The best Balearic Islands for any type of traveler

The best Balearic Islands for any type of traveler



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Which is the most beautiful of the Balearic Islands? Which is the best for partying and which is the least touristy? What’s the best time of year to visit and which of the islands would suit you best? Let us inform you

Spain’s Balearic Islands — Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera — are perfectly suited to different types of travelers looking for different travel experiences. Beach life, clubbing, swimming, walking, history, culture, and great food are all available in some capacity or other wherever you go, but we’ve picked one travel personality that fits each island more than the others. 

Mallorca: the best for beach lovers

Lighthouse of Cap de Formentor, Mallorca, Balearic Islands, Spain around Sunset.Sunset view of the lighthouse of Cap de Formentor in Mallorca — Getty Images

We’ll begin on the largest island, which also happens to be home to the region’s capital, Palma. Since 1983, the Balearics have been an autonomous region of Spain, and this is the most popular place to begin to get to know what they’re all about.

In the past, Mallorca was often seen as a by-word for cheap package holidays in huge resorts, and although they do still exist (notably the 30-kilometer strip on the Bay of Palma and one or two on the east coast), Mallorca’s great strength is in its diversity; away from the resorts, you’ll find hidden coves and unused beaches, as well as towns with sandy seafronts.

young couple taking a selfie on their holidays in Spain, looking at camera with big toothy smile. Huge cathedral church in the background.Palma is dominated by its cathedral, La Seu — Getty Images

Palma itself is a lively place, dominated by its huge Gothic cathedral and a smattering of grand mansions built by the nobility from the 16th century onwards. In the 19th century, it drew artists and writers to its narrow lanes and cobbled squares which look as beautiful now as they ever did.


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The rest of the island is virtually untouched, with the rugged Serra de Tramuntana peaks running along the entire northwest of the island, giving great options for climbing and hiking. There are hidden bays and small, unspoiled beaches almost everywhere you turn, and delightful little villages seemingly lost in time. The 13th-century Lluc monastery serves as a destination for both the religious and the secular, having been a place of pilgrimage for hundreds of years. It now also houses a museum dedicated to the history, art, archaeology and people of Mallorca.

Menorca: the best for nature-lovers

woman standing in from of Cala Morell enjoying the view, Minorca,Balearic islandsCala Morell is just one of many spots in Menorca from which you get a great view of a beautiful landscape — Getty Images

The whole island is a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, meaning that its forests and wetlands are preserved and untouched, as are the Bronze-Age archeological sites sprinkled mysteriously around the landscape.

Indeed, inland is rolling hills and farmland, tiny settlements joined by seemingly endless stone walls weaving their ancient way across the landscape. Rent a bicycle and ride from place to place, or grab your map and find your way along one of the walking trails that crisscross the island.

The whole place is gently understated, with small, neatly whitewashed towns dotted around the coast, each on its own delightful harbor or bay, meaning there’s always a bit of a sea breeze to keep you from cooking under the Mediterranean sun. The laid-back atmosphere of these towns invites you to do very little — an amble along the seafront with ice cream, maybe, or a relaxing dip in the clear, blue sea. Evenings might be spent sampling the local seafood, or on your balcony with a glass of wine. When life looks this good, why rush?

Ibiza: the best for party animals

The Ibiza citadel (Dalt Vila) is built around the castleIbiza’s Dalt Vila (“Upper Town”) with the Castle as its centerpiece — Getty Images

The hard-partying tearaway of the group, Ibiza pulls in around seven million tourists in an average year, many (if not most!) of whom are there to dance all night to some of the world’s top DJs in many of the best clubs in the world.

It’s also a great place to come if you’re toward the other end of the partying spectrum: if all-night raving isn’t your thing, Ibiza has a history of bohemian, artsy types whose flowing-hippy-dress, flowers-and-large-sunglasses chic was established in the 1960s and is still going strong to this day.

But, like every one of the Balearic Islands, Ibiza has a rich history to discover and also hides many, far calmer secrets. The three towns of note — Ibiza town itself, Santa Eulària des Riu and Sant Antoni de Portmany (also known as San Antonio) — are all to the south and east of the island, so if you’re looking for peace and quiet, head north.


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Here you’ll find pine forests, rural villages, religious retreats, white sandy beaches, small family-run guesthouses, and all manner of things to give even the most bleary-eyed party animal a wonderful reason to get fresh air into their lungs.

Cala Comte. Eivissa in Ibiza, Balearic IslandsCala Comte beach — Getty Images

Otherwise, spend your days in the towns themselves. Ibiza town is built on a hillside and is dominated by the walls and ramparts of the Dalt Vila, a Unesco World Heritage Site and home to the 14th-century Santa Maria d’Eivissa cathedral. The nearby Puig des Molins is an Islamic necropolis that also houses a museum of archeology, while walking a couple of miles north out of town will bring you to a 23-meter-high statue of Jesus Christ. If you need absolution for your previous night’s sins, you’re well provided for.

Formentera: the best for a modest, relaxing break

Coast of formentera, Balearic IslandsThe breathtaking coastline of Formentera — Getty Images

The hipster’s choice for Balearic travel, Formentera lies a mere eleven miles across the sea from Ibiza town. Despite being uninhabited for 350 years once the locals decided they couldn’t be bothered putting up with constant pirate attacks and abandoned the place, it has a lot in common with its larger sister.

It was part of the hippie travel explosion in the 1960s; indeed, it was positively encouraged that if hippies, travelers, and other undesirable types wanted to come to Spain, they should confine themselves to the islands. The Francoist regime tolerated them in an out-of-sight, out-of-mind sort of way in that whatever they were doing there, at least they weren’t coming to big cities and fermenting unwashed unrest among the local youth. Pink Floyd, notably, were big fans of Formentera in particular.

Geographically, however, the island is different from Ibiza. Whereas Ibiza has greenery, vineyards, and the like, Formentera is rather arid. It’s also covered in rosemary and lizards, which sounds like the title of a Pink Floyd album if ever I heard one. The beaches are some of the least visited in the archipelago; long, white, and stretching around almost the entire island. It’s not somewhere to come if you’re looking for luxury, but if escape and blissful solitude is your thing, it’s the place to be.

Go to Stories for more travel inspiration.

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