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Just 48 kilometres long and 20 kilometres wide, Menorca, the most eastern of Spain’s Balearic Islands, manages to pack in over 100 beaches along its coastline – more than Ibiza and Mallorca combined. Consequently, unfurling a towel and soaking up the rays are the most prevalent thoughts of the thousands of holidaymakers who touch down at Mahón Airport during the six-month season. Menorca is a perfect place to go snorkelling and discover hidden caves. Get spectacular views of the stunning coastline and explore the island's marvelous nature by either hiking on Monte Toro, its highest peak, or a going on a horseback excursion. The reward is a breathtaking view and on a clear day you can see all the way to Mallorca. However, Menorca has a lot more to offer than just sandy beaches, amazing landscape and coastline. Take a stroll to historic cities to see the architectural heritage of the British occupation or the medieval era. Fort Marlborough with its gloomy tunnels, La Mola or Cathedral Ciudadella, a beautiful church with lovely stonework and stained glass windows, the possibilities to delve into local history are endless. On top of that, you can sample one of the best legacies of the British ruling: locally distilled gin.
Many immediately head east, through the flower-freckled meadowland of the interior, to the resort of Cala en Forcat, Cala en Bosch and Cala Galdana. Most only return west when it is time to trundle up the airplane steps, having never visited the capital, Mao, which is a shame. Not only does it have the second deepest natural harbour in the world (after Pearl Harbour), it also boasts a colourful and turbulent history due to the many seaborne conflicts between the Spanish, British and French to gain control of this strategically positioned naval base.
The island’s signature dish is (unsurprisingly) seafood – caldereta de llagosta, or lobster stew, to be precise. Also, look out for pork with apples or plums and dozens of variations of oliaigues, or garlic soup. Unless you are of a robust constitution, do not be tempted by a Minorcan breakfast – neat gin!
A word of advice: do not come to Minorca if you are a nocturnal neon-seeker with a penchant for high decibels. That is not to say the lights go out at bed time. Maó, Ciutadella and most resort areas have a profusion of bars and a handful of clubs – just do not expect A-list DJ’s and dancing till breakfast.
For sheer diversity of shops, you should head for Maó or Ciutadella. In Maó, the area around Carrer Ses Moreres and Carrer Nou are home to the high-street labels. For stores of more individual character you’ll need to stroll down Moll de Ponent in the port area. Ciutadella’s ground zero for shopaholics is Ses Voltes and its numerous offshoots, where you will find plenty of opportunities to replenish your wardrobe. Talking of which, you cannot visit the island and not buy a pair of avarques – Minorcan leather sandals soled with old car tires. To purchase at the point of origin, try S’Avarca de Menorca on Carrer Angel, Maó. Not only does it have the widest choice, it is also the oldest factory on the island. Xoriguer Gin and the famous Minorcan cheese should also be on the shopping list. Try the Xoriguer Distillery on Anden de Poniente in Maó for the former, La Bodega on Carrer Santissim in Ciutadella for the best wedge of cheese. Lovers of bric-a-brac have numerous artisan markets to choose from including Es Migjorn Gran on Tuesday evening, Maó on Friday evening and Ciutadella on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.
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