But there’s more to the Spanish isles than cheap sangria, crowded beaches and a solid fry-up. With turquoise blue waters you’d expect to find in the Caribbean, these idyllic islands are crammed with picturesque villages, charming cobbled streets, interesting historical monuments and, of course, some of the best beaches in Spain.
Whether you’ve been to one of these four holiday hotspots before, or are planning your first trip, check out these 17 places and see a different side to the Balearics.
Best places to visit in Mallorca
Sóller, one of the most beautiful towns in the Balearic Islands and Spain, is set in a lush green valley on the island of Mallorca. Take a cable car from the town to the seaside, sit in one of the cafés in the Plaça Constitució and watch the world go by. Looking for a little more adventure? The surrounding mountains provide the perfect backdrop for an afternoon of mountain biking or hill walking. History and architecture lovers should check out the church of Sant Bartomeu or the Modernista Banco de Sóller building, designed by a student of Antoni Gaudí.
Read more: Top things to do in Palma de Mallorca
Rivalling Sóller for the title of prettiest village in Spain, Fornalutx is a quiet retreat nestled in the Mallorcan hills. With steep winding streets, you’ll want to pack some proper walking shoes. Wander through the village, enjoying the breath-taking mountain views from its terraces, breathing in the scent of orange blossom in the air. Stock up on picnic supplies at the local bakery, Panaderia de Fornalutx, before heading in to the hills for a day of hiking.
Built on the Sierra de Tramuntana mountain range in Mallorca, Valldemossa is picture postcard material. Surrounded by forests and plenty of green space, the beige stone buildings and crumbling houses will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Valldemossa’s beauty has inspired many famous artists.
One of them is the composer Chopin, who lived here in the palace beside the old monastery, La Cartuja. Let your own creative powers loose and spend time admiring beautiful window boxes of flowers, which decorate cute houses. Or simply soak in the peace and tranquility on offer in Valldemossa.
4. Bellver Castle
One of the few circular castles in Europe, Bellver Castle (Castell de Bellver) sits pretty atop a hill on the outskirts of Mallorca’s premier destination, Palma. A trip out to this impressive palace is definitely worth sacrificing a day on the beach for. Built in the 14th century for King James II, it was once a military prison, but is now a history museum. Uncover some surprising facts about Spain’s rich history.
Climb the tower or just admire the unusual Gothic architecture – proof that there’s plenty to see and do away from the typical tourist haunts of Palma.
Read more: 15 of the most beautiful castles in Spain
5. Sa Calobra and Torrent de Pareis
So Sa Calobra beach won’t win any beauty contests. But the hidden cove is the starting point for some stunning trekking through a shaded gorge. Head underground and explore 200m of tunnels towards the Torrent de Pareis, which means ‘twin streams’. The beach is still a great picnic spot, and the perfect pitstop after all that walking, which is guaranteed to work up a sweat, especially if you visit during the summer months. The drive out there is also spectacular as the road around Puig Major is full of hair-raising bends; including the ‘Knotted Tie’, a 270-degree twist that forces the path back underneath itself. Seatbelt essential!
6. Caves of Drach and Artà
Both the Caves of Drach and Artà are incredible. It’s impossible to pick just one to recommend, so why not visit both next time you’re in Mallorca? The Drach caves extend for 1200 metres and houses the beautiful Lake Martel. Catch a boat tour across the underground lake and enjoy a classical concert as you sail over the vivid blue waters. The Caves of Artà were the inspiration for Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, and it’s not hard to see why. Be amazed at the stalactite and stalagmite rock formations that hang from the ceiling or sprout from the floor of the cave.
7. Cape Formentor
Right at the very northern tip of the island lies Cape Formentor. Its peak rises 384 metres above sea level and is surrounded by unspoilt, picture-perfect beaches, including Cala Figuera, Cala Murta and Cala Pi de la Posada. Drive out and discover these untouched sunning spots, where there’s no fighting over parasols or sunbed stealing, for an alternative Spanish seaside experience.
8. Playa de Es Trenc
There are so many stunning stretches of golden sand in the Balearic Islands, that to pick one as the county’s best beach would be tough. But Es Trenc, in the south of Mallorca is a strong contender for the coveted title. Like something you might find in the Caribbean, this two-mile patch of pretty coastline is the perfect spot to catch some rays for the day. Walk a little off the beach and enjoy a fresh seafood lunch – the red shrimp are a speciality here. Wall-flowers, or anyone who values their modesty best be careful, certain parts of the beach have been frequented by nudists for years, so you may bump in to someone strutting their stuff.
Read more: The best beaches in Spain – in pictures
Best places to visit in Menorca
9. Naveta des Tudons
The Naveta des Tudons monument, a megalithic tomb that resembles an upside down ship, is one of Menorca‘s top attractions. One reason for its popularity is its unusual shape. The other is its age, believed to have been in use from 1200 to 750 BC. Keep kids away from climbing it, as tempting as this might be. Conservationists are strict with the rules and you’re not allowed to scale or enter the structure. The best time to see it is at dusk, when the sky turns a dusty pink, adding to the magic and mysticism of the place.
