Things to Do in Balearic Islands
After King James I (Jaume 1) conquered the Balearic Islands in 1229, he began the conversion of a Moorish-era mosque in present-day Palma de Mallorca (Majorca) into a grand Catalan Gothic-style cathedral overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The golden sandstone façade, the city’s most notable landmark, took more than 400 years to complete.
The Caves of Drach (Cuevas del Drach)—an enormous underground expanse of undulating sandstone, stalactites and stalagmites, and semiprecious agates—create an imaginarium of formations. This exquisite ornamentation frames one of Europe's largest underground lakes, Lake Martel, where classical musicians on boats serenade visitors.
The tallest point in Menorca is Monte Toro, also called El Toro, where you can see the entire island on clear days. Built atop the summit is the Mare de Deu del Toro sanctuary, a significant pilgrimage place with a shrine to Menorca’s patron saint. There, a whitewashed exterior leads to a small chapel with a carved image of the Virgin Mary.
One of Ibiza’s most beautiful stretches of sand, Cala Bassa has become known as one of the island’s top beaches. Favored by locals and visitors alike, it’s a long crescent-shaped white sand bay with calm, turquoise waters that are great for water activities. Crowds are diverse and range from small children playing in the sand to adrenaline-seeking jet skiers and boaters. Many consider Cala Bassa to have the most vibrantly turquoise waters on the whole island.
Cala Bassa is a beautiful spot to relax and take in the natural coastal beauty, but it also has its fair share of facilities. From sun beds and beach chairs to restaurants, bars, showers, and lifeguards, the beach has a little bit of everything. Not to be overlooked, the Cala Bassa Beach Club offers up some of the DJs, dancing, and nightlife that Ibiza is famous for. The beach is a frequent stop of catamarans and boat tours of the island.
Surrounded by sand dunes and rocky cliffs, Cala Comte ranks among Ibiza’s most spectacular (and popular) beaches. Visiting families come to swim in the calm, clear waters, while protected coves and enclaves appeal to sunbathers who prefer to go au natural. The beach is known as the best spot on the island to watch the sunset.
Port de Maó (Port Mahon, the capital of Menorca, has plenty to offer, including one of the largest natural harbors in the world. There are tiny streets to stroll, shops to explore, cakes and meals to be had, drinks to be sipped, and a market housed in what used to be an old convent.
Built by the Romans, the Royal Palace of La Almudaina (Palau de l’Almudaina), overlooks the scenic bay in Palma, capital city of the island of Majorca, Spain. Visit this majestic site to see how antiquity lived throughout the centuries and today; the palace remains the official residence of Spain’s royals during visits to Majorca.
Known for its vibrant nightlife and sun-soaked beaches, Ibiza offers much more than beats from a European DJ. Instead, consider exploring Es Vedranell and the other western islets—and their inlets—of Ibiza for a more laid-back experience that features protected nature parks, quiet beaches, and Mediterranean diving.
With its beautiful white sand beaches framed in picturesque rocky points, Puerto Pollensa (Port de Pollença) on majestic Formentor peninsula has become a magnet for holiday goers with a taste for the finer things in life. Everyone from families to water sports enthusiasts come for the cafe-lined promenade, marina, and the Bay of Pollensa.
Lovers of modern and contemporary art (or casual travelers looking for insight into the Spanish art scene) will find one of Spain’s most important and comprehensive collections at the Es Baluard Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Palma. Opened in 2004, the museum maintains a collection of more than 500 pieces, with a heavy emphasis on artists working in the Balearic Islands since the early twentieth century.
Set amid some of Palma de Mallorca’s most historical structures, including the Sant Pere Bastion (sixteenth century) and the Aljub reservoir (seventeenth century), the museum building is much more modernist, made from concrete and glass, yet manages to fit in harmoniously with its surroundings.
More Things to Do in Balearic Islands
Claiming a spot on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, this craggy mountain range rising sharply from Mallorca’s northwest coast is prized for both its striking landscapes and cultural history. Alpine roads wind through pine forests and boast oceans views at every hairpin turn, while traditional villages provide a link to the island’s long Christian and Muslim heritage.
Set atop a wooded hill overlooking Palma, the 14th-century Bellver Castle (Castell de Bellver) is known for its distinctive circular design—it is supposedly the only Spanish castle to bear this shape. Built for King James II, the castle later served as a military prison and mint and now houses the City History Museum (Museu d'Història de la Ciutat).
