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Chic resorts and attractive coves and beaches, combined with a climate which is hot but never uncomfortably so, have made tourism the mainstay of life along the coasts of the Balearic Islands. Inland, there is peace and quiet in abundance, and a great variety of sights to seek out: wooded hills, pretty villages, monasteries, country churches, caves and prehistoric monuments to name but a few.

Talaiotic ruins , Roman settlements and medieval fortresses scattered across these islands are reminders of the waves of colonizers that have been drawn to the Balearics, strategically located at a crossroads in the Mediterranean. In the 13th century Catalan settlers brought their language, a dialect of which is widely spoken today

Today, the islands can justifiably claim to cater for all tastes: from sunseekers on package holidays, for whom the larger resorts serve as brash fun factories, to jet-setters and film stars, who head for luxurious but discreet hideaways in the hills.

Tourism has been established the longest in Mallorca, the largest island, with Palma its beating heart. The green countryside of Menorca is dotted with prehistoric monuments, and the island’s towns are full of noble, historic mansions. Ibiza has two distinct aspects: its coastline, which is notched by innumerable rocky coves, and the hilly interior, characterized by brilliant white farmhouses and robust churches. On small and relatively undeveloped Formentera, the pace of life is slow. The islets surrounding the four principal islands are largely unin habited; one of them, Cabrera (off Mallorca), is a national park.

Exploring the Balearics

Though the Balearic islands are often associated with high-density, inexpensive package tourism, they offer enough variety to satisfy everyone’s tastes. For those unattracted by the bustle of the coastal resorts and their beautiful beaches, the countryside and the old towns of Palma, Ibiza, Maó and Ciutadella are relatively undisturbed. Mallorca is by far the most culturally rich of the Balearics, with its distinguished collection of modern and traditional galleries, and interesting museums. Menorca is strong on Neolithic remains and Neo-Colonial architecture, while Ibiza is for lovers of clear, painterly light and rustic peasant houses; it also has some of the wildest nightclubs in Europe. Formentera – for many, the most alluring island – has crystal water, white sand, a pure, parched landscape and total tranquillity.

Getting Around

Nearly all foreign visitors to the Balearics arrive by plane – the no-frills airlines making it all the more popular. Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza connect to major Euro pean cities as well as Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. Several airlines fly to most other Spanish cities out of Son Sant Joan Airport in Palma. Another way of arriving is by boat from Barcelona, Valencia or Dénia. Between the islands there are regular ferry services, run by Transmediterranea, Balearia and Iscomar. Mallorca is the only island with rail services, which run between Palma and Inca (now extended to Sa Pobla and Manacor), and between Palma and Sóller. Roads vary from excellent to poor. The best way to get around is by car, except on Formentera, where cycling is best.


This small island, the nearest of the Balearics to the coast of Spain, was unknown and untouched by tourism until the 1960s, when it suddenly appeared in Europe’s holiday brochures along with Benidorm and Torremolinos. There is still a curious, indefinable magic about Ibiza town (Eivissa) and the island has not lost its character. The countryside, particularly in the north, is a rural patchwork of groves of almonds, olives and figs, and wooded hills. Ibiza town, on the other hand, retains the air of a 1950s Spanish provincial borough. At once packagetour paradise, hippie hideout and glamour hot spot, this is one of the Mediterranean’s mythical destinations.

1 Sant Antoni

Ibiza’s second town, Sant Antoni was known by the Romans as Portus Magnus because of its large natural harbour. Formerly a tiny fish ing village, it has turned into a sprawling and exuberant resort. Although it was once notoriously overcommercialized, the town has undergone a dramatic face­lift. Nevertheless, the 14th­century parish church of Sant Antoni is practically marooned in a sea of modern high­rise hotels

To the north of Sant Antoni, on the road to Cala Salada, is the chapel of Santa Agnès, an unusual early Christian tem ple (not to be confused with the village of the same name). When this catacomb­like cha pel was discovered, in 1907, it contained Moorish weapons and fragments of pottery.