10. Favaritx Lighthouse
Silhouetted against blue skies, this charming lighthouse lookout is the perfect point to capture the beauty of S’Albufera des Grau Natural Park. Stroll through the wild olive groves inland, or head to the shore for a chance to spot some wildlife, including osprey, red kite and other birds of prey. The low cliffs and banks of grey slate will make you think you’ve landed on the moon! If the sun’s got his hat on, then go for a refreshing dip in the cool waters at Cala Presili or Cala Tortuga.
11. Cala Turqueta
You’re bound to recognise this sweet sandy spot. It’s one of the most photographed places in Menorca. Its crystal clear waters draw a local crowd and it doesn’t take long for this quiet cove to get pretty busy, so arrive early to bag the best sunbathing spot. There’s parking nearby, but it’s still about a half-an-hour walk to the water’s edge, although we promise your efforts are well rewarded. This beautiful beach definitely lives up to the hype!
Best places to visit in Formentera
12. Playa de Ses Illetes
What, another beautiful beach?! Sure is, and this time it’s on Formentera, a small island south of Ibiza. Playa de Ses Illetes is not only one of the most impressive in the Balearic Islands and Spain, but it consistently makes it on to lists of the best beaches in the world.
Arguably the most bohemian of the Balearic Islands, Formentera and Illetes is the place to go for some serious downtime, a retreat away from the modern world. Although you might want to bring a fully charged smartphone, so you can take plenty of beach selfies to make sure everyone back home is thoroughly jealous. Snack on salted fish and feel your stresses melt away.
13. Barbaria Lighthouse
Made famous by the (rather depressing) 2001 Spanish film Sex and Lucia, you’re bound to have a much happier time in this charming corner of Formentera. Get those binoculars out; Africa‘s Barbary Coast is just 60 miles off the island’s most southern tip. OK, so spotting Algeria‘s coastline might be a stretch, but climb to the top of the lone lighthouse and, on a clear day, you’ll be able to see Ibiza’s rolling landscape. Stick around for some of the most stunning sunsets you’re likely to see in the Balearic Islands.
14. Playa S’Alga (Espalmador)
The tiny island of Espalmador lies 50 metres from the shores of Formentera and is only three square kilometres big. Despite being pint-sized, you’ll stumble across plenty of undiscovered hideouts that’ll make you regret not having ventured to this side of the Balearics before. Splash around in the sea off of Playa S’Alga or board a boat trip around the island, so you can take it in from all sides.
Best places to visit in Ibiza
15. Dalt Vila
If you think Ibiza is all club 18-30s, over-priced nightlife and cheap drinks promotions designed to get tourists as plastered as possible, then you might want to think again. Unlock Ibiza’s historical past and visit Dalt Vila. A UNESCO World Heritage site set in the hills of Ibiza Old Town, it’s home to medieval battlements, a beautiful cathedral and one of the island’s most iconic hotels, La Torre del Canonigo.
Scale the town’s steep streets lined with white-washed houses and enjoy panoramic views from one of the many terraces. After time spent in Dalt Vila you’ll be wondering why more holidaymakers don’t venture to this side of Ibiza, where time seems to stand still.
Read more: 10 best beaches in Ibiza
16. Las Salinas
Swap the swarms of party animals sweating out the excesses of the night before on the beaches of San Antonio for the pristine natural beauty of Las Salinas beach – one of the most beautiful beaches in the Balearic Islands. Just a ten-minute drive from Ibiza Town, Las Salinas is part beach, part protected natural park and is named after the salt lakes in the south of the island.
Live the luxury lifestyle and hire a catamaran for the day. Or, if you’re visiting during winter months, go explore the Wildlife Conservation Area. Alternatively, stay on the shore and chill out in one of the beach bars playing Balearic beats and offering extensive cocktail menus. The Jockey Club is popular with families and party-goers alike, keen to hear their latest guest DJ.
17. Cala d’Hort
A favourite with locals, Cala d’Hort enjoys excellent views of the mysterious, uninhabited island of Es Vedra to the west of Ibiza. And it is only a ten-minute drive from San José. But the main reason to visit this small but perfectly formed patch of paradise is to relax and kick back beside the sea beneath the towering white cliffs. Feast on fresh fish or a plate of traditional seafood paella. Es Boldado is a great little restaurant and right on the road to the beach.
17 of the best places to visit in the Balearic Islands
|4. Bellver Castle|
|5. Sa Calobra and Torrent de Pareis|
|6. Caves of Drach and Artà|
|7. Cape Formentor|
|8. Playa de Es Trenc|
|Menorca||9. Naveta des Tudons|
|10. Favaritx Lighthouse|
|11. Cala Turqueta|
|Formentera||12. Playa de Ses Illetes|
|13. Barbaria Lighthouse|
|14. Playa S’Alga (Espalmador)|
|Ibiza||15. Dalt Vila|
|16. Las Salinas|
|17. Cala d’Hort|
*Revised August 2019. Information correct at the time of publication but subject to change and/or availability.