Mexico holidays

Experience Mexico

Best Places to Visit

There are so many beaches on the island, tourists are spoilt for choice. The large number of beaches means there's a beach for every holidaymaker's preference, and there's no fighting for towel space.

Arnal d'en Castell has become a popular tourist destination, largely thanks to its semi-circle bay of clear, calm blue waters that make it an ideal place to take a dip. There are plenty of hotels around the bay and although it's not a place for those wanting to escape the crowds, it's a great destination to soak up some sun in total comfort.

For those seeking a more secluded beach, Cala Pregonda is the answer. With white sands and blue waters, it's a great place to relax. Access is limited, so the crowds are kept at bay. There is a road leading here from Binimel-la, a busier beach resort, and for those willing to make the extra effort this unspoilt bay is well worth the journey.

There's no end of stunning coastline on the island, and one of the best places to appreciate the coast is at the port on Mahon. This natural harbour stretches five kilometres inland and the harbour front is a feast of restaurants and bars, along with cute boutique shops. This is where the rich come to party, so expect plenty of luxury yachts parked in the port.

Heading up to higher ground in Menorca is also an option. Mount Toro, the highest point on the island, can be found just outside of Es Mercadal and is well worth the hike. Tourists are advised to take a picnic and plenty of water on the reasonably easy trek to the peak, then relax and take in the view across the island and out to the clear blue Mediterranean Sea.

The 19th century fortress of La Mola, found at the entrance to Mao Harbour, is a great place to explore. The site is quite big, but guided tours are available, both on foot or by bicycle and even on horse. There are also jeep tours available, allowing visitors to appreciate the natural environment surrounding this historical landmark.

Alaior is widely considered to be Menorca's third capital and the island's cultural centre. On old town that practically creaks with character, it doesn't suffer from the usual high-street chains of shops, instead being peppered with unique boutiques, quaint cafes and traditional bars. A weekly market sees this sleepy settlement bursting with life, as locals and visitors alike scour the stalls for bargains.

Top Landmarks

UNESCO has declared the entire island of Menorca as a biosphere reserve. This is due to the extensive natural lagoons, stunning beaches and historic monuments found here.

Complementing Menorca's natural beauty are no end of historic monuments and ruins, with the island something of an open-air museum. Sites can be found all over the island, but the En Goumes Tower in Alaior is very impressive. Here, the ruins, including the still standing tower, date back to a prehistoric settlement.

The island also has sites from the Bronze Age. The most notable of these locations is Es Tudons, also known as the Nevata, in the north-west of the island. Here, eager historians will find a prehistoric burial site with two chambers that are in fantastic condition considering their age.

Monte Toro, the highest point on the island, is an important place of pilgrimage for the locals. A convent is located at the peak and is home to Franciscan nuns. This peaceful, spiritual place is well worth a visit. It isn't the only sight worth seeing at a high altitude, though. Ferreries is Menorca's highest town, and each Saturday morning it plays host to the Mercat de Ferreries market, with stallholders selling local crafts and artwork as well as food and drink.

As the sun goes down, many tourists flock to Cova d'en Xoroi at Cala'n Porter. This bar is one of a kind, with outside terraces set in natural caves 25 metres above sea level.

Entertainment

A popular pastime in the Balearics is attending trotting races. The idea is that the jockey has to keep the horse trotting and prevent it from galloping. During the summer, there are trotting races every weekend, and it often seems like the whole town turns up to watch. The big races are held in the Hipodromo de Ma' in the capital and the Hipodromo de Ciutadella Torroe del Ram in Cala en Blanes. Betting is a huge part of the sport, so for those tourists wanting to win big, watching the races a great way to spend an evening.

In terms of hitting the town for a few drinks, Menorca is quieter than neighbouring Ibiza, but it can still hold its own. However, for some late night fun, Cova d'en Xoroi is a real experience. This cave bar is transformed into a club where revellers can party until the sun comes up. Found in Cala'n Porter, the bar offers amazing views and a party experience that can't be missed.

A slightly different type of club is Escola Menorquina. Here, horse riders perform on Andalucian horses, all of which are trained in the traditional Menorcan way. The performances are highly entertaining and amazing examples of man and horse working together to create something wonderful.

There is only one casino on the island, Mahon Casino on the harbour front in Mahon. It's a great place to end up on a night out, and with a restaurant and bar, it's also a good place to start.

Dining Out

The Mediterranean cuisine is a highlight of any holiday to Menorca. There are many seafood restaurants across the island, and for foodies, the best place to head is the western town of Ciutedella. Here, there are many dining options, including traditional English and Italian choices. Many restaurants are carved into the cliffs, with stunning views of the water.

Along all of the harbours, particularly in Mahaon (Ma'), there is no end of eateries for tourists to enjoy. Prawn salad is a favourite with visitors, and the speciality dish of caldereta de ilagosta, a fresh lobster stew, is something all tourists should taste. Other Spanish dishes which are often served include baked fish in tomato sauce and fideua, a paella dish with noodles and fresh fish.

Being a Spanish island, Menorca has tapas bars everywhere. Staples are spicy chorizo sausage, olives, cheeses and roasted peppers.

Lunch is often followed by a siesta and dinner is usually eaten late, at around 21:00. However, many restaurants cater for earlier diners too, especially in the tourist areas.

For those who are peckish during the day, a quick snack is never far away. Churros, a sweet fried doughnut, can be found at many street stalls all over the island and are delicious as well as addictive!

