Things to Do in Balearic Islands
About three miles from Mahon Port are rock pilings that leave people awe-struck. Talatì de Dal is home to T-shaped stone monuments on Menorca – known as Taulas – which date back to 1000 BC and 300 BC and were a part of the Talayotic culture.
Not much is known about this prehistoric site, although it is considered to be one of the most fascinating on the island. Researchers aren’t sure of the significance of these rock formations. Some say it has religious implications, others suggest these were a part of science, and others hypothesize these rocks were part of ancient buildings support systems. What is not debated is the attraction of these rocks – regardless of the reasoning, people come and visit and marvel at the large formations.
A visit to this site includes exploring the Taulas of Menorca, ancient homes, and even a set of caves. For those seeking more than just this one Taula, there are a few spread out on the island.
The capital of Menorca, Maó (Mahón), features the best of both worlds on the island – a charming and beautiful town filled with culture during daylight and a vibrant and pulsing nightlife scene. The city has plenty to offer, including one of the largest natural harbors in the world (a heaping three miles long). There are tiny streets to stroll, shops to explore, cakes and meals to be had, drinks to be sipped and a market housed in what used to be an old convent.
There’s also the history. Like the other towns on the island, Maó (Mahón) is not without its story. The oldest building, Arch de San Roque, is the only remnant of the old wall which used to surround the town. Town Hall, built in 1631, is another historic building. It even features a clock still on display which was given to Menorca by English Governor Richard Kane. Of course, no town is complete without an old church. Here, the Church of Santa Maria can be found. Inside, there is an organ with more than 3,000 pipes.
No visit to town is complete without stopping at Place de S’Esplanada. The main square is filled with cafes and activities. Be sure to park yourself here for a cup of coffee and to relish in the gorgeous island weather.
Playa de Muro is a beautiful six-kilometer-long sandy beach with turquoise water in northern Mallorca; it is one of the island’s newest resort destinations. It is a “Blue Flag” beach, meaning that it meets certain criteria in regards to the water quality, safety and services. Although quieter than neighbor beach Alcudia, Playa de Muro is less sheltered and can experience bigger waves during high winds. Playa de Muro is very popular with families thanks to its warm shallow waters; because of this, water-sport enthusiasts abound, be it for water-skiing, jet skiing, scuba diving, pedal boating or paragliding. There is also a wooden jetty for boats, and boat trips around the coast are offered.
The westernmost portion of the beach, near Alcudia, is lined with resort hotels and holiday apartments, which all have premium access to the beach. Note that it is possible for non-guests to rent loungers and parasols upon request; this is also where most of the restaurants, cafés, and bars are located. Further east is the two-kilometer long Es Brac area, very similar in shape and style but overally quieter. At the eastern end of Playa de Muro is Es Comu, where the unspoiled and non-serviced beaches are located. This is the true natural side of Mallorca, with plenty sand dunes, pine trees, and juniper bushes. This portion is not accessible from the street; there are two distinct entry points, in Casetes des Capellans and in Es Brac.
Though now recognized as one of the most beautiful beach areas of Mallorca, Cala Santany was not part of the initial tourism boom on the island — in fact it hardly welcomed visitors until the 1960s. That quiet, relaxed atmosphere remains undisturbed, though a variety of outdoor activities both in and out of the beautiful water are offered. The long, white-sand beach here is scenically surrounded by rocky cliffs and forests filled with pine trees. Boat trips, as well as swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving all take place in the calm waters just off of the beach. Hiking in the nearby cliffs, or exploring the adjacent nature reserve are options to explore the Mediterranean landscape. There are also three main restaurants along the beach area with shaded lounge areas and local food and drink if you’d rather take the relaxed approach.
Perched on the coastal cliffs of the island of Mallorca, Cala Figuera was once only a modest fishing village and small harbor. Today it is one of the most picturesque towns that has maintained its whitewashed homes and colorful boat houses, making it popular with visitors. There are no public beaches or easily accessible parts of the coast, so the village maintains its quiet feel.
Views of the clear waters are particularly worth seeking, from coastal paths winding along the cliffs and hillside. Rock and sand formations, beaches, coves, a lighthouse, and of course, the turquoise sea are all visible from relatively flat walking paths. The main cove is dramatically surrounded by steep mountains. Still operating as a fishing town, the seafood is the specialty of the restaurants here. As evening approaches, you may even be able to watch the fishing boats coming into port with their daily catch.
