The sun-drenched Spanish islands nestled in the western Mediterranean Sea are collectively some of the most popular places to holiday in Europe. Away from the crowds, the archipelago is astonishingly beautiful and each island is blessed with its own unique character. From impossibly picturesque villages to unspoiled national parks that seem to stretch for miles, this is our choice for 10 of the most beautiful places to visit in the Balearic Islands.
This tiny corner of North West Majorca has historically been a haven for the early 20th century literary and art set. Today, it’s no less alluring, with its green-shuttered, ochre-colored houses and sloping hillsides covered in lush greenery and plump olive trees. The poet Robert Graves settled here in the 1930s and Archduke Luis Salvador of Austria was so captivated by the area that he purchased several estates – Miramar, Son Marroig – which host annual festivals and concerts and are open to the public. Head down to the idyllic beach of Cala Deia for a spot of sunbathing before grabbing a drink in Sa Fonda – a local’s bar where you might just spot famous musicians jamming the night away.
Mondragó Natural Park, Majorca
Beautiful Mondragó Natural Park can be found in southwestern Mallorca and is famous for its white sandy beaches and brilliant turquoise sea. The park is home to many attractions spread out across its 2000 acres, ranging from the panoramic views from the stunning cliffs to the wetlands with its migratory birds and flora. Among all this beauty are several paths of varying distances to suit every visitor. Meander around the coastline or within the park but don’t leave without checking out the sugar-white sands of the award-winning Mondrago and S’Amarador beaches – both are truly stunning!
Es Trenc, Majorca
Often said to be Majorca’s most Caribbean-esque beach, Es Trenc is two kilometres of wide golden sand and crystal clear water. Although it is quite remote, it’s known to become fairly busy at peak times but the view and surrounding natural beauty will definitely help you forget the crowds. It’s great for windsurfing and wild natural beauty, but if you’re looking for a very quiet spot you may have to walk a little way. The shallow water makes it suitable for families and behind the beach lies protected sand dunes and wetlands which are home to migratory birds and varied marine vegetation. These offer some excellent walking opportunities. However, word to the wise: it has long been an unofficial nudist beach, even during the puritanical Franco era – so you may want to bear (bare!) that in mind!
Cala Tarida, Ibiza
Then from Mallorca to the west of Ibiza and the beautiful beach at Cala Tarida. This long stretch of white sand along the west coast is sheltered by green hills with waters that are clean, crystal clear and shallow (making it perfect for families). To the right-hand side of the beach the water is deeper, and there are two satellite beaches, both offer fine sand. Behind the beach are well-urbanised hills with conveniences making Cala Tarida a popular vacationer’s beach. There are also shops right on the beach to buy inflatables, snorkel gear and beach balls if just baking in the sun doesn’t cut it for you. If you’re looking for a solitary spot there’s a selection of interestingly shaped rocks to swim out to just off the main coast.
Dalt Vila, Ibiza
To fully explore Dalt Vila (the historic part of Ibiza town) you’re better off on foot, in sensible shoes, exploring the narrow, winding, steep cobbled streets and magnificent views from the high terraces at each level. Going through the dramatic main entrance and crossing the drawbridge through the Portal de Ses Taules is like going back through time. The mighty statues in Roman stone at the gateway and the ancient cobbled stone courtyard gives the impression of an untouched olde world. Take your time as there’s so much fascinating detail. Traditionally black-clad Ibicencos, untouched by change, go about their lives in ancient Gothic Catalan buildings and their sturdy wooden doors left ajar reveal spacious stone courtyards and private chapels. The gift shops and art galleries on the walk up to the cathedral are treasure troves of the unusual and unique works of talented local craftspeople – they make perfect souvenirs to bring home!
Ses Salines National Park, Ibiza
Ses Salinas National Park – situated between the south of the island of Ibiza and the north of Formentera – is another one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Balearic Islands. A wide variety of differing natural features can be found here; from salt lakes and beaches to lunar cords with centuries-old ghost trees, cliffs and rocky coastlines. In these places a peregrine falcon or a fishing eagle can be spotted, along with the little Freus islands including S’Espalmador, S’Espardell, and the Isle des Penjats. The nature reserve of es Vedrà, es Vedranell, and the little islands to the west of Ibiza is situated to the south-west of the island of Ibiza, in the town of Sant Josep de sa Talaia. This protected area is made up of small islands, marine environment, cliffs, streams, beaches, cultivable fields, forests and hill ranges – simply stunning!
Next up is pretty Minorca and upon visiting Macarella, it is easy to understand why it is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the Balearic Islands. It is sheltered by hills and covered in pine and oak trees, giving a totally different perspective but it is also warm enough to sunbathe in winter which makes it a number one in our book! It is best to visit in Autumn or Spring because otherwise, the crowds can get too much but once you get there, there is plenty to do – either float in the turquoise ocean or explore the attractive cove.
S’Albufera Natural Park, Minorca
Considering it’s located on one of the most pristine islands in the Balearics, it’s no surprise that the protected S’Albufera park is one of the most superb in the Mediterranean. The variety of birds that can be seen here is astounding from ospreys to eagles to vultures. The park demonstrates the unique bond between mankind and nature, as the local people work to preserve the beauty of the area. There are many splendid walks to take, including one along the walls of the canyons which are dotted with caves and niches for nesting birds. Also Es Grau is a small village with a great harbour and superb restaurants and café to sit and take in the awe-inspiring view.
Playa s’alga, Formentera
Last but not least is Formentera, and this sandy paradise consists of a vast stretch of white sand, a network of dunes and crystal clear water. One of the main attractions of the area is that the mud bath sulfurosoque which, supposedly, has healing and beneficial effects on the skin. The island boasts the clearest water along with an intricate display of reefs, islets and sandbanks, making it an ideal location for snorkelling. However, the island can only be reached by boat- either private or the public “Bahia la Barca” boat which makes regular trips from the port of La Savina.
Playa de ses Illetes, Formentera
Illetes has a sort of illicit reputation, it was often popular with day-trippers coming from Ibiza after a hard nights revelling. However, these days it holds a more sober (pun intended!) reputation. There is no infrastructure here apart from a series of wood-built beachside restaurants; no showers, no sunbeds, no parasols, no hammocks. Illetes is beach life for folk who want to keep it simple – then maybe head back to the party. If you walk the length of Illetes, to Formentera’s northernmost tip, you can see the distant hills of Ibiza and its strip. Illetes is the purest beach existence you are going to get- make like the regulars and head to the Juan y Andrea restaurant where you can nibble on freshly caught seafood with your toes dipping in the most azure of seas.