2 Sant Josep

The village of Sant Josep, the administrative centre of southwest Ibiza, lies in the shadow of Ibiza’s highest mountain. At 475 m (1,560 ft), Sa Talaiassa offers a panorama of all Ibiza, including the islet of Es Vedrá, rising from the sea like a roughcut pyramid. For the most
accessible view of this enormous rock, take the coastal road to the sandy cove of Cala d’Hort, where there are a number of good restaurants and a quiet beach.


 Before tourism, salt was Ibiza’s main industry, most of it coming from the salt flats at Ses Salines in the southeast corner of the island. Mainland Spain is the chief consumer of this salt, but much goes to the Faroe Islands and Scandinavia for salting fish. Ses Salines is also an important refuge for birds, including the flamingo. Es Cavallet, 3 km (2 miles) east, is an unspoiled stretch of soft, white sand. The Phoenician village of Sa Caleta is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

3 Ibiza (Eivissa)

The old quarter of Ibiza town, known as Eivissa in Catalan, is a miniature citadel guarding the mouth of the almost circular bay. The Portal de ses Taules, a magnificent gateway in the north wall of the 16th­century fortifications, carries the finely carved coat of arms of the kingdom of Aragón, to which the Balearic Islands belonged in the Middle Ages . Inside the walls is the 16thcentury Església de Santo Domingo with its three

red-tiled domes. The Baroque interior, with its barrel-vaulted ceiling and frescoed walls, has been restored to its former glory. Works of art by Erwin Bechtold, Barry Flanagan and other artists connected with Ibiza are on display in the Museu d’Art Contemporani, just inside the Portal de ses Taules. Crowning the whole Dalt Vila is the cathedral, a 13th-century Catalan Gothic building with 18th-century additions. The cathedral’s Museu Diocesà houses assorted works of art.

Under the Carthaginians, the soil of Ibiza was considered holy. The citizens of Carthage deemed it an honour to be buried in the Necrópolis Púnica del Puig des Molins. Part of it can be visited by the public. The crossroads village of Jesús, 3 km (2 miles) north, is worth a visit for its 16th-century church. Originally built as part of a Franciscan monastery, it has a 16th-century altarpiece by Rodrigo de Osona the Younger.

4 Els Amunts

is the local name for the uplands of northern Ibiza, which stretch from Sant Antoni on the west coast to Sant Vicenç in the northeast. Though hardly a mountain range – Es Fornás is the high est point, at a mere

450 m (1,480 ft) – the area’s inacces sibility has kept it unspoiled. There are few special sights here, apart from the landscape: pine-clad hills shelter ing fertile valleys whose rich red soil is planted with olive, almond and fig trees, and the occasional vineyard. Tourist enclaves are scarce, except for a handful of small resorts, such as Port de Sant Miquel, Portinatx and Sant Vicenç. Inland, villages like Sant Joan and Santa Agnès offer an insight into Ibiza’s quiet, rural past. The architectural high points of northern Ibiza are several beautiful white churches, like the one in Sant Miquel, which, on Thursdays in summer, is host to a display of Ibizan folk dancing. Outside Sant Llorenç is the tranquil, fortified hamlet of Balàfia, with flat-roofed houses, tiny whitewashed alleys, and a watchtower that was used as a fortress during raids by the Turks.

5 Santa Eulària

The town of Santa Eulària des Riu (Santa Eulalia del Río), on the island’s only river, has managed to hold on to its character more than many other Spanish resorts. The 16th-century church, with its covered court yard, and the surrounding old town were built on the top of a little hill, the Puig de Missa, because this site was more easily defended in times of war than the shore below. Ajdacent to the church is the

Museo Etnológico de Ibiza y Formentera, a folk museum housed in an Ibizan farmhouse. The exhibits (labelled in Catalan only) include traditional costumes, farming implements, toys and an olive press. A collec tion of photographs covering 50 years shows how Ibiza has changed.

