing, contact the federation. | Av. Joan Miró 327, San Agustin | 971/402412 | www.federacionbalearvela.org.
This dive center, next to the Hotel Hawaii on the beach boardwalk in Palmanova, offers PADI-certified courses for beginners (€269), including two dives with full equipment: tanks, wetsuits, regulators, masks and fins. | Carrer Martin Ros Garcia 6 | Palmanova | 971/681686 | www.bigbluediving.net.
Federació de Tennis de les Illes Balears (Balearic Tennis Federation).
Tennis is very popular here—the more so for world champion Rafael Nadal being a Mallorcan. There are courts at many hotels and private clubs, and tennis schools as well. The federation can provide information about playing in the area. | Carrer Uruguai s/n | 971/720956 | www.ftib.net.
Mallorca’s specialties are shoes and leather clothing, utensils carved from olive wood, porcelain and handblown glass, and artificial pearls. Look for designer fashions on the Passeig des Born and for antiques on Costa de la Pols, a narrow little street near the Plaça Riera. The Plaēa Major has a modest crafts market Friday and Saturday 10-2 (in summer the market is also open on weekdays). Another crafts market is held May 15-October 15, 8 pm-midnight in Plaēa de les Meravelles.
Many of Palma’s best shoe shops are on Avenida Rei Jaime III, between the Plaça Juan Carles I and the Passeig Mallorca.
Alpargatería La Concepción.
Mallorca’s most popular footwear is the simple, comfortable slip-on espadrille (usually with a leather front over the first half of the foot and a strap across the back of the ankle). Look for a pair here. | Carrer de la Concepción 17 | 971/710709.
This company has an internationally popular line of sport shoes. | Av. de Jaime III 16 | 971/714635.
This is the place for top-quality handcrafted men’s dress shoes and boots, which can cost more than €500. | Carrer de la Unió 4 | 971/229047.
Colmado Santo Domingo.
This is a wonderful little shop for the artisanal food specialties of Mallorca: sobrasada of black pork, sausages of all sorts, cheeses, jams, and honeys and preserves. It’s closed on Sunday. | Carrer Santo Domingo 1 | 971/714887 | www.colmadosantodomingo.com.
Forn des Teatre.
Near the steps leading up to the right of the Teatre Principal, this bakery is known for its ensaimadas (a typically Spanish fluffy pastry) and cocas (meat pies). | Pl. Weyler 8 | 971/727383.
Glassmakers since 1719, Gordiola has a factory-showroom in Alguida, on the Palma-Manacor road, where you can watch the glass being blown and even try your hand at making a piece. | Ctra. Palma-Manacor, Km 16 | Algaida | 971/665046.
This store is known for its original high-fashion designer shoes for women. | Av. Rei Jaime III, 10 | 971/729842.
Shop here for high-end shoes, leather coats, and accessories. | Av. Jaume III 5 | 971/710203.
18 km (11 miles) north of Palma.
The jumping-off point for a drive up the spectacular coast of the Tramuntana, this little town north of Palma has but one claim to fame, but the claim is compelling: the vast complex of the Royal Carthusian Monastery.
Getting Here and Around
Valldemossa is a 20-minute drive from Palma on the MA1130. Regular bus service from the Plaça d’Espanya in Palma gets you to Valldemossa in about a half hour.
Valldemossa. | Av. de Palma 7 | 971/612019.
Fodor’s Choice | Reial Cartuja (Royal Carthusian Monastery).
The monastery was founded in 1339, but after the monks were expelled in 1835, it acquired a new lease on life by offering apartments for travelers. The most famous lodgers were Frédéric Chopin and his lover, the Baroness Amandine Dupin—the French novelist better known by her pseudonym, George Sand. The two spent three difficult months here in the cold, damp winter of 1838-39.
In the church, note the frescoes above the nave—the monk who painted them was Goya’s brother-in-law. The pharmacy, made by the monks in 1723, is almost completely preserved. A long corridor leads to the apartments, furnished in period style, occupied by Chopin and Sand. The piano is original. Nearby, another set of apartments houses the local museum, with mementos of Archduke Luis Salvador and a collection of old printing blocks. From here you return to the ornately furnished King Sancho’s palace, a group of rooms originally built by King Jaume II for his son. The tourist office, in Valldemossa’s main plaza, sells a ticket good for all of the monastery’s attractions. | Pl. de la Cartuja 11 | 971/612106, 971/612986 | www.cartujadevalldemossa.com | €8.50 | Dec. and Jan., Mon.-Sat. 9:30-3, Sun. 10-1; Feb., Mar., Oct., and Nov., Mon.-Sat. 9:30-5, Sun. 10-1; Apr.-Sept., Mon.-Sat. 9:30-6:30, Sun. 10-1.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
Celler C’an Amer.
SPANISH | A celler is a uniquely Mallorcan combination of wine cellar and restaurant, and Inca has no fewer than six. This is the best, with heavy oak beams and huge wine vats lining the walls behind the tables and banquettes. Antonia, the dynamic chef-owner, serves heroic portions of the island’s best lechona (suckling pig) and tumbet (vegetables baked in layers). Winter specialties include a superb oxtail soup prepared with red wine and seasonal mushrooms. After lunching here, enjoy your coffee around the corner in the pleasant square of Plaça de Santa Maria la Major. | Average main: €17 | Carrer Pau 39 | 971/501261 | Closed weekends.
Fodor’s Choice | Gran Hotel Son Net.
HOTEL | About equidistant from Palma and Valldemossa, this restored estate house—parts of which date back to 1672—is one of Mallorca’s most luxurious hotels. A cluster of detached suites have private pools, hot tubs, fireplaces, and classic-modern furnishing in muted tones of beige and brown. Rooms in the main building can be over the top—lots of red and rosy pink—but the bathrooms are truly palatial. Poplars and palms shade the terrace above the 30-meter infinity pool, with its cabanas and luxurious changing rooms; the view from here, of the village of Puigpunyent and the countryside below, likely make this the best pool terrace on the island. Son Net’s restaurant, Oleum, set in an ancient olive mill, is open to the public: an ideal showcase for chef Sergio Olmedo’s Continental-Mallorcan cuisine (tasting menus are €55 and €69; with matching wines, €80 and €105). The hotel makes its own quite drinkable wines from vineyards on the property. Pros: attentive staff; family-friendly; convenient to Palma; no minimum booking. Cons: a bit far from the beaches; no pets; all this luxury comes at a high price. | Rooms from: €385 | Carrer Castillo de Son Net s/n | Puigpunyent | 971/147000 | www.sonnet.es | 31 rooms, 7 suites | Breakfast.
Fodor’s Choice | Mirabó de Valldemossa.
B&B/INN | At the far end of a winding dirt road in the hills overlooking the Reial Cartuja, across the valley of Valldemossa, this luxurious little agroturismo is a romantic hideaway that’s hard to reach and even harder to tear yourself away from. The main building dates to 1709; it was restored and modernized in 2004, but it retained many of its former features, including the fireplace and the huge olive press in the dining room. Rooms have their original exposed-stone walls; furnishings are simple but elegant. From the terrace, with its 12-meter (40-foot) infinity pool, the view is spectacular. lOne highlight is the Porche de las Ovejas—once used by sheep, it’s now an annex suite with a private terrace that’s steps from a spring-fed plunge pool. Pros: friendly, personal service; peace and quiet. Cons: no restaurants nearby; no gym or spa; those low stone doorways can be hard on the head. | Rooms from: €260 | Ctra. Valldemossa, Km 16 | 661/285215 | 8 rooms, 1 suite | Breakfast.
B&B/INN | Once part of a monastery, this beautifully restored boutique hotel sits on a hill amid acres of olive trees; the breathtaking views of the Tramuntana mountains alone are worth a stay. The modern rooms, with snowy-white curtains and comforters and antique bedsteads, are equally enticing. You can relax on rattan chairs shaded by palms in the sunny patio and then ease into the evening at the elegant restaurant, which serves Mediterranean and international dishes. Pros: private; peaceful surroundings. Cons: restaurant needs more variety; not especially child-friendly; lots of stairs to navigate; no pets. | Rooms from: €380 | Carrer Cami Antic a Palma s/n | 971/612626 | www.valldemossahotel.com | 4 rooms, 8 suites | Closed mid-Nov.-Feb. | Breakfast.
