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The beauty of the Balearics: a travel guide to each must-visit island

Portals Vells is a sandy cove beach on the southwest of Mallorca, considered to be one of the island’s top 20 beaches

While forming part of the same archipelago, Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera all offer something unique, from character and culture to landscapes and cuisine; even the local dialects vary, with Mallorquí spoken in Mallorca, Menorquí in Menorca and Ibicenco in Ibiza and Formentera. One thing that unites these islands, though, is their ability to deliver rich biodiversity and more than 300 sunny days a year, making them a popular year-round destination. Here, EVA RAMIREZ discovers the best of the Balearics



There’s so much more to Mallorca than high-rise hotels. The largest of the Balearics, it has a rich historical heritage that’s evident in the architecture of its capital city, Palma. Gothic cathedrals, quaint cobbled plazas and Moorish fortresses tell tales of invaders, conquerors and settlers, all residing within a cosmopolitan hub that’s filled with chic boutiques, cocktail bars and Michelin-starred restaurants. There’s a strong presence of fine art, literature and music in Mallorca, too (don’t miss out on a visit to the Joan Miró Foundation museum), and the farming village of Deià – an area nuzzled between the UNESCO-recognized Tramuntana Mountains and northwestern coast that has attracted creatives for decades thanks to its dreamlike olive, orange and lemon groves peppered with low-slung terracotta roofs. Belmond’s La Residencia hotel occupies a 17th-century Majorcan estate here and is perfect for soaking up the island’s boho vibes, while nearby local bar Sa Fonda is often frequented by Kate Moss, Susan Sarandon and Mario Sorrenti. Before leaving, pick up a few traditional Majorcan souvenirs – foodies will love stocking up on sobrassada (a paprika-spiked cured sausage) and Flor de Sal (an organic sea salt harvested on the island).

The elegant La Residencia hotel is set between Mallorca’s Tramuntana Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea
The dreamy Fontenille Menorca Torre Vella hotel features rustic-chic decor, with just 17 guest rooms for an intimate feel


Menorca is daintier and less crowded than Mallorca. Calm and often secluded beaches with shallow turquoise waters surround the island’s periphery, making it a great choice for families with small children. With fewer modern resorts and a low-key nightlife, most visitors skip the bars and go cove-hopping instead. Cala Mitjana and Cala Trebalúger in the south are refreshingly wild and surrounded by fragrant pine trees. Hire a boat or kayak to enjoy the rugged coastline from the water and stop off at Jàgaro, a chic seafood restaurant with a vibrant menu of Catalan wines. For a taste of authentic Menorca, visit the charming Ciutadella Port and work your way into the old quarter – an ancient Arab citadel where you can scoop up a bottle of traditional Xoriguer Mahon gin, Mahón cheese and leather goods, including the much-loved Avarca sandals. A must-visit is cliff-side Cova d’en Xoroi bar for live music, an ice-cold pomada (gin and lemonade) and dramatic sunsets, before retiring to Fontenille Menorca Torre Vella – one of the best hotels in Menorca, thanks to its traditional finca setting, refined interiors and fabulous service.


There’s nothing homogenous about Ibiza. It offers a bit of everything, from clubbing and yoga retreats to spiritual experiences and active excursions (hello, hiking, biking and water sports). While the cobbled lanes, fuchsia-hued bougainvillea and historic Dalt Villa of Ibiza’s fortified old town are all enchanting, the real magic is felt in the west. Just off the coast lies Es Vedrà, a rocky island shrouded in myth. The area has a high energetic field (it’s thought to be the third most magnetic place in the world) and attracts those seeking a soul-filled, conscious vacation experience. Cue the family-run Petunia Ibiza hotel, which overlooks Es Vedrà and is a short walk from Cala Carbó – an unspoiled beach favored by locals. Petunia has a bohemian, intimate feel, with just 37 rooms and villas dotted around palm tree-filled gardens. Also good: agriturismo is a huge trend in Ibiza, so there are plenty of farm-to-table restaurants, including La Granja, Aubergine by Atzaró and Casa Maca, to head to for seasonal dishes and local fish plates chargrilled on an open flame. Our tip? Finish your meal the Ibizan way with a shot of Hierbas Ibicencas – an anise-like herbal liqueur distilled from indigenous plants, then head back to Petunia to gaze at the starlit sky.

Ibiza’s Petunia hotel offers some of the best views of the storied Es Vedrà


Last but not least is Formentera – Ibiza’s much quieter, more laid-back little sister. It’s the least built-up of the Balearics and retains a rustic feel, so if the other islands incite a slow pace, Formentera encourages you to pause altogether. It can only be reached by boat from Ibiza as there’s no airport, making it a popular day-trip destination, and the island boasts miles of Maldives-like beaches and crystalline waters made for snorkeling and swimming. Playa de Ses Illetes, where the sand takes on an enchanting pink hue, has been ranked one of the top-10 beaches in Europe by TripAdvisor and forms part of a nature reserve (read: bring your own snacks). In fact, Formentera is a leader of environmental protection in the Balearics and the number of daily visitors here is closely monitored, so be sure to arrive early if you want to avoid lengthy queues or disappointment on particularly busy days. For somewhere slightly buzzier, Playa Migjorn has a few traditional chiringuitos and contemporary beach bars worth checking out. And, for a suitably chic/boho stay, book a Pool Garden room at the nearby Gecko Hotel & Beach Club – a modern take on Formentera’s slow-paced lifestyle. When you’re not oceanside, head to some of the island’s open-air crafts markets, which have been going strong since the 1960s. There are several dotted across the island, but try La Mola for handmade textiles or Sant Ferran de Ses Roques for unique artworks.

Formentera’s Gecko Hotel & Beach Club offers a slice of modern luxury on this laid-back, sleepy island