Sailing around the Balearic Islands
When we hear 'Balearic' we immediately think about that typical setting where we'd all like to be: coves lapped by the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean surrounded by forests where you just want time to stand still. Truth be told, Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera (the largest islands in the archipelago) are tailor-made to enjoy the weather, the sea and sailing.
The islands are not just about beaches. In fact, UNESCO has included the island of Ibiza and its culture (e.g. Dalt Vila, the old city of Ibiza, is an extraordinary example of Renaissance military architecture) and the cultural landscape of the Serra de Tramuntana (located in Majorca and home to fascinating monuments and towns such as Sóller, Valldemossa and Pollença) on its list of World Heritage Sites. If we add in the great climate, tranquil waters, incredible nightlife, especially in Ibiza (party people will love the shows from the world's best DJs), the chance to gaze upon unforgettable sunsets from the deck of a boat and the opportunity to take the time and savour typical products such as ensaimada pastries, Mahón cheese, herb liqueur, sobrassada sausage, a fish tumbet ratatouille or a lobster broth by the sea (and on these islands, 'slow food' is a must), who wouldn't want to visit at least once in their lifetime? These Spanish islands are so well loved that many film stars, sports personalities and members of royal dynasties choose them to take a break or even for a second home. Indeed, it is fairly common to come across celebrities enjoying the summer whilst sailing their yachts around the islands. Stars who have fallen under the Balearic spell include Naomi Campbell, Paris Hilton, Will Smith, Leonardo DiCaprio, Valentino Rossi, Rafael Nadal... If you dream of discovering the islands by sailing boat, you can hire one with or without a captain and crew or, if you prefer, book a place or a cabin on one (always have a look at the options available at all the marinas since there tends to be a wide selection of regatta, classic, schooner boats, etc.). Bear in mind too the features of the vessel (length, draught, number of beds, cabins and bathrooms...), the equipment (GPS, VHF radio, guide and charts, etc.) and the available extras (provisions, final cleaning, bed linen...). In broad strokes, sailboats that travel along the coast tend to have 3 to 5 cabins, a couple of bathrooms, a kitchen and, of course, a deck for sunbathing. In terms of prices, they tend to be lower than boats with an engine due to the lower fuel costs. Depending on the type of trip you have in mind, you'll need either a shorter vessel designed for just a few passengers (e.g. travelling as a family) or a larger vessel designed for groups of over 12 guests (e.g. if travelling with a group of friends). The following link, , has more information on what papers you should bring. Many travellers, even those with the official sailing certificate, prefer to hire vessels with a captain who already knows the most interesting spots to cast anchor. It is a good idea to gather information from any of the marine resorts in the Balearic Islands (specifically four: Santa Eulalia, and Sant Antoni and Sant Josep in Ibiza, Llucmajor-Bay of Palma in Majorca and the resort in Minorca) since they specialise in sailing and organising activities such as windsurfing, scuba diving, paddle surf, whale and dolphin spotting... In order to properly discover the Balearic Islands by boat, it's a good idea to spend at least one week around each of the two largest islands (Majorca and Minorca) and another week in Ibiza and Formentera, although there are shorter trips that connect several islands. You will love the sensation of anchoring in coves where people cannot get to by car, the experience of spotting dolphins, night swimming when it's hot, seeing the fluorescent plankton phenomenon or star gazing from the deck. We also recommend mooring your vessel for the day and hiring a car or bike to travel around the different landscapes on the islands, both coastal and inland, making sure you enjoy the most exclusive side of the islands, having a drink on the coolest terraces at the 'in' restaurants, clubs or beach clubs that tend to start the day off with breakfast to then transform into cocktail bars in the evening. The best and most enjoyable weather for sailing is between April and October, with summer being the most stable time of year (although you need to bear in mind possible high winds at sea). Moreover, the northern areas can even see some snow during winter months so it is advisable to not go out sailing at this time of year. The Balearic Islands have three airports (Majorca, Ibiza and Minorca) with international flights, welcome lots of cruise ships and offer ferry services between the islands. When are you coming?
Compared to Majorca, the island's size makes it a good option for discovery by sea. The bay of Fornells and the port of Mahón are recommended for sailing beginners, as they are large areas with a constant breeze whilst being protected from the high seas. There are companies in Minorca that offer sailing courses for both beginners and advanced students who wish to perfect their technique. The website contains information on specialised sailing companies on the island.
- 1 Day 1. Mahón and nearby towns
- 2 Day 2. The south east coast
- 3 Day 3. The south west coast
- 4 Days 4 and 5. The north coast
- 5 Day 6. Ciutadella and inland
Day 1. Mahón and nearby towns
We start our journey around one of the quietest Balearic islands, known as the windy isle, and the second largest after Majorca. Mahón, the island capital, is to the east and is one of the largest natural harbours in the world and a good departure point to start off your stay here.
