July 2012Travellers guide: MenorcaWith a newly completed coastal path and morebeaches than Mallorca and Ibiza combined, thisBalearic island is ideal for walkers and families,says Mick WebbMuch smaller than Mallorca and less noisy than Ibiza, low-key Menorca is theBalearic island that can easily slip under the holiday radar.Apart from two very attractive towns (Maó and Ciutadella) the islands maindraw is its beautiful, mainly undeveloped coastline, with more beaches thanMallorca and Ibiza put together. It is a good destination for young families,thanks to its small resorts and mid-range hotels, and increasingly for walkers,since the Camí de Cavalls, the path around the islands coast, is nowcomplete.Walk Menorca (0161 408 1399; walkmenorca.com) is a new company whichoffers guided walks along selected stretches of the path during the mornings
and a hire car for exploring the island after lunch. A week in September startsat £540 per person, for bed and breakfast, excluding flights.The capital, Maó (formerly known as Mahó*), is on the islands eastern end,perched above one of the worlds great natural harbours. Fifty kilometresaway, at the western extreme is beautiful Ciutadella.The road between them (the ME1) is the islands spinal cord, and connects itsthree small rural towns (Alaior, Es Mercadal and Ferreries). Turnings to thenorth and south lead to the handful of resorts and coastal villages. The ME1also marks a geological divide between Menorcas ancient top half of redsandstone and its limestone southern half. You can appreciate the contrast inlandscapes from the top of Monte Toro, a short drive from Es Mercadal andthe islands highest point. It may only be 358m above sea level but the viewsencompass the whole island.Menorca wears its prehistory on its sleeve, with a scattering of interesting andaccessible sites. Talatí del Dalt is 4km from Maó, next to the main road toCiutadella (00 34 902 929 015; menorcaweb.net/talati; admission €4). It wasbuilt by the Talayotic people, whose culture existed from 1500BC until thearrival of the Romans here in 123BC. They owed their name to their Talayots,cone-shaped stone structures, possibly watchtowers.The enduring skills in working stone are also celebrated in the islands mostunusual museum, Lithica, just outside Ciutadella. The sculptural spaces of aworked-out quarry have been planted with a sequence of striking gardens (0034 971 48 15 78; lithica.es; €4).For three separate periods during the 18th century the island was in Britishhands, which has given it some quirky legacies. On the grassier fields of theinterior youll see herds of black and white Friesian cows, while in Maó youllfind elegant Georgian-style mansions, as well as a gin distillery which wasintroduced by the first British governor, Sir Richard Kane.The holiday resorts are dotted around the 200km shoreline. The largest northcoast resort is Arenal den Castell, with several large hotels around a perfectshell-shaped bay, while neighbouring Son Parc has the islands only golf
course. In the south, where the beaches are longer and mainly fine whitesand, Cala* Porter, San Tomàs and Cala* Bosch are similar purpose-builtresorts, with Cala Galdana, backed by cliffs, enjoying the most attractivesetting. Direct Holidays (0844 800 7576; directholidays .co.uk) has a weeksall-inclusive for a family of four at the Hotel Playa Azul in Calan Porter for£726 per adult and £464 per child, including flights from Stansted on 20August.Mick Webb visited Menorca as a guest of Walk Menorca (0161 408 1399;walkmenorca.com).Dining outWhen in Maó, you should definitely try the mayonnaise, which was inventedhere, as well as the local cheese and, of course, the fresh fish and seafood.Good value lunch menus (about €15 for three courses and wine) are availablepretty well everywhere, though the islands signature dish caldereta delangosta, "lobster casserole", can cost up to €70. Its a speciality of the manywaterside restaurants in the fishing village of Fornells, and in nearby Playasde Fornells, where the Café del Nord at Local Comercial 5 (00 