5 years, 9 months ago
How do you like your Balearic? Bigger, quite a bit better known, glamorous in some places not so much in others, a dramatic mountainous landscape and one of Europe’s most famous coastlines?
Or do you prefer small, gentle, diverse, UNESCO Biosphere, historic and a lot less well known but very much loved?
In our opinion it’s not a choice you can make on the place alone. We think you’d really have to decide what type of holiday you wanted and look at the pros and cons of the largest Balearic Island, Majorca and its much smaller neighbour, Menorca.
And even using that single, simple yardstick you’d be stuck to compare like for like. Majorca and Menorca might sit side by side but historically, culturally and environmentally they’re incomparable. Although the islands both share an almost identical climate with roughly 250 days of sunshine, hardly any rain, hot and dry summers, warm winters and you might need a few logs for the stove on the odd evening in January or February.
So will you go Big Balearic or Baby Balearic, see what you think?
…we love you for mountains, cliffs, gorgeous swimmable waters and we completely forgive you for your self-important, second-home-owning celebs and Magaluf.
“you should be pleased the resort exists because it leaves so much of the rest of Majorca for you to enjoy” credit: befuddle
There it is, the elephant in Majorca’s living room, Magaluf. The resort that spawned a million gory tales of youthful excess (we’re being kind here) and basically gave anyone, anywhere the idea that they could just dismiss Majorca as the Spain of picture menus, all day breakfasts and badly behaved boys and girls.
Ignore Majorca on the grounds of Magaluf and you ignore one of Europe’s most enchanting and lovely islands. In fact you should be pleased the resort exists because it leaves so much of the rest of Majorca for you to enjoy.
If you climb or walk or mountain bike or sail, Majorca is magnificent. The vast spine of the Sierra de Tramuntana stretches from North West to North East of the island and makes Majorca truly loved by lovers of outdoor holidays (strenuous and not so strenuous). Tramuntana is also the source of Majorca’s most theatrical coastline with its towering cliffs, deep caverns, hidden coves and crowd-free beaches. And it’s where you’ll find ridiculously pretty villages and towns like Daia and Valldemossa: the writer Robert Graves lived in Daia and Chopin spent time composing in Valldemossa – is it too much if we say inspirational?
Well much as it’s an overused expression, inspirational does really fit in rather well on the bigger Balearic. The Moors liked Majorca so much they stayed for nearly three centuries. Their typically stunning art and architecture, like the Baths in Palma, are just a few of the island’s many legacies stretching from pre-history, through Roman and Byzantine to the modern era of Joan Miró and Miquel Barceló.
Apart from the beaches, heart breaking towns and villages, tremendous mountains and imposing coastlines, Palma de Mallorca – the island’s capital – could quite probably sell us Majorca all by itself. Many visitors just arrive at Palma airport, head off and only return for the flight home, don’t do that. Palma is intrinsically Balearic and the pride of Majorca. From the vast and instantly recognisable Catedral de Palma to the beautifully restored villas and palaces, the elegant shopping streets and enchanting galleries and museums, Palma would be an amazing city to explore anywhere, the fact that it’s the capital of the capital of the Balearics just makes it all the more mesmerising.
And so to Menorca…
If every single Menorcan decided to go to Palma for the day, the residents of Majorca’s capital alone would outnumber them 4-1. So right from the start you know Menorca isn’t an island of big resorts, big yachts and big, boozy gangs of late teens tearing around. Menorca is small and beautiful and intends to stay that way.
The island was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1993 and protecting the Biosphere balance of community, culture and environment is taken seriously here. But that doesn’t mean you have to creep about watching out for the last-of-the-species or that every visitor is well-meaning, worthy and dulling us to death.
credit: Jokin BCN
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Menorca is just as fascinating, historic (more so in some ways), diverse and cultured as Majorca, it’s just a lot less busy.
The island’s ideal for families and mixed age and interest holidays. In the south there are immaculate white beaches, perfect for sunbathing and safe for children.
The more rugged north and east coast is Menorca at its dramatic best with huge headlands like Cap de Cavalleria and Cap Favoritz, imposing lighthouses, great water-sport wind and many of the island’s many, many coves, inlets and hidden bays. And inland, it’s wonderful walks, historic sites, beautiful churches, charming towns and villages and even a mountain (just not what they’d call a mountain on Majorca).
Mahon, Menorca’s capital, rises steeply above a bustling natural harbour towards Mahon Cathedral. Mahon’s lively, pleasantly quaint in places, whitewashed and Mediterranean mostly and neatly punctuated by buildings and paint colours that really only work in this part of the world. Ciutadella, on the opposite coast to Mahon, is where you’ll find historic forts, another vast cathedral, delicious seafood and some very good sailing. In between and all over there are typically Menorcan towns and villages (some sleepy, some not so much) they all have distinct personalities and if you like to cook local these are the places for morning markets.
credit: Anduze traveller
Majorca or Menorca? It’s a difficult choice and one we’ve never been able to make. We like the peace, prettiness and timelessness of Menorca, but then Majorca can do all those things too. And we love the history and spirit of Palma, but Ciutadella and Mahon rate high there as well. Majorca’s eco-villages are breath taking but Menorca’s a UNESCO Biosphere.
Enough said. We’ll leave the decision down to you. But if you want our advice: make an informed choice and visit both. Then decide which is best – if you can!
Featured image by anieto2k.