Two art and craft markets, Punta Arabí (Wed) and Las Dalias (Sat), held just outside town, feature hundreds of stalls.

6 Formentera

An hour’s boat ride from Ibiza will bring you to this largely unspoiled island where waters are blue and way of life is slow.

From the small port of La Savina, where the boat docks, there are buses to other parts of the island, or you can hire a car, moped or bicycle from one of the shops nearby. Sant Francesc Xavier, Formentera’s tiny capital, is situated 3 km (2 miles) from La Savina. Most of the island’s amenities are in this town, plus a pretty 18th-century church in the main square, and a folk museum. From Sant Francesc, a bumpy minor road leads for 9 km (6 miles) southwards, ending at Cap de Barbaria, the site of an 18th-century defen sive tower and a lighthouse

Formentera is entirely flat, apart from the small plateau of La Mola, which takes up the whole eastern end of the island From the fishing port of Es Caló the road winds upwards past the Restaurante Es Mirador, with its panoramic view, to the village of Nostra Senyora del Pilar de la Mola on top of the plateau. About 3 km (2 miles) to the east is a lighthouse, Far de la Mola, sited on the highest point of the island. Nearby stands a monument to Jules Verne (1828–1905), who used Formentera for the setting of one of his novels, Hector Servadac.

Although there are many purple road signs indicating places of cultural interest on Formentera, most lead only to disappointment. But one sight well worth seeking out is the megalithic sepulchre of Ca Na Costa (2000 BC) near Sant Francesc, the only one of its kind in the Balearics. This monument, a circle of upright stone slabs, predates the Carthaginians 

However, the island’s great strength is its landscape, which has a delicate beauty and some of the Medi terranean’s last unspoiled shorelines. More than 60 per cent of the island’s landscape is protected by law. The finest beaches are, arguably, Migjorn and Cala Sahona, southwest of Sant Francesc. Nearly all beaches have nudist areas.

Illetes and Llevant are two beautiful beaches on either side of a long sandy spit in the far north of the island. To the north, between Formentera and Ibiza, is the island of Espal mador, with its natural springs


 Mallorca is often likened to a continent rather than an island. Its varied nature never fails to astonish, whether you are looking for landscape, culture or just entertainment. No other European island has a wider range of scenery, from the fertile plains of central Mallorca to the almost alpine peaks of the Tramuntana. The island’s mild climate and lovely beaches have made it one of Spain’s foremost package tour destinations but there is a wealth of culture, too, evident in sights like Palma Cathedral . Mallorca’s appeal lies also in its charm as a living, working island: the cereal and fruit crops of the central plains, and the vineyards around Binissalem are vital to the island’s economy

7 Andratx

This small town lies amid a valley of almond groves in the shadow of Puig de Galatzó, which rises to 1,026 m (3,366 ft). With its ochre and white shuttered houses and the old watchtowers perched high on a hill above the town, Andratx is a very pretty place.

The road southwest leads down to Port d’Andratx 5 km (3 miles) away. Here, in an almost totally enclosed bay, expensive yachts are moored in rows along the harbour and luxury holiday homes pepper the hillsides. In the past, Port d’Andratx’s main role was as the fishing port and harbour for Andratx, but since the early 1960s it has gradually been transformed into an ex clusive holiday resort for the rich and famous. When visiting Port d’Andratx, it is a good idea to leave all thoughts of the real Mallorca behind and simply enjoy it for what it is – a chic and affluent resort.

8 La Granja

La Granja is a private estate near the little country town of Esporles. Formerly a Cistercian convent, it is now the property of the Seguí family, who have opened their largely unspoiled 18th-century house to the public as a kind of living museum. Peacocks roam the gardens, salt cod and hams hang in the kitchen, The Marriage of Figaro plays in the ballroom, and the slight air of chaos just adds to the charm of the place.

