Each of the Balearic Isles has features that distinguish it from its neighbours and more than sufficient individual appeal to justify a visit. Mallorca, the largest, is home to Palma, Balearic capital and seat of the Regional Authority. Palma is a modern, cosmopolitan city, with its image as Spain’s summer capital reinforced and enhanced by the official presence, over the vacation period, of the Spanish Royal Family, as well as other leading figures in politics, culture and the performing arts.
Of all the islands, Mallorca is the one that offers most possibilities to the tourist. It enjoys a wide variety of scenery. In the Tramuntana Range, rising to its maximum height of close on 5,000 ft. in the shape of Puig Major, mountain scenery can be enjoyed at its purest. Situated in this, the steepest part of the island, are towns as picturesque as Valldemossa, Sóller and Deià. In addition to its rugged landscape, Mallorca’s northern corniche, carved and sculpted by a mountain range that parallels the coast for over one hundred kilometres, is the site of attractive coves and beach resorts, such as Cala de Deià, Port de Sóller, Cala Tuent and sa Calobra.
The hinterland, eminently agrarian, has little in common with the typically tourist image of the island and serves as a constant reminder of the reason for Mallorca’s being dubbed the “Isle of Calm”. As a result of having received far less tourist influence, this area is not only more given to conserving the old ways but is outstanding for the richness of its scenery and architecture.
The south of Mallorca is more arid, and is home to some of the most beautiful of the island’s beaches, that of ses Covetes and es Trenc, as well as the beaches of Mondragó, Cala Figuera and Cala Santanyí.
On the eastern coast of the island, apart from those calas (creeks or coves), such as Cala Mesquida, Cala Agulla or Cala Torta, that are still relatively unexploited, one can visit a series of impressive caves: Artà, in Canyamel; Drac, with its large subterranean lake; and Hams, in Portocristo.
Another of Mallorca’s main tourist areas lies along the sweeping bays of Alcúdia and Pollença that fringe the north-eastern shores of the island. One of the most important towns in this part is Pollença itself, popularised by artists and show-business celebrities. The town harbour, a favourite haunt among a more “select” set, is one of the most cosmopolitan meeting points on the island. Both the Cala de San Vicenç and the Formentor peninsula are “musts”.
A further tourist Mecca on this same north-east coast is Alcúdia, with the special attraction of its old town wall, the Roman city of Pollentia and well-preserved amphitheatre. The wide crescent of Alcúdia Bay is lined with a continuous stretch of beach, Can Picafort, Son Serra de Marina and the Colònia de Sant Pere being the bay’s most important holiday resorts. The area is also site of the s’Albufera Nature Reserve, one of five in the Balearics, namely: Mondragó, in Santanyí; sa Dragonera, in Andratx; s’Albufera des Grau, on Menorca; and ses Salines on Ibiza and Formentera.
In terms of surface area, Menorca is the second biggest of the Balearic Isles. Despite its proximity to Mallorca, it possesses many distinctive and unique traits. It lies to the north-east of the group. Unlike Mallorca, it is devoid of any true highland area. Its one and only point of any height is Mount Toro which, situated in the centre of the island, rises to a mere 357 m. (just over 1,100 ft.).
By and large, the island’s north coast is a sharply indented line of cliffs, with pebbled beaches and reddish sands. The more regular south coast is made up of the so-called barrancos or ravines: these are wetlands which constitute microclimatic zones with well-defined fauna and flora, totally different from anything found on the rest of the island.
Throughout the length and breadth of the island, two schools of architecture are in evidence. On the one hand, there is the typically Mediterranean, whitewashed type of building, and on the other, buildings designed in the purest of English styles, a direct consequence of the different periods of British occupation.
Menorca possesses an invaluable archaeological heritage which has made it into what is tantamount to an open-air museum. The three main types of prehistoric monuments are mausoleums (navetas), altar-like taules (or taulas), and dwellings and/or look-out posts (talaiots or talayots). The taules are the island’s landmark constructions, the significance of which archaeologists have thus far been unable to agree upon.
Mahón (Maó), the island’s capital, is located at the end of an extraordinary three-mile-long roadstead, regarded as one of the best natural harbours on the Mediterranean.
Ibiza, which together with Formentera forms the small Pitiusas archipelago, is the Balearic Isle lying closest to the Spanish mainland. The city of Ibiza, the capital, is also popularly known by the name, Vila. It is perched atop a promontory that dominates the entire port. Rising above the Upper Town are the twin outlines of the Cathedral and Castle. Down below in the Lower Town are the sa Penya and sa Marina Quarters, bustling with the boutiques, restaurants and shops of all kinds that have made this the city’s nerve centre.
Towards the end of the sixties, Ibiza became famous thanks to the hippie movement, which endowed it with the status of a counterculture paradise. Enduring legacies of this movement are the island’s ebullient festive side and the so-called “Ad Lib” fashion, a source of revenue and of an image projected to the world at large.
Dotting Ibiza’s shoreline are the beaches of Talamanca, Figueretes, platja d’en Bossa and platja des Cavallet, though the most famous beach on the whole island is, without a shadow of a doubt, the wide stretch of ses Salines, famed for being the first nudist beach in Spain.
The Santa Eulària des Riu area is another of the island’s holiday centres. The humped form of the Puig de Missa presides over the town, a town located on the one river (the Balcar) in the entire Balearics group.
Sant Antoni de Portmany is second only to the city of Ibiza as the most popular and lively place on the island. In sharp contrast, the north coast, known as els Amunts, is practically virgin and has scarcely any towns or villages. This coast is rugged and sheer, and offers few points of access.
Formentera, viewed by some as the last bastion of earthly paradise on the Mediterranean, is solely accessible by ferry from Ibiza. It is a tiny island with an area of less than eighty square kilometres, separated from Ibiza by a distance of just 11 miles. Apart from the two rocky promontories of La Mola and Cap de Barbaria, it is practically flat and has just one town, that of Sant Francesc de Formentera.
Owing to its small size and fine sands, Formentera is a magnet for tourists seeking escape and tranquility. Fortunately, it has grown in harmony with the surroundings and its own resources, and has succeeded in maintaining a balance between modernity and tradition.