9 km (5½ miles) southwest of Sóller.
Deià is perhaps best known as the adopted home of the English poet and writer Robert Graves, who lived here off and on from 1929 until his death in 1985. The village is still a favorite haunt of writers and artists, including Graves’s son Tomás, author of Pa amb Oli (Bread and Olive Oil), a guide to Mallorcan cooking, and British painter David Templeton. Ava Gardner lived here for a time; so, briefly, did Picasso. The setting is unbeatable—all around Deià rise the steep cliffs of the Sierra de Tramuntana. There’s live jazz on summer evenings, and on warm afternoons literati gather at the beach bar in the rocky cove at Cala de Deià, 2 km (1 mile) downhill from the village. Walk up the narrow street to the village church; the small cemetery behind it affords views of mountains terraced with olive trees and of the coves below. It’s a fitting spot for Graves’s final resting place, in a quiet corner.
About 4 km (2½ miles) west of Deià is Son Marroig, one of the estates of Austrian archduke Luis Salvador (1847-1915), who arrived in Mallorca as a young man and fell in love with the place. The archduke acquired huge tracts of land along the northwest coast, where he built miradores at the most spectacular points but otherwise left the pristine beauty of the land intact. If you’re driving, the best way to reach Son Marroig is the twisty MA10.
Getting Here and Around
The Palma-Port de Sóller bus (€4.35) passes through Deià six times daily in each direction Monday through Saturday, five times on Sunday. Taxis to Deià from Palma cost €45 by day, €50 at night; from the airport the fares are €50/€55, and from Sóller €22/€24. Intrepid hikers can walk from Deià through the mountains to Sóller, on a trail of moderate difficulty, in about 2½ hours.
Ca N’Alluny (La Casa de Robert Graves).
The Fundació Robert Graves opened this museum dedicated to Deià’s most famous resident in the house he built in 1932. The seaside house is something of a shrine: Graves’s furniture and books, personal effects, and the press he used to print many of his works are all preserved. | Ctra. Deià-Sóller s/n | 971/636185 | www.lacasaderobertgraves.com | €7 | Apr.-Oct., weekdays 10-5, Sat. 9-3; Nov.-Mar., Tues. and Fri. 10:30-1:30. Last visit 40 mins before closing.
Monestir de Miramar.
Located on the road south from Deià to Valldemossa, this monastery was founded in 1276 by Ramón Llull, who established a school of Asian languages here. It was bought in 1872 by the Archduke Luis Salvador and restored as a mirador. Explore the garden and the tiny cloister, then walk below through the olive groves to a spectacular lookout. | MA10. Deià-Valldemossa, Km 67 | 971/616073 | €4 | Apr.-Oct., Mon.-Sat. 9-5; Nov.-Mar., Mon.-Sat. 9-4:45.
This estate belonged to Austrian archduke Luis Salvador (1847-1915), who arrived here as a young man and fell in love with the place. He acquired huge tracts of land along the northwestern coast, building miradores at the most spectacular points but otherwise leaving the pristine beauty intact. Below the mirador, you can see Sa Foradada, a rock peninsula pierced by a huge archway, where the archduke moored his yacht. Now a museum, the estate house contains the archduke’s collections of Mediterranean pottery and ceramics, Mallorcan furniture, and paintings. The garden is especially fine. From April through early October, the Deià International Festival holds classical concerts here. | MA10 Deià-Valldemossa, Km 65 | 971/639158, 649/913832 | www.sonmarroig.com | €4 | June-Aug., Mon.-Sat. 10-7:30; Sept.-May, Mon.-Sat. 10-6:30.
WHERE TO STAY
Fodor’s Choice | Es Molí.
HOTEL | A converted 17th-century manor house in the hills above the valley of Deià, this peaceful hotel is known for its traditional sense of luxury. Rooms are spacious and classically furnished, and most have private balconies with stone balustrades and stunning views. Acres of gardens have secluded corners, with deck chairs under the orange trees, bamboo groves, and ancient olive trees, and from everywhere you can hear the sound of water tumbling from a mountain spring. A shuttle bus runs four times a day to the hotel’s private cove at Sa Muleta, where there’s a cliff-side solarium and lounge deck. Just down the hill from the main building is the excellent Ca’n Quet restaurant, with prix-fixe dinner menus from €35. Book a room early here: about half the clientele come back year after year. Pros: attentive service; heated pool with spacious terrace; chamber-music concerts twice a week during the summer; great value for price. Cons: steep climb to annex rooms; no pets; short season; three-night minimum for some stays in high season. | Rooms from: €280 | Ctra. Valldemossa-Deià s/n | 971/639000 | www.esmoli.com | 84 rooms, 3 suites | Closed Nov.-Apr. | Breakfast.
Fodor’s Choice | Belmond La Residencia.
HOTEL | Two 16th- and 17th-century manor houses, on a hill facing the village of Deià, have been artfully combined to make this exceptional hotel, superbly furnished with Mallorcan antiques, modern canvases, and canopied four-poster beds. The annex has eight rooms on two levels, four with private heated plunge pools. Herbs, olives, fruit, and flowers from the hotel’s lush landscaped gardens come straight to the kitchen and the guest rooms. El Olivo, the restaurant, serves an inventive Continental menu that includes eclectic but delicious dishes, such as lobster with jamón ibérico. The hotel has an art gallery and sculpture garden with an artist and sculptor in residence, and its own shuttle to the sea at Lluc Alcari. Pros: impeccable service; view from the terrace; organized activities for kids; tennis coach, pro shop, and clinic. Cons: very expensive; only gnomes can negotiate the stairs to the Tower Suite. | Rooms from: €660 | Son Canals s/n | 971/639011 | www.laresidencia.com | 36 rooms, 31 suites, 1 villa | Breakfast.
s’Hotel D’es Puig.
B&B/INN | This family-run “hotel on the hill” has a back terrace with a lemon-tree garden and a wonderful view of the mountains. The simply furnished balcony rooms, with exposed beams, share the view. Five apartments in the nearby annex building (minimum booking: two nights) make the D’es Puig a good family-friendly choice for longer stays. The hotel gets a lot of repeat business from British visitors, so book early. Pros: peaceful setting; friendly service. Cons: pool is small; beds could be more comfortable; parking difficult; no pets. | Rooms from: €160 | Es Puig 4 | 971/639409, 637/820805 | www.hoteldespuig.com | 8 rooms, 1 suite | Closed Dec. and Jan. | Breakfast.
17 km (10½ miles) north of Palma, 13 km (8½ miles) south of Sóller.
The springs and hidden irrigation systems that make up these gardens were created by the Moorish viceroy of the island, sometime in the 12th century. It’s a remarkable oasis.
Here’s a sound you don’t often hear in the interior of Mallorca: the rush of falling water. The irrigation system in these gardens nourish around 40 varieties of trees, climbers, and flowering shrubs. A 17th-century manor house, furnished with antiques and painted panels, has a collection of original documents that chronicles the history of the estate. | Ctra. Palma-Sóller, Km 17 | Bunyola | 971/613123 | www.jardinesdealfabia.com | €6.50 | Mon.-Sat. 9:30-6:30.
13 km (8½ miles) north of Jardins d’Alfàbia, 30 km (19 miles) north of Palma.
All but the briefest visits to Mallorca should include at least an overnight stay in Sóller, one of the most beautiful towns on the island, with palatial homes built in the 19th and early 20th centuries by the landowners and merchants who thrived on the export of the region’s oranges, lemons, and almonds. Many of the buildings here, like the Church of Sant Bartomeu and the Bank of Sóller, on the Plaça Constitució, and the nearby Can Prunera, are gems of the Moderniste style, designed by contemporaries of Antoni Gaudí. The tourist information office in the town hall, next to Sant Bartomeu, has a walking tour map of the important sites.
