The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.
It's been more than a year now since I have been to Menorca! If you read my last article you'll understand that 2019 was the year of trips for me, who is not yet a great traveller. Switzerland and then the Balearic Islands. Follow me and I will take you back in my memories of the smallest island of the Balearics.
A small piece of unspoilt land off the coast of Catalonia.
Menorca is the third largest island in the Balearic archipelago after Mallorca and Ibiza. It is not the smallest in terms of surface area, which is Formentera with its 83 km²!
Menorca is a Catalan island so be careful not to confuse Catalan and Spanish. However, shops and locals used to meet tourists speak both languages and even English very well. However, if you go to villages far from the coast, you may only come across real Catalans.
The island of Menorca covers 694 km2 and has a population of around 90,000 people year round. The capital is Mahon (Mao), located at the southeastern end of the island. The airport is a 15-minute drive from the city centre.
The former capital was Ciutadella and is located on the opposite side of the island, in the Southwest.
The island from East to West can be crossed in about 1 hour by car on the only national road (2x2 lanes) is in very good condition. The majority of the roads on the island are secondary roads, which are quite narrow asphalt roads but dusty due to the rocky soil of the island.
Spend a week's holiday in Menorca
Going on holiday in Menorca in September is ideal. If you are self-employed like me, you don't have any calendar constraints with the start of the new school year in September. For your information: I worked all summer in France before taking my holidays in September.
The weather is still summer-like, the water is good and the night doesn't fall before 8pm. However, in the first fortnight of September there are still French, Catalan and Spanish tourists. To know: the Minorcan children don't start school again until mid-September. As a result, the beaches in the coves are still very busy and it is best to get up early to be among the first. The car parks are also quickly full.
From Ciutadella to the beaches of the south of the island
My first idea was not to stay on Mahon in the Capital but to go directly opposite the West with its beautiful beaches and grandiose sunsets.
Arrival in Ciutadella at my super welcoming host's house with whom I had a real spark. Nice little house in a quiet and typical area of the island. The rental of a car is necessary to visit the island and its nooks and crannies and above all not to depend on the timetables of the buses. That said, during the high season, the island is well served by buses.
Firstly, when I arrived in Ciutadella in the early evening, I dropped my luggage off and left directly to visit a small part of the town at night and find a good paella. Ciutadella's small and charming marina is full of fish restaurants. Lovers of shellfish and fish will be delighted! But be careful because the waiters know how to attract customers and when you don't know them you can be disappointed by some dishes that we think are all excellent!
Ciutadella belonged a long time ago to the British, just like the rest of the island. Until the Middle Ages it was also the capital of the island before Mahon.
The coves of Southwest Menorca
The first days I only dreamed of seeing the turquoise beaches of fine sand. Nothing to say on that side, the pictures don't disappoint, the landscapes of the south-west with its creeks are paradisiacal. As these beaches are very popular with tourists, it is better to arrive at 9:00 - 9:30 am to be more at peace.
A very important thing to pack for Menorca: a good pair of trainers! Unlike in France, the beaches are not accessible from the car park exit.
I already knew this because I had done my homework. Macarella or Macarelleta beach is a perfect example!
To note: the 200 kilometres of coast are bordered by the GR 223 that we call there "El Cami de Cavalls" translated to: the riders' path. In the past, when Menorca was a kingdom, the knights used to watch over the enemies from the heights of the coves on their horses.
Before 2011, the path was absolutely impassable. Since then, it has been rehabilitated to allow people to use it on foot, on mountain bikes or even horses!
Hikers should be aware that there is plenty to do if you're going to Menorca! And it's quite sporty all the same! Count between 10 and 40 minutes to reach the beaches of the island, either on the south-west or Northwest part of the island. It will depend on the coves. Bring a backpack, a stainless steel water bottle, sun cream and a hat!
So, I spent my first 2 days of holiday sunbathing! Cala Galdana, cala Macarella y Macarelleta, cala Mitjana, cala en Turqueta. Ah yes and I also met black goats, the mascots of the beaches of the south of the island! They climb the cliffs and wander around looking for food left by people. Watermelon and melon skins are their favorite! They are absolutely not afraid of humans and are harmless.
At the end of my first day I was already washed out because I had walked a lot! Sporty during the holidays :)
To finish this first discovery of the Southwest of the island, I headed towards Cap d'Artrutx and its lighthouse, one of the most beautiful viewpoints of the Southwest of the island to admire the sunset.
