“If I had to describe Minorca in three words, I’d say: singular, historical and delightful”
“I grew up in Sussex, worked in London for a few years and then came to Minorca. I was first attracted to the island some years ago when I saw a photo in a brochure.
Eventually I came here with a friend on holiday, and we decided to return the next year for a Mediterranean adventure.
We found jobs in reception in a hotel, and our basic night school Spanish improved rapidly while dealing with the hotel staff. I met my husband out here (that old story, as I say to Saga guests); we married and had three children, and I’ve never looked back.
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Beautiful beaches, good weather and a few surprises!
I love it here – it has all the things you would expect from looking at the brochures, like beautiful beaches and good weather, but it also has a few surprises too.
People often comment on how clean it is, and they love the wild flowers, the birdlife. They find it uncommercialised, which they might not have been expecting if they know the more crowded resorts.
The Spanish love the beaches here – they find them more attractive and unspoilt than on the mainland.
It’s very different from Majorca and Ibiza too – the islands definitely have their separate identities.
Ibiza of course has its own character, the hippie scene in the sixties, and nowadays all the discothèques – it’s seen as very trendy in Spain and many famous people go there in the summer.
The best places to visit in the Balearics.
Majorca vs. Minorca: There is a difference!
The Majorcans are more commercial; they started tourism much sooner than Minorca. And of course, Minorca itself has a very distinct identity too.
The Minorcans were more industrious than the other islands, focusing on the leather industry, jewellery and later costume jewellery, and dairy farming.
All this meant that tourism started slowly here and is still quite low-key, despite being today’s main industry. The people certainly consider themselves Minorcan as opposed to Spanish, and also feel different from the Majorcans and Ibizans.
There have been so many foreign influences on the island from prehistoric times, from the Carthaginians, Romans, Phoenicians, Vandals and Moors to the Spanish, British and French.
Apart from the Vandals, who were destructive, they all left their mark.
The British left gin, and some words in the Minorcan language; the French influence gave us mayonnaise, which has a connection with Mahón, the capital; it is ‘Mahonesa’ sauce in Spanish.
Exploring Majorca: discover more about one of the beautiful Balearic islands
Perfect for archaeology.
Minorca has more archaeological sites than the whole of Spain put together, unlike the other islands where very little has been discovered. Minorca is a biosphere reserve, and the Minorcans care about the environment.
In fact, the island has just been accepted as Spain’s candidate for a World Heritage Site in 2016 (fingers crossed!).
They love music; the Teatro Principal in Mahón (1829) is the oldest opera house in Spain, the acoustics are good and a huge restoration project took place a few years ago.
When the opera is not on, there are concerts and plays.
Delve into the past on a special interest history and archaeological holiday with Saga.
As for food, there are several specialities that I like people to try. Macaroons are an island specialty, and in some restaurants you can get a Minorcan gin and lemon (pomada) sorbet.
In general, the cheese is excellent, made from cows’ milk, although you can also find some goat and ewe cheese too. The local Mahón Minorca cheese can be bought as a young cheese, semi cured and very mature.
More and more farms are opening farm shops so that customers may buy direct. Spiny lobster is used in the traditional dish, known as a caldera or caldereta.
This is cooked in an earthenware dish, in a sauce with tomatoes and green peppers. It is served with thin slices of sun-baked bread. It is delicious, but if people don’t like the idea, they can have lobster cooked in other ways.
I like to visit the fish markets and see the fresh fish that can be found in the restaurants; monk fish, bass, grouper, sea bream, red mullet, skate, mussels, prawns, clams and more.
Wild asparagus that appear in the spring taste divine in an omelette, and I particularly like a type of wild mushroom that’s found in the woods from late autumn to early winter – these are tasty with garlic and parsley.
There are a variety of different sausages made from the local pigs – sobrasada is probably the most well known. Made with pork and paprika, it is spicy!
There is an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables of all types. Stuffed aubergines and stuffed courgettes are often on the menu in restaurants.
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So many places to discover.
There are so many places I love on the island. A day could be spent walking part of the Cami de Cavalls, the bridle path, maybe in the spring looking at the wild flowers or in autumn, when it’s not so hot.
In the summer I like going round part of the island on a boat (preferably) or by car, stopping at an unspoilt beach.
Or just spending the morning browsing in the shops in Mahón or Ciudadela, sitting in one of the squares with a coffee, visiting a museum or an exhibition, possibly having a few tapas and a glass of wine later on.
There are many choices for lunch in Fornells, Cales Fonts in Es Castell in the Port of Mahón, or the port of Ciutadella, where you can relax and eat some fresh fish while gazing at the water and the boats.
I really enjoy taking Saga customers on half-day excursions – I find they’re always pleasant and interesting people, and usually they are also interested in the island, which is stimulating for me.”
Minorcas Cami de Cavalls
Christine’s top ten things to do in Minorca
In no particular order:
Take a boat trip round the port of Mahón and see history unfold before you. Pop into the Gin Distillery afterwards to try the Minorcan gin and some of the liquors.
Visit the Isla del Rey (Kings Island) if you have a chance. This is only open sometimes, and contains an old British Military hospital which is being restored by volunteers.
Visit the Mola Fortress at the mouth of the port, built in the XIX century by the Spanish. It has wonderful views and underground tunnels to explore.
Go to the top of Monte Toro, the only mountain on the island. Enjoy the views, visit the church, and see the two shops (one run by the nuns).
Explore the historical town centre of Ciutadella, the old capital, and seek out the cathedral and any exhibitions that may be on. Wander round the narrow streets, do some shopping, and walk down to the old port.
Visit the capital of Mahón and try to visit the Santa Maria church, which has a fantastic organ designed by Swiss Organ makers and installed in 1810. Listen to a concert if you get an opportunity.
Visit an archaeological site – there are many on the island. You will see the ‘taulas’ the huge T shaped monuments unique to Minorca, ‘talayots’ conical watch towers, and ‘navetas’, collective burial chambers.
The ‘Cami de Cavalls’, an ancient bridle path which has been re-opened, has been divided into 20 different sections, with different levels of difficulty. Try to have a walk along part of it – the scenery is beautiful.
Visit Fornells, the little fishing village in the North that is famous for lobster. Featuring a large shallow bay, it has many cafés, shops and restaurants, a promenade you can stroll along, and is much favoured by the Spanish Royal Family.
Visit one of the beaches (I have seen Saga guests paddle in mid winter!). If you don’t like the sand, many have seats for people to sit on, or bars near the beach where you can sit, relax and catch up on some holiday reading
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