The unique cultural landscape of Serra de Tramontana landed it a spot on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. The craggy mountain range covers the northwest side of the island of Mallorca. Standing tall at 1,445 meters, the range’s principle peak Puig Major is the tallest in the Balearic Islands. The limestone mountains receive a higher amount of rainfall than the rest of the island, and often receive snowfall in the winter.
Due to the biodiversity of plant and animal species - and to protect against urbanization - the area has been protected as a natural reserve. Historic villages with structures such as water mills, farms, agricultural and irrigation systems remain in place. Some methods have been in use since the Middle Ages, and demonstrate both Christian and Muslim cultural influence in this area.
With ocean views of turquoise waters and pine-forested hillsides, it is a popular place to enjoy scenic hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities.
Set atop a wooded hill overlooking Palma, the 14th-century Bellver Castle (Castell de Bellver) is known for its distinctive circular design—it is supposedly the only Spanish castle to bear this shape. Built for King James II, the castle later served as a military prison and mint and now houses the City History Museum (Museu d'Història de la Ciutat).
A Gothic-style church at the heart of Palma’s Old Town, the Basilica de Sant Francesc is one of the island’s most spectacular sights and historically significant structures. The basilica dates back to the 13th century when it was founded as a monastery. It has been known as one of the most famous churches on Palma since the Middle Ages.
The current sandstone facade was reconstructed in the 17th century after the original was struck by lightning. Its Baroque style is more typical of the Majorcan style. The inside of the basilica is just as impressive as its exterior, with high vaulted ceilings in classic Catalan Gothic style and ornate altar. Tombs and chapels line its walls, leading to its stunning medieval cloister filled with citrus and palm trees.
The statue outside the church is of Franciscan monk Junipero Serra. If his name sounds familiar, it might be because he went on to found the major cities in California - Los Angeles and San Francisco, among others. The church is considered a major landmark of Palma and is included in most all tours of the city.
Lovers of modern and contemporary art (or casual travelers looking for insight into the Spanish art scene) will find one of Spain’s most important and comprehensive collections at the Es Baluard Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Palma. Opened in 2004, the museum maintains a collection of more than 500 pieces, with a heavy emphasis on artists working in the Balearic Islands since the early twentieth century.
Set amid some of Palma de Mallorca’s most historical structures, including the Sant Pere Bastion (sixteenth century) and the Aljub reservoir (seventeenth century), the museum building is much more modernist, made from concrete and glass, yet manages to fit in harmoniously with its surroundings.
Surrounded by sand dunes and rocky cliffs, Cala Comte ranks among Ibiza’s most spectacular (and popular) beaches. Visiting families come to swim in the calm, clear waters, while protected coves and enclaves appeal to sunbathers who prefer to go au natural. The beach is known as the best spot on the island to watch the sunset.
More Things to Do in Balearic Islands
Sitting pretty on a hilltop in Ibiza Town (Eivissa), the fortified area of Dalt Vila has been occupied since Phoenician times. Behind its chunky defensive walls and 16th-century bastions lies a maze of cobbled streets that slope up to the cathedral at the summit, where views of the glistening coast await.
Known for its vibrant nightlife and sun-soaked beaches, Ibiza offers much more than beats from a European DJ. Instead, consider exploring Es Vedranell and the other western islets—and their inlets—of Ibiza for a more laid-back experience that features protected nature parks, quiet beaches, and Mediterranean diving.
After King James I (Jaume 1) conquered the Balearic Islands in 1229, he began the conversion of a Moorish-era mosque in present-day Palma de Mallorca (Majorca) into a grand Catalan Gothic-style cathedral overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The golden sandstone façade, the city’s most notable landmark, took more than 400 years to complete.
Built by the Romans, the Royal Palace of La Almudaina (Palau de l’Almudaina), overlooks the scenic bay in Palma, capital city of the island of Majorca, Spain. Visit this majestic site to see how antiquity lived throughout the centuries and today; the palace remains the official residence of Spain’s royals during visits to Majorca.
Dating back to the 10th century, the Palma Arab Baths (Baños Árabes) are among Palma’s most fascinating archaeological sites and some of the last remaining relics of the Muslim era in the Balearic Islands. It is believed that parts of the baths are the only remnants of the Arab city of Medina Mayurqa.
