Balearic Islands holidays

Experience Balearic Islands

Experience [destination]

Best Places to Visit

Palma de Mallorca is the capital city of Majorca and is, in fact, the only city on the island, in the truest sense of the word. It also serves as the capital of the Balearic group as a whole and is a popular tourist destination for keen sightseers spending time anywhere in the archipelago - especially those based on Majorca for the duration of their trip. It is home to half of the entire population of Majorca, along with some of the most impressive architecture, such as the imposing cathedral, which contrasts with the more humble construction of the narrow and winding streets of the old town.

While Ibiza has a reputation as a party island, its old town—Dalt Vila, in Catalan—flies in the face of this, offering an enjoyably relaxing peek into the island's past. Since 1986, the Catalan name Eivissa has been used officially for the entire town, incorporating both the Dalt Vila and the more modern Eixample, which literally means 'extension', but in both English and Spanish you're more likely to hear the town simply referred to as Ibiza. Built on a hill, the Dalt Vila sparkles white in the strong sunshine, a truly captivating skyline for all who see it.

In Minorca, a gentle hike along the coast can be well worth the effort, thanks to the relatively recently introduced coastal path. This bridges inlets that you would previously have had to trek inland to get around, with boardwalks along the easiest routes between the sand dunes. This in turn helps to preserve the dunes around the path and links up the individual resorts and beaches into a single circuit. Just remember to wear suitable clothing and footwear, take some means of hydration and emergency contact, and be careful around cliff edges where there may not be a guardrail.

The island of Cabrera itself is more likely to be a destination for a day trip than for the full duration of your visit. It's just off Majorca's southern coastline and was declared a nature reserve in 1991, which means access is tightly controlled. As a consequence of this, even though only a small part of the island is open to tourists, you may still feel as though you are marooned there. The abundant and protected local wildlife only adds to this effect, with fishing and hunting both banned outright, and rules against picking the flowers or otherwise harming the plant life.

Top Landmarks

While the entirety of Ibiza Old Town is worthy of exploration, for most visitors the trek to its summit is probably the main intention, and is rewarded with a view of the 14th century cathedral at the very top of the hill. Known varyingly as Santa Maria d'Eivissa, Catedral de la Verge de les Neus (Our Lady of the Snows) or simply as Ibiza Cathedral, its rectilinear shape is unmistakeable on the skyline from even quite far away, while its tower reaches higher into the sky than any of the surrounding structures, except for the occasional crane being put to good use in nearby construction or conservation work.

Mao, or Mahon, is the capital of Minorca and again proves to be an irresistible draw for many tourists during their stay on the island. In particular, its harbour is a stand-out landmark not only in terms of the island itself, but for the entire archipelago, and is particularly popular among British visitors. It comes in second only to Pearl Harbour as the world's largest natural deep water ports, and this gave it huge value at a time when several European countries—notably Spain, France and Britain—were keen to keep their navy fleets there. Various influences from the three cultures are still apparent on the island. One of Britain's most enduring contributions was a love of gin, which is often served mixed with bitter lemon soda as Minorca's own iconic beverage to be sampled from street sellers during the time of fiesta.

Entertainment

Traditional Spanish entertainment can be enjoyed throughout the Balearics. Minorca's fiesta season from late June through until early September means that - on any given weekend - there should be a major celebration in one or more of the island's towns and villages. You don't need to dress smartly for this - in fact, jeans and comfortable footwear are recommended. Once you arrive to the right town, simply follow the crowds to where the action is taking place, as you should find almost everybody walking en masse in the same direction. A long-held tradition says it is good luck to touch the underneath of a Spanish horse as it rears up on its hind legs, but we wouldn’t recommend this – it’s not worth risking serious injury.

Ibiza of course has its infamous nightlife, and for many people this sets the pace of their stay on the island, with the bars starting to get busy from 7pm onwards. The 'party island' reputation is not entirely fair, as there are entire resorts that are much more accommodating of families, with a much gentler and quieter atmosphere. If you do find yourself in one of the party resorts, the world-famous large nightclubs are the place to be, if you have the budget to cover the cost of entry and of drinks once you're inside. Be careful not to end up sleeping under the stars on the beach, however, as this is against the law in Ibiza and police patrol the beaches regularly.

Dining Out

Certain dishes have to be high on the list of potentials for anyone visiting Spain's mainland or islands and of course the Balearics are no different. Paella is widely available—expect to have to order it for two or more people to share, due to the size of the dish—and this can combine seafood with chicken, chorizo, vegetables and colourful rice. Tapas is not just a meal, but is a social experience in its own right, as you and your cohort dip into multiple small dishes of meaty morsels and herb-infused vegetables, providing plenty of variety and a memorable bonding experience.

