Having spent some time in Catalonia, you are bound to hear it not once, not twice but a million times from the locals, you need to visit Menorca. The Balearic islands are the place to go for all the Catalans, there are cheap flights and affordable ferries, they share the language and I thought that there was nothing more to it. Well, last October, I decided to have a look for myself and see what the fuss was all about. And you know what, it is freakin’ amazing!
Menorca (or Minorca) as the name suggests, is the smallest of the Balearic islands, and (luckily) less frequented than its sisters, Majorca and Ibiza. If you like spectacular scenery, long sandy beaches with turquoise water, seeing endemic species of animals, down-to-earth smiling and not annoyed-looking locals, plus great fish, then Menorca needs to be on your bucket list.
Given that it is a relatively small island, we were able to see most of it – driving from the capital Mao (also Mahon) to the second biggest town of the island, Ciutadella, takes about one and a half hours, while to get from the the northern to the southern coast will take you about 45 minutes. Today’s post will be about my experience on the southern coast: Es Canutells, Cales Coves, Cala en Porter, and Cove d’en Xoroi.
After a big and yummy breakfast at the hotel (we were staying at Barcelo Pueblo Menorca in Punta Prima), we set off to another day of adventure – exploring the nooks and crannies unseen by all the tourists is right up our ally – so logically, our first stop is the lovely village of Es Canutells. Located in a small bay, the village prides itself on stunning white villas and emerald sea, but there is only a 20m long (yet sandy) beach, occupied by a group of mean seagulls. After taking a few photographs, we bid them farewell, and continue driving westward. It is a breathtaking view and the village seems like a quiet relaxing place.
A hippie gene in me urged me to see Cales Coves, ever since the moment I read about their exciting history in the Marco Polo travel guide book. It said that 3000 years ago the Menorca inhabitants buried their dead here, and you can also find traces from the Roman period. But what attracted my attention was the fact that many hippies lived in the caves surrounding the bays, from the 1970s to the mid 1990s when they were forced to move out. The access to the bays is uneven and rocky, so consider putting on your hiking shoes, but the view is magical. There is a fresh water spring as well so the beach area is in a state of constant swamp, and at the time that we were there, quite dirty. However, the strongest emotion or a memory that I have of the place is this feeling of unease, a feeling of guilt for trespassing into someone’s territory. That sea there is the most beautiful corally blue I have ever seen, and there is this calmness in the air, but looking up, you will notice hundreds of ‘windows’ in the rocks, former homes of the hippies and who knows whom else in the past. Either because I knew about all the dead that were burried here or because of many caves that look like real homes (we ventured into one of them, of course), I felt strangely connected to something or someone there…I can’t quite explain it, and it was not spooky at all, but this place is more than just a beautiful bay.
At this point, we were craving a dip, so we make our way to the Cala En Porter, praised for the wide fine sand beach and loved by both the locals and the visitors. On the one end of the village is intact nature, while the other hosts a holiday resort particularly loved by the British. The currents could be strong so stay away from the rocks, but if you are a good swimmer, do go for it! It was a windy day, so there weren’t too many people, but it’s far from being a deserted bay. There was a nice cafe and a few shops. Treat yourself with a cortado (a ‘longer’ espresso with a dash of milk) and an ice cream and hop in the car. According to the guidebook and various blogs, the most beautiful sunset in Europe can be seen from a place just behind the corner. On the way, you will drive by some pretty villas with lush gardens and fuchsia flowers, and there it is – Cove d’en Xoroi.
It is a nightclub and a cafe, and it is a must! Eight euros goes a long way here – you get one drink, cave exploration, great music, and getting up and personal with the Sun. The name Xoroi comes from a Moor pirate who was hiding in the caves (there are over 100 of them) for many years, and even had a wife and three children. As the peasants found his hiding place, he hurled himself into the sea, but was later celebrated in songs for his bravery and courage. As we make our way towards the bar, it was impossible not to make about 50 photographs of the sea. The costal cliffs are turned into stairs that go up and down, until you come to a landing with the first bar. Though the view is great, do not stop there. Just around the corner is another bar, with a real dance floor (in a cave) and many secluded rocky booths. As the sun sets, the rocks of Mallorca appear on the horizon. Pure magic!