9 Valldemossa

This pleasant mountain town is linked with George Sand, the French novelist who stayed here in the winter of 1838–9 and later wrote unflatteringly of the island in Un Hiver à Majorque. Dearer to Mallorcans is the Polish composer Frédéric Chopin (1810–49), who stayed with Sand at the Real Cartuja de Jesús de Nazaret. “Chopin’s cell”, off the monastery’s main courtyard, is where a few of his works were written, and still houses the piano on which he composed

Nearby is a 17th-century pharmacy displaying outland ish medicinal preparations such as “powdered nails of the beast”. In the cloisters is an art museum with works by Tàpies, Miró and the Mallor can artist Juli Ramis (1909–90), and a series of Picasso illustrations, The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, inspired by the El Greco painting of the same name .

10 Alfàbia

Very few possessiós in Mallorca are open to the public, which makes Alfàbia worth visiting. The house and garden are an excellent exam ple of a typical Mallorcan aristocratic estate and exude a Moorish atmosphere. Very little remains of the original 14th-century architecture, so it is well worth looking out for the Mudéjar inscription on the ceiling of the entrance hall and the Hispano-Arabic fountains and pergola. The garden is a sumptuous 19th-century creation, making imaginative use of shade and the play of water.

11 Sóller

Soller is a little town grown fat on the produce of its olive groves and orchards, which climb up the slopes of the Sierra Tramuntana. In the 19th century Sóller traded its oranges and wine for French goods, and the town retains a faintly Gallic, bourgeois feel. One of Sóller’s best-known features is its delightfully oldfashioned narrow-gauge railway, complete with quaint wooden carriages. The train departs from Palma and terminates in Sóller, at the station in the Plaça d’Espanya. From there, an antique tram travels to the fishing village of Port de Sóller, 5 km (3 miles) to the west.

12 Santuari de Lluc

High in the mountains of the Sierra Tramuntana, in the remote village of Lluc, is an institution regarded by many as the spiritual heart of Mallorca. The Santuari de Lluc was built mainly in the 17th and 18th centuries on the site of an ancient shrine. The monastery’s Baroque church, with its imposing façade, contains the stone image ofLa Moreneta, the Black Virgin of Lluc, supposedly found by a young shepherd boy on a nearby hilltop in the 13th century. The sanctuary is home to a children’s choir, the Blauets, established in the 16th century. The kids sing the “Salve Regina” twice a day . Along the Camí dels Misteris, the paved walkway up to this hilltop, there are some bronze bas-reliefs by Pere Llimona. Just off the main Plaça dels Pelegrins are a café and bar, and a gift shop. The museum, on the first floor, includes Mallorcan paintings and medieval manu scripts. The monastery incorporates a guesthouse. From Lluc, 13 km (8 miles) of tortuous road winds through the hills and descends towards the coast, ending at the beautiful rocky bay of Sa Calobra. From here, it is just 5 minutes’ walk up the coast to the deep gorge of the Torrent de Pareis

13 Puig de Randa

In the middle of a fertile plain called the pla rises a minimountain 543 m (1,780 ft) high, the Puig de Randa. It is said that Mallorca’s greatest son, the 14th-century theologian and mystic Ramon Llull, came to a hermitage on this mountain to meditate and write his religious treatise, Ars Magna. On the way up Puig de Randa there are two small monasteries, the 14th-century Santuari de Sant Honorat and the Santuari de Nostra Senyora de Gràcia. The latter, built on a ledge under an overhanging cliff, contains a 13th-century chapel with fine Valencian tiles inside. On the mountaintop is the Santuari de Cura, built to commemorate Llull’s time on the puig, and largely devoted to the study of his work. Its central courtyard is built in the typical beige stone of Mallorca. A small museum, housed in a 16th-century former school off the courtyard, contains some of Llull’s manuscripts.


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