First impressions of Menorca

Viva Menorca! If you’re considering a Menorca holiday, you’re on the right track. When it come to things to do in Menorca, there’s more than you think.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Menorca, Spain

When I was younger and growing up in Australia, there were constant news reports about a failed businessman called Christopher Skase who was wanted by police for his financial dealings but fled to a Spanish island, out of reach of the law.

That island was Mallorca and I remember seeing television news footage of the beaches and sunny streets where he was caught by cameras. I had a bit of an idea of what the island looked like.

The same goes for nearby Ibiza. I’ve never been but I have an impression of what it would be like from the photos and video footage I have seen over the years.

A popular party scene with busy beaches and some quieter nature if you drive out of the main centres.

What is Menorca like?

But Menorca. Well, should I be embarrassed to say that I really knew nothing about it? Not even its name until recently.

Embarrassing, I know. But a few days on the island has changed all that.

Menorca is the second-largest of the four main Balearic Islands – not too dissimilar from the others in terms of climate and geography.

It’s funny, though, how something so close can develop culturally into such a different option for tourists. Those little stretches of the Balearic Sea between the land have created more than physical boundaries.

What is Menorca like?

Menorca’s nature

The first thing that strikes me is the development on Menorca – or, more specifically, the lack of it.

There’s a population of less than 100,000 people and the density is about half that of either Mallorca or Ibiza. Driving around, the stretches of nature fill the view out of the window.

Flowers in fields; clumps of forest; glimpses of beaches between cliffs along the coastline. At one point a local resident complains to me about an old large hotel that ruins the scenery on one part of the coast.

I agree, but I think it’s nice that he’s able to point to just the one example. There are plenty of Mediterranean islands where that kind of construction would be the norm.

What is Menorca like?

Cultural influences of Menorca

Because of the strategic position of the island, Menorca has belonged to all sorts of countries and cultures over the years. The Romans, the Vandals, the Byzantines, the Turkish, the British, the French… and even pirates.

These influences are all mixed into the culture of today and the language – a form of Catalan called Menorquí – has words left over from many of the nationalities that made this land their home at some point.

What is Menorca like?

Clearly, though, it’s the Spanish that have the most impact on the Menorca of today. You can see it in the architecture of cities like Ciutadella, in the quiet afternoons during the traditional siesta period, in the al fresco cafes, and the open arms which welcome me.

Perhaps I feel most Spanish one night when I end up at a small bar that’s been set up in a coastal cave that was once used by fishermen.

I’m not talking about the famous Cova d’en Xoroi bar on a cliff face that has sunset views and turns into a nightclub after dark. Cova d’en Xoroi looks like this:

What is Menorca like?

No, I mean the Bar es Cau, which looks like this:

What is Menorca like?
What is Menorca like?

There’s a small crowd of locals but that’s all who can fit inside. We all squeeze together on couches and stools and focus our intention on two musicians who fill the cavern with the sounds.

People shout out suggestions of songs to play and they oblige.

Food of Menorca

The Spanish influence can be found in the food of Menorca as well.

The local fish market in the capital, Mahon, serves tapas-style dishes. The more substantial dishes are heavy on things like vegetables, sausages and cheese. It reminds me of the Catalan cuisine.

The predominant element in the Menorcan food, though, is seafood. It comes as no great surprise when you consider the incredible access to the water from any part of the small island.

The fresh fish is delicious and I’m particularly impressed with the ‘cap roig’, or scorpion fish.

What is Menorca like?

One of the signature dishes of Menorca is called ‘caldereta de langosta’ which could best be described as a lobster stew.

It’s actually almost a soup when served and the chunks of lobster (still in its shell) are cooked in a sauce with onions, tomato and garlic. You know it’s fresh when you can see the live lobsters in tanks at the back of the restaurant.

What is Menorca like?
What is Menorca like?

All along the coast of the island are small fishing villages with boats tied up along the edge when they’re not out in the waters bringing in the day’s catch.

What is Menorca like?

Wine in Menorca

To go with a good Spanish meal, you would normally try to find a good Spanish wine.

