The Balearic Islands


Ibiza has long been the star attraction of Spain’s Balearic Islands, but the spotlight might be shifting. Developers have turned their attention to marinas, beach clubs and restaurants on some of the lesser-known islands, turning the Balearics into one of the hottest yacht destinations
in the world.

For years Menorca has been the mellow but unsophisticated sibling in the Balearic family. General Franco held a grudge against Menorca’s people and denied them funds for development. Ironically, this has preserved the rolling landscape of Menorca that we find today, devoid of big motorways and high-rise hotels. The tempo here is slow, so don’t expect Ibiza’s epic club scene. Club Cova d’en Xoro for example, is set in a series of caves half way up a cliff and the vibe is more Spanish guitar than Café del Mar – a soothing place for a sundowner. Ibiza has ‘Sublimotion’, a restaurant where cinema screens complement each dish and set lunch costs £1,200 per head. In contrast Menorca has places like Es Pla in Fornells, and King Juan Carlos has been known to make a detour for the lobster stew. At Torralbenc, one of Spain’s most celebrated young chefs Paco Morales is causing a stir with his take on simple dishes such as potato and truffle omelette.

The old capital of Ciutadella has a quaint, almost Italian feel, with shuttered buildings and cobbled streets that tumble into a tiny harbour. The beaches in the north are wild and rugged and the coves in the south – Cala Mitjana, Macarella and Cala en Turqueta – are as pretty as anything you’ll find in the Caribbean. Unique to Menorca are the annual summer fiestas held from June to September. Sleepy towns spring to life with the clattering of drums and hooves, as local riders show off their skills on the famous Menorquín horses. Boys lunge from the crowd to touch the horses’ chests for luck, locals throw hazelnuts for love and sip on gin and bitter lemon. This is as racy as things get on Menorca – a chic place to do very little indeed.

Long associated with glamour and celebrity, Mallorca has much to offer as a yachting destination. It boasts great food and wine, spectacular scenery and many isolated beaches that are still tricky to reach by foot. The wild peninsula of Cap de Formentor is one of the most picturesque places on the island, followed closely by the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range. The Idyllic fishing village of Soller is now home to an architectural feat – the Jumeirah Spa Resort. The hotel snakes along a cliff, appearing to float between sea and sky. 

Mallorca is a magnet for cyclists and the Puig Major climb behind Soller is the most challenging on the island. For the gourmands among you, the Michelin-starred restaurant Es Raco d’es Teix is perched on a hillside in the village of Deià. Further south, Sa Foradada is a great anchorage beneath dramatic rock formations, and at Sa Calobra you can walk through caves to a lagoon at the base of the mountains. Andratx is home to the vineyard La Bodega Santa Catarina where visitors can taste excellent Blanc de Blanc and sit in the shade with a picnic basket of bread, cheese and sobrasada – a skinless chorizo. 

And Palma has come into its own in recent years thanks to the conversion of so many old palacios into trendy boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. The opening of Purobeach Club in 2005 was big news, and Philippe Stark gave the Port Adriano marina an impressive makeover in 2012. Stroll through the medieval quarter of La Calatrava and stop for coffee on the tree-lined shopping promenade of Passeig del Born to watch the world go by. Ten nautical miles south of Mallorca lies the uninhabited islet of Cabrera, a nature reserve. You can anchor in the bay and walk to the 17th Century castle, and later visit the spectacular Blue Cave grotto by tender.

This low-lying island of heathery scrub, stone walls and boardwalks is a favourite for hippies and naturists, and the vibe is still free spirited and easy going. At only an hour’s cruise from Ibiza, it didn’t take long for the yacht crowd to catch on when Formentera restaurateurs first pitched their white parasols in the sand and started cracking open the lobster and the rosé. 

Restaurants Es Molí De Sal and Juan y Andrea are destinations in themselves, where guests settle in for an afternoon of gazpacho and paella served by waiters in crew-like uniforms. Formentera is the perfect place to escape to after Ibiza gets too much, but be warned: in spite of its new sophistication, most of Formentera’s beaches remain unofficially nudist, so the dress code in some places is still ‘zero’.

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