The Balearic islands offer a wide range of experiences: the cosmopolitan buzz of Palma de Mallorca, the party scene in Ibiza’s iconic fortified medieval Old Town, and Formentera’s sparsely populated sandy terrain, more akin to north Africa than continental Europe.
The Balearic chain consists of four principal islands – Mallorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera – stretched over a distance of around 150 miles. Mallorca, in the middle of the group, is the largest by a factor of five and is home to eighty-five per cent of the Balearic population.
For centuries these islands were a strategically important crossroads in the Mediterranean. They were conquered by a string of adversaries, including Vandals, Moors, Christians and Turks. In consequence a wide variety of architectural styles are evident and, in addition to chic modern development, there’s no shortage of medieval ports and villages to explore and investigate.
Most development is concentrated around the main cities, towns and resorts, leaving the rugged beauty of much of the rest of the islands interrupted only by rural villages, small market towns and fishing ports. There are hundreds of miles of unspoilt coastline, with numerous quiet anchorages, as well as a number of small uninhabited islands.
In a week’s charter from Palma it’s possible to explore the island’s east coast, and visit the national park on the beautiful uninhabited island of Cabrera, which has a rich diversity of flora and fauna. There are also sea caves here that can be explored by dinghy.
Those of a more adventurous disposition can sail west, possibly stopping at the uninhabited Isla Dragonera just off the island’s westerly tip, where lizards of all descriptions abound. From here, a full day’s sail will take you to the picturesque fishing port of Soller, which is perched on the island’s mountainous and remote northwest coast.
Popular destinations for two-week charters from Palma include sailing northeast to the southern coast of Minorca, or south to the smaller islands of Ibiza and Formentera.
Minorca is the second-largest island in the group, at just over 250 square miles. It’s a biosphere reserve with strict building regulations – you visit for peace, tranquility, the island’s natural beauty and the stunning medieval ports. The island was captured by Britain in 1708, the start of almost one hundred years of sporadic British rule; Nelson regarded Mahon’s huge natural harbour as the best island refuge in the west Mediterranean. Evidence of British occupation is still seen in the local architecture, especially in the sash windows of the houses lining the steep hillsides around the harbour.
Minorca has are over forty unspoiled coves and beautiful pine-fringed beaches, as well as lovely fishing harbours. The enchanting medieval port of Ciutadella was the island’s capital until 1722, and it’s still easy to get lost in the old quarter, where the narrow streets were designed to confuse Turkish invaders.
Ibiza and Formentera
Less then 60 miles south of Mallorca, Ibiza’s unrivalled party scene has by no means obliterated the island’s natural beauty. Large portions of the island are UN World Heritage Sites, which offer protection from development. In addition to the modern marinas in some of the resorts and Ibiza town, charter guests will also find a number of quiet and well-protected bays around the island. It’s an ideal destination for those seeking a combination of nightlife and quiet anchorages.
Formentera is just four miles from Ibiza, but this 12-mile long low-lying sandy island has a totally different atmosphere. Aside from a handful of largely self-contained resorts it’s very low key – there’s only one harbour, and few tourists venture to the small town that is a three-mile taxi ride inland. For those visiting by sea, safe anchorages off some of the Mediterranean’s best sandy beaches are popular with yachts day sailing from Ibiza town.
The south and east coasts of Mallorca predominately experience a force 3, occasionally 4 on a summer afternoon. Minorca may see a little more breeze than this, while Ibiza and Formentera generally have a little less. In spring and autumn the islands may encounter low-pressure systems, but summer weather is predictably hot and sunny.
In Mallorca average maximum daytime temperatures vary from 19 degrees Celsius in April to 28 degrees in July, decreasing to 21 degrees in October. Ibiza tends to be a little warmer all year – even in October the average daily maximum is a balmy 23 degrees.