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The second largest and least tourist-ridden of Spain’s Balearic Islands had been on my holiday wish list for years. An untouched paradise of pretty coves, virgin beaches, historic cities and laid-back Spanish culture, Menorca awoke my curiosity, especially in the face of its rowdier, glitzier and better-known sister islands, Ibiza and Mallorca. I also had reason to believe that it might just be the ideal spot for a budget-friendly beach holiday. It was high time I made a visit.
The only thing that lets Menorca down when it comes to being Cheapo-friendly are the flight prices. I was traveling from London and could easily have been swayed to book flights to other more popular Spanish sun-soaked destinations for half the price, but I stuck to my guns and paid £150 on return flights to Menorca’s capital, Mahon.
When it comes to accommodation, there are a lot of different options across the island, but the north is the least touristy area. I opted for a pretty whitewashed apartment in the small resort of Son Parc. An apartment with two double bedrooms here—complete with terrace—will set you back around £350 per week and sleeps up to four people (just £87 per person per week), with access to a communal pool, fantastic views and the stunning Son Saura beach just a five minute walk away. Alternatively, you can opt for the Son Parc Hotel from around £47 per room per night, based on two sharing.
The one thing worth investing in, especially if you’re staying in the north of the island, is a rental car. I paid £120 for a week between four people with BK Rent a Car.
Menorca, in addition to great cheap sleeps, offers tasty local food at low prices—if you know when, where and what to eat. Here are some tips:
If you decide to hire an apartment, you should stock up on tasty breakfasts and barbecue dinners from Mercadona near the airport. The supermarket in Son Parc is useful for the essentials, but you’ll get much better value elsewhere. Then, make like the locals and eat out at lunch, when you can enjoy some delicious Menus del Día (three course menus) for as little as €10 per person. This is definitely the best way to enjoy the local produce for less.
The city of Ciutadella is not to be missed. Get lost in the rabbit warren of tiny streets, drink some traditional pomada (Menorcan gin with lemon) in a pretty plaza, or lap up the atmosphere (and the fancy yachts) along the waterfront. Most of the restaurants along here serve typical fare with menus at similar prices—a slightly inflated €15 for three courses—but the fantastic view is more than worth the extra few euros.
Fornells, in the north of the island, also makes for a tasty lunch stop. The seafront is lined with restaurants boasting identical menus, all vying for the visitor’s attention and you can get a three-course lunch for €10-€12 along here with no difficulty at all. Sa Rumbada was my personal favorite; the stuffed aubergines and grilled hake were especially good. Walk off lunch with a brisk stroll up to Fornells Tower, where you’ll enjoy fantastic views of the town and the coastline.
Caldereta de Langosta (Lobster Stew) is Menorca’s most traditional dish, but the prices can be astronomical. Equally tasty is a hearty pot of Arroz Caldoso de Marisco—rice and lashings of seafood cooked slowly in a delicious sauce for a fraction of the price.
Menorcan’s are also very proud of their locally produced vinos, so stop by Binifadet Bodega and Restaurant for a really informative tour and the chance to taste a few different wines. The tours run every day until 7 p.m. and they’re completely free— though the wine is so good you may find it hard to leave without buying a bottle or two!
Yes, that’s right Cheapos, get down to Cala Cavalleria and take a right when you get to the beach to access the natural mud baths. The kind of clay skin treatment that other destinations charge hefty entrance fees for, is here free to “do it yourself.” You’ll see plenty of other people sunning themselves while caked in the purifying goodness of Menorca’s red clay. Cover your skin evenly and let it dry for around 15 minutes before washing it all off in the sea for incredibly soft skin.
Menorca is scattered with over 2,000 megalithic monuments, the smaller of which you can often visit for free, while the larger sites don’t charge more than €3.50 per person. Erected in the Bronze Age, these towering stones punctuate the landscape, standing tall and proud on hilltops.
There are several different types of monuments. The Navetes were used as burial chambers, while nobody is 100% sure of the meaning behind The Talaiots, the most impressive of which are the Taules. These enormous T-shaped stone structures leave you gasping in disbelief at how on earth it was possible to position one stone on top of the other. They are normally surrounded by smaller stones believed to have been for deities or offerings but the meaning behind the Taules themselves is still disputed.
With more beaches than Ibiza and Mallorca put together, excellent value food and accommodation, intriguing cities and free or very cheap cultural offerings, Menorca really did turn out to be a Cheapo summer paradise. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
For more information on Menorca, visit the Menorca Tourist Office. If you have any questions about Menorca or anything else, feel free to post them on the comments board below.