Menorca is the westernmost of the Balearic Islands. Its environment remains well preserved and so visitors to the island are able to admire its coastline in an unspoiled state. In the interior of the island, the rural landscape worked by man blends into the natural surroundings. In 1993, Menorca was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, an event which not only recognised the natural beauties safeguarded by the people of Menorca but also represented a triumph for those who advocate sustainable economic growth that protects the environment.
Menorca stretches 50 kilometres from east to west and 18 from north to south. Within its 700 square kilometres, it contains two very distinctive natural areas. The Tramontana, to the north, has gentle hills and valleys, a rugged coast with deeply cut inlets, long capes and coves that are difficult to get to. In the Migjorn area in the south, the land is flat with just the occasional gulley cutting its way through. The coast is more uniform and the longest beaches on the island are to be found here.
Most visitors come to Menorca drawn by its unspoiled beaches and coves, which are breathtakingly beautiful and often hard to reach. The crystal-clear, turquoise-blue waters and the incomparable natural surroundings provide perfect conditions for swimmers and sunbathers alike.
The port in Maó is one of the deepest natural harbours in the world. The entry port to the island since Antiquity and a perfect shelter for boats, it is today one of the city’s main attractions. At the western tip of the island is Ciutadella de Menorca, the former capital, which stands on the seashore and has a small port. Hidden among its narrow streets are traces from its centuries of history. These selfsame streets witness the revelry of the festivities on the eve of Saint John’s Day, in which the horses of Menorca play a big part.
Menorca was occupied by the British almost uninterruptedly from 1708 to 1802, though there were periods when it passed into the hands of the Spanish and French. The British encouraged trade and contributed to the development of the island’s cultural institutions. They moved the capital to Maó and left a distinctive mark on the city’s architecture, as well as a number of English words that have been adopted into the Catalan language as spoken on Menorca.
The island contains an extraordinary number of prehistoric monuments from the time of the Talayotic culture, which was also present on neighbouring Mallorca. Notable among these monuments are the taulas, consisting of two large blocks of rock arranged in a T-shape. The tallest of them, at Trepucó, stands 4.2 metres high. It is believed that they were sanctuaries. Navetas, which take the shape of an inverted boat, are another prehistoric monument and were used as graves. The Naveta des Tudons is the one of the oldest monuments in Europe. Other more recent monuments on Menorca include the fortifications along the coast, especially at Maó Port, which were built to protect the island from attack from the sea.
Menorca’s environment, culture and history make it a unique destination for holidays on the Mediterranean. It is an island that has preserved not only its ancient customs and traditions but also its outstanding natural landscape.