Balearic Islands Travel Guide


The island of Mallorca is probably the most popular Balearic island, attracting people in their droves since the 1950s. The city of Palma de Mallorca is home to more than 300,000 people and boasts an attractive old quarter, Gothic churches and stylish bars. The north and east of the island are the least developed. The northwest coast is spectacularly beautiful - dominated as it is by the Serra de Tramuntana mountains and boasting cool pine forests, charming villages and attractive olive groves. The region is also ideal for trekking. Formentera is the smallest of the islands and the least developed. Wild rosemary exists in abundance and the island boasts idyllic sandy beaches and fine walking and cycling trails. So whether it’s the legendary nightlife in Ibiza, the cool forests of Majorca, the fine beaches of Formentera or the prehistoric remains in Menorca, the Balearic Islands offer a range of unforgettable holiday experiences.

Ibiza - Eivissa in Catalan - is stunningly beautiful with a rugged coastline indented with coves and fine sandy beaches. The nightlife on the island is renowned. Ibiza is home to some of Spain’s largest and most famous discos and offers an unrivalled summer club scene. Ibiza is invaded every summer by a multinational force of hedonistic sunseekers. It has fine beaches, relentless sunshine, good food and wild nightlife. Inland, the landscape is harsh, dry and rocky. The beaches at Las Salinas and Es Caballet are two of the most popular on the island.
The old medieval district of Ciudad de Ibiza (Ibiza Town), the capital of the island, sports narrow cobblestone streets, picturesque whitewashed houses and Gothic buildings around courtyards bright with blooming geraniums and bougainvillea. The old town, enclosed by historic walls and entered through the Puerta de las Tablas, contains some interesting sights, most noteworthy of which is the Archaeological Museum. The museum contains artefacts from prehistoric sites on the Balearic Islands, dating as far back as the Punic period between the 5th and 7th centuries BC. Also in the old town is the cathedral with its 10th-century Gothic tower and 18th-century Baroque nave.

La Salinas
One of Ibiza’s famous landmarks are the salt flats, La Salinas, close to the airport on the southern-most tip of the island. The saltpans have been in use for more than 2,000 years, since the earliest colonists, the Carthaginians, traded in the ‘white gold’ left in the pans when water evaporates in the hot summer months. The sparkling salt lakes provide one of the world’s most beautiful sunset photograph opportunities.

The tiny island of Formentera covers 35 square miles (90 sq km) and is home to just over 5,000 people. It can only be reached by ferry from Ibiza town, with a regular service running every two hours. The island is a popular day trip from Ibiza, and is relatively unspoilt by tourism development; accommodation options are very limited. The main attraction of this flat piece of land are some pretty villages and marvellous beaches flanked by palms and pines, many frequented by nudists.

The windswept island of Menorca is the second largest in the Balearics. Declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1993, it is full of prehistoric relics and monuments dating from three main periods: the Pre-Talayotic Period (cave era), the Talayotic Period (Bronze Age), and the Post-Talayotic Period (Iron Age). Menorca is still relatively untouched by tourism and there are miles of unspoiled beaches to enjoy. Menorca's main city, Ciutadella, (also known to Muslim's as Median Minurqa) is a 17th-century vision that arose from the ashes of the 1558 Turkish motto, invade-and-raze. Sometimes referred to as 'Vella i Bella' (the Old and the Beautiful)it's an attractive and distinctly Spanish city with a picturesque port and an historic old quarter.

Palma de Mallorca
Palma, capital of the autonomous region of the Balearic Islands, is a lively, cosmopolitan city in true Spanish tradition, its city centre forming a bustling montage of shopping centres, a maze of narrow lanes and restored buildings surrounded by ruined ancient city walls, and modern boulevards. Like mainland Spain, Mallorca and Palma itself was under Moorish control between the nineth and 13th centuries until the re-conquest by Jaume I of Aragon.Palma's imposing Gothic cathedral, La Seo, is the town's main feature and worth at least an afternoon. When you've roamed over it, it's time to turn your attention to musuems full of religious artefacts, the town's fine Gothic architecture and the last remaining traces of Turkish occupation.

This attractive town owes its fame largely to Frédéric Chopin and his lover George Sand, who spent their famous 'winter of discontent' (1938-39) in Cartuja de Valldemossa. This former monastery was converted into rental accommodation after the monks were turfed out in 1835. Today you can visit the lovely gardens and rooms: highlights of the tour are Chopin's piano, his death mask and several of his original manuscripts.