It is one of the buzziest spots on the island, a destination for cruise ships and the perfect city to have a drink or do some shopping. Life centres mainly around the harbour, which you can see for yourself on a stroll around the Plaça d'es Peix square or the market known as El Claustro del Carmen. Highlights also includes San Roque Bridge, the church of Santa María and the Museum of Minorca. The historical military buildings should not be overlooked, including La Mola Fortress and Marlborough Fort. For some great views of La Mola Fortress, you should head up to the highest spots in the nearby town of Es Castell.
Day 2. The south east coast
We suggest mooring your boat and starting the day off in the charming town of Binibeca. It imitates the architecture of old angling villages and wandering the streets until you reach the sea is a real pleasure. Make sure not to forget your camera. From here you can head to Cales Coves. Get ready to take a dip surrounded by a rocky landscape which, in reality, was once a spectacular prehistoric burial ground. It is a magical place. The day cannot end anywhere but at Cova d'en Xoroi, which offers one of the best views of the sunset on the island. These caverns are open until dawn and offer you the chance to enjoy a spectacular vantage point, have a drink, dance the night away... In short, a spot you cannot miss.
Day 3. The south west coast
Today we head to the area of the island that tends to be photographed the most, with its typical coves (surrounded by forests and cliffs, fine sand and crystal-clear waters where boats seem to just float). The best known coves start around the area of Ciutadella and continue on to the east: Arenal de Son Saura, Cala en Turqueta, Cala Macarella, Cala Macarelleta, Cala Galdana, Cala Mitjana, Cala Trebalúger... Another good spot to end the day is Cap d'Artrutx and the area around the lighthouse. Enjoy the setting sun whilst having a drink at the terrace next to the lighthouse or from the deck of your boat.
Days 4 and 5. The north coast
Many people only spend a day of their holiday to discover the north of the island. But we think there is so much to see that, where possible, you should take two. The landscape changes in the north and becomes redder, wilder and bolder - for many, nature in its purest state. You should also bear in mind that the coast is more slopped due to the tramontane storms that hit the area at times.
If you start in the north west, a good departure point is Punta Nati, where the historic lighthouse will charm you. Afterwards, you can head to the spectacular beaches of Cala Pilar and Algaiarens. As you move towards the east, you'll come across Cala Pregonda (one of the most beautiful and least busy on the island) and Cavalleria, where the beach and incredible lighthouse are a must-see. Further along is Cala Tirant, near the town of Fornells, where you should not only moor in the port to discover the charming town, but eat a delicious lobster stew in one of the restaurants. Our excursion in the north ends at a magical spot: the area of Favàritx lighthouse. The sunset from here is simply unforgettable.
Day 6. Ciutadella and inland
We have left one of the prettiest cities on the island and former capital for the last day: Ciutadella. Strolling around the centre with its palaces, cathedral, narrow streets and pretty harbour (where, by the way, the food is amazing) is a real pleasure. Make sure you see the vantage point behind the town hall. If you are lucky enough to be there on 23rd and 24th June, you can take part in the Sant Joan festivities, where horses and their riders travel through the city. Depending on the type of boat you have chosen for your holiday and the speed it can get to, you might like to spend the whole day sailing from Mahón to Ciutadella. We should also not overlook the inland area that has lots of interesting spots to see if, as well as hiring a boat, you hire a car or a scooter. For example, the Naveta des Tudons (the best-known funeral monument on the island), Ferreries, Es Mercadal, Monte Toro (the highest point on the island) and Alaior are all worth a visit.
Tips and interesting facts
- Enjoy the countryside of Minorca to the full. It is so special that UNESCO declared the island a Biosphere Reserve in 1993. Horses are the stars at many island festivities and there are several clubs and schools to enjoy this pastime. Minorca is also a good spot for diving and all types of water sports and other activities such as golf. Hiking lovers cannot miss the Camí de Cavalls: this is a certified signposted trail that goes around the entire island coastline. Ciutadella hosts several cultural events such as the Minorca International Jazz Festival or the Summer Music Festival. The Minorca tourism website offers different ways to explore the island on routes such as the British, Talaiotic, Fortress trails, etc. Sailing Always bear in mind basic practical tips for sailing: take rubber sole shoes for walking on the deck, light water-proof clothing, sun cream, a cap and sun glasses. Information about the different ports in the Balearic Islands and available moorings on specific dates can be found at the following website: http://www.portsib.es/es/paginas/inicio/ Other useful websites Balearic Yacht Club Association http://www.acnauticosbaleares.com/ Balearic Port Authority website (with information on cruise ships, sailing advice...) http://www.portsdebalears.com/ Balearic Maritime Activities Owners Association http://www.apeam.com/ Balearic Water Sports Facilities Association http://www.anade.info/
Have you found this information useful?