Menorca, with its chilled vibes, laid back mood and slower pace sits with its Balearic brothers in the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. Menorca means smaller island but the little isle punches well above its weight in terms of unspoilt beaches, secluded coves and crystal clear waters. Visit Menorca for captivating old towns, cathedrals, harbours and a vast natural bio-sphere. The food is good; think cheese, the freshest seafood, vineyards and gin. There are so many things to do in Menorca, lots to see and masses of reasons to visit. Here are just some of the ways I fell in love with it…
Things to do in Menorca
1. Boats, Beaches and Bays
When I think of my time on the island the image that pops into my mind is the mind-blowing colour of the clear Mediterranean Sea. Menorca sits in intensely turquoise waters edged with white-sand beaches, pretty coves and pine-fringed bays. There are 216 km of coastline and more than 100 beaches – many of them unspoiled. Some beaches are only accessible by boat and others by car plus a hike which means if you put in the effort you’ll probably get a beach to yourself.
The volcanic red beaches of the north are a complete contrast with the white sand beaches and bays in the south of the island. We spent a chilled day mooching our way along the craggy south coast of the island by boat. Kayaks are a great way to explore the caves and grottos and get into the areas boats can’t.
Mahon (Mao) has been Menorca’s capital since 1722 and sits high on a cliff with superb views of the harbour. Pretty, pastel alleyways, food markets, squares and cathedrals make the town incredibly Instagramable. Mahon Port is the Mediterranean’s largest harbour and world’s second deepest natural port. A boat trip with Yellow Catamarans around the harbour will take you past historic fortresses, small islets and harbour-side cafes and bars. A look at the harbour and its fish from beneath the water through the boat’s glass bottom is a must-do.
Where to eat: Restaurant Minerva which can be found directly on the harbour side. Choose from the floating terrace or inside the converted flour mill for fresh seafood dishes.
Mahon was an important British Port over 200 years ago and the Brits have left their influence. If you know me then you’ll know I’m partial to a gin and tonic. For me the Xoriguer Gin Distillery was a Menorca must-see. The distillery’s tasting room was a total revelation. Camomile infused Hierbas de Menorca was, err, interesting. Calent, a cinnamon-scented gin, was rather nice but then all my dreams came true when they brought out the chocolate gin!
4. Menorca’s Coolest Cave Bar
Probably the coolest place on the island for sundowners is Cova d’En Xoroi. The series of caves and terraces, set into the cliff face, have stunning views over the ocean and coastline and make for epic sunset moments. The background vibe of chill-out music adds to the relaxed atmosphere until night-time when DJs perform more clubby sets and you can dance until sunrise to Balearic beats.
Menorca is well-known for its Mahón cheese. It’s named after the island’s capital but made all over Menorca and you’ll find it served up at almost every meal in one form or another. The cheese is made from cow’s milk and has a buttery, mildly salty taste which comes from the cow’s diet of grass naturally seasoned with sea salt. A soft and creamy cheese is the younger version whilst the hard, crumblier cheese is aged longer. Rind colours vary from a pale cream to vibrant orange depending on whether it’s rubbed with butter, oil or paprika.
6. Menorca Biosphere Reserve
Menorca was officially named a Biosphere Reserve in 1993 to protect the natural beauty of the island, its animals and wildlife. 42% of the island is protected which is why you’ll not see many high-rise buildings and built up areas. Menorca has total respect for its environment. For trails and hikes through olive groves, lagoons and wetland areas head for natural park S’Albufera d’es Grau at the north-east end of the island. Here you’ll encounter Menorca in harmony with natural beauty at a slower pace.
7. Menorcan Birds and Wildlife
Menorca sits bang in the middle of bird migratory routes over the Mediterranean. Bird enthusiasts can spot up to 200 different species of birds around the island from osprey and red kite to herons and mallards. It’s not all about birds though, we met this little fella going at his own slow pace as we hiked through the park S’Albufera d’es Grau.
Menorca doesn’t want to be big, it wants to be sustainable with a good balance between natural beauty and tourism
8. Spring Flowers
Menorca in May is in full bloom and it’s just beautiful. Of all the things to do in Menorca don’t miss the island’s natural beauty. The countryside was lush and green with daisies and poppies. The island’s deep blue seas and craggy coastline contrasted with vivid yellow flowers and stately blooms.
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9. Menorcan Windmills
Wind power is an important sustainable resource in Menorca. Modern turbines at Milà harness energy from the Tramontana, the island’s prevailing northerly wind. Windmills (or moli) can still be found around the island – you can eat in the restaurant inside the 300 year-old Moli d’es Raco in Es Mercadal. You’ll find it on the main road from Mao to Ciutadella.
There’s a small islet right in the centre of Mahon port called Lazareto. However, the serene setting hides an eerie back story. Menorca is the most eastern island in the Mediterranean. Many ships from the East and North Africa passed through and brought with them bubonic plague, yellow fever and leprosy. Built in 1793 the Lazareto of Mahon was a place where new arrivals considered a danger would pass their quarantine. We spent a few hours exploring the beautiful grounds and I couldn’t help but feel the eyes of past residents watching our every move.
11. Naveta d’es Tudons
3,000-year-old Naveta d’es Tudons looks like an upside-down boat and is a reminder of Menorca’s history. The ancient naveta (vessel) was originally used as a group funeral chamber and was constructed by stacking stones in a way that holds it together without any other materials. The megalithic site is said to be the oldest roofed building in Europe.
How many more reasons do you need to soak up some of that Menorcan magic for yourself? You’ll find more in Reasons you need to visit Menorca – Part 2
If you haven’t planned a trip this year think about a holiday to Menorca. This was my third visit to the island. The other times were family holidays when the children were young. The island’s perfect for that. This time I saw a new, slower and more natural side which I also loved.
If you’re thinking of visiting Menorca and have any questions email or tweet and I’ll be happy to help.
Just so you know…
I was invited to Menorca by Traverse and Visit Spain to discover the island and to attend a blogging conference with around 50 bloggers, You Tubers, vloggers and Instagrammers. Two days were spent in conference and five full-on days, and nights, exploring the island. We stayed at the lovely S’Algar Hotel. Nissan Leaf electric cars helped us get around the island and also reflected Menorca’s sustainable ethos.
We flew with Jet2 and it was my first time with the airline as they’ve only just started flying from Stansted. The check-in staff were smiley, helpful and just so genuinely nice! A brand new plane with smart seats and plenty of leg-room made the two-hour fifteen-minute flight fly by. I loved the whizzy red lighting and seating which matched their branding.
For my week’s parking at Stansted I used parking comparison website for UK airports Looking4Parking. After parking up in their designated car park right next to departures I took my keys to their kiosk. It took two minutes to do a little paperwork and I was ready to check in. On my return I handed over my ticket and was given detailed directions to my car, just a few minutes’ walk away. Parking was complimentary for the purposes of this review otherwise the cost would have been under £70 for a week. Very reasonable. I’ll definitely be using them again.