Getting Here and Around
The mountain road between Sóller and Palma is spectacular—lemon and olive trees on stone-walled terraces, farmhouses perched on the edges of forested cliffs—but demanding. TIP If you’re driving to Sóller, take the tunnel ( | €5.05) at Alfabia instead. Save your strength for even better mountain roads ahead.
Tren de Sóller. You can travel in retro style from Palma to Sóller on one of the six daily trains from Plaça d’Espanya—a string of wooden rail cars with leather-covered seats dating from 1912. The train trundles along for about an hour, making six stops along the 27-km (16-mile) route; the scenery gets lovely—especially at Bunyola and the Mirador Pujol—as you approach the peaks of the Tramuntana. | Pl. d’Espanya 6, | Palma | 971/752051, 902/364711 | www.trendesoller.com | €19.50 round-trip.
Tranvia de Sóller.
Sóller’s charming old trolley car, called the Tranvia de Sóller, threads its way from the train station down through town to the Port de Sóller. The fare is €5 each way. You can also buy a combination round-trip ticket for the train and the tram for €28. | Pl. d’Espanya 6 | www.trendesoller.com/en.
Port de Sóller. | Canonge Oliver 10, | Port de Sóller | 971/633042
Sóller. | Pl. Constitució 1 | 971/638008.
A minute’s walk or so from the Plaça de la Constitució, along Sóller’s main shopping arcade, brings you to this charming museum, where Moderniste style comes to life. In the lovingly restored family rooms on the first floor of this imposing town house you can see how Sóller’s well-to-do embraced the art-deco style: the ornate furniture and furnishings, the stained glass and ceramic tile, and the carved and painted ceilings all helped announce their status in turn-of-the-century Mallorcan society. Upstairs, Can Prunera also houses a small collection of paintings by early modern masters, among them Man Ray, Santiago Rusiñol, Paul Klee, and Joan Miró; the garden is an open-air museum in its own right, with sculptures by José Siguiri, Josep Sirvent, and other Mallorcan artists. | Carrer de la Lluna 86-90 | 971/638973 | www.canprunera.com | €5 | Apr.-Oct., daily 10:30-6:30; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10:30-6:30.
Station Building Galleries.
Maintained by the Fundació Tren de l’Art, these galleries have two small but remarkable collections—one of engravings by Miró, the other of ceramics by Picasso. | Pl. de Espanya 6 | 971/630301 | Free | Daily 10:30-6:30.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
CATALAN | On Sóller’s busy central square, this friendly and informal restaurant specializes in traditional local cooking, with a nod to touristic expectations. Skip the inevitable paella, and opt instead for the sopas mallorquines, a thick vegetable soup served over thin slices of bread, or the Mallorcan pork loin, stuffed with nuts and raisins. Sa Cova has great people-watching: the tram to Port de Sóller passes right in front of its outside tables. | Average main: €16 | Pl. Constitució 7 | 971/633222.
B&B/INN | A minute’s walk or so from the main square, this family-friendly boutique hotel, opened in a restored town house in 2010, is an oasis of quiet in summer, when Sóller gets most of its tourist traffic. Rooms are simply furnished (some have four-poster canopy beds), with hardwood floors and good lighting; bathrooms are modern, with standard amenities. The palm-shaded interior patio is a particular delight. Pros: friendly service; honesty bar; good value. Cons: no elevator; no pets; limited parking (€10 per day). | Rooms from: €158 | Carrer Pastor 26 | 971/633579, 672/360507 | www.hotel-can-abril-soller.com | 6 rooms, 4 suites | Closed Nov.-Feb. | Breakfast.
B&B/INN | Just across the tram tracks from the railway station, this former home still feels much like a family hideaway. The lobby is a cheerful clutter of bric-a-brac (sconces, candelabra, bronze heads, novelty teapots); guest rooms are light and airy, with antique furniture, walls in white or Mediterranean blue, exposed beams on the ceilings, and original terra-cotta floors. The bathrooms are ample, with robes and standard amenities. lAsk for the Terrace Room, which overlooks the garden. Pros: convenient location; good value for price. Cons: no pool; no elevator; no private parking. | Rooms from: €130 | Carrer Isabel II 13 | 971/638097 | www.canisabel.com | 6 rooms | Closed Dec.-Feb. | Breakfast.
Gran Hotel Sóller.
HOTEL | A former private estate with an imposing Moderniste facade, this is the biggest hotel in town. Its spacious rooms, most with twin beds, are decorated with subdued shades of beige and cream, with blue carpeting, and all have Jacuzzi baths. Breakfast is served on the roof terrace, weather permitting. An upscale spa and fitness center serves both local residents and guests. The daily €10.50 prix-fixe lunch menu here is a real bargain. Pros: friendly and efficient service in at least five languages; short walk from town center. Cons: pricey. | Rooms from: €245 | Carrer Romaguera 18 | 971/638686 | www.granhotelsoller.com | 35 rooms, 5 suites | Breakfast.
B&B/INN | Owner Toni Oliver obviously put a lot of work into this lovingly restored town house on Sóller’s central square. Rooms—four on the square, four facing the interior—are plainly furnished, but the public spaces keep much of the original lush Moderniste detail: coffered ceilings, alabaster walls cut in floral patterns, arches in carved and painted plaster, and a three-story central staircase with a cupola. The terrace restaurant takes full advantage of the palm-shaded garden. Book well in advance. Pros: friendly service; good location. Cons: rooms on the square can be noisy; no elevator; no pets. | Rooms from: €130 | Pl. Constitució 14 | 971/634641 | www.lavilahotel.com | 8 rooms | Breakfast.
Shop here for hand-stitched shoes and traditional Mallorcan slip-ons, made on the premises. | Carrer Sa Lluna 74 | 971/632874 | www.bencalcat.es.
For three generations, the craftsmen of the Eugenio family—originally sculptors and furniture makers—have been making bowls, cutting boards, and all sorts of kitchen utensils by hand, from old olive wood. The wood can only be cut between September and April; it’s soaked in water for five weeks and then cured for a year before the carver turns his hand to it, and the resulting shapes and textures are lovely. The shop, across the street from the tram station, is always packed. Eugenio is happy to ship purchases abroad. | Carrer Jerónimo Estades 11 | 971/630984.
SPORTS AND THE OUTDOORS
Ten minutes or so from the center of Sóller on the tram, the beachfront at Port de Sóller offers all sorts of water-based fun
Escola d’Esports Nàutics.
On the northwest coast at Port de Sóller, this place has canoes, windsurfers, dinghies, motor launches, and waterskiing gear available for rent from May to October. | Platja de Can Generós s/n | Port de Sóller | 609/354132 | www.nauticsoller.com.
54 km (34 miles) northeast of Palma.
The first city to be located here was a Roman settlement, in 123 BC. The Moors reestablished a town, and after the Reconquest it became a feudal possession of the Knights Templar; the first ring of city walls dates to the early 14th century. Begin your visit at the Church of Sant Jaume and walk through the maze of narrow streets inside to the Porta de Xara, with its twin crenellated towers.
Getting Here and Around
Porta de Alcúdia, where the ferry arrives from Ciutadella, is a 3-km (2-mile) taxi ride from the center of Alcúdia. There is also direct bus service from Palma.
Alcúdia. | Carrer Major 7 | 971/549022.
Museu Monogràfic de Pollentia.
The museum has a small collection of statuary and artifacts from the nearby excavations, whose finds date from when Alcúdia was the Roman capital of the island. | Carrer Sant Jaume 30 | 971/547004, 971/897102 | €3 ticket for museum and archaeological site | Mid-June-Sept., Tues.-Sun. 9:30-8:30; Oct.-mid-June, Tues.-Fri. 10-3:30, weekends 10:30-1:30.
8 km (5 miles) from Alcúdia, 50 km (31 miles) from Palma.
