The archipelago is actually divided into two smaller groups of islands: the Gimnesias, comprised of Mallorca, Menorca and Cabrera, and the Pitiusas, composed of Ibiza and Formentera. The Balearics boast a rich history, including prehistoric settlement and subsequent periods of domination by various different cultures, such as the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans and Moors. Situated in the Mediterranean Sea, off Spain’s eastern coast, the islands’ official languages are Spanish and Catalan.
Mallorca is the most populous of the islands and it also draws the most tourists. Its capital, Palma de Mallorca, is a cosmopolitan city of around 300 000 inhabitants. It is easy to get to, as the site of the Balearics’ main airport, and the city lays claim to a rich cultural scene, as well as an attractive old town. The rest of the island, characterised by pine forests and a mountain range in the north-west, is also worth visiting. Mallorca’s Mediterranean climate guarantees long hours of sunshine, a winning attraction on all of the Balearic Islands.
The island of Ibiza has a reputation that well and truly precedes it. Sometimes known as the 'white island’, thanks to its predominant architectural style, Ibiza has become a mecca for those craving the thrills of some of the most extreme nightlife on the planet. Admittedly, it is now somewhat of a cliché, but Ibiza’s summer club scene still attracts top DJs from around the globe. For visitors who prefer slightly more sedate recreational pursuits, it might be worth staying away from the nightlife centres. However, Ibiza has plenty of other things to offer, including plenty of secluded coves and sandy beaches. There are also some interesting villages to visit in the island’s interior.
The island of Menorca is famous for its significance as the site of numerous prehistoric settlements from several different eras. Menorca has not been as swamped by the tourist hordes, and you can still enjoy the pleasure of having a beach to yourself. The island became a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1993.
Formentera, Ibiza’s twin in the Pitiusas, is even less developed than Menorca, and boasts miles of pristine sandy beaches. It is the smallest of the populated islands, but still offers plenty of hiking opportunities, as well as a network of cycling trails. There are also a number of sea grottos to explore.
The Balearic Islands are without doubt some of the jewels of the Mediterranean. Easily accessible from Barcelona, or from various other European centres, together they comprise one of Spain’s dazzling highlights.