Discover Cala Morell, its bay and the surrounding beaches
Since a week goes by quickly, I didn't want to spend all my time at the beach! This is not my vision of the holidays.
After spending 2 afternoons on the beaches, I took the time to visit Ciutadella in the morning. The walk in the streets of the city in the morning is very pleasant because it is quickly hot in Menorca even in September! Small squares, old palaces, churches, cobbled and shaded alleys, typical architecture, in short I had a real crush on Ciutadella.
I take the road towards Cala Morell. Change of scenery! Well, almost because the North of the island is sublime as well but different from the south. The creeks are always present and you can also reach the beaches after a few minutes walk. The beaches are magnificent and the white village of Cala Morell on the cliffside is incredible.
The houses are all white with flat roofs and beautiful spaces with sea views. In short, a dream comes true! On the other hand it blows a lot! The coastline is reminiscent of Brittany. So be careful when you walk on top of the cliffs, don’t get too close to the edge... it can be dangerous.
A little further on, I discovered the Cala Algaiarens with its magnificent red sand and this corner of the island is known for its rocky red earth coastline. The contrast between the blue Mediterranean water and the red sand, it’s the planet Mars.
Talayotic culture in Menorca
Cala Morell is also known for its prehistoric site: Necropolis of Cala Morell. It consists of 14 superficial caves built by prehistoric man more than 3,000 years ago. These caves were built to bury the dead. The archaeological site of Cala Morell is the largest on the island.
This side of the island is very quiet compared to the tourist corners in the south of the island. And what I also liked about Menorca is that if you want to be quiet it's possible without having to drive an hour and find yourself in the middle of nowhere.
The centre of the island of Menorca
A visit to the centre of Menorca is a must, as to cross the island from west to east you have to take the island's one and only main road. The most important one. So it would be a real shame not to take an outing to discover these marvels of Menorcan villages.
First of all, I went through Ferreries before reaching Es Migjorn Gran.
Ferreries is the central village on the map of Menorca. This village is really beautiful and you really have to visit the little church nestled in the heart of the village.
Es Migjorn Gran is a much smaller village just a few kilometres from Ferreries but higher up. The small road that brings you there is very easy to take. The central square with its small chapel and town hall is a place to see without hesitation. The narrow streets of the village are also very typical of Menorca, with white walls and colourful details in the window sills and shutters.
Es mercadal, Fornells in the centre and north of Menorca
Returning to Ferreries, I continued on to Es Mercadal, the village on the main road that is well known for its old mill.
The village of Es Mercadal is a little on the heights of the island because not far from there is the highest point of the island: Monte toro. At the top of this mountain, 358 metres high, there is an old convent and a mega antenna. The site can be visited without any problem. I didn't go there because I wanted to go straight to Fornells.
Es Mercadal also has a church in its centre and on the heights of the village but I arrived too late for the visit. It was a Sunday lunchtime and the Mass had just finished. So I wandered through the streets to discover the architecture of this other Menorcan village.
Fornells, a fishing village in the north of the island
Fornells is a fishing village known for its 4 km long bay. What I really liked about visiting this village is its authenticity. I knew I would not be disappointed. The culinary speciality of the restaurants in Fornells is the caldera de langosta. This is a pot of lobster and is the favourite dish of the people of Menorca and the Balearic Islands in general.
Apart from this culinary speciality, Fornells is very nice to visit! The fishermen's church and the small streets are still full of charm. Drive along the road that faces the many restaurants and typical Menorcan river boats. They are really cute little sailing boats that I loved taking pictures of!
The show and the panorama are absolutely grandiose from the heights of the bay. The Cavalleria lighthouse can be seen from the Tower of Fornells with its old stone walls.
Fornells is a village that’s a little more touristic, I would say because I found that there are quite a few people and holiday homes along the bay near the beach of Fornells.
To finish our Menorcan journey, I continued past Fornells towards the west to discover a small red sand beach called Cala Torta. I didn't go to see the famous Cavalleria lighthouse because the weather wasn't great and there were a lot of visitors that day.
Menorca is an absolutely magnificent and authentic island. A 2-hour flight is enough to get to this wonderful island from many French cities like Bordeaux. It is a small preserved gem that needs to be taken care of for a long time to come if you want to enjoy the rich biodiversity of this island.
In 6 days I didn't have time to visit everything because I wanted to take the time to enjoy each day with a not-too-busy schedule. Having said that, I do intend to go back to discover the places that I couldn't see in 2019 and see the ones I enjoyed the most.