A Balearic Islands travel guide - Moorish villages, upbeat nightlife and beaches by the Mediterranean
Get your bearings
The rocky, pine-clad Balearic Islands are scattered in the Mediterranean Sea off the east coast of Spain. To the north lies Mallorca, the largest island, whose appeal reaches from Palma's art galleries in the south to Cala Millor's soft sands on the east coast. Just over 20 miles northeast of Mallorca is Menorca, with its family-friendly vibe and fine bays. Dip south for wild nature and the white-sand beaches of Formentera, or the party spirit and laid-back beach life of Ibiza.
Mallorca packs diversity into a Balearic Island break. Cultured southwestern capital Palma is home to a mighty Gothic cathedral and Picasso-filled galleries. Nearby, Palma Nova and Magaluf beckon with palm- lined beaches and pulsating nightlife. Venture south for watersports and marina strolls in the pine-fringed cove of Cala d'Or. The limestone Tramuntana massif is Mallorca's northern backbone. Explore Sóller's citrus groves, the arty hilltop village of Deià and ochre-hued Valldemossa where composer Chopin lived. In the east, Formentor's precipitous cliffs spill south to Puerto d'Alcúdia's popular beach and Cala Millor's broad sandy bay.
Hippies, hedonists and sun-seeking families all flock to Ibiza. Southern capital Eivissa attracts culture buffs to its fortified Old Town, while revellers hit harbourside bars to dance to some of the world's top DJs. Swim from the sheltered southern coves of Cala Jondal and Cala Martina, or hang out on the beaches of Playa d’en Bossa and party-mad San Antonio. See a wilder side to Ibiza watching flamingos in Ses Salines' salt marshes in the west, or hiking northern Ibiza's rugged coastline and olive groves.
Moorish Ciutadella's higgledy-piggledy cobbled lanes squat beneath a Gothic cathedral. Tuck into rich lobster stew in the harbour before flopping on the western coves of Cala Blanca and Cala en Blanes. Glide north to windsurf in Fornells and spot rare seabirds in S’Albufera des Grau's dunes and wetlands. Sun-seekers head south on Balearic Island holidays to stretch out on Cala Galdana's half-moon bay, water-ski in upbeat Son Bou, or snorkel Binibèquer's translucent waters. Framing a vast natural harbour in the east, capital Mahón lures holidaymakers to its shops, craft markets and patisseries.
Formentera, studded with sugar-white beaches, is an escapist's fantasy. In the northwest lies low-key Sant Francesc Xavier, dominated by a fortress-like church. Bird spotters flock north to Estany Pudent's salt marshes and lagoons. Wade from Formentera's northern tip to Espalmador islet at low tide to wallow in natural mud baths. Slightly east is Es Pujols, a lively village with a sweep of white sand. A road twists east to La Mola's sheer cliffs and lighthouse, and south to pine-backed Es Arenals' gently shelving beach with shallow water.
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