Get to know Mallorca beyond its beaches during a visit to the old stone city of Valldemossa, located high in the Tamuntana Mountains, or to La Granja, a former convent surrounded by gardens. Many visitors climb winding roads up into the mountains via bus, taxi, or rental car during a day trip to see these popular sites.
Along Mallorca’s southeastern coast you’ll find a collection of sweet coastal towns, idyllic beach coves, and one especially photo-beckoning sight, Es Pontàs. This natural rock arch loops high out of the clear, crystalline waters just off shore, where it lures everyone from sunrise seekers to picture takers and rock climbers.
And its location near other ideal island destinations makes it an even more deserving trek. While in the area, claim a plot of sand on the nearby, cove-protected Cala Santanyi beach; explore the sweet, old-world streets of the more inland town of Santanyi; and wander the coastal trails of Mondrago Natural Park.
One of Ibiza’s most beautiful stretches of sand, Cala Bassa has become known as one of the island’s top beaches. Favored by locals and visitors alike, it’s a long crescent-shaped white sand bay with calm, turquoise waters that are great for water activities. Crowds are diverse and range from small children playing in the sand to adrenaline-seeking jet skiers and boaters. Many consider Cala Bassa to have the most vibrantly turquoise waters on the whole island.
Cala Bassa is a beautiful spot to relax and take in the natural coastal beauty, but it also has its fair share of facilities. From sun beds and beach chairs to restaurants, bars, showers, and lifeguards, the beach has a little bit of everything. Not to be overlooked, the Cala Bassa Beach Club offers up some of the DJs, dancing, and nightlife that Ibiza is famous for. The beach is a frequent stop of catamarans and boat tours of the island.
The island of Mallorca is known for its turquoise waters and scenic natural beauty, and Plajita des Coll Baix no exception to this. What makes this secluded beach special, aside from its idyllic surroundings, is the fact that it is protected and often deserted. Because it is difficult to reach, crowds are nearly nonexistent and you may even have the beach to yourself.
Opening out into a wide sea inlet, the soft and sandy beach is surrounded by tall, rocky cliffs and Mediterranean forest. It is hard to imagine clearer or more vibrantly colored waters. The stunning beach is most popular with those who love the outdoors and don’t mind some hiking — as it is only accessible by boat or foot. Those who go will undoubtedly agree that the trek is worth it. Boat operators often lead tours from town. It’s quietest in the morning and evening.
Monte El Toro, also known as Toro Mountain, is the highest peak in Menorca, measuring in at 1,175 feet above sea level. In fact, the peak can be seen from nearly every town on the island. On top of the mountain, the views are truly spectacular.
Aside from the beauty found on top of the mountain, there is also an old Augustinian monastery and church, complete with a wood carving of the Virgen del Toro, the patroness saint of the island. The area has a rich history – be sure to dig in during a visit to the Virgen del Toro Sanctuary which was originally built around the site of a 13th century gothic church. This area is considered to be the spiritual center of Menorca.
Today, visitors can explore the area, including a gorgeous patio, a church built in the 1700s and wood carvings of Menorca’s patron saint. Alongside the church is a testament to the other history of the island – a defense tower built in the 16th century. Once a monastery for Augustine monks, today the sanctuary is run by a group of Franciscan sisters of Mercy.
With its beautiful white sand beaches framed in picturesque rocky points, Puerto Pollensa (Port de Pollença) on majestic Formentor peninsula has become a magnet for holiday goers with a taste for the finer things in life. Everyone from families to water sports enthusiasts come for the cafe-lined promenade, marina, and the Bay of Pollensa.
Impossible to miss in the heart of Palma’s Old Town, Plaza Mayor is the Mallorcan capital’s largest square and a lively meeting place at any time of day. Constructed in the 19th century on a storied piece of land, today the sprawling rectangular plaza serves as a shopping and dining hotspot for locals and visitors alike.
The Caves of Drach (Cuevas del Drach)—an enormous underground expanse of undulating sandstone, stalactites and stalagmites, and semiprecious agates—create an imaginarium of formations. This exquisite ornamentation frames one of Europe's largest underground lakes, Lake Martel, where classical musicians on boats serenade visitors.
The island of Mallorca is home to more than 200 caves and the Cuevas del Ham, or Caves of Hams, are one of the most popular to visit. Located along an underground river called the Sea of Venice, these caves are notable for their spiral and hook-shaped stalactites. Many travelers visit these caves during a multi-destination day trip.
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