For a simple, but satisfying, dish, try an authentic Spanish tortilla; this is not in the sense of tortilla chips or nachos, which is probably how the word is most familiar to many Brits, but is the traditional recipe for a Spanish omelette, a fried dish of deep fluffy eggs with potatoes dotted throughout them. To round off your meal in true Spanish style, accompany your food with a local Spanish cerveza, or have a jug of Sangria brought out with your tapas to complement the sharing experience in another way.

Need to know

Need to know [destination]

Language

Residents of the Balearic Islands have two official languages. Catalan is spoken in several different dialects, depending on which island you are on, while Spanish is the common denominator throughout the archipelago. Due to people moving to and from the mainland, Spanish has become much more prevalent in the areas with the greatest population, but this at least has the advantage that Spanish speakers can expect to be understood on all of the islands, whether or not they speak Catalan in the correct dialect, or even at all. For visitors from the UK of course, English is the greater priority, and the tourist-friendly nature of all of the Balearics should mean there is always somebody available who can understand you and hold a reasonably fluent conversation.

Currency

The currency in Spain is the euro, which is easily obtained before you travel, or on arrival - you might get better exchange rates if you avoid the airport and most obvious tourist areas, or by withdrawing cash directly from an ATM (depending on your bank fees). If changing sterling for euros before you travel, expect to be asked where you are going to - this is nothing to worry about, it just means you can be given Spanish euros, as each country in the single currency has its own designs.

Visas

Entry into Spain, including the Balearics, is quite easy for UK citizens. You shouldn't need a visa, just a valid passport that does not expire until after your planned return date. Trips can be anywhere up to three months as standard, and you can ask for permission to stay longer too.

Climate

The Mediterranean climate is one of the biggest draws for UK holidaymakers planning Balearic Islands holidays, and the extra coastline means the moderating effect of the warm sea waters during the winter is more pronounced than in even the coastal areas of mainland Spain. Generally expect warmer and sunnier weather than back home in the summer, and bright, warm winter days too.

Main Airports

Getting to the Balearics is easy enough, with a flight time of around two hours from UK airports and a packed schedule of flights, especially during the summer months when the islands are a hugely popular holiday destination for families, couples, friends and sole travellers too. The archipelago is served by Palma de Majorca, Ibiza and Mahon (Minorca) Airports.

Flight Options

You should find it easy to catch a flight to any of the main airports at any time of year, with perhaps a slightly more restricted choice of travelling times during the winter months.

Travel Advice

Cabrera is a different matter as access to the island at all is strictly controlled, so it is best to visit as part of a prearranged group booking with the necessary permissions already in place. When you are there, you must observe the restrictions in place - for instance, no pets are allowed to be taken on to the island by visitors, and certain areas are completely off limits.

Other Transport Options

Finally, the smallest of the islands, Formentera, has no airport and is probably best reached by boat from Ibiza. A ferry crossing takes about half an hour, or you can indulge your adventurous side by catching a speedboat instead. The ticket price is a little higher but may also include your return journey, and if this is the case it can actually make the speedboat not only faster, but also cheaper overall, and much more fun.

Getting Around

The islands are generally well served by public transport, whether you need to get around your resort or make a longer journey. Tourists are particularly well catered for with day trips and other excursions, so you should be able to join a scheduled outing to the main attractions, whether to see one of the nearby cities, to do some souvenir shopping, or perhaps to set sail on a mini cruise to a neighbouring sandy cove. Ask at your hotel and you will probably be able to get details of what's available within your resort.

Bus

If you prefer to avoid the tourist trips, the Balearic Islands use urban buses. Schedules and maps can be picked up the central bus stations and you’ll easily find your way navigating the islands with one of the many different bus companies.

Train

The three islands all boast train stations, so if you’re more accustomed to making your own way around, pick up times if there is a station nearby to explore by rail.

MAP

BALEARIC ISLANDS`S WEATHER TODAY

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AVERAGE RAINFALL (mm)

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FACTS

  1. The Balearic Islands archipelago contains Mallorca, Minorca, Ibiza, Formentera and Cabrera. The largest of these is Mallorca—also spelt Majorca—followed by its easterly neighbour Minorca.
  2. It is no coincidence that the neighbouring islands begin with 'Major' and 'Minor', as they were given their names to signify which of the two is bigger, and which is smaller.
  3. Minorca—sometimes spelt Menorca—is the most easterly of the Balearics, and in fact is further east than mainland Spain, meaning it is the first of the country's territories to welcome each sunrise and each new year.

FACTS

  1. The Balearic Islands archipelago contains Mallorca, Minorca, Ibiza, Formentera and Cabrera. The largest of these is Mallorca—also spelt Majorca—followed by its easterly neighbour Minorca.
  2. It is no coincidence that the neighbouring islands begin with 'Major' and 'Minor', as they were given their names to signify which of the two is bigger, and which is smaller.
  3. Minorca—sometimes spelt Menorca—is the most easterly of the Balearics, and in fact is further east than mainland Spain, meaning it is the first of the country's territories to welcome each sunrise and each new year.

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