The history of this pretty little town goes back at least as far as the Roman occupation of the island; the only trace of that period is the stone Roman Bridge at the edge of town. In the 13th century, Pollença and much of the land around it was owned by the Knights Templar—who built the imposing church of Nuestra Senyora de Los Ángeles on the west side of the present-day Plaça Major. The church looks east to the 1,082-foot peak of the Puig de Maria, with the 15th-century sanctuary at the top. The Calvari of Pollença is a flight of 365 stone steps to a tiny chapel, and a panoramic view as far as Cap de Formentor. There’s a colorful weekly market at the foot of the steps on Sunday mornings.
Getting Here and Around
Pollença is a fairly easy drive from Palma on the MA013. A few buses each day connect Pollença with Palma and Alcúdia.
Pollença. | Carrer Sant Domingo s/n | 971/535077.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Cap de Formentor.
The winding road north from Port de Pollença to the tip of the island is spectacular. Stop at the Mirador de la Cruete, where the rocks form deep narrow inlets of multishaded blue. A stone tower called the Talaia d’Albercuix marks the highest point on the peninsula.
WHERE TO STAY
B&B/INN | This little hotel, which opened in 1907, is on Pollença’s main square, making it a good choice for a weekend stay because of the Sunday market that takes place there. It has small but comfortably furnished rooms with traditional Mallorcan pieces and hand-embroidered linens. Nearby, at Carrer Mercat 18, is L’Hostal, an old stable that’s been converted to a modern boutique hotel run by the same owners. Pros: great location; tasty breakfast in the bar downstairs; good value. Cons: parking can be a problem. | Rooms from: €120 | Pl. Major 9 | 971/535002 | www.pollensahotels.com | 7 rooms | Breakfast.
Fodor’s Choice | Hotel Son Sant Jordi.
B&B/INN | A favorite way station for groups of cyclists touring the island, the Son Sant Jordi is a small family-friendly gem of a boutique hotel, formerly the convent of the adjacent Church of Sant Jordi. The palm-shaded patio garden in back is a delight, with orange and lemon trees, a small pool, and a fishpond. Guest rooms have antique furniture, king-size four-poster canopy beds, ceramic-tile floors, exposed-stone walls, and ceiling beams. Full amenities include robes and slippers. lThe best room in the house is No. 4, “Les Aguilas.” Book for a week, and the hotel will arrange free transfers from and to the aiport. Pros: cheerful, helpful service; sauna; live jazz on the front terrace every Friday night. Cons: a tad pricey; June through September, the minimum stay is three nights. | Rooms from: €200 | Carrer Sant Jordi 29 | 971/530389, 629/307473 | www.hotelsonsantjordi.com/en | 9 rooms, 3 suites | Breakfast.
Fodor’s Choice | Son Brull.
RESORT | “Oasis” is what springs to mind when driving up through the family vineyards to this brilliantly restored medieval monastery, reborn in 2003 as a deluxe resort hotel. The lounge-tapas bar takes you back in time, with its ancient olive press, stone arches, and thatched vaulted ceilings; weather permitting, meals are served on the poolside patio, with a wonderful view of the Tramuntana mountains. Guest rooms have king-size beds and comfortable modern furnishings; bathrooms have huge shower stalls, jetted tubs, and towel warmers. The straw hats in the rooms, left there for strolling the grounds in the summer sun, are typical of the meticulous attention to detail at Son Brull. Pros: spot-on, friendly, multilingual service; peace and quiet; strategic location for exploring Pollença, Alcúdia, and the S’Albufereta wildlife reserve. Cons: pricey; minimum booking for some arrivals in high season; no pets. | Rooms from: €450 | Crta. Palma-Pollença, Km 50 | 971/535353, 610/772242 | www.sonbrull.com | 16 rooms, 7 suites | Closed Dec. and Jan. | Breakfast.
An acclaimed international music event, this festival is held each July and August. Started in 1961, it has attracted such performers as Mstislav Rostropovic, Jessye Norman, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, the Camerata Köln, and the Alban Berg Quartet. Concerts are held in the cloister of the Convent of Sant Domingo. | 971/534011 | www.festivalpollenca.org.
20 km (12 miles) southwest of Pollença.
The Santuari de Lluc, which holds the Black Virgin and is a major pilgrimage site, is widely considered Mallorca’s spiritual heart.
Getting Here and Around
The Santuari is about midway between Sóller and Pollença on the hairpin route over the mountains called MA10. Two buses daily connect these towns, stopping in Lluc. Taxi fare from either town is about €35.
Santuari de Lluc.
La Moreneta, also known as La Virgen Negra de Lluc (the Black Virgin of Lluc), is a votary statue of the Virgin Mary that’s held in a 17th-century church, the center of this sanctuary complex. The museum has an eclectic collection of prehistoric and Roman artifacts, ceramics, paintings, textiles, folk costumes, votive offerings, Nativity scenes, and work by local artists. Between September and June, a children’s choir sings psalms in the chapel at 1:15 pm, Monday to Saturday, and at 11 am for Sunday Mass. The Christmas Eve performance of “Cant de la Sibila” (“Song of the Sybil”) is an annual choral highlight. | Pl. dels Peregrins 1 | 971/871525 | Monastery free, museum €4 | Museum weekdays and Sun. 10-2, monastery daily 10-5.
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Mahón (Maó) | Ciutadella | El Toro | Fornells | Cova des Coloms
Menorca, the northernmost of the Balearics, is a knobby, cliffbound plateau with some 193 km (120 miles) of coastline and a central hill called El Toro, from whose 1,100-foot summit you can see the whole island. Prehistoric monuments—taulas (huge stone T-shapes), talayots (spiral stone cones), and navetes (stone structures shaped like overturned boats)—left by the first Neolithic settlers are all over the island.
Tourism came late to Menorca, which aligned with the Republic in the Spanish Civil War; Franco punished the island by discouraging the investment in infrastructure that fueled the Balearic boom on Mallorca and Ibiza. Menorca has avoided many of the problems of overdevelopment: there are still very few high-rise hotels, and the herringbone road system, with a single central highway, means that each resort is small and separate. There’s less to see and do on Menorca, and more unspoiled countryside than on the other Balearics. The island, home to some 220 species of birds and more than 1,000 species of plants, was designated a Biosphere Reserve in 1993. Menorca is where Spaniards and Catalans tend to take their families on vacation.
Getting Here and Around
To get to Menorca from Barcelona take the overnight ferry, fast hydrofoil (about 3 hours), or a 40-minute flight. It’s a six-hour ferry ride from Palma.
Several buses a day run the length of Menorca between Mahón and Ciutadella, stopping en route at Alaior, Mercadal, and Ferreries. The bus line Autos Fornells serves the northeast; Transportes Menorca connects Mahón with Ciutadella and with the major beaches and calas around the island. From smaller towns there are daily buses to Mahón and connections to Ciutadella. In summer, regular buses shuttle beachgoers from the west end of Ciutadella’s Plaça Explanada to the resorts to the south and west; from Mahón, excursions to Menorca’s most remote beaches leave daily from the jetty next to the Nuevo Muelle Comercial.
If you want to beach-hop in Menorca, it’s best to have your own transportation, but most of the island’s historic sights are in Mahón or Ciutadella, and once you’re in town everything is within walking distance. You can see the island’s archaeological remains in a day’s drive, so you may want to rent a car for just that part of your visit.
Autos Fornells. Schedules and fares of all IB08 bus connections can be found on the website. | www.autosfornells.com.
Autocares Torres. | 902/075066 | www.bus.e-torres.net/en.
Transportes Menorca. | 971/360475 | www.tmsa.es.
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Established as the island’s capital in 1722, when the British began their nearly 80-year occupation, Mahón still bears the stamp of its former rulers. The streets nearest the port are lined with four-story Georgian townhouses; the Mahónese drink gin and admire Chippendale furniture; English is widely spoken. The city is quiet for much of the year, but between June and September the waterfront pubs and restaurants swell with foreigners.
