Balearics← Back to all destinations
It’s a huge mistake to dismiss the Balearics as ruined by over-developed tourist traps. The cognoscenti know these lovely islands for their hidden corners, spectacular topography and, away from Palma de Mallorca and Magaluf, some of the most unspoilt landscapes and coastlines in the Mediterranean.
Friendly islanders with a special affinity for the sea give a warm welcome to visiting yachts and comfortable distances between the islands allow some stimulating changes of scenery and culture in a short steam or sail.
This seven night itinerary explores the islands of Mallorca and Menorca but can equally be combined with the western outposts of Ibiza and Formentera to make a fascinating two week charter; and all served by frequent and inexpensive flights from the UK.
Palma airport is one of the world’s best served for flights from the UK and an easy transfer from here to the yacht in the harbour. Dominated by its spectacular La Seu cathedral, Palma is much underestimated and a real taste of the Balearics with its elegant Georgian mansions, tiny streets and the fabulous C10th Banys Arabs, the Arab baths. There is a delightful – and surprising - way to see these from the other side of the island during the cruise. From Palma, the captain sets sail for the sheltered little pot of Andratx; a peaceful overnight spot and a contrast to the hurly-burly of Palma.
Around the corner is the pretty little village of St Telm opposite the Isla Dragonera, a protected national park where yachts can anchor in complete seclusion. This is remote Mallorca at its best and before the day trippers arrive, a delightful stop for a short wander ashore. The yacht heads for Porto Soller where guests can take the C19th vintage train that winds slowly through the mountains with vistas of the Sierra de Tramuntana to Palma. Pungent aromas of the silver green olive trees contrast with the tangy citrus smell of the hundreds of orange and lemon groves ripening in the sun and the chance to explore some of Palma’s sights before returning in the early evening for dinner al fresco in the harbour.
A morning departure takes the yacht up the dramatic north west coat with its mountains literally tumbling into the sea to the rugged Cabo Formentor. There are some delightful coves and secluded beaches to enjoy and the legendary Hotel Formentor is a steep climb but worth the trek for a drink overlooking the rugged cape. A short steam into the bay lies Porto Pollença across the bay from the small resort of Alcudia. Either place makes a pleasant overnight anchorage before the passage across to the neighbouring island of Menorca.
A mere forty miles across the sea lies Menorca, once a British naval outpost and a favourite of Horatio Nelson. The yacht heads for the western port of Ciutadella formerly the Carthaginian city of Jamma and one of the smallest ports in the Mediterranean. Sitting at one of the waterside cafés is to experience what Menorca is all about. An afternoon steam along the northern coast leads to the Cala de Fornells, four pretty coves and three small islands. Founded to serve the 16th century castle built as a defence against Barbary pirates, all that remains is the watch tower on the headland. The harbour boasts a fine range of fish restaurants a speciality being the delicious Caldereta de Ilagosta, a spiny lobster stew. There are numerous sheltered coves where the yacht can anchor for the night.
Twenty miles further east is one of the world’s most perfect natural harbours, Mahon. Admiral Nelson’s homeport of the C18th Mediterranean fleet, Mahon and the island was captured by the British in 1703 and only returned for good to the Spaniards in 1802. The yacht haven lies at one end of this two mile long harbour, sheltered from all weathers and the old town is worth a visit as it climbs up a hill from the water. Notable sights are the C18th Carmelite church, the Menorca Museum, housed in an old Franciscan Convent, the Town Hall with its famous clock donated by the first British Governor of Menorca, and the Esglesia de Sant Francesc, with its intriguing Romanesque doorway. Restaurants and attractive bars abound making this a delightful place to explore and relax.
An early start for the return passage across to the southeast coast of Mallorca and the delightful Porto Cristo, a natural Harbour which still houses a fleet of small fishing boats which maintains its fishing village feel. The addition in recent years of the new marina for high end pleasure yachts has been done tastefully, ensuring the port retains its traditional heritage. After lunch, the yacht heads for the remote archipelago of Cabrera.
Originally a C14th Barbary pirate stronghold Cabrera was used as a base from which to attack the Mallorcan coast and the remains of a castle still stand on the island. The island has the dubious distinction of being the first ever prison island, housing 9,000 French prisoners in the early days of the C19th. With dark stories of cannibalism and maltreatment, it is difficult to connect this with the delightfully peaceful and relaxed national park that can be visited today. A tiny hamlet is the only habitation and parts of the island are out of bounds but with the visiting boat population limited to 50 per day, this is a place of great tranquillity and when the day boats have departed, the island is a haven. Further around the island, in the Cala Gandulf, there is the extraordinarily beautiful Cova Blance, a huge cave into which boats can navigate and where one can swim in light-reflecting waters. For the few yachts able to stay overnight, this is a fabulous and peaceful final night anchorage.
It is a three hour forty mile steam back to Palma, for sailing yachts a thrilling passage with the wind on the beam where guests disembark around midday for international connections home.
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