General information about the island of Menorca

FACTS & FIGURES

Menorca is the northernmost island belonging to the archipelago of the Balearics, and its total surface of 689 square kilometres makes it the second largest, smaller than Majorca and larger than Ibiza. It is situated in the western Mediterranean Sea, 40 kms from the north-west coast of Majorca and 224 kms from Barcelona. Menorca is 48 kms at its longest point and 19 kms at it's widest, with the main road between Mahon and Ciudadela providing a division of the North and South zones.

First impressions of the island, especially in springtime, may remind you of the United Kingdom. Green fields scattered with colourful flowers, endless dry-stone walls and Friesian cows lazily grazing.

The highest point, Monte Toro, is 400 metres above sea level. Situated in the centre of the island, the views of the coast and countryside from the top are magnificent, and on a clear day Majorca is visible.

The harbour at Mahon is the second largest natural harbour in the world, measuring 5.5 kms in length and almost 1 km at its widest point. Menorca's excellent strategic position in the Mediterranean and the harbour's deep and sheltered facilities made the island subject to many occupying forces during its long and colourful history.

Small inlets, dramatic cliffs and several islets can all be seen around the 200 kms of coastline. Beaches number over 120, with some developed to cater for visitors, and others inaccessible by road.

The towns of Mahon and Ciudadela are where the majority of Menorca's 65,000 population reside - this number doubles with the arrival of visitors in summer !

A BRIEF HISTORY

The history of Menorca is long and colourful, starting over 6,000 years ago when the inhabitants lived in the caves. Phoenician traders came to the island in 1600 BC, and named it Balearis Minor or Minorica. When the Roman Empire broke up the Barbarians and Byzantine Greeks moved in. The Arab Moors had repeatedly raided the island, and finally took possession of it in 913 AD. The following 300 years of Moorish rule explains the Arabic influence on place names and architecture, especially in Ciudadela. Many existing churches are built on the sites of former mosques. The King of Aragon fought the Moors and in 1287 Menorca became a part of Spain. Because of it's excellent strategic position, Menorca has suffered many attacks from various forces, who could see the advantages in occupying the island with it's deep, sheltered harbour. The worst attacks were from the Turks in 1535 and 1558 when the towns were destroyed and thousands of people were killed or taken prisoner.

The British landed in Menorca in 1708 and the Treaty of Utrech granted them possession in 1713. The first period of British rule ended in 1756 when the French took over. The second British rule was 1763 - 1781 and the third and final one was from 1798 until 1802 when the Treaty of Amiens returned Menorca to Spain. The 70 years of British influence in Menorca left it's mark in many ways - mainly to the good - and the British are remembered with affection and still held in high regard.

MAHON TODAY

Mahon was made the capital of Menorca in 1772 during the British occupation. You will find the largest selection of shops on the island in the town centre, but there are no large department stores. The fruit and vegetable market is held in the cloisters of the old church in the Plaza del Carmen, and the fish market is nearby. These are open mornings only, closed on Sunday's and Fiestas.

The Port of Mahon is a short descent from the town and is the best place to park your car on your visit to the capital. You will see plenty of activity on the water; ferries make regular journeys from Mahon to Palma and Barcelona, and cruise liners make stopovers too. The moorings are usually all taken in the summer, and the prime spot near the Club Maritimo is where the luxurious yachts belonging to the internationally rich and famous are to be seen. Other sights include cargo ships, fishing trawlers and naval vessels. Near the ferry station you will find a gift shop specialising in traditional Menorcan ceramics and the Gin factory, where the island's most popular drink is distilled. The restaurants and bars along the harbour come to life in the evenings, and the cuisine ranges in style and price to suit everyone.

MENORCAN CHARM

Menorca has a unique charm that attracts visitors to return year after year, and in many cases to settle here permanently! Known as the Blue and White Island, it is the ideal location for holidaymakers of all ages and interests, as we hope you will soon discover for yourselves.

Over 120 beaches are awaiting your discovery, with Arenal d'en Castell being the finest on the north coast. The two main towns of Mahon and Ciudadela are rich in history and architecture, reflecting the past centuries of foreign occupations. Inhabitants of the Bronze Age constructed what are now fascinating dry stone monuments. Hundreds of Taulas, Taloyots and Navetas have earned Menorca the reputation of being an open-air prehistorical museum.

Shoppers will not be disappointed with the locally made products, ranging from traditional ceramics and modern costume jewellery to delicious ice creams and top quality leather footwear and clothes. All the main towns hold a market one day per week, the days are shown in the Menorca 2011 publication - there is a copy in the apartment. In addition to all the main water sports Menorca offers an excellent golf course, well equipped gymnasiums, tennis and squash courts, donkey riding, horse riding, weekly race meetings, lawn and ten pin bowling. The more adventurous visitors enjoy a few laps at the go-cart track, but if all this seems too energetic, we suggest that you take flight and see this beautiful island from a bird's eye view in a light aircraft!