Getting Here and Around
There’s ferry service here from Mallorca, but it’s much less frequent than to Ciutadella. Within Mahón, Torres Alles Autocares has three bus lines around the city and to the airport.
Cruise Ship Travel to Mahón
Cruise ships dock at the Moll de Ponent, at the west end of the largest and deepest natural harbor in the Mediterranean. Running east from the landing along the waterfront, the Carrer Andana de Llevant is lined with shops, restaurants, cafés, and boutiques. The older part of the island capital, perched above the port, is a miniature treasure trove of Mahón’s 18th-century heyday under British rule; you can explore it easily on foot in half a day.
From the passenger terminal, it’s a steep climb (107 steps) up to town; most people opt for a charter bus arranged by the on-board travel agency, or take a taxi at the stand across the street, or wait for the No. 11 bus, which heads to the center of Mahón at Plaça de s’Esplanada (€1.50). There’s also a little hop on-hop off tourist train (€5) that stops a few steps from the terminal, once an hour or so in season, starting at 11 am. Between March and November, from 9-1 on weekdays, the tourist office sets up a table at dockside to provide visitors with maps and useful information.
Best Bets for Cruise Ship Travel to Mahón
Iglesia de Santa Maria. There’s a concert given here on the church’s magnificent 3,006-pipe organ every Saturday at 7:30 pm, and at 11 am and 7 pm on Sunday.
Saturday Market. Browse for local products, including the famous local cheese, at the stalls in the cloisters of the former convent of the Church of La Verge del Carme.
Ciutadella. Take the 45-km (28-mile) trip to Menorca’s medieval capital, at the west end of the island, with stops en route at Alaior and Ferreries to browse for shoes and leather goods.
Cala d’En Porter. This beach resort on the south coast, a 20-minute drive from Mahón, is famous for the Cova d’en Xoroi. By day a chill-out spot, by night a dance club, it’s built into a series of caves in a dizzying seaside cliff.
S’Albufera. The island’s largest wetlands nature reserve and bird sanctuary is a mere 20-minute drive from town.
Autocares Torres. | 902/075066 | www.bus.e-torres.net/en.
Estació Autobuses. | Carrer Josep Anselm Clavé s/n | 971/360475.
Radio-Taxi. | 971/367111.
Aeropuerto de Menorca. | Arrivals Terminal | 971/157115.
Mahón. | Moll de Llevant 2 | 971/355952.
Carrer Isabel II.
This street is lined with many Georgian homes. To get here, walk up Carrer Alfons III and turn right at the Ajuntament. | Pl. de la Constitució | 971/369800.
La Verge del Carme.
This church has a fine painted and gilded altarpiece. Adjoining the church are the cloisters, now a market, with stalls selling fresh produce and a variety of local cheeses and sausages. The central courtyard is a venue for a number of cultural events throughout the year. | Pl. del Carme | 971/362402.
Plaça de la Conquesta.
Behind the church of Santa María, this plaza has a statue of Alfons III of Aragón, who wrested the island from the Moors in 1287.
Puerta de San Roque.
At the end of Carrer Rector Mort, this massive gate is the only surviving portion of the 14th-century city walls. They were rebuilt in 1587 to protect the city from the pirate Barbarossa (Redbeard).
Dating from the 13th century, this church was rebuilt in the 18th century, during the British occupation, and then restored again after being sacked during Spain’s Civil War. The church’s pride is its baroque, 3,006-pipe organ, imported from Austria in 1810. Organ concerts are given here at 7:30 on Saturday evenings, and at 11 am and 7 pm on Sundays. The altar, and the half-dome chapels on either side, have exceptional frescos. | Pl. de la Constitució | 971/363949.
Opera companies from Italy en route to Spain made the Teatre Principal in Mahón their first port of call; if the Mahónese gave a production a poor reception, it was cut from the repertoire. Built in 1824, it has five tiers of boxes, red plush seats, and gilded woodwork: a La Scala in miniature. Lovingly restored, it still hosts a brief opera season. If you’re visiting in the first week of December or June, buy tickets well in advance. | Carrer Costa Deià 40 | 971/355603 | www.teatremao.com.
Puzzle over Menorca’s prehistoric past at this megalithic site with a number of stone constructions, including a massive taula. Behind it, from the top of a stone wall, you can see, in a nearby field, the monolith Fus de Sa Geganta. To get here from Mahón, drive west and turn south at Alaior on the road to Cala en Porter; it’s 2 km (1 mile) ahead at a bend in the road, marked by an information kiosk on the left.
Torre d’en Gaumés.
This is a complex set of stone constructions—fortifications, monuments, deep pits of ruined dwellings, huge vertical slabs, and taulas. To reach it, turn south toward Son Bou on the west side of Alaior. After about 1 km (½ mile), the first fork left will lead you to the ruins. | Alaior.
A smallish horseshoe curve of fine white sand, framed by almost vertical pine-covered cliffs, is where Menorca’s only river, the Agendar, reaches the sea through a long limestone gorge. The surrounding area is under environmental protection—the handful of resort hotels and chalets above the beach (usually booked solid June to September by package tour operators) were grandfathered in. Cala Galdana is family-friendly in the extreme, with calm shallow waters, and a nearby waterpark/playground for the kids. A favorite with Menorcans and visitors alike, it gets really crowded in high season, but a 20-minute walk through the pine forest leads to the otherwise inaccessible little coves of Macarella and Macaretta, remote beaches popular with naturists and boating parties. Amenities: food and drink, lifeguards, showers, water sports. Best for: swimming, walking. | 35 km (21 miles) from Mahón, via the ME1 hwy. to Ferreries and south from there on the local road.
WHERE TO EAT
SEAFOOD | This simple waterfront restaurant, at the east end of the harbor promenade, is a local favorite. The lunchtime crowd comes for the platter of lightly fried mixed fish with potatoes; knowledgeable clients home in on local specialties like cap-roig (scorpion fish) with garlic and wine sauce, or paella bogavante (clawed lobster). The menu takes a major leap in price for the €67 spiny lobster, a delicacy prepared in a variety of ways. The prix-fixe lunch, a good value, is €15. | Average main: €24 | Moll de Llevant 334-35 | 971/362390, 659/462467 | Closed Mon. No dinner Sun. Nov.-Mar.
Fodor’s Choice | Es Moli de Foc.
SPANISH | Originally a flour mill—de foc means “of fire,” signifying that the mill was powered by internal combustion—this is the oldest building in the village of Sant Climent. The interior, with paintings by local artists on the mellow yellow walls, is inviting, but the food is exceptional. Prawn carpaccio with cured Mahón cheese and artichoke oil, black paella with monkfish and squid, and carrilleras de ternera (boiled beef cheeks) with potato purée are standouts, or ask for the separate menu of arroces (rice dishes)—the best on the island and arguably some of the best in Spain. End with some local-cheese ice cream and figs. In summer, book a table on the terrace. With a brewery on the premises, visible behind glass, you’ll know what to drink. | Average main: €24 | Carrer Sant Llorenç 65 | Sant Climent, 4 km (2½ miles) southwest of town | 971/153222 | www.esmolidefoc.es | Closed Jan. and Mon. Oct.-May. No dinner Sun.; no lunch Mon. July and Aug.
Fodor’s Choice | Marivent.
CONTEMPORARY | This trendy waterfront restaurant in Mahón, reopened in 2013, has two levels: an informal first-floor open terrace for tapas; and a more classical dining room upstairs, where traditional Menorcan ingredients and recipes emerge in creations like caldereta (spiny lobster stew), arroz negro (rice in squid ink) with cuttlefish and red prawns, and croquettes of prawn and monkfish. Starter portions are especially generous—just right for sharing around the table. Don’t miss the homemade carrot cake. The wine list is excellent. | Average main: €24 | Moll de Llevant 314 | 971/363594, 666/865407 | Closed Nov.-Apr. No lunch weekends; no dinner weekdays.
