A beautiful Spanish enclave set in the Mediterranean Sea - are famous throughout the world. Their climate, scenery and beaches are exceptional, and their inhabitants have a tradition for being particularly hospitable.
The capital of the islands - Palma de Majorca - is 132 miles from Barcelona, 287 from Marseille, 172 from Algiers and 140 from Valencia.
It would appear that these islands are the ideal location for resting and relaxing since they contain all the necessary ingredients for achieving this aim: beautiful scenery, forests, fertile farmlands, quiet and secluded beaches with crystal-clear waters, interesting folklore, a mild climate and temperatures, and a first-class hotel industry.
In spite of the close proximity of the different islands and the very many common ties between them, each one has its own very different landscape. Majorca has a magnificent coastline consisting of rocky outcrops intermingled with many small coves that offer excellent sandy beaches. Menorca, on the other hand, is noted for its tranquility, while Ibiza has a personality all of its won. Formentera and Cabrera are extremely solitary islands.
History of the Islands
There are still some interesting remains of megalithic monuments that date back to prehistoric times to be found on the island of Majorca. Examples include the talayot (towerlike monument) of Sa Canova, the settlements of Ses paisses, Capicorp Vell and Claper dels Gegants, and especially on Menorca the naveta (prehistoric tomb) of Els Tudons. The most famous civilizations in Antiquity left their mark on the island of Majorca, including the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines and the Arabs. In the year 1229 King Jaime I "the Conqueror", who was king of Aragon at the time, took control of the island and added it to his domain. At his death it was passed over to his son Jaime II and given the title of kingdom. Nevertheless, after a very short time as an independent state it eventually became part of the Crown of Aragon around the year 1343.
Menorca is an ancient island, full of history and tradition. Throughout the centuries it has borne witness to the passing of the most diverse and illustrious civilizations. Back in the very distant past it saw the setting-up of a most primitive culture, evidence of which can still be seen today in the large quantity of enormous megalithic monuments that are spread all over the island. This was the culture of the talayot, naveta and taula (T-shaped monument), which can still be encountered in some of the prehistoric settlements that abound here. The number of monuments of his kind is so great that it has made the islands appear as if they were open-air archeological museums. In more recent times Menorca also witnessed the passing the Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Byzandines and Arabs. The later, who remained on the island until 1229, were driven away by King Alfonso III of Aragon. Following it reconquest the island was repeatedly besieged by pirates. The most savage attacks took place during the reign of King Felipe II and were perpetrated by the famous Red Beard and Mustafa Piali and their followers. Spanish control of Menorca was lost in favour of England, as stipulated in the Treaty of Utrecht , and his situation lated for almost one hundred years. As a result, there were constant attempts at recovering the island by the Spanish, and this provoked struggles between the British, Spanish and also the French throughout the 18C. The Peace Treaty of Amiens finally saw the return of Menorca to Spanish control in the 1802.
Ibiza also has a very long history. Thanks to its strategic position in the Mediterranean, many different civilizations left their mark on the culture of the island. As a result of all these comings and goings, the people of Ibiza are renowned for their extremely hospitable nature. Nobody is a stranger here, since the islands is used to the movement of travelers. Ibiza was an important Carthaginian colony, evidence of which can be seen in the archeological remains that have been found. Later on it became a Roman colony, and following a relatively short time period under the Vandals and the Byzantines, eventually fell under Moorish domination around the year 707. It was reconquered by Christian force under King Jaime I "the Conqueror" and the continual struggle against pirates forced King Carlos I to set about the construction of the walls.
The history of Formentera is practically the same as that of Ibiza. It gets its name from the fact that its land was probably once given over to the cultivation of wheat (forment in the local dialect). It was occupied by the Phoenicians Greeks and Romans, and later was invaded several times at the hands of the Berbers. This was to cause its inhabitants to abandon the island, and it was not until the 17C that it was repopulated once again when it was finally safe from any pirate attacks. The Balearic Islands have provided Western culture with a large number of poets, missionaries and philosophers, including, for example, the mystic and philosopher Romnters are renowned for their mildness.
