Finding an unspoiled, uncrowded sunny travel destination within Europe has become more daunting than ever with mass tourism taking over every spot to secretly tan our peachy bum. Fortunately, not all is lost and not far from the hustle and bustle of party island Ibiza and a short flight from ‘magnífico turismo’ Mallorca, lies the smaller, easternmost Balearic Island, Minorca. This stunning, quiet island is somewhat frozen in time, but well-kept with beautiful shores and luxurious hotels. My mom has been dreaming about this Spanish flower since her early twenties so it was about time to finally give this ‘momma knows best’ thing a go, and dangit was she right, AGAIN!
Minorca is still an unspoiled, hidden gem in the Mediterranean Sea and will thankfully remain that way as it’s protected by Unesco laws. With its pristine harbors and an almost infinite amount of beaches (120 in total), Minorca doesn’t seem to be fazed by the new wave of tourism trying to make its way to the island. Perhaps due to the minimal amount of direct flights from the mainland or because of the ultra calm winter season that runs from early October through late April (enough time for the locals to get some needed rest after summer season) This island is ready to take on any traveler, looking for a city trip, beachy holiday or active vacation.
The 45-minute drive from one side of the island, the capital Mahon, to the other side, former capital Ciutadella, takes you through Minorca’s dusty countryside and tree-filled scenery. Where the southeast of the island is more flat with little brick-stacked fences dividing plots of dry, grassland into perfect squares. The west side features green hills and grand stables where the famous Minorquin Horse or Cavall Menorui are being bred and kept. The north and south side of the island are decked with pearl white beaches or darker mud-ish medicinal sandy shores.
In this guide I share with you everything you need to know to plan your vacation in Minorca.
MINORCA’S CAPIT, MAHON
Only a 5-minute drive from the airport is the capital of Minorca, Mahón or Maò (pronounced like you’re enjoying, yawning the letter M). Famous for it’s strategically located harbor, it is said that whoever controls Mahon, controls the Mediterranean. Beautiful yachts and commercial boats flaunt their hauls in the port while tourist can take little trips on tour-boats to the island’s hidden coves and secret beaches. Being one of the more expensive harbors in the world, the prices to dock your beloved boat are considerably higher then others, making it far less crowded. Strolling past the beautiful vessels there’s an array of choices of restaurants, bars and lounge cafés like Paputs Burger and Cocktail bar.
SHOE SHOPPING AND SIESTA’S:
Mahon’s cobblestone streets are impeccably kept and magnificent Georgian buildings emerge in between traditional townhouses. Two things I adore about this Spanish city are the 2-hour siesta’s and its shoe shopping. Ses Moreras, Calle Nou and Sa Raveleta are the go-to streets for the fashionista and ‘Pretty Balerinas’ are Minorca’s pride and joy. If you can’t find anything up to your liking in Mahon (you’re foolish and maybe even a bit too high maintenance for my liking but I’ll let you in on a little secret) you can always make your way to the Pretty Ballerina outlet (yes I said: OUTLET!!!) in Mascaro, only a 20 min drive from Mahon.
If you’re deciding to escape the city during the siesta, meaning shops wont be open between 1-4pm, take your appetite to Bodega Binifadet. This winery and lovely restaurant are only a 10 minute drive from the center Mahon. You can go here for a quick little tour of their vineyard and taste a couple of wines before eating the most lovely fresh fish and variety of cheeses.
STAYING IN MAHON:
Looking for a place to stay we found some charming hotels dotted around town, like the renovated townhouses Casa Telmo, Jardi de ses Bruixes and the rather new Casa Ladico. You can book Casa Telmo through Airbnb making it the more affordable but also most adorable one of the three (see what I did there). This bed and breakfast has only 5 rooms, but we wouldn’t mind ‘getting kidnapped and never let go’ in any of them.
Jardi de ses Bruixes, created by power couple Ajna and Fernando, also has a small selection of rooms but is expanding with another 8 and a private spa. Located within walking distance to the city center and harbor this quiet hotel is really a little home-away-from-home. The food is all locally sourced and the courtyard a perfectly cozy first, second or anniversary date-spot.
Casa Ladico only opened its doors a couple of months ago but is the most stylish out of the three with an amazing restaurant and most charming manager. When deciding to stay for dinner, always go for the chef’s menu if possible. This 30 euro, 6-course meal’s quality is right up there with any 5-star restaurant.