WHERE TO STAY
Fodor’s Choice | Biniarroca Boutique Hotel.
B&B/INN | Antique embroidered bed linens, shelves with knickknacks, and comfy chairs—this is an English vision of a peaceful and secluded rural retreat, and its glory is the garden of irises, lavender, and flowering trees. The hotel’s fine little restaurant, open to the public at lunch and dinner, features classics like duck in orange-and-Grand Marnier sauce and innovative dishes like coconut tempura langoustines. Pros: friendly personal service; some suites have private terraces. Cons: bit of a drive to the beach; some low ceilings; not child-friendly. | Rooms from: €210 | Cami Vell 57 | Sant Lluís | 971/150059, 619/460942 | www.biniarroca.com | 17 rooms, 1 suite | Closed Nov.-Mar. | Breakfast.
B&B/INN | In a perfect location for exploring Mahón, this historic property has a new lease on life as a friendly, comfortable boutique hotel. Built in 1740, during the British occupation, the former private house has 15-foot ceilings, original marble staircases, and tile floors, and the rooms are furnished in rustic style with items from local and Barcelona antiques shops. lThe suite “Sa Apartament” is truly enormous. In July and August the little restaurant on the patio is open to the public for dinner. Pros: good-natured, anything-to-help hospitality; walking distance to the port. Cons: no parking; bathrooms could use some modernization; no elevator. | Rooms from: €160 | Carrer Isabel II 9 | 686/393569 | www.casalberti.com | 5 rooms, 2 suites | Closed Oct.-Apr. | Breakfast.
Hotel Port Mahón.
HOTEL | Renovated in 2012, this standby may not win many prizes for imaginative design, but it’s a solid choice, with rooms with hardwood floors, generic but comfortable furniture, and plenty of closet space. The suites are a bit narrow, with double beds and sectional sofas taking up most of the room, but they do have private terraces with impressive views of the harbor and the Isla del Rey. Mahón gets lots of visitors and has very few in-town hotels at all—in summer, especially, this hotel may be the easiest to book. Pros: decent value for price; friendly service; good buffet breakfast; easy to park nearby. Cons: pool and garden front on a busy street; no pets. | Rooms from: €200 | Av. Fort de l’Eau s/n | 971/362600 | www.sethotels.com/en/hotel-port-mahon-menorca.php | 74 rooms, 8 suites | Breakfast.
Fodor’s Choice | Jardi de Ses Bruixes.
B&B/INN | Built in 1811 by a Spanish ship captain, this casa señorial (town house) in the heart of Mahón was lovingly restored by its architect and co-owner Fernando Pons and opened in 2014 as a boutique hotel. The restoration managed to preserve even the original tower and its widow’s walk. Rooms have queen-size beds, high ceilings with exposed beams, working fireplaces and wood-burning stoves (a plus, in Menorca’s blustery winters), original tile floors and antique furniture, ample stall showers and deep oval tubs. Luxurious amenities include robes and slippers, towel warmers, and huge mirrors. Dinner (open to the public) is served on Friday and Saturday nights, and the Jardi offers a wonderful home-style brunch on Sunday. The best room is No. 1, with a private terrace overlooking the interior patio. Pros: amiable, eager-to-please staff; strategic location; at-home atmosphere. Cons: difficult to reach by car, or to park; bathtubs in the bedrooms sacrifice privacy to design. | Rooms from: €230 | Calle de San Fernando 6 | 620/226912, 971/363166 | www.hotelsesbruixes.com | 8 rooms | Breakfast.
Sant Joan de Binissaida.
B&B/INN | An avenue lined with chinaberry and fig trees leads to this lovely restored farmhouse with environmental qualities, including some solar power and organic produce from the farm. Inside, it has retained many old features—a wonderful upstairs suite has an oratory—and a row of adjoining stables has been converted to additional accommodations with individual terraces. The family proprietors are opera aficionados, so all the rooms are named for composers. The public spaces on the first floor, with modern blond-wood furnishings, are open and relaxing and there’s an excellent restaurant, with meals served on the deck in good weather. Pros: vistas clear to the port of Mahón, about 15 km (10 miles) away; huge pool; child-friendly. Cons: bit of a drive to the nearest beach; rooms in the annex lack privacy; short season, with minimum booking three nights in summer. | Rooms from: €266 | Camí de Toraixa a Binissaida 108 | Es Castell | 971/355598 | www.binissaida.com | 9 rooms, 3 suites | Closed Jan.-Apr. | No meals.
Akelarre Jazz & Dance Club.
This stylish bar near the port has a café-terrace downstairs and live jazz and blues on Thursday and Friday nights. It’s open year-round from 10:30 am to 4 am, and serves tapas and snacks to share in the evening. | Moll de Ponent 41-43 | 971/368520.
Club El Padrino.
This lively spot on the waterfront is open all year, with live music and stage shows, from 8 pm to 4 am. | Carrer Andana de Llevant 66 | 971/365367.
Cova d’en Xoroi.
The hottest spot in Menorca is a 20-minute drive from Mahón in the beach resort of Cala en Porter. This dance-until-dawn disco is in a series of caves in a cliff high above the sea that, according to local legend, was once the refuge of a castaway Moorish pirate. | Carrer Cova s/n | Cala d’en Porter | 971/377236 | www.covadenxoroi.com | Afternoon/evening chill-out sessions with live music from €12, night sessions from €20.
Dug like a cave into the bluff of the little cove of Cala Corb, this is where locals gather (Thursday through Saturday night, from 10 pm to 3 am) to sing and play guitar—habañeras, love songs, songs of exile and return; everyone knows the songs and they all join in. It’s hard to find, but anybody in Es Castell can point the way. | Cala Corb s/n | Es Castell.
SPORTS AND THE OUTDOORS
Asociación Cicloturista de Menorca.
Ask here about organized bike tours of the island. | Moll de Llevant 173 | 971/364816, 610/464816 | www.menorcacicloturista.com/en.
| Av. Francesc Femenias 44 | 971/353798.
The clear Mediterranean waters here are ideal for diving. Equipment and lessons are available at Cala En Bosc, Son Parc, Fornells, Ciutadella, and Cala Tirant, among others.
Golf Son Parc.
Menorca’s sole golf course, designed by Dave Thomas, is 9 km (6 miles) east of Mercadal, about a 20-minute drive from Mahon in the Son Parc urbanización. Rocky bunkers, and the occasional stray peacock on the fairways, make this an interesting and challenging course. The club, open year-round, also has two composition tennis courts. | Urbinización Son Parc s/n | Es Mercadal | 971/188875, 971/359059 | www.golfsonparc.com | 18 holes, par 69, 5655 yds. Greens fee: €40-€69 for 18 holes, €20-€45 for 9 holes | Facilities: driving range, putting green, pitching area, pull carts, buggies, rental clubs, lessons, restaurant, bar.
In the south, each cove is approached by a barranca (ravine or gully), often from several miles inland. The head of Barranca Algendar is down a small, unmarked road immediately on the right of the Ferreries-Cala Galdana Road; the barranca ends at the local beach resort, and from there you have a lovely walk north along the sea to an unspoiled half moon of sand at Cala Macarella. Extend your walk north, if time allows, through the forest along the riding trail to Cala Turqueta, where you’ll find some of the island’s most impressive grottoes.
Menorca is known for shoes and leather goods, as well as cheese, gin, and wine. Wine was an important part of the menorcan economy as long back as the 18th century: the British, who knew a good place to grow grapes when they saw one, planted the island thick with vines. Viticulture was abandoned when Menorca returned to the embrace of Spain, and it has reemerged only in the past few years.
Duck into the little alley between Carrer Nou and Carrer de l’Angel, and discover the atelier where Llorenç Pons makes his espardenyes d’autor: traditional rope-soled sandals in original and surprising designs. | Pont de l’Angel 4 | 647/587456.
