The list of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean must always include little Menorca. Despite its popularity, it has managed to stay authentic and remain completely intact. 48 kilometres long and 16 kilometres wide, it is the second-largest of the Balearic Islands, after Majorca. This small strip of land is a perfect cocktail of sun, sea, nature and tranquillity laced with a fine base of exquisitely-produced local gin. It’s the ideal destination for any type of holiday, whether for small groups, large gatherings or family get-togethers. You can arrive there by ferry or plane and the best way to move around quickly (and with maximum flexibility and spontaneity) is with a low-cost car rental, which you can easily find on the Auto Europe price comparison website. As a world-renowned car rental company with almost seventy years’ experience, they guarantee you unbeatable offers for any category of car, including small vans, luxury vehicles and even campers. In high season and during the Easter holidays it is highly recommended that you book well in advance as availability tends to sell out very quickly.
Due to its strategic location in the Mediterranean, Menorca boasts a long history and has been occupied by many invaders, including the Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians, Vandals, Arabs and English. To get an idea of its fascinating past, the best place to start is at the Museum of Mahon in the island’s capital where you’ll also find a beautiful natural harbour and a charming Old Town dotted with squares teeming with life. The former capital (and still Menorca’s largest religious centre) is located on the other side of the island and bears the name of Ciutadella de Menorca. We recommend going there in the afternoon so you can stroll around observing its historic buildings before stopping for dinner and enjoying some cocktails in the vibrant port area. However, if you want to become even more familiar with the island’s origins, you should go and admire Naveta d'Es Tudons not far from Ciutadella, a great example of a stone funerary structure for collective burials built around 1200 BC. And your amazement won’t end there because in Menorca there are many taulas dating back to 500-300 BC which are reminiscent of the megalithic structures of Stonehenge. One of these sites is located in Talatí de Dalt, just outside Mahon.
With your car rental you can really take advantage of Menorca’s wonderful beaches and hidden coves. Depending on what you’re looking for, you can opt for the sandier beaches of the southern part of the island or the rockier and more rugged ones in the north. No matter where you go though, please don’t expect much in the way of services; indeed, the best places are often the most basic. In the south-west you’ll find the famous and almost Caribbean-like Son Saura and Son Bou with their fine white sands, Cala 'n Turqueta with its clear, turquoise waters and many smaller, less-frequented pearls such as Cala Macarella, Cala Macarelleta and Cala Mitijana. From Cala Galdana (following the coastline east towards Punta Prima) you will come across a fairy-tale fishing village called Binibeca, which is well worth a quick detour. On the way you can stop for a cocktail in Cova d'en Xoroi, a scenic bar dug into the cliffs overlooking the sea. To the north there’s Cala Morell with lots of nearby prehistoric caves, Cala Pregonda with its flame-red sands, the beach of Cavalleria and last but not least, Cala Tirant. If you want to treat yourself to an amazing seafood lunch, the fishing village of Fornells is renowned for its lobster soup called caldereta de langosta, a local delicacy. You can also rent motorboats or yachts for sea cruises where you can admire the island from a new perspective and even reach some of Menorca’s more remote beaches.
The landscapes, flora and fauna of Menorca deserve a special mention, especially as Unesco classified the island as a biosphere reserve in 1993. The centrepiece is the Natural Park of S'Albufera des Grau, a wetland with five islets that extends to the Island of En Colom and the Cape of Faváritx. The area is particularly notable for the richness of its plants, including tamarind and ornithological species, as well as the many ducks to be seen there. Another very important area is the Riserva Marina del Nord which stretches from the bay of Fornells to Cape Gros, inside which you can even observe groupers and lobsters between Cala Barril and Puntal del Mar, along with frequent sightings of cormorants. So much beauty deserves to be appreciated in its entirety, so for this reason you should climb up to Menorca’s highest point – Monte Toro – at an altitude of 358 metres. But if you do not feel like hiking you can get to the top by car and visit the sanctuary of Verge del Toro while you are there.
As mentioned at the beginning, gin has been produced in Menorca since the nineteenth century thanks largely to the influence of the English who love this drink and transmitted their passion to the local people. Founded in 1700, the historic Xoriguer distillery at the mill of the Pons family is located in the port of Mahon and makes for a very pleasant excursion. Besides going down to the cellar where you can see the gin-making machinery through the windows, you can visit the on-site shop to enjoy free tastings and buy the various products. However, if you prefer wine you certainly won’t be disappointed. Wine-making on the island dates back to the 14th century, but the cultivation of vines is not easy because of the destructive tramontane winds which often affect production. Once again it was the British that made a positive contribution to its production which, despite a boom in the nineteenth century, has slowly diminished. However, more recently there has been a revival, especially of reds such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as Malvasia and Chardonnay whites. Right in the middle of the island there is the Hort de Sant Patrici establishment which comprises a hotel, restaurant and shop-museum where you can taste not only the company’s wines and cheeses but many other delicacies made on the island. In any case, even without leaving the capital, you can enjoy a visit and impromptu taste of the island’s traditional products and dishes on a brief tour of Mahon’s markets, which are always bursting with colour and fine aromas. Those who have a sweet tooth should taste the pastries made with bitter almonds called los amargos and ensaimada, a soft snail either empty or with fillings of various kinds such as chocolate or pumpkin jam. There’s also a local curiosity to consider: one of the possible origins of mayonnaise (which is still under discussion) suggests that it comes from Menorca and the similarity of its name with the toponym Mahon would seem to give the theory some credence.
Have you ever thought you would read an article so full of interesting things to see and do on an island like Menorca? The simple answer is yes, and the tourists who choose to visit always take home a lot of emotions and plenty of positive energy. And in their luggage you’ll probably find a bottle of gin, plus a sobresata and queso di Mahon (a sausage and cow's cheese, respectively), a pair of typical leather sandals with pneumatic soles called avarcas, some pottery and a few finely decorated jewels. So be quick and book your trip today!