Definitely the lesser known of the Balearic Islands, Menorca is often overshadowed by its flashier siblings, Mallorca and Ibiza. But that's exactly why I loved it - the laidback lifestyle and far fewer tourists.
I've often said that the best thing about living in London, is the ease of which you can get out of London (and being utterly spoilt for destinations). Whenever I felt like I needed to hit the reset button (which was far more often than it should have been), I would book myself a holiday somewhere; and Menorca was one such destination. I must admit, I didn't know a whole lot about the island before I booked my flights, but the promise of beautiful beaches and Spanish food (and cheap flights) was more than enough to convince a Vitamin D deprived me.
The island is popular with mountain bikers who ride around the coast on the Camí de Cavalls, an ancient walking trail that follows the186km perimeter. I am not an avid cyclist, or really any kind of cyclist... my practical inability to ride a bike is certainly one of my life's failings! I did, however, hire a bike to get around, though I would recommend hiring a car to explore the island's beaches (it just didn't seem worthwhile whilst travelling solo).
Solo travelling isn't for everyone, but I absolutely love it. I don't have to talk to people if I don't want to and I can be as selfish as I like, without impacting someone else's holiday (because let's face it, not everyone wants to walk 3 hours to get to a restaurant, or spend 3 hours admiring the junction details of a building). I feel like I say this about a lot of places, but I'll definitely get back to Menorca at some stage; it was one of my favourite trips of last year and I need to revisit the beaches when it's not so windy! L x
Seeing as I only booked this trip a couple of weeks prior, my accommodation options were a bit limited (at least within my budget range), but I couldn't fault my simple room at the stunning Sant Joan de Binissaida. Located on a farm near Es Castell on the island's east coast; the staff were incredibly helpful; the food exceptional (one of the best breakfast buffets I've seen), and I wish I got to spend more time by the pool eating tortilla with tomato salad.
If you're looking to stay more central, stay in Mahón, the island's capital, where there are quite a few Airbnb options.
FOOD & DRINK
I'm not a huge drinker (thanks to an Asian gene that prevents me from metabolising alcohol), but I do love gin. Menorcan Xoriguer gin has a bit of a cult following, for good reason. Quench your thirst as the Menorcans do, with a Pomada - gin and cloudy lemonade poured over loads of ice.
For the meat lovers out there, a Menorcan delicacy you have to try is sobrassada, a raw cured spiced pork sausage with a creamy texture. Think spreadable chorizo. Delicious. And if cheese is your thing, make sure you try the Mahón hard cheese.
Whilst I visited during the shoulder season, many restaurants were fully booked at lunch and dinner, particularly on the weekend. I would highly recommend booking restaurants in advance to avoid disappointment (and endless laps along the Mahón esplanade); have your hotel call a week or two ahead.
Cap Roig was at the top of my list and I very nearly missed out on eating here. This restaurant was recommended to me by a friend, Niven, who basically ensured my diet had some nutritional value (despite being heavy on the gnocchi) during my entire three years in London. Niven knows food and has spent a lot of time in Menorca, so I knew this place would be good. I made the mistake of assuming I wouldn't need to book, but I was almost fatally (yes, food is a life and death matter for me) mistaken. I walked for nearly 3 hours through farms and back roads (I did not see a single other person walking) to get to Cap Roig, and I'm pretty sure the staff only gave me a table because they felt sorry for me. The meal was worth it; order whatever seafood is fresh that day.
Every evening, the esplanade of Mahón is a literal parade of (mainly) tourists looking for a feed. Can Vermut is located a bit further away from the main section and is perhaps more popular for cocktails and tapas prior to dinner. The tapas though, is good enough to make a (literal, not figurative) meal of. The octopus carpaccio was sensational. If you're still hungry after your small plates, just down the road is heladeria La Fabrica de Farry... and you know I can't say no to ice cream.
Taverna C'as Mestre d'Aixa is a wine bar in Mahón that serves a more fine dining style of tapas. I loved my meal here (once again, make sure you book), the most memorable was the soft chocolate dessert with sea salt flakes... I can almost taste those little bursts of sea salt cutting through the silky chocolate.
Sometimes the best meals are the ones where you aren't really expecting much. My meal at Xuroy at Cala Alcaufar, was one such meal. Unassuming, but with the best view of the beach.
SIGHTS & BEACHES
If you've read any of the other posts on Lozidaze, you'll know I'm a fan of walking as a means to getting to know a place. Mahón's old town and architecture are incredibly charming. I did sacrifice my "flaneusing" time for extra time laying out on the beach, so I look forward to discovering more of Mahón's charms next time.
Camí de Cavalls is the circuitous trail that encircles the island. If you're a keen mountain biker, you'll enjoy the rocky ride, but I wouldn't attempt cycling this without experience (as detailed above, I'm not a cyclist, and I still have the scars to prove it). It would take days upon days to walk the 186km trail, but you'll need to walk some of it at least, to access some of the best beaches. The dry stone walls, bougainvillea, and farm country make for some rather pretty scenery along the way too.
I'm a fan of secluded, less popular spots (it also helps visiting out of high season). Cala Alcaufar isn't necessarily the most beautiful of beaches, but it's cute and the water is an incredible colour, even when the weather is windy and the seas are choppy. A little further along is Caló Roig which I was unable to fully enjoy due to the windy weather. It's the tiniest little beach, but I can imagine it being a wonderfully peaceful spot (and also ideal for jumping into the water off the rocks) when the seas are calm.
The most challenging of the beaches/coves I visited, was Cala Rafalet, to the north of S'Algar. I tried, unsuccessfully, to find this small cove on my first day in Menorca. If it wasn't for some locals who I was able to follow (stalk) I would probably still be trudging through the scratchy scrub. It's a bit of a walk from the road, so find someone who can give you directions, as it isn't sign posted. The locals also gave me a bit of swimming advice - due to the narrowness and length of the cove (and the blustery conditions), the current is strong, but don't worry because the current will change and push you back to shore. When the seas are calm, the green colour of the water here is insane. Oh, it's popular with nudists, so don't be surprised if you see a little more than you bargained for!
Due to the weather, I didn't get to Es Grau to SUP as I had planned, nor did I get to visit Cala Macarelleta (which appears to be THE most stunning of all Menorca's beaches). They're top of the list for next time!