Often neglected in the shadow of her better-known sisters, Mallorca and Ibiza, Menorca sits quietly tucked away to the southeast of Barcelona. While she definitely hasn’t made her name with the nocturnal party animals of Europe, the island has much to offer in terms of the great outdoors, excellent food and rich historical culture. For you photographers and adventure seekers amongst us, her turquoise waters, golden sunsets, coastal coves and lush Mediterranean landscapes may just offer an endless distraction from the many culinary and cultural secrets speckled across the island.
Menorca Beaches and Coastal Exploration
Nothing sounds less alluring to me than overcrowded beaches with screaming children or lobster-red tourists getting hammered in the sun. Thankfully in May, most of Menorca is just waking up from her winter-slumber and still gearing up for the tourism wave that will hit in a few weeks time. Make no mistake though: the sun is hot and the sea is warm enough for a refreshing dip (or epic cliff dive). The biggest secret is that walking a few kilometres away from the beaten path will set you apart from the rowdy crowds. I would highly recommend renting a car or scooter to get around from your place of stay so you can maximise your time in Menorca.
For those of you hiking the perimeter of the island on the Camí de Cavalls, you will most certainly find some beautiful hidden gems of beaches devoid of people. Make sure to catch some early morning sunrises on the east coast or evening sunsets on the west side. From the sneak peeks I got around the island, I can certainly say that the trek is an adventure I will be coming back for when I have a bit more time…
After a good 30 minute walk from the nearest carpark, a dusty forest path opens up to the white sands and brilliant blue waters of Cala Mitjana on the south side of Menorca. It wasn’t a completely empty beach, but amongst my favourites of this trip. I quickly regretted not taking supplies with me on the hike. Make sure to pack a snack and something to drink if you decide to venture here. Luckily for us, we found a man selling ice cold beers and fresh watermelon (godsend) from a cooler on the beach. For the thrill seekers, you will find many a cliff with deep water below. Jump away. Or just soak up the sun on the beach.
Platja de Cavalleria
A little more easily accessible, this beach in the north offers a shorter (10 min) walk from a public car park. They have built a flight of wooden stairs to take you from the scenic cliffs above down to a beautiful beach with white sands.
Illuminating dark coastal caves with a headlamp from the bed of a sea kayak was the highlight of my trip, and, in my opinion, a must for anybody looking to get a new perspective of the island. With naturally formed rock arches, and centuries-old smugglers’ coves, the south coast of Menorca has many views to offer for those willing to venture out by Kayak. After seeing all the coastal turrets and fortresses by land, it’s hard not to imagine the life of pirates and smugglers, whose memories are fossilised in the nooks and crannies of these sharp and gnarled coastal cliffs. Although we had a peaceful swim and adrenaline pumping cliff dive, we were told to look out for jelly-fish. I didn’t see a single one, but be mindful. Unfortunately I didn’t bring any waterproof housing for my camera, so I opted to leave it on shore.
Eating and Drinking in Menorca
Besides sitting on a cliff and taking in the Mediterranean, what better way to enjoy warm sunsets than with a glass of wine in hand? Menorca may not be well known for its vintage, but once again, I was left pleasantly surprised. I can highly recommend making an evening out of Tapas and a taste of the wines that Bodegas Binifadet has to offer. They have a beautiful outdoor terrace in the middle of their vineyard to make the evening a romantic treat for two, or cater to a large group of thirsty photographers and bloggers (as was the case for us).
If you are more into the hard stuff, have I’ve got news for you: Menorca has a local Gin, along with a distillery willing to offer you a taste of all their goods. Head on over to Destilerías Xoriguer. You will be treated by the strong scent of Juniper from the minute you step in.
And let me add… while we are on the topic of gin… make sure to try the local Menorcan cocktail: the Pomada (local gin, and lemonade). There are a few places that could work nicely for that:
Cova d’en Xoroi has a bar built into an old smugglers’ cave overlooking the cliffs on the south coast. We spent an evening there sipping drinks and enjoying the evening sun that pours through the naturally formed “windows” and “balconies” along the cliffs.
But if you would really like to treat yourself to an excellent meal, then visit Es Moli de Foc in Sant Climent. I had a several course meal – the highlight being the crispy pork and lavender potatoes followed by chocolate stout ice-cream made from their home-brewed beer. I’m also going to leave this here: They make a pretty mean Pomada too…
Cities and Culture in Menorca
So before I start to sound like a complete alcoholic, let me say that Menorcan culture has a lot more to offer aside from the gin and wine. The city of Mahón boasts the largest harbour in the Mediterranean, beautiful churches, architecture and winding narrow alleyways to have you exploring for hours. To top it off, (morbid as it sounds), head on over to visit the Lazaretto Island. It was used to quarantine (and banish until death) those unfortunate souls and sailors who had contracted the plague, yellow fever or cholera. Don’t let that put you off though, as the fortress or “institution” is stunning and makes for a pleasant evening stroll with breathtaking sunset views of the harbour. You could also hop on a glass bottom boat tour of the harbour and see the city from the marine perspective.
Chances are, you will also fall in love with the former capitol, Ciutadella. It’s really a city-photographer’s dream with colourful architecture, quiet narrow side streets and hidden Spanish courtyards. The marina is also speckled with cafés and restaurants for a good old-fashioned European session of people watching.
I visited Menorca as part of an event, so I would like to thank VisitSpain and TraverseEvents for inviting me to come along on this wonderful trip. I have an adventurous soul, so for my standards, this was a very slow paced holiday. Just what the doctor ordered. I could get used to this though. I will almost certainly be returning to Menorca with an adventure checklist including:
- Mountain biking around the Island
- Hiking the Camí de Cavalls (and definitely more cliff jumping)
- Paragliding from El Toro
- Scuba Diving
- More Kayaking!
Have you managed to make it out to Menorca? I’d love to hear about your adventures, *especially* if they involve photography. Leave any recommendations in the comments below. If you want to see more of my travel photography, give me a follow on instagram or check out my article on taking better travel photos 🙂