This is the most promising of the handful of the local wineries, with robust young reds and whites on the shelves all over Menorca. The owners have expanded their product line into sparkling Chardonnay (sold only on the premises), olive oil, jams and conserves, and wine-based soaps and cosmetics. It’s all well worth a visit, not merely for tastings, but (weather permitting) for a meal on the terrace, open from 9 am to 1 am, June through October. Binifadet’s young Italian-Argentine chef serves up light breakfasts, lunches, and dinners—the Menorcan red prawns in sea salt (€17) are great. In midsummer reservations are a must. | Ses Barraques s/n | Sant Lluís | 971/150715 | www.binifadet.com.
This showroom has a full-length window overlooking the factory where its very chic women’s shoes are made. It’s closed weekends. | Carrer Sant Antoni 120 | Alaior | 13 km (8 miles) northeast of Mahón | 971/379320 | www.ponsquintana.com/en.
One gastronomic legacy of the British occupation was gin. Visit this distillery on Mahón’s quayside near the ferry terminal, where you can take a guided tour, sample various types of gin, and buy some to take home. | Anden de Poniente 91 | 971/362197.
44 km (27 miles) west of Mahón.
Ciutadella was Menorca’s capital before the British settled in Mahón, and its history is richer. Settled successively by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, and Romans, Ciutadella fell to the Moors in 903 and became a part of the Caliphate of Córdoba until 1287, when Alfonso III of Aragón reconquered it. He gave estates in Ciutadella to nobles who aided him in the battle, and to this day the old historic center of town has a distinctively aristocratic tone. In 1558 a Turkish armada laid siege to Ciutadella, burning the city and enslaving its inhabitants. It was later rebuilt, but never quite regained its former stature.
As you arrive via the ME1, the main artery across the island from Mahón, turn left at the second traffic circle and follow the ring road to the Passeig Marítim; at the end, near the Castell de Sant Nicolau is a monument to David Glasgow Farragut, the first admiral of the U.S. Navy, whose father emigrated from Ciutadella to the United States. From here, take Passeig de Sant Nicolau to the Plaēa de s’Esplanada and park near the Plaça d’es Born.
Getting Here and Around
Autocares Torres has a single bus line running between Ciutadella and the beaches and calas near the city.
Autocares Torres. | www.bus.e-torres.net/en.
Ciutadella. | Pl. de S’Esplanada s/n.
Parada de Taxis de Ciutadella. | 971/482222.
Ciutadella. | Pl. des Born, Edifici Ajuntament | 971/484155.
Carrer Major leads to this Gothic edifice, which has some beautifully carved choir stalls. The side chapel has round Moorish arches, remnants of the mosque that once stood on this site; the bell tower is a converted minaret. | Pl. de la Catedral at Pl. Píus XII | 971/380343 | Daily 8-1:30 and 5:30-8.
Convento de Santa Clara.
Carrer del Seminari is lined on the west side with some of the city’s most impressive historic buildings. Among them is this 17th-century convent, which hosts Ciutadella’s summer festival of classical music but is otherwise not open to the public. | Carrer del Seminari at Carrer Obispo Vila.
Mirador d’es Port.
From a passage on the left side of Ciutadella’s columned and crenellated Ajuntament on the west side of the Born, steps lead up to this lookout. From here you can survey the harbor. | Pl. d’Es Born.
The museum houses artifacts of Menorca’s prehistoric, Roman, and medieval past, including records of land grants made by Alfonso III to the local nobility after defeating the Moors. It occupies an ancient defense tower, the Bastió de Sa Font (Bastion of the Fountain), at the east end of the harbor. | Pl. de sa Font s/n | 971/380297 | www.ciutadella.org/museu | €2.46 (free Wed.) | Tues-Sat. 10-2.
This is the only noble house in Ciutadella that’s open to the public, albeit at unpredictable times. The coats of arms on the ceiling are those of the families Salort (sal and ort, a salt pit and a garden) and Martorell (a marten). | Carrer Major des Born | €2 | May-Oct., Mon.-Sat. 10-2 (hrs vary).
The blocklong 19th-century Palau Torresaura was built by the Baron of Torresaura, one of the noble families from Aragón and Catalonia that moved to Menorca after it was captured from the Moors in the 13th century. The interesting facade faces the plaza, though the entrance is on the side street. It is not open to the public. | Carrer Major del Born 8.
Ciutadella’s port is accessible from steps that lead down from Carrer Sant Sebastià. The waterfront here is lined with seafood restaurants, some of which burrow into caverns far under the Born.
Cala Macarella and Cala Macaralleta.
What just might be the two most beautiful of Menorca’s small beaches, Cala Macarella and Cala Macaralleta, are reachable three ways: by boat, by car from the ME1 Mahón-Ciutadella highway, or on foot, from the little resort town of Cala Galdana (for the robust and ambitious, this last option is definitely the best way). Best among the hotels and chalets in Cala Galdana itself is probably the Artiem Audex Spa & Wellness Center, for its privileged place on the outlook at the end of the beach; just across the road you pick up the Cami de Cavalls riding trail, a 30-minute-or-so walk through the pine forest, around the point of the cove, to Cala Macarella. It’s worth the effort: the water off this little crescent of white-sand beach on the southwest coast is breathtakingly turquoise and blue, calm and shallow, and sheltered by rocks on both sides. Remote as it is, Cala Macarella is popular with locals as well as vacationers; a 10-minute walk along the cliffs brings you to the even smaller and more tranquil Cala Macaralleta, where there are no facilities and fewer sunseekers. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguard; parking; toilets. Best for: swimming; walking. | Urbinización Serpentona, 4 km (2½ miles) west of Cala Galdana, via Costa Mirador.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
SEAFOOD | Seafood doesn’t get much fresher than here, as the owners’ boat docks nearby every day except Sunday. The relaxed atmosphere welcomes either a quick bite or a full dining experience. The house special, arroz caldoso de langosta (lobster and rice stew), is very impressive, as is the carpaccio d’emperador (thin slices of swordfish marinated in lemon, salt, and olive oil), cigalas (crayfish), lobster with onion, and grilled navajas (razor clams). | Average main: €19 | Paseo San Juan 15 | 971/380005 | Closed Nov., Mon. July-Sept., and Sun. Dec.-June.
SEAFOOD | Located at the foot of the stairs that lead down to the port, this recent addition to the Ciutadella restaurant scene has a café-terrace out front that’s perfect for people-watching, drinks, and tapas—and a pleasant umbrella-shaded patio inside. Fresh seafood in any form is a sure bet here: try the John Dory, baked, grilled, or fried with garlic (€25)—or spring for the caldereta (€65), spiny lobster stew. The wine list at S’Amarador is impressive, with local labels and rich reds from Priorat, Montsant, La Rioja, and Ribera del Duero. | Average main: €23 | Port de Ciutadella s/n | 971/383524 | Closed Feb., and Mon. Nov.-Mar.
FAMILY | Hotel Rural Sant Ignasi.
B&B/INN | About 10 minutes by car from the central square, this comfortable manor house dates to 1777 and is a favorite with young Spanish families. Rooms have stone arches, cupboard closets, and English and Menorcan antiques—ask for a ground-floor double with a private garden terrace, or opt for one of the five large suites in the original barn. Es Loc, the hotel’s excellent restaurant, specializes in Menorcan seafood; in summer, meals are served on the tree-shaded poolside terrace. Pros: good value for price; friendly staff. Cons: kids in the pool all day; short season; minimum 3-day stay in summer. | Rooms from: €245 | Ronda Norte s/n | Take the Ronda Norte to the second roundabout at the Poligon Industrial; just past the roundabout turn left on Son Juaneda and follow the signs | 971/385575 | www.santignasi.com | 16 rooms, 9 suites | Closed Oct. 28-Apr. 25 | Breakfast.
Fodor’s Choice | Hotel Tres Sants.
