Majorca and Menorca: A pocket guide
Spain’s Balearic Islands don’t have to work too hard to embody the perfect island vacation, as Majorca and Menorca are blessed with idyllic natural and man-made attributes that bring visitors back time and time again: the perfect deep blue Mediterranean Sea; 300-plus days of annual sunshine; hundreds of miles of coastline; secluded coves, beaches, and bays; and a choice of the very best luxury villas to stay in. Majorca, the larger of the two islands, has a dazzling and varied landscape. The north coast boasts some of Spain’s most stunning scenery: minuscule coves, rugged and wild forests and mountains, dizzying drops to the sea, picturesque medieval villages, and enchanting little ports—it is where the most fabulous properties are located. The south is dominated by the cosmopolitan island capital, Palma; its Gothic cathedral is quite fabulous and the Old Town a jewel of the Baroque. The east is an enticing mix of bays, long sweeps of beaches, and spectacular caves. Perhaps unexpectedly, Majorca is also home to one of Spain’s finest restaurants, a two-Michelin-starred gastronomic delight. Shoppers will enjoy the famous Mallorquin leather and linen products, while cultural aficionados who can tear themselves away from sea life will be spoiled with the wealth of medieval, Gothic, Baroque, and Moorish churches, monasteries, fortresses, and unspoiled villages with winding streets and little cafes.
Menorca is only just now emerging from its big sister’s shadow, in part because of the arrival of a couple of truly gorgeous private villas where privacy and luxury are paramount. Like a fish’s backbone, one main road only links Menorca’s two main towns with coves, beaches, and a handful of tiny towns—others can be reached only by foot, particularly the island’s rocky and wild north coast. Ciutadella, a beautifully preserved eighteenth-century Baroque village, is one of the most enchanting anywhere in the Balearics.
Tourists are nothing new to these islands—they were conquered successively by Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Christians, and Moors. Slightly less possessive but equally curious visitors came later, most famously George Sand and Frederic Chopin, whose lodgings in Valdemossa can still be visited today; Anais Nin and Robert Graves swam every day in Soller. Today modern royalty and A-list Hollywood actors come to get away from the paparazzi in their fabulous villas or yachts.