Need to know

Language

As Menorca is a Spanish island, the official language is Spanish, which is spoken along with Catalan, and most natives are fluent in both. While, to the untrained ear, Spanish and Catalan might sound the same, they are in fact two very different languages. Variations of Catalan have developed, almost from village to village and the resulting variants are known, collectively, as Minorqui. Although English isn't an official language, most people working in the tourist industry here speak English. However, it is advisable for those heading out of the main tourist destinations to take a phrase book.

Currency

The national currency is the Euro, with 1 Euro split into 100 cents. Menorca is a tourist hub, which means that ATMs can be easily located. Banks tend to offer the best exchange rates, while post offices also feature competitive rates. Official exchange offices, or cambio, are a convenient option as they stay open longer than banks and post offices. Banks tend to open between 8.30 am and 1.30pm, at which time they will close for an hour. Afternoon opening hours tend to be between 2.30pm and 3.30pm. Credit and debit cards are used widely in Menorca, with most hotels, shops and restaurants accepting VISA, Maestro and Mastercard – although it might be required to present identification with a card purchase.

While the Euro is the only currency that is accepted on the island, it is possible to change pounds sterling and US dollars in banks and money exchange places.

Visas

Menorca, being Spanish, is part of the European Union (EU) and is a signatory of the Schengen Agreement, in which 26 separate European Nations have abolished their internal borders with other member nations. As a result, Menorca is open to citizens of all Schengen states. Citizens of EU countries which have not signed the agreement, including the UK, are also granted access to the country without a visa and for an unlimited period. However, it can still be worth carrying a passport, credit card and driving license in the event of needing to pay for certain things, such as car-hire.

Climate

Just like here in the UK, Menorca can experience rainfall during its winter months. There is one main difference in our climates, however: Menorca is treated to guaranteed sunshine during summer. From May to September, temperatures climb pleasantly, reaching average highs of 29°C.

July and August are Menorca’s hottest and driest months, when even the sea temperature can hit a glorious 26°C. Perfect for a spot of snorkelling!

Main Airports

Menorca Airport, also known as Mahon Airport, is located in the south-west of the island. It is the only airport in Menorca. Despite Menorca being a relatively small island, Menorca Airport is of a reasonable size, with 16 gates and dozens of seasonal charters flights as well as year-round scheduled flights with European airlines. The airport deals with approximately 2,5million visitors each year.

Flight Options

Flybe offers year-round scheduled flights from Edinburgh, Isle of Man and Southampton, while Thomas Cook Airlines and Thomas Airways offer year-round scheduled routes to Belfast-International, Birmingham, Glasgow-International, London-Gatwick, London-Luton and London-Stansted, among other UK airports. All other UK flights are seasonal, with airlines serving seasonal routes including British Airways, easyJet, Jet2 and Monarch. The average flight time is around 2 hours, 15 minutes from London.

Travel Advice

Budget carriers offer the cheapest air deals from the UK, but tickets often need to be booked well in advance to make a saving. The cheapest deals on accommodation are available outside of peak season. Heading to the island in September means tourists will still get the benefit of the glorious weather, but not the inflated hotel and villa prices of July and August.

Other Transport Options

It's possible to reach Menorca by ferry from mainland Spain or neighbouring Mallorca. There is daily service from both Barcelona and Valencia; however, travelling by ferry is not the quickest way to reach the island, as the journey can take around 10 hours. Minorcan taxis offer good value for money and are easily recognisable as white cars, with a green light on the roof.

Getting Around

Menorca is a small island so domestic flights aren't necessary. The roads, especially in the touristy areas, are well maintained, making car hire an attractive option. Taxis are a popular way to cover short distances, while affordable, hourly local buses connect the main beaches and towns.

Bus

Buses are an option for those not in a hurry. The bus station in Mahon (Mao) has services to most of the main towns and beaches on the island. Fares on TMSA's bright yellow and red, air-conditioned buses are reasonable and payable to the driver. Timetables are available at the main station in Mahon, but are also printed in the local paper.

Car

Many of the best roads are toll roads, so bear this in mind if you are driving - the price can be relatively high, but they offer a better road surface and should make sure you reach your destination significantly faster. If you travel by bus, there is also the chance that they will opt to use the toll roads - if so, you can expect to pay extra for this privilege in your ticket price.

Train

The rail service in Mexico is limited to one passenger train: El Chepe. This can be used to visit smaller destinations in the mountains, as well as the impressive Barrancas del Cobre.

MEXICO`S WEATHER TODAY

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MAP

FACTS

  1. Mexico's full official name is the United Mexican States, or Estados Unidos Mexicanos in Spanish, reflecting the full name of its northerly neighbour the USA.
  2. Visitors from Europe can usually be found in the colonial towns of Mexico including Guanajuato and San Cristobal de las Casas, as well as the southern resort of Playa del Carmen.
  3. American tourists, on the other hand, head for the modern resorts of Puerto Vallarta and Cancun, as well as the Baja Peninsula.

FACTS

  1. Mexico's full official name is the United Mexican States, or Estados Unidos Mexicanos in Spanish, reflecting the full name of its northerly neighbour the USA.
  2. Visitors from Europe can usually be found in the colonial towns of Mexico including Guanajuato and San Cristobal de las Casas, as well as the southern resort of Playa del Carmen.
  3. American tourists, on the other hand, head for the modern resorts of Puerto Vallarta and Cancun, as well as the Baja Peninsula.

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