For our 4 night trip we stayed about 10 minutes outside of Minorca in the beautiful Torralbenc. This hotel is designed in and around an old finca, Spanish farm, featuring many authentic styles and respecting the old heritage. Torralbenc has about 22 rooms and is surrounded by vineyards featuring stunning views over the Mediterranean Sea. The rooms are white, beige and homey and the restaurant has a small but fancy menu. It was at the top of our budget but also at the top of our bucket list.
THE BASILICA AND OLD TOWN OF CIUTADELLA:
On the east coast of the island, you’ll find the grand city of Ciutadella with its stunning Cathedral Basilica. This Roman Catholic church was built in the late 1300’s and shows of a combination of neoclassical styles and gothic interiors.
Not far from this grand church is the old part of town that thrives around the old-fashioned fish market, Mercat des Peix, at Plaza de la Libertad. This 150-year-old market is surrounded by little stalls selling fresh produce and local specialties. In the wings of the marketplace, all sort of meat is being presented by stern but loving butchers. And located underneath the green and white tiled archways are two of the most famous bars, S’Aguait and Ulisses.
LOCAL DELICATESSENS, GIN AND SHOPPING IN CIUTADELLA:
The streets of Ciutadella are proper and the houses are painted in a variety of Pantone colors making it an Instagrammers dream location (if only I was lucky enough to possess a skillset of such). You’ll find little local shops alternating hip concept stores. And a variety of fancy restaurants and bodega’s where the city slicker sips on a Pomado cocktail, a mix of the original Minorcan gin and lemonade. Another island treat is the original Sobrassada, a raw cured sausage made with, ground pork, paprika, salt and other spices. Two undeniable delicious no-no’s for the health freaks but oh-so-good-treats for the lovers of good food.
STAYING IN CIUTADELLA:
A stay at the beautiful Grupe el Carme’s Hotel Tres Sants will give your city trip all the feels. Conveniently located in the heart of the old town, this unique boutique hotel is tastefully decorated with great rates. And if you’re so lucky to get to spend another night in this wonderful town (which we were not, just my Dutch luck) also a great place to stay is Can Faustino, a bit more upscale but totally affordable. This charming little palace has stunning views overlooking the ancient harbor and will make you feel at home in a heartbeat.
THE BEACHES OF MINORCA:
Most beaches in Minorca are what they call, Virgin beaches. You know the kind of unspoiled, untouched, untainted shores where no food is being served and sunbeds are nowhere to be found. The kind that make you feel like you’re in the early 70’s where you’re not being looked weirdly upon if you decide to bronze your bare breasts. The kind we all long for but never dare to admit. Some require a 20 minute hike in the blazing sun or a 15 minute walk through a mazy pine tree forest like the beautiful beach of Cala Mitjana. Others are easier to get to and have the whitest sands and turquoise waters, like Son Saura. Actually all beaches in the south have the whitest sands and turquoise waters making any beach you go to the the perfect choice.
There’s also a variety of beaches that are more populated and will have sunbeds and little restaurants but will also be more crowded. The beaches near Cala Caldana and San Tomas have the bigger resorts, making them more of a tourist trap.
The north of the island shows quite a different but as beautiful array of beaches. The sand is darker, reddish and rockier but apparently has medicinal powers to it. All beaches are quite a longer walk from the car then the ones in the south but, come on they have super powers! (Does this mean we can all become Powerrangers?!) The most popular ones are Cala Pregonda, Cala Cavallería and Cala del Pilar and are only a 25 min drive from Mahon.
MORE THINGS TO DO ON THE ISLAND:
Since we only had a limited amount of time and took full advantage of the 3 hour siesta to get our proper rest, we missed out on a couple of really lovely attractions. For example, the Xoriguer Gin Distillery (I know, how can I have missed this one!?) where you can get a taste of Minorca’s traditional gin. Or the Camí de Cavalls which is a 3-day walk (also able to be done in pieces obviously) that takes you around the island to discover the beaches, rocks, pinewoods and cliffs of Minorca. We did visit the little fisherman’s village of Binibèquer but the sun was down and we didn’t get the full effect of the sugarcoated-like houses and picturesque alleys and streets, so… until next time.
Enough reasons for us to return to the island very soon before the world finds out about this ‘end of the rainbow’ kind of paradise.
Have you visited the Balearic islands? Which is your favourite and why? Please share your own tips with our readers in the comments below! Read Next > How To Spend 3 Days In Mallorca