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Each Saturday evening, the Albayzin leaves the Spanish port of Valencia for the overnight voyage to Palma, capital of the island of Mallorca. On the Sunday she continues by day from Palma to Maó, the principal port on Menorca.
That latter stretch (shown as a solid green line on our map) skirts the south coast of Mallorca, affording good views of Cabrera along the way. Cabrera is nowadays a nature reserve, but during the Napoleonic Wars it had a terrible reputation as a prison island. Those who were sent there were condemned to live like savages on the barren terrain of Cabrera.
Later in the journey, the ship runs up the great inlet that signals arrival in Maó. This really is the way to arrive in Menorca. It is splendid.
Exploring the Balearic Islands
We rate that Sunday journey from Palma to Maó as one of the finest short ferry routes in the Mediterranean. It is just a pity that it runs but once a week. The operator is Acciona Trasmediterranea, the leading shipping company on routes from the Spanish mainland to the Balearics and Canary Islands.
From Maó, it is possible to continue with another Acciona Trasmediterranea ship back to the mainland at Barcelona. On the Valencia to Palma and the Maó to Barcelona sections (both shown as green dashed lines on the map), sailings are several times each week. It is merely Palma to Maó that runs only weekly.
Back to the mainland
The journey we commend here (effectively from Valencia to Barcelona via the islands) is one of many creative itineraries available to travelers around the Balearic islands. Maó is a great place to stop over for a couple of nights. So we suggest taking that Saturday evening sailing from Valencia on the Albayzin which will have you in Maó by early afternoon Sunday. Then take the mid-morning boat Tuesday from Maó on to Barcelona to arrive back on the mainland that evening.
It makes a perfect 72-hour island tour, and a fine chance to relax in the middle of a longer European trip. The one-way fare for the full circuit from Valencia to Barcelona via the islands is €138.50.
Other ferry routes around and between the islands are shown on our map as dotted lines. There is another useful shipping operator apart from Acciona Trasmediterranea. That is Balearia, who use the port of Denia on the Costa Blanca as the mainland hub for their operations.