Comprised of Mallorca, Minorca, Ibiza, and Formentera, the four holiday hotspots of the Balearic Islands, all offer their own unique experience. The islands of Mallorca and Ibiza fight for the title of Party Central, with Ibiza staying ahead on points for its huge dance clubs and mega late night events. Minorca is more suitable for family getaways as its beaches are far less crowded and, together with its interior, relatively unspoiled. During most of the year, excepting in July and August when Italian packages send tourists en masse, Formentera is a relatively peaceful spot.
A little-known fact about Spain’s Balearic Islands is that their original Ancient Greek name, Gymnesiae, translates to ‘naked’, referring to the islanders’ habit of running around in the nude. Around 2,000 years have passed since then, but an ancient Greek revisiting the famous holiday destination might see much of the same today. Seriously though, over the last 50 years or so, the four main islands of the archipelago have become favorite holiday heavens for sun, sand, sea, and nightlife-seekers from across Northern Europe and the UK.
Across the entire archipelago, beachside activities and water sports are the number one attraction, although Ibiza and Mallorca draw hundreds of thousands of party people who combine watery fun with all-night raves during the high season. The islands’ incredibly long and fascinating history includes their years as a haven for pirates, and there’s enough in the way of ancient buildings and museums to keep history buffs happy. Visitors into exploring the beauties of nature won’t be disappointed either, as the topography of the archipelago is nothing short of spectacular.
Accommodation options are plentiful – some say too plentiful – and are aimed at every level, from self-catering and budget hostels through package-tourism hotels, bed and breakfasts, mid-range lodgings, and upscale resorts. The popular beaches are lined with high-rises, and beachside eateries compete for trade with hotel restaurants by serving full English breakfasts, a variety of fast foods, and even local seafood specialties aimed at those in the know.
While the Balearics isn’t the bargain destination it once was, with prices for eating and drinking on par with those in most visitors’ home countries, it’s still possible to find great value for your money on everything from entertainment to lodging. Entry to the most famous dance parties, as well as the price of drinks in these venues can be steep, but experiencing the world’s best nightclubs is something most music fans are prepared to pay for.
Daytrips to the interiors or between the islands make a refreshing change from lying on the same admittedly stunning beach day after day, and there’s a great deal to see and do away from the main tourism areas. Sailing, horseback riding, and high-speed water bikes are a change from the usual options of jet-skiing, sea kayaking, scuba diving, and snorkeling, as do rock-climbing, caving, potholing, hang-gliding, and hot air ballooning.
The easiest means of transportation on the archipelago is by local bus, taxi, or self-drive with a hire car, although many visitors flag down a bicycle for short journeys around town. Although remote roads may be poorly maintained and badly marked, English is spoken in the majority of destinations, so getting lost isn’t an issue. Besides, touring the backcountry is the best way to discover parts of the Balearics which remain unspoiled by tourism.
- Palma de Mallorca, the capital, has fine dining, great shopping, and buzzing nightlife, as well as a fascinating old Arab Quarter. Check out the palaces, museums and elegant courtyards, imposing Gothic cathedral, and a thriving arts scene
- Enjoy Mallorca’s stunning volcanic coastline on a boat trip, or take a ride on a glass-bottomed boat to view the undersea marine life
- Time your holiday to take in one of the Balearics’ lively religious fiestas, many of which date back to medieval times
- Whichever island you choose for your holiday, you’ll find the beaches are stunning, with water sports galore and beachside eateries perfect for sunset suppers
- Ibiza’s massive all-night dance clubs are the best-known highlight of the island
- Set on a hill in Ibiza, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Dalt Vila features 16th century walls which enclose the remnants of four distinct civilizations, and is topped by a Christian cathedral at its peak
- One of Ibiza’s most compelling sights is the Es Vedra Nature Reserve with its mystical Es Vedra Island, legendarily the site of the gateway to Atlantis
- On Menorca, the ancient port city of Ciutadella has Gothic architecture, a pretty marina, charming narrow streets, and a fiesta celebrating the unique Menorcan breed of horses