B&B/INN | This chic boutique hotel is in the heart of Ciutadella, on a narrow cobblestone street behind the cathedral, and has killer views from the rooftop terrace, extending over the old city and (in good weather) across the ocean as far as Mallorca. The building was Menorca’s first shoe factory, built on the site of a 4th-century Roman temple. It has cozy common rooms with plump sofas, marble floors, and a huge vaulted atrium, and the whitewashed walls are accented with resin-and-pigment panels in gold, rose, and Mediterranean blue. The best room is the romantic No. 8, which has a sunken bath. Breakfast is served at a long common table. Below stairs is a Turkish bath and a single-lane swimming pool. Pros: suites for families; ideal location for exploring the city. Cons: no parking; no elevator; no pets; communal breakfasts don’t suit everyone. | Rooms from: €190 | C. Sant Cristofol 2 | 971/482208, 626/053536 | www.hoteltressants.com | 6 rooms, 2 suites | Breakfast.
SPORTS AND THE OUTDOORS
Horseback riding, breeding, and dressage have been traditions on the island for hundreds of years, and the magnificent black Menorcan horses play an important role, not only as work animals and for sport, but also in shows and colorful local festivals. There are 17 riding clubs on the island, a number of which offer excursions on the rural lanes of the unspoiled countryside. The Camí de Cavalls is a riding route in 20 stages that completely circumnavigates the island. Cavalls Son Angel in Ciutadella, Centre Equestre Equimar in Es Castell, and Menorca a Cavall in Ferreries organize excursions for adults and children. Son Martorellet, on the road to the beach at Cala Galdana, is a ranch where you can visit the stables and watch dressage training exhibitions every Wednesday and Thursday afternoon at 3:30; there’s an equestrian show in traditional costume every Saturday at 4:30, from February to November.
Cavalls Son Àngel.
This equestrian center specializes in excursions along the Cami de Cavalls, the horseback route that circumnavigates the island, with rides that range from 1-3 hours for beginners to 5-day trips with lunches en route. | Camí d’Algaiarens s/n | 609/833902, 649/488098 | www.cavallssonangel.com.
FAMILY | Centre Ecuestre Equimar.
One-hour beginner classes here are €20; excursions on horseback to the beach or countryside are from €20 to €72, depending on the length of the ride and the destination; there are also 30-minute pony rides for €10. | Calle Verdi, Km 1 | Es Castell | 685/532637, 669/255487 | www.menorcahorseriding.com.
Menorca a Cavall. | Finca Es Calafat, Ctra. Ferreries-Cala Galdana(ME22), Km 4.3 | Ferreries | 971/374637, 626/593737 | www.menorcaacavall.com.
Son Martorellet. | Ctra. Ferreries-Cala Galdana, Km 1.7 | Ferreries | 971/373406, 639/156851 | www.sonmartorellet.com.
The industrial complex (polígono industrial) on the right as you enter Ciutadella has a number of shoe factories, each with a shop. Prices may be the same as in stores, but the selection is wider. In Plaça d’es Born, a market is held on Friday and Saturday.
For the best shopping, try the Ses Voltes area, the Es Rodol zone near Plaça Artrutx and Ses Voltes, and along the Camí de Maó between Plaça Palmeras and Plaça d’es Born.
ARTEME (Associació d’Empreses d’Artesania de Menorca).
The town’s only alferería (pottery workshop) can be found here. | Carrer Comerciants Botiguer 9, Polígono Industrial | 971/381550 | www.artesansdemenorca.org.
Hort Sant Patrici.
This is a good place to buy the tangy, Parmesanlike Mahón cheese. There’s a shop, beautiful grounds with a small vineyard and botanical garden, and a display of traditional cheese-making techniques and tools. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 9-11 am you can watch the cheese being made. Hort Sant Patrici has its own vineyards and olive trees, and nestled among them is a new B&B, the Canaxini (www.canaxini.com/home_en), with eight rooms done in dazzling minimalist white. | Camí Sant Patrici s/n | Ferreries | 18 km (11 miles) east of Ciutadella; exit the ME1 at the second roundabout after Ferreries, on to Camí Sant Patrici | 971/373702 | www.santpatrici.com | Winter, weekdays 9-1 and 4-6, Sat. 9-1; summer, Mon.-Sat. 9-1:30 and 4:30-8.
The showroom here, on the main highway from Alaior to Cuitadella, features not only shoes and bags but fine leather coats and belts for men and women. | Polígono Industrial s/n | Ferreries, 18 km (11 miles) east of Ciutadella | 971/373837, 971/374539 | www.mascaro.com.
Maria Juanico makes her interesting plated and anodized silver jewelry and accessories at a workshop in the back of her store. It’s closed on Saturday afternoon and Sunday. | Carrer Seminari 38 | Ciutadella | 971/480879 | www.mariajuanico.com/en/tienda.
This inventive designer has created an original selection of jewelry and hand-painted silks. | Carrer Santissim 4 | 971/384080.
24 km (15 miles) northwest of Mahón.
The peak of El Toro is Menorca’s highest point, at all of 1,555 feet. From the monastery on top you can see the whole island and across the sea to Mallorca.
Follow signs in Es Mercadal, the crossroads at the island’s center.
WHERE TO EAT
Molí d’es Reco.
CATALAN | A great place to stop for a lunch of typical local cuisine, this restaurant is in an old windmill at the west end of Es Mercadal, on the ME1 highway, about halfway between Mahón and Ciutadella and about 4 km (2½ miles) from El Toro. It has fortress-thick whitewashed stone walls and low vaulted ceilings, and a constant air of cheerful bustle. On warm summer days there are tables on the terrace. Menorcan specialties here include squid stuffed with anglerfish and shrimp, and chicken with centollo (spider crab). The thick vegetable soup, called sopas menorquinas, is excellent. | Average main: €19 | Carrer Major 53 | Mercadal | 971/375392.
35 km (21 miles) northwest of Mahón.
A little village (full-time population: 500) of whitewashed houses with red-tile roofs, Fornells comes alive in the summer high season, when Spanish and Catalan families arrive in droves to open their holiday chalets at the edge of town and in the nearby beach resorts. The bay—Menorca’s second largest and deepest—is good for windsurfing, sailing, and scuba diving. The first fortifications built here to defend the Bay of Fornells from pirates date to 1625.
Getting Here and Around
Buses leave the Estació Autobusos on Calle José Anselmo Clavé in Mahón for the 50-minute 40-km (24-mile) trip to Fornells at 10:30, 12:30, 3, 5 and 7. By car, it’s an easy half-hour drive north on route PM710.
WHERE TO EAT
SEAFOOD | The modest wooden exterior of this harborside restaurant is misleading—Es Pla has hosted royalty. King Juan Carlos made detours here during his sailing holidays in the Balearics, to sample its justly famous caldereta de langosta. This single costly dish skews an otherwise reasonably priced menu, but a prix-fixe caldereta menu, with steamed mussels or scallops in their shell for starters, along with dessert and coffee, is a bargain. Other excellent seafood dishes include grilled scorpion fish, scallops drizzled with olive oil, and anglerfish with marisco (seafood) sauce. | Average main: €22 | Pasaje Es Pla s/n | Puerto de Fornells | 971/376655.
SPORTS AND OUTDOORS
Several miles long and a mile wide but with a narrow entrance to the sea and virtually no waves, the Bay of Fornells gives the beginner a feeling of security and the expert plenty of excitement.
Here, on the beach just off Carrer del Rosari, you can rent windsurfing boards and dinghies, and take lessons, individually or in groups. It’s open May through October. | Ctra. Es Mercadal-Fornells s/n | Es Mercadal | 664/335801 | www.windfornells.com.
COVA DES COLOMS
40 km (24 miles) west of Mahón.
There are caverns and grottoes all over the Balearics, some of them justly famous because of their size, spectacular formations, and subterranean pools. This one is well worth a visit.
Cova des Coloms (Cave of Pigeons).
This massive cave is the most spectacular on Menorca, with eerie rock formations rising up to a 77-foot-high ceiling. To reach the cave, drive along the road from Ferreries to St. Adeodato, then head down to the beach and walk west on the footpath about 10 minutes to the beach at Binigaus. Signs direct you from there to the gully, where you descend to the cave.