Things are not so different in Menorca, although traditionally the island has not been a big producer of its own vintages. However, this is starting to change.

What is Menorca like?

I visit a winery called Binifadet one afternoon to see where my evening drinks will come from.

Although the owners started it as a hobby, it is now the largest winery on the island and produces about 90,000 bottles a year.

The barrels are downstairs in a cellar but upstairs is a bright and nicely-designed restaurant where you can go for a meal or just a tasting. Binifadet does a great aged merlot and sparkling rosé.

What is Menorca like?

Menorca’s gin

The real drink on Menorca, though, is gin. It’s a remnant of the period for most of the 18th century when the British controlled the island. They eventually ceded the island to Spain in 1802 under the Treaty of Amiens.

Although the locals were probably not too disappointed to see the British leave, they were happy to keep their gin and the production of it has continued until today.

What is Menorca like?
What is Menorca like?

The most popular brand of gin on the island is called Xoriguer and its distillery is on the waterfront in Mahon.

Although you’ll easily find bottles for sale in shops everywhere and on the menu of most restaurants, it’s nice to go to the source. You can do a gin tasting and also try some of the other local liqueurs made on the island.

Ancient monuments on Menorca

Despite all the various European invaders who claimed Menorca at some point, there was one race who predated them all by thousands of years.

The Talaiotic Culture lived here in the second and first millennium BC and left their mark with large megalithic structures all across the island.

These monuments of stone probably served several different uses – watchtowers, defences, and even graves. Although they are scattered kilometres apart from each other, they add an element of interesting history to a visit to Menorca.

What is Menorca like?

I’m surprised to find these ancient structures on Menorca… but, then again, most things here have surprised me. That’s what happens when you know so little about a destination before going.

What I am most surprised about is that more people don’t come here on holiday. The island’s offering would suit almost every type of traveller but especially those who like an authentic cultural experience.

The food, the architecture, and the historical sites give you plenty of reasons to move across the land and explore.

The luxury hotels and the laidback atmosphere lend themselves to those who prefer to just relax.

And the beaches, the water, and the nature closer to the centre are great for outdoor and adventure activities. I’m particularly tempted by the paths that let you walk around the entire edge of the island.

What is Menorca like?

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some more stories about the experiences I discovered on Menorca. Hopefully they’ll give you some more ideas if you ever think about going yourself.

Please let me know if you have been before and if you have any recommendations for others.

Time Travel Turtle was supported by Menorca Tourism in partnership with iambassador but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.

10 thoughts on “First impressions of Menorca”

  1. Spain is a great vacation as long as you don’t drink the water. When I went, it was a real bargain. I only spent $200 a week, and stayed 2 weeks. If I could have gotten the time off from work, I think I could have stayed a whole month and enjoyed myself. Great pictures and info. Thank you for your post.

    • As I said in the post, I hadn’t considered it either. It’s just not the kind of place that I would ever thought of going to for a holiday. But it is such a good option – especially for people based in Western Europe. I flew there from London and it was so easy and then a great weekend of food, nature and culture. I hope you get there one day.

    • The nature is one of the best things about Menorca and I’ll write a bit more about that at some point. It’s a great place for cycling, horseriding, kayaking, walking, etc…

  2. Hi Michael. It was great to stumble across your blog. I am in the process of searching Menorca For a week next Sept. We have made bookings for mainland Spain and would also like a week in Menorca. We love trying new foods, off beaten track markets, bars, walks, quaint villages, fishing spots etc. we are looking at staying in a villa in Torret and will have a car. Love to see Cuitadella as it looks interesting. Have two teenage girls, so any tips on good swimming spots would be good. Have heard about great cheese, gin, lobster. It all sounds amazing. September will hopefully not be too busy. Thanks for great post

    • You will love Menorca. A lot of people go to the more famous islands but I thought Menorca had everything they offer (except the crowds and all the parties). It’s such a relaxing place and if you’ve got a car then you can definitely drive around and explore all the little bits of the island.

    • Hi Susan. The internet is perfectly fine on the island. It’s just the same as most of Spain when you’re in the urban areas. And the mobile internet connection is pretty good in other parts.


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