We all have different ideas of what constitutes a good holiday; what one person may enjoy another may hate. If you were to make a list of what you are looking for in a holiday, would it include the words “quiet”, “relaxing” or “laid back”? If it would, then you might like to read on. If it contains the words “all day full English breakfast”, “sports bar” or “clubbing till dawn” then you might want to skip the rest of this blog - but not until after you’ve visited the “books” page to see what else I have to offer, of course.
From a British point of view, it’s an easy 2½ hour flight (depending on where you fly from), making it as quick to get to as the Costas, Mallorca or Ibiza. Several package holiday companies offer holidays there and a couple of the budget airlines also offer flights if you want to book your own accommodation.
We stayed in Cala Gandala (Cala means creek) which has been built around a bay and the estuary of a small river, making it very sheltered. It is a 30 minute coach ride from the island’s airport. There are only four major hotels, all spread well apart, with the rest of the space taken by holiday apartments and holiday homes. There is a broad, sandy beach about half a kilometre long, which is the centre of attraction for most visitors. In terms of shopping and eating there are a number of minimarkets, souvenir shops, snack bars and restaurants. The whole resort is barely larger than the village where we live.
Talking to other travellers, this seems to be a typical sort of Menorcan resort area and Cala Gandala is actually one of the larger resorts. Even in the middle of the day it is a nice, quiet sort of place. This isn’t the sort of place frequented by stag and hen parties, or large groups of boys and girls intent on staying drunk for their entire holiday. I have to say, we never felt at risk from any sort of crime while there. In fact, we only saw one police patrol the whole time we were there and he seemed to have just popped in for lunch.
The “Blue Flag” beach is well protected from the open sea and slopes gently into calm waters, making it safe for swimming even for younger children (under supervision, of course). A lifeguard is on duty each day, just in case. Sunbeds are available for hire, as are pedalloes. The beach catches the evening sun, so many people don’t leave it until quite late.
Of course, tour reps are also able to book you more formal tours, but unlike other resorts, there are no booths set up along the seafront offering this service. Also, you aren’t constantly being hassled to “come into my restaurant/shop/bar” as you are in some holiday destinations.
For the more energetic, Menorca has a coastal footpath, called the Cami de Cavalls, that circles the island and walking this is a popular holiday for the enthusiasts. The trail is 185 km long (115 miles) so walking the entire path during a single holiday probably isn’t practical, but it would give you a reason to come back for a second visit. The path is divided into 20 sections of varying lengths and difficulty.
There are a number of campsites available on the island, but caravans and camper vans don’t seem to be catered for. I suspect that the ferry costs to bring them across from mainland Spain are probably too high. If you want to hire a car, the resorts all have car hire offices and are happy to rent a car to you by the day. Scooters are also available to hire.
We took the bus to Cuitadella on two occasions. The old town is a maze of narrow streets and alleys which contain a wide variety of shops, cafes and bars. The harbour area is very pleasant, but after looking at the boats and whiling away some time sitting over a cup of coffee, there isn’t much else to do there. For those interested in churches there is a 17th century cathedral and a former convent, now converted to an art gallery and museum, to take a look at. You can buy a combined entrance ticket for €5 per person. The old town is very small, no more than 500 metres across in any direction.
Now, here’s an interesting (ish) observation for you. Of those shops that sell clothes or shoes, and which don’t close for siesta or on a Sunday, almost all of them cater for women. Trying to replace a pair of shoes that finally gave up on me, I wasn’t able to find a single men’s shop open. I think that tells a very interesting story about which tourists spend the most money when on holiday.
It is also worth noting that most things, including food and drink, are slightly cheaper in Cuitadella than in the resorts, though there are also some higher end shops.
When your day of lounging around or sightseeing finally comes to an end, the entertainment is centred on the hotels. At least two of these have nightly shows; usually a singer or a group. The standard of entertainment is generally very high. The hotels are quite happy for you to wander in off the streets to watch, providing you buy a drink of course. By the way, drink prices are very similar to those in UK, a little higher for beer and a little lower for wine.
For the record, the food at our hotel was excellent and typical of the sort of standards to which Menorca aspires. As you might expect on an island, fish features heavily on many menus.
If you are self-catering then the minimarkets stock the basics, but for economy’s sake you might want to take a trip to the large supermarket located on the outskirts of Cuitadella. You can’t miss it, it’s on the main road into town.
There are so few places to go these days which aren’t full of blaring music and rowdy young people, so it was really nice to spend a week where there was neither, but which still had all the facilities of larger resorts.
Menorca makes an ideal destination for a family holiday and I would particularly recommend it for couples whose families no longer holiday with them. If you’re fed up with Spain, then here’s one little bit of it where it’s still possible to really relax.