The relative humidity oscillates around 70% throughourt the year. As a result, these two factors - temperature and humidity - help to produce a feeling of extreme well-being on the human body. There are approximately 300 days of sun during the year, with an average of five hours a day in winter and more than ten during the summer months. The sea is an intense blue colour, crystal-clear along the coasts where the temperatures are at their best. The prevailing wind is generally from the south-west, and the average yearly atmospheric pressure is 758.7 mm.
Local Festivities and Folklore
Among the typical festivities that are held in the different towns and villages of the Balearic Islands, one of the most important is that at Ciutadella around June 18th, 23rd and 24th. The festivities of La Devallament at Pollensa (March 23rd), Sa Pobla (January 16th and 17th) in honour of San Antonio Abad, and the Day of La Beata at Santa Margarita (September 3rd), are all of interest to tourists. Ibiza celebrates its festivities on the days between July 30th and August 5th.
The Balearic Islands maintain a rich and flourishing tradition in local crafts. Embroidery, carvings in olive wood, wrought-iron works, cut glass, objects made from palm leaves and raffia, cultivated pearls, pottery, handmade shoes, and exquisite imitation jewellery are just some of the things that entice all those who come to visit. At Ciutadella, Alaior and Mahurn
The islands can accommodate approximately 250,000 visitors in their modern and constantly-growing hotel network.
The province can also accommodate up to 350,000 holiday makers in other modern and comfortable establishments that range from apartments, villas and bungalows. There is also the possibility of renting accommodation (with or without furniture), as well as buying property and land (although this largely depends on the availability in different areas). Nertheless, the prices are generally quite reasonable here.
The Balearic Islands have the airports of Palma de Majorca, Ibiza and Mahir and sea services have extra flights and crossing during the "high season" (July 1st-September 30th), the latter being organized through the company Trasmediterrnds, i.e. Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza.
We can find certain differences
in typical local cooking within the main characteristics of Mediterranean-type
food. In all, the experts have encountered some 600 different recipes, which
give some idea of the range there is available.
On Majorca the most popular dishes are the soups, of which there are two main varieties. The first are of a more liquid nature, composed of fish or meat, while the second - considered true Majorcan soups - are drier and more substantial and are nowadays much more difficult to find. They probably originate from the ancient cabbage soup and are the piece of resistance of a rural community. They consist of vegetables, in particular cabbage, slices of bread soaked in the cooking broth, paprika, tomatoes, and garlic. The end result is soft, light and very juicy.
After the soups the main dish consists of port (known locally as porcella), which is prepared in variety of styles, especially roast (known as rostit). It can also be stuffed with an incredible mixture of pig's liver, eggs, bread, spices, apples and plums.
Mention should also be made of the famous sobrasada, a mixture of soft lard and paprika. One of the most popular vegetable dishes is el tumbet, a kind of pie which has a layer of potatoes and another of aubergines. It is then covered with a sauce made from tomatoes and peppers. Aubergines, which are a typical ingredient in this local cooking, can also be stuffed with meat or fish or even baked. Egg dishes include huevos al estilo Sestnuts. As far as desserts and confecionery are concerned, the most well-known sweet dish is the ensaimada, an exquisite kind of large bun which requires a complicated elaboration and is made using lard.
On the island of Menorca the most important dishes are those based on fish and shellfish, both of which are found in great quantities off the coast and are of an exceptionally high quality. Perhaps the most outstanding dish of all is lobster stew, consisting of pieces of lobster, peppers, onion, tomato, garlic and a liqueur made from herbs. Other typical dishes include lobster with rice, tunny fish with mayonnaise, partridge "a la menorquina" and roast goat with sobrasada.
The cheese from Mahsoned with an almond sauce; lobster with squid and herbs; and el guisat de marisc - a succulent stew made with fish and shellfish. Throughout the Balearic Islands there are a large variety of coques - rectangular tarts that are covered with minced vegetables, fish or meat. As for wines, Majorca is the only islands which produces them. Nevertheless, these islands do have other interesting drinks. For example, Menorca is noted for its gin production, which is used in the preparation of the very popular pallofas, and on Ibiza there is a very strong herb liqueur known as frigola which is normally served with ice.