The idyllic town of Deià has a bohemian feel: the setting is stunning and it has attracted a large number of artists, writers and musicians over the years. English poet Robert Graves died here in 1985 and is buried in the hillside cemetery. The town's main street is lined with artists' workshops and galleries selling locally produced work. There are also many bars and cafes where you can sketch, write poetry, or just have a beer. Beside the church is the Museu Parroquial, which has an interesting collection of religious effects, icons and old coins. The Archaeological Museum & Research Centre displays artefacts found in the Valldemossa area. On the coast, Cala de Deià has popular swimming spots and bar-restaurants. Daily buses run from Palma to Deià.

Soller, set in a lush valley of orange groves between the mountains and the sea, half way along the northwest coast of the island, is a popular day-tripper destination because it can be reached on a vintage train ride from Palma. The town is awash with tempting pastry shops, ice-cream parlours and tapas bars in its quaint squares, but there is more to do than just eat and drink. There are some good examples of modernist architecture, like the church of Saint Bartomeu with its 1912 arched tower above a rose window, and needle-like spires. There are also two museums: the Natural Science Museum displaying fossils and the Museu Municipal filled with antiques.

The resort of Port d’Alcudia is situated in the north of Mallorca at the top of a long curving bay with an endless white sandy beach. It is two miles (three km) south of the historical old town of Alcudia, from which it takes its name. The sprawling, purpose-built resort, together with its neighbour Playa de Muro, stretches for five miles (eight km) either side of the coast road and is particularly popular with British, German and Scandinavian families. It has a fairly relaxed atmosphere; its spectacular beach is the major attraction, though it is also well placed for exploring the attractions around the north of the island. Although you can see remnants of its ancient past, the town has a slightly sanitised feel and most of the medieval walls encircling it are a modern copy. Just outside the walls are the remains of the Roman city of Pollètia, 1200 sq m (2150 sq ft) of which have been excavated and opened to the public. The Pollentia Museum in Alcúdia exhibits archaeological finds from the site. If you're not bored of Roman remains, you can also pretend to be a gladiator in the ruined amphitheatre.

Coves del Drac (Caves of the Dragon)
With almost 2000m (6550ft) of caves and six subterranean lakes, this attraction is not for the claustrophobic. The caves were discovered near Porto Cristo on the east coast in 1896, and today crowds of visitors come for the hour-long multilingual tour - be prepared to queue if you come at a weekend. The beautifully illuminated clusters of stalactites and stalagmites are named after things they resemble, though inevitably some labels are more obvious than others. The highlight of the tour is classical musicians playing from boats on a large underground lake. Inspired by this evocative spectacle, you can take a boat ride across the lake before you leave the caves.

The tiny island of Formentera covers 35 square miles (90 sq km) and is home to just over 5,000 people. It can only be reached by ferry from Ibiza town, with a regular service running every two hours. The island is a popular day trip from Ibiza, and is relatively unspoilt by tourism development; accommodation options are very limited. The main attraction of this flat piece of land are some pretty villages and marvellous beaches flanked by palms and pines, many frequented by nudists. The best way to explore it is on a rented moped. The main port is La Sabina, and the other villages include beautiful Las Salinas, San Francisco Javier and San Fernando, all featuring quaint white-washed houses. Recommended beaches are Es Pujols in the north, Mitjorn in the south, and Cala Saona in the wild west. Other beaches of note are En Boster, Ca’n Xico Mateu and the natural port of Es Calo. The highest point on the island is in the southeast corner at El Mirador.

Illa de Cabrera
In the middle of the tourist mayhem that hits the islands every summer, Cabrera is a haven of isolation. The entire island was made a nature preserve in 1991 and access is controlled by the Spanish National Institute for the Conservation of Nature. But if you can finagle a permit to visit the island make the most of the opportunity. This uninhabited island sits around 20km (12mi) off the south coast of Mallorca.

La Savina
The island of La Savina, just to the north of Ibiza, is definitely a get-away-from-it-all destination. Favoured by passenger ships, fishing boats and luxury yachts because of its main port, the town is a small and rather sleepy affair which nevertheless runs to a few restaurants, shops and holiday accommodation.

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