Bitesized guide: The Balearic Islands

Published on: Thursday, June 4, 2009
Bitesized guide: The Balearic Islands - Lighthouse, Minorca, Spain


For the second of our bitesized guide series to the Mediterranean's finest island destinations, we slurp sangria, feel white sand between our toes, and dance until dawn in the Balearics' holidaying quartet: Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera.

Why go?

These four sunny isles may be closely nestled in the same glittering turquoise waters, but the Balearics’ inhabited islands possess very different characters indeed. Whether you crave diving beneath the waves or becoming submerged amid a throng of clubbers, an icy cocktail at the buzzing pool bar or a brisk mountain hike, hazy vistas from a roof terrace or leisurely saunters along sweeping white beaches, Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera are bursting with treats to indulge all holiday persuasions.

Which island is for me?

A recent slathering of high-end accommodation has done much to broaden the island’s appeal and help balance out the booze ‘n’ bake package holiday associations. While these slick new resorts have injected many built-up beach areas with a touch of glamour, inland, the undulating landscape remains as rugged and striking as ever. The attractive capital Palma is a popular urban spot, boasting fashionable people, quality eateries and bubbling nightlife.

Less developed and more tranquil than Mallorca, Menorca appeals to those in search of relaxed sunny days far from the hustle and bustle. Hazy beach life is well and truly at the fore of Menorca’s draw, with an abundance of sandy strips perfect for lazing in the heat. As well as being rich in attractive coastline and sparkling waters, the island’s attractions include Prehistoric monuments and the urban areas of Ciutadella and Mahón.

Ibiza’s round-the-clock party scene, featuring flamboyant venues and the clubbing world’s most established names, continues to draw hedonism-hungry travellers from around the globe; dance fiends flock to the likes of Space and Pacha, whilst others watch the sun sink from San Antonio’s ‘sunset strip’ or kick back on the terrace at El Divino in Ibiza Town. While the party scene is king, Ibiza has plenty for those wanting to escape hypnotic beats: explore the cobbled streets of Ibiza Old Town, visit one of the island’s 60 or so beaches, or head north to Portinax for snorkelling and hiking.

This tiny puddle of land, just a few kilometres south and about half-an-hour’s jet boat whizz from Ibiza, is the antithesis of its famous neighbour. Inaccessible by air, Formentera welcomes a steady summer trickle of tranquillity-seeking travellers to its shores with long, glinting beaches, crystal waters and the mantra that slower is most definitely better; practice some yoga, fill up on fresh seafood and while away the hours on idyllic slices of sandy shoreline, such as Migjorn or Illetes. (The more reserved traveller should be aware that many of Formentera’s beaches are unofficially nudist).

Where to stay

Convent de la Misso
Beautiful wood and stone features adorn this converted monastery, which boasts a Japanese rooftop garden and basement Turkish spa.
Budget: Misión de San Miguel
Another relative newbie on Mallorca’s hotel scene, this stylish spot, complete with colonial touches, offers a good value stay.

Hotel Biniarroca
A former farmhouse, this high-end boutique hotel is now one of the top hotels on the island, with two pools, a poolside bar and pretty green gardens. No children allowed.
Budget: Club Hotel Sur Menorca
This lively resort is a reliable option for clean rooms and friendly service, with three on-site restaurants, and activities to suit all ages.

El Hotel
For a soothing dose of luxury to complement a party-hard break, the soft and stylish rooms of El Hotel are just what the extravagant clubber ordered.
Budget: Invisa Hotel Club Cala Verde
Attentive service, cheerful rooms and stunning views can be found at this popular hotel.

Cap de Barbária
Airy rooms, a spacious pool and delicious red wine produced on the grounds make this an ideal place to partake in Formentera’s laid-back mentality.
Budget: Las Banderas
Arty types flock to this colourful beachside spot and the eight rooms are swiftly snapped up in the summer months.

Did you know?

The Balearics are the birthplace of mayonnaise. The chip-dip and sandwich staple was invented in the Menorcan city of Mahón.