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Exploring Menorca's most beautiful beaches, El Toro Mountain & the magical city of Ciutadella

When I think about Menorca, my time there always feels a bit like a dream—endless hot days lounging on hidden beaches, swimming in the perfectly clear sea, finding the best tapas in Mahon, or exploring the empty streets of Ciutadella at dusk. My first trip to the island was a few years ago—each day blissfully filled with sun and happiness—and I've since returned once more seeking out mysterious ancient stone structures across the island and checking in to my new favorite hotel, Menorca Experimental.

cobbled streets of ciutadella menorca
Ciutadella streets

During my first trip, I based myself in the quaint city of Ciutadella. The place is so fabulous it actually feels more like a town—filled with cute houses in muted pastel shades, cobbled streets and bright bougainvillea. I stayed in another favourite boutique hotel San Castre, a pretty place that used to be a sweet shop. The window in my room looked out over whitewashed walls and terracotta roof tiles and everyday a bright blue sky would be waiting without a single cloud in sight.

Some evenings after I’d been out exploring, I'd enjoy wandering through the winding narrow streets of the city getting lost before finding my way back to the pink tinged Cathedral at the centre of the old town. One night, I happily discovered Curniola 35, a restaurant serving beautiful tapas set in a building that dates back to 1845. The tables in the tiny patio at the back of the restaurant are definitely worth booking ahead for and the sesame seared tuna, salt cod croquettes and fried squid are all delicious. 

plate of squid at curniola 35 in menorca
Squid at Curniola 35

I tried to spend time at a variety of beaches during my stay in Menorca, the first being Cala Galdana, a calm bay that’s popular with families. Some of my family were staying on this part of the island so I drove over to spend the day with them. I liked Cala Galdana for ease with a nearby free car park and lots of small cafes and restaurants where you can order take-way drinks and snacks throughout the day. There's also sun loungers and shades for hire and the bay feels safe as the water is calm and quite shallow but still beautiful. To the left of the bay there’s a walkway up across pine tree studded hills, providing pretty views right back along the coast. 

blue water and rocks at cala galdana in menorca
Cala Galdana

I carried on along the coastal pathway to reach another bay, this one smaller but on my visit, much busier. Cala Mitjana is a tiny arc of sand with the most stunning clear blue sea, here you can cliff jump or snorkel among the rock caves but avoid in high-summer as space on the small stretch of sand can become super limited. If you have a car, there’s a car park just off the ME-22 road and Mitjana is well signposted from there. There's no shops or parasols for hire on the beach so take all you need for a day in the sun.

blue sea and pine forest on cala mitjana
Cala Mitjana

My absolute favourite beach however, is on the north coast, to get there I had to walk 30-minutes through pine forests filled with the magnetic hum of cicadas. Cala Pilar is an isolated red sand beach that looks almost psychedelic as the red sand meets the bright blue sea. I took a picnic of peaches and cured meat down to the beach and spent the day blissfully reading, swimming and sunbathing. This really is my kind of beach, not too many people, quiet and so stunning. 

red sand and blue sea at cala pilar
Cala Pilar

Not too far from Cala Pilar is the highest peak on the island El Toro, and the pretty rural village of Es Mercadel, I spent half a day first visiting the mountain, where on a clear day you can see pretty much see the whole of Menorca, before stopping off at Es Mercadel to take photos of the deserted streets, filled with coloured flags and to pick up carquinyols, a type of almond biscuit famous in the area.

flags strung across the streets of es mercadel in menorca
Es Mercadel

Everyday on my drives out to beaches or to see family I’d notice brown road signs pointing to monuments, this was how I discovered Menorca's amazing, ancient stone monuments. If you're staying in Ciutedella like I was for my first trip I’d recommend visiting the Talaiotic settlement of Torretrencada, which is fairly large and so interesting, plus you'll probably have the place to yourself while everyone else suns themselves beaches. I also adore the amount of lighthouses dotted across Menorca. I've visited a few so far and one of my favourites is Cap d’Artrutx.

cap dartrutx lighthouse in menorca
Cap d'Artrutx lighthouse

The blue and white stripes and squat white base of Cap d’Artrutx make it look like something from a Wes Anderson movie and the rocky coast around the base is also stunning, with insane clear blue waters and gentle waves crashing into the craggy rock face. 

To get around the island I'd recommend hiring a car, both times I've hired mine through ACG Menorca. The cars are always new and brilliant, staff are so friendly and prices not too bad, I paid $58 (£42) a day, fully insured.

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