The Island of Menorca – Rich with Mediterranean Intrigue
The island of Menorca has been called “an open-air Mediterranean history museum.” Its location in the Balearic archipelago has made it a prime spot for colonization. Throughout its turbulent history, people of many cultures have settled on the island; Menorca was controlled by the Carthaginians, Muslims, French, and British, and it currently belongs to Spain. The island’s ethnic heritage mingles with its natural beauty to create a magnificent place to explore.
The island of Menorca is home to more than 1000 prehistoric monuments. Naveta des Tudons is an ancient tomb steeped in legend. According to the story, two brothers were competing for the affection of a girl. They decided that one would build a well, and the other would build the Naveta—whoever finished first could make the girl his wife. When the first brother was adding the final stone to the Naveta, the brother at work on the well reached water. Enraged, the first brother threw the stone into the well, killing his brother. That stone is still missing from the roof of the tomb.
Monte Toro is the highest point in Menorca, from which you can view the entire island. You can hike up to the peak, or merely drive up the winding road. A statue of the Virgin Mary with a bull at her feet marks the top of the mountain. According to local legend, a group of pilgrims was walking up the mountain when their bull found the statue in the rock. Today, a convent and a small chapel pay homage to the legend.
Menorca’s diverse Mediterranean landscape led UNESCO to designate the island a biosphere reserve in 1993. From forests of wild olive trees to gullies that cross the southern coastline, Menorca boasts dramatic and picturesque scenery. As the land is developed, builders are required to protect and harmonize with the natural habitat. Therefore, unlike many popular tourist destinations, Menorca is not overgrown with high-rise resorts and urban jungle. Its coastline is unspoiled, and visitors can find peace among the many attractions.
Celebrations in the Streets
Every year in late June, the locals in Menorca celebrate the Festival of San Joan. This festival, celebrating the longest day of the year, honors the triumph of light over dark, day over night. Roads are closed, and huge bonfires are built. These bonfires are said to be healing, and legend is that they can bring good luck if you jump over one of them three times. The festival is also marked by majestic black stallions that dance in the streets and ride through some buildings.
In August, continuous festivals keep the locals and visitors busy with exuberance and cheer. A popular drink of gin and lemonade flows freely during the festivals, and ebony horses parade through the streets. Marching bands bring music to the public squares, and the air is festive. Horse races are popular during this time, and there is always something to do.
Although Menorca is one of the smaller Balearic islands, its history and culture is incredible. The Mediterranean landscape is varied and remarkable, and the people are friendly and always ready to celebrate. Stories of the past are reflected in the culture and tourism, and the people are proud of their heritage. A visit to Menorca is like passing through a storybook that recounts the legends of a colorful people and an intriguing past. Put that together with beautiful beaches flanking a turquoise Mediterranean sea, and it may be one of your more memorable vacations.