Menorca Spain Travel Destinations Spain

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The second largest and most agricultural of the Balearic Islands, Menorca is much less developed than its neighbours, with a rural hinterland and fewer resorts.

Beaches and peace are the island's main draws. Its 120 beaches outnumber the combined total for the other Balearics, with many owned by the Spanish National Trust and accessible only by boat or foot. You won't discover some primordial paradise this is the Med, after all but you will find some genuine tranquillity.

Fourteen UK airports have flights to Menorca; even more if you make a connection in Palma or mainland Spain. Most Brits go to the resorts, but these do not dominate the island and are kept away from the main towns. The authorities are determined not to lose their grip on development, and 40 per cent of Menorca will eventually be part of conservation areas.

The two urban centres are Mao (' Mahon ' in Castilian), the capital, in the east and Ciutadella, the former capital, in the west. 70 per cent of the islanders live in one of these.

Mao is a small place which will not cause the heart to beat faster; it's pleasant enough for a spot of wandering, though. Its five kilometre long harbour, Port de Mao, has a deep sea entrance which so attracted the British that they captured Menorca in 1708 during the War of the Spanish Succession. The island was returned to the Spanish just under a century later, but the British influence can still be appreciated, in the architecture (look out for Georgian sash windows), the gin production, and the local dialect.

Ciutadella, with its imposing mansions and Gothic cathedral, is a more enjoyable town. It has a pretty port, but this was not suited to 18th century naval needs and the British governor moved the seat of government to Mao in 1722.

It is worth hiring a car so that you can see the different sides of Menorca, from the wild north coast, to the quiet centre, to the exquisite southern beaches. Keep an eye out for prehistoric monuments as you drive. Beware though: many of the stones you see will be part of the 15,000 kilometres of wall that were built around the fields to protect crops and protect the topsoil from wind erosion. Modern farmers use breeze blocks.