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?
The smallest of the four islands is also the quietest. In fact, Formentera can only be reached by boat from Ibiza, two nautical miles away, although the distance between the ports of Ibiza and La Savina is 12 miles. Once there, the island offers 69 kilometres of coastline, beaches with crystal-clear waters and the chance to enjoy all types of water sports. La Savina (to the north of the island) has a full-service marine with everything you could possibly need for sailing. Due to its reduced size, you will not need as many days to discover the island. The organised sailing tours that combine Formentera and Ibiza in a week tend to dedicate a couple of days to Formentera. The website has more information on sailing around the island.
- 1 Day 1. The north and west coast
- 2 Day 2. The north east, east and south coast
Day 1. The north and west coast
You should be aware that the Ses Salines Nature Reserve we mentioned in our Ibiza tour also extends to the north of Formentera where, of course, the Neptune grass meadows are also renowned. The Estany des Peix lake is also on the north west of the island - a small lagoon that opens out to the sea and where small vessels may anchor. It is the perfect spot to enjoy water sports with small draught vessels.
Jorge Jiménez. Turismo de Formentera
You will also love taking a dip at Ses Illetes beach in the north, which is perfect for all types of water sports. There are maritime services that connect this area with La Savina port and the island of Espalmador (renowned for its mud baths and a great place to set anchor for the night). Did you know that Ses Illetes beach has been chosen as the best in Spain on several occasions? You will also love Llevant beach at the northern tip of the island. A highlight on the west coast is Cala Saona, which although only measuring 140 metres is one of the most beautiful coves and perfect for anchoring. Sant Francesc Xavier is the island's capital and ideal to visit and see the centenary church, stroll around the shops, buy some local handicrafts and end the day savouring a typical dish in one of the local restaurants. Before nightfall, head back to the full-service marina that is a great spot to spend the night.
Day 2. The north east, east and south coast
Your second day can start out either on the boat or again in Sant Francesc Xavier. The Cap de Barbaria lighthouse is nearby, to the south west of the island. Many visitors come here to see the sunset. If what you're looking for is the beach however, the famous Migjorn sands are in the south of the island. The beach is one of the largest on the island and the Es Pi des Català tower is not far away. The well-known Es Arenals beach is also in the Migjorn area. Migjorn is a perfect spot for water sports, although you should be aware that it is best to anchor 100 metres from the shore since there are rocks that run parallel to the coastline.
Alfredo Montero. Turismo de Formentera
Now for some culture. The most spectacular megalithic tomb in the Balearic Islands is found on the north east of the island: Ca na Costa dates back to the early Bronze Age. You can also head to Es Pujols and the night-time market. Make sure not to miss the windmill in Pilar de la Mola and handicrafts market in La Mola to the east. This is the island's largest open-air market where you will find one-off pieces by artisans from around the world every Wednesday and Sunday from May to October, alongside live music performances, jugglers... Finally, there is another mythical lighthouse on the island to the far east and on the highest spot. La Mola lighthouse is said to have inspired writer Jules Verne.
Tips and interesting facts
- Being a small, accessible island, a good option is to see part of it on foot or by bike to discover the pine forests, salt marshes and rural inland areas. Indeed, Formentera has an entire network of green routes. 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/
Getting here and around
There is no airport on Formentera and the island can only be reached by boat from Ibiza. Once in Ibiza, there are several ferries that connect to La Savina in Formentera every day of the week. The journey time lasts around 25 minutes. See the section for further information.
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