Balearic Islands information

Introduction to the Province of Balearic Islands
The Balearics comprise four main islands – Mallorca, Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera. They have characteristics very distinct from mainland Spain and also from each other. Mallorca, the largest island, is a highly popular holiday destination and contains the capital of the Balearics, Palma. Ibiza is a trendy island of excesses but still offers opportunities to escape the crowds. Menorca is more low-key and genteel whilst Formentera, the smallest of the inhabited Balearics, remains relatively unknown and therefore less over-developed. For beach life, nightlife, fiestas and sun, the Balearics are hard to beat as a holiday destination.

Palma de Mallorca
Palma de Mallorca is the capital city, in fact the only real city, of the Balearics. It is a lively, bustling place and, especially if you arrive by sea, most impressive. Palma makes a great base from which to explore the island and is an easy place to navigate around.

The magnificent Cathedral towers above the main town and even if you are not religious, Sunday morning mass, conducted in Latin, is an event not to be missed. Opposite the Cathedral is the Palau de L’Almudain, the imposing former residence of the kings of Mallorca. Guided tours are available in English.

Palma’s most rewarding experience is to wander around the maze-like streets behind the Cathedral and it is amongst them that you will find the Arabic Baths (Banys Arabs) and the Museum of Mallorca.

Perhaps surprisingly, wining and dining in Palma de Mallorca is less expensive than elsewhere in the Balearics. See below for more on the gastronomy of the islands.

Around the Balearic Islands
Mallorca, the largest of the Balearics, almost has a split personality. The area around the Bay of Palma has been over-developed primarily as a tourist trap and the visitor will find it hard to escape the crowds. But the north and east parts of the island are different and offer a real opportunity for a relaxing holiday in a beautiful environment. In western Mallorca, the town of Port de Soller is probably the most photographed location on the island and from here boat trips are available up and down the coast. In northern Mallorca, the sandy coves at lively Port de Pollenca and Cap de Formentor are excellent. From the town of Pollenca, the Monastery of Lluc, the island’s largest monastic complex, makes for an interesting excursion. In eastern Mallorca, the beaches are more accessible than those in the north and so inevitable busier. Playa de Canyamel is probably the prettiest. For a more natural experience of the island, head to the Boquer Valley or the Sierra de Tramuntana for the best walking routes in Mallorca.

The island of Ibiza, although best known for its excessive partying and gay-friendliness, actually has some beautiful, uncrowded cove beaches and great opportunities for walking. Ibiza Town, the capital of the island, is the most attractive of Ibiza’s towns. Explore the old parts of town on foot, visit the Cathedral and then hit the bars and party all night long. Beaches abound in Ibiza, two of the prettiest and quietest are to be found at Cala Xarraca and Cala d’Hort. Ibiza offers plenty of opportunities for watersports especially at the beach of S’Argamassa.

Menorca has a rich prehistoric past and there are numerous prehistoric monuments dotted all over the island. Mao is the island’s capital, a respectable place, best seen on foot, with a harbour packed with poplular restaurants. Menorca’s only other main town is Ciutadella, a very attractive place to spend a day exploring. Your own transport is advisable to be able to reach the island’s best beaches and pretty harbourside towns, such as Fornells and Cala Turqeta.

Formentera is actually two small islets joined together by a narrow isthmus. It can be reached by boat or hydrofoil from Ibiza, just to the north, and is best treated as a daytrip from that island. One of the nicest spots to visit on the island is Cala Saona.

The Gastronomy of the Balearics
Away from the ubiquitous pizzas and burger offerings, the Balearics islands have a great gastronomy all of their own, heavily influenced by the sea of course.

Caldereta de Langosta, an excellent lobster stew, is a typical Menorcan dish. Tumbet is a Mallorcan speciality, a baked fish, potato, aubergine and egg dish. Trempo is a dressed salad of tomatoes, onions and peppers that accompanies most meals. Pa Amb Oli is a filling dish of bread, olive oil, tomatoes and optionally ham. For a picnic or beach lunch, buy some Coques de Verdures, tasty vegetable filled pastries.

The best known of the islands’ cheeses has got to be Queso de Mahon and the Menorcan town of Alaior is a cheese-lover’s delight to visit. Did you know that mayonnaise (salsa mahonesa) originated here?

The Balearics have a long history of wine making and produce a modest quantity of wines. Look out for Felanitx. The island of Ibiza produces an aniseed-flavoured liqueur, drunk as an aperitif, called Palo. Sample with care!


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