34 971 37 6697; cafedel nord.com) provides a very tasty €20 caldereta as well as a lovelysea view.Other restaurants worth going out of your way to find are Maós seafoodspecialist, Sespigó, at Moll de Llevant 267 (00 34 971 36 99 09; sespigo.com)and Ciutadellas cave-like La Guitarra at Carrer Dolors 1 (00 34 971 38 13 55)for traditional Menorcan meat dishes.City cultureMaós centre straggles along a cliff above the prized deep-water harbour withits bars and restaurants. In the old town there are small plazas with striking18th-century buildings, and a market. The monastery of San Francesc housesthe Museum of Menorca (00 34 971 35 09 55; illesbalears.es, €2.40). Ciutadellahas an exquisite old town of cobbled, arcaded streets and churches and aharbour. Dont miss the Gothic cathedral and museum (00 34 971 481 297;€2.50).Beaches and water activitiesThe white sandy beaches of the south have attracted development but theresusually an unspoilt bay close by. Cala Macarelleta, west from Cala Galdanaresort, is a study in white and turquoise. The north coast is more rugged buthas beautiful bays such as Cala de Algaiarens, near Ciutadella. The Bay ofFornells is an almost enclosed body of shallow water ideal for learning to sailand windsurf. Wind Fornells (00 34 971 188 150; windforn ells.com, two two-
hour windsurfing sessions cost €136). For diving and snorkelling, SAlgar Diving(00 34 971 15 06 01; salgardiving.com) is in SAlgars Paseo Marítimo, near SanLuis. A two-hour "try dive" cost €75pp.Walking and wildlifeThe whole island has been classified a biosphere reserve by Unesco because ofits striking flora and fauna which include booted eagles, red kites, Egyptianvultures and the occasional osprey. The best place for serious birding is thenatural park of SAlbufera des Grau, between Maó and the lovely bay of EsGrau (00 34 971 356 303; menorca.es). It has a reception centre, a couple ofhides and marked trails. The historic trail El Camí de Cavalls (elcamidecavalls.cat) follows the coastline and is suitable for horses and mountainbikers too. Its 20 sections average 10km. Those in the south are flatter thanthe more dramatic, challenging northern options.AccommodationThe Hotel Port Mahon at Fort de lEau 13 (00 34 971 36 26 00; sethotels .com)has high-season doubles with breakfast from €140. Its a 10-minute walk fromthe centre, as are the nearby Royal Apartments at Carrer Carmen 131 (00 34971 36 95 34; aparta mentosroyal.com, apartment for four costs from €125,breakfast €5pp). The Hotel Tres Sants, pictured, at Carrer San Cristòbal 2 is inthe heart of old-town Ciutadella (doubles with breakfast from €110; 00 34 97148 22 08; grupelcarme.com). North east of Ciutadella is Biniatram, a 500-year-old farm-cum-country hotel with pool and tennis court. Its a 20-minutewalk to the pretty bay of Cala Morell. High-season doubles start at €118 pernight, with breakfast an extra €8pp (00 34 971 38 31 13; biniatram.com).Private villas and flats are available for rent across the island (PerfectHolidays )Travel EssentialsGetting thereThe most frequent flights to Menorcas only airport, 4.5km south-west of Maó,are from Gatwick. Monarch (0871 940 5040; monarch.co.uk) and easyJet (0843104 5000; easyjet.com) compete. The latter also flies from Bristol andNewcastle, while Jet 2 (0871 226 1737; jet2.com) flies in from Glasgow.
From Menorcas airport, bus 10 runs to the city every 30 minutes between 6amand midnight and costs €2.A taxi will cost about €10.Getting aroundA bus network connects the major towns and resorts.The red and yellow coaches of TMSA (00 34 971 360 475;transportesmenorca.net) run between Maó and Ciutadella (70 minutes, €4.75)and also to the south coast resorts.Autos Fornells (00 34 971 154 390; autosfornells.com) links Maó with theresorts on the north coast, including an hourly service between Maó andFornells, for which the fare is €3.10.Other Info:Menorca BlogMenorca GuideDirectory Menorca- businessMenorca Travel by The TelegraphTravel buddyPort D’ Addaia
BiniancollaMenorquinian House. You can find them as rental or as Bed and Breakfast.