Impossible to miss in the heart of Palma’s Old Town, Plaza Mayor is the Mallorcan capital’s largest square and a lively meeting place at any time of day. Constructed in the 19th century on a storied piece of land, today the sprawling rectangular plaza serves as a shopping and dining hotspot for locals and visitors alike.
Just outside Mahon Port in Menorca stand rock pilings that leave people awe-struck. Talatì de Dal is home to a series of t-shaped stone monuments—known as Taulas—dating from 1000 to 300 BC and were a part of the Talaiotic culture. Not much is known about this prehistoric site, although it is considered to be one of the most fascinating on the island.
Dating back to the 10th century, the Palma Arab Baths (Baños Árabes) are among Palma’s most fascinating archaeological sites and some of the last remaining relics of the Muslim era in the Balearic Islands. It is believed that parts of the baths are the only remnants of the Arab city of Medina Mayurqa.
The island of Mallorca is known for its turquoise waters and scenic natural beauty, and Plajita des Coll Baix no exception to this. What makes this secluded beach special, aside from its idyllic surroundings, is the fact that it is protected and often deserted. Because it is difficult to reach, crowds are nearly nonexistent and you may even have the beach to yourself.
Opening out into a wide sea inlet, the soft and sandy beach is surrounded by tall, rocky cliffs and Mediterranean forest. It is hard to imagine clearer or more vibrantly colored waters. The stunning beach is most popular with those who love the outdoors and don’t mind some hiking — as it is only accessible by boat or foot. Those who go will undoubtedly agree that the trek is worth it. Boat operators often lead tours from town. It’s quietest in the morning and evening.
A Gothic-style church at the heart of Palma’s Old Town, the Basilica de Sant Francesc is one of the island’s most spectacular sights and historically significant structures. The basilica dates back to the 13th century when it was founded as a monastery. It has been known as one of the most famous churches on Palma since the Middle Ages.
The current sandstone facade was reconstructed in the 17th century after the original was struck by lightning. Its Baroque style is more typical of the Majorcan style. The inside of the basilica is just as impressive as its exterior, with high vaulted ceilings in classic Catalan Gothic style and ornate altar. Tombs and chapels line its walls, leading to its stunning medieval cloister filled with citrus and palm trees.
The statue outside the church is of Franciscan monk Junipero Serra. If his name sounds familiar, it might be because he went on to found the major cities in California - Los Angeles and San Francisco, among others. The church is considered a major landmark of Palma and is included in most all tours of the city.
Ses Salines natural park is made up largely of water (a whopping 75 percent of the area and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The area is known for its beaches and biodiversity—178 plant species and some 210 species of birds, including flamingos, Audouin’s gull, and Balearic shearwater.
One of Mallorca’s biggest outdoor weekly markets, Inca Market takes over the island’s leather-making town of Inca every Thursday. Offering more than 100 stalls, the market is a great place for snapping up traditional local leatherware, handicrafts, delicacies, and fresh produce.
Sitting pretty on a hilltop in Ibiza Town (Eivissa), the fortified area of Dalt Vila has been occupied since Phoenician times. Behind its chunky defensive walls and 16th-century bastions lies a maze of cobbled streets that slope up to the cathedral at the summit, where views of the glistening coast await.
Get to know Mallorca beyond its beaches during a visit to the old stone city of Valldemossa, located high in the Tamuntana Mountains, or to La Granja, a former convent surrounded by gardens. Many visitors climb winding roads up into the mountains via bus, taxi, or rental car during a day trip to see these popular sites.
The sleepiest and smallest of Spain’s Balearic Islands, Formentera is the ultimate Mediterranean coastal idyll. Free from the all-night clubs and persistent touts of neighboring Ibiza, Formentera has a mellow, leisurely vibe. The island’s biggest lure is its natural beauty—escape to its white sands, clear waters, and scenic walking paths.
The island of Mallorca is home to more than 200 caves and the Cuevas del Ham, or Caves of Hams, are one of the most popular to visit. Located along an underground river called the Sea of Venice, these caves are notable for their spiral and hook-shaped stalactites. Many travelers visit these caves during a multi-destination day trip.
Perched on a dramatic hill, Ibiza Castle (Castell d'Eivissa in Catalan) marks the top of Ibiza’s Dalt Vila, or Upper Town. The island landmark was built over the course of more than 1,000 years and is an architectural hodgepodge of pale-colored stone that combines elements like a 12th century medieval design with 18th century barracks.
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