Silver-sanded beaches and sparkling Mediterranean waters await you on the island of Menorca. Add fiestas, boat trips and yummy food to the equation and there's not many who'd say no to a holiday here! The understated glamour of the island is idyllic for a couple's getaway, while a group of friends in search of a backdrop for adventure will find exactly what they're looking for here too. Menorca offers both, and so much more.
But don't just take our word for it. Karen and Melvin Smy from Kent know the island just as well as any local. With 15 holidays here over the past 23 years, we asked two of our most well-travelled James Villas' guests to create an itinerary that captures the very best of Menorca.
Beach-lovers are spoilt for choice on this blissful island. On the sheltered south coast, long beaches meet with secluded coves. Pack a picnic and spend a day at Cala en Turqueta, a peaceful inlet with calm, shallow waters and flanked by limestone cliffs – you'll feel like you're occupying your own slice of heaven. Another favourite is Cala Galdana, which the Smy's love for its wonderful horseshoe beach and gently shelving sand.
For something a bit different, head to the hidden Cala Escorxada. Accessed by a stunning 5km trek through woodland and over cliffs, or a short boat ride, it's not your usual touristy spot. There's no café or shop (so bring plenty of water), but it makes up for that with spectacular views on a beach that's practically private!
Karen and Melvin: "From small isolated beaches to large ones with all amenities, there's a beach to suit everyone in Menorca. Cala Galdana is our personal favourite on the island".
No holiday to Menorca is complete without a trip to the elegant capital on the east coast. Karen loves to visit Mahón in the daytime, especially the local market held weekly on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Off from the main square there are plenty of little shops to browse in and cafés to sit outside and watch the world go by. Head to the bustling Port of Mahón, the second largest natural harbour in the world, where you'll see fishing boats offloading the daily catch. In fact being aboard a boat is another great way to take in the capital, so cruise around the port to discover coves and colonial style houses.
Karen and Melvin: "Down at the harbour you'll see cruise ships moored next to small boats. If you can, take the opportunity to experience a glass bottom boat trip around the harbour – we really enjoyed it."
Along the waterfront you'll find plenty of restaurants where you can enjoy a lazy lunch or an upbeat evening meal. If you want to dance on into the night, head to Cova d'en Xoroi near Cala'n Porter. This spectacular bar is built within natural caves only 25m above sea level. As night falls they come alive with the rhythms of Spanish live music. And if you last into the early hours of the morning, you'll be greeted with the most spectacular sunrise over the Mediterranean Sea.
Island life on Menorca is laid-back, but the stunning outdoors lends itself perfectly to getting active in the fresh air. Known as the spiritual centre of Menorca, Monte Toro is the island's highest point, right at its heart. A shrine to Christ stands at the very top, a spot this impressive statue has occupied since 1287.
Karen and Melvin: "Once you've climbed the winding roads by car you can spend the morning or afternoon exploring the monastery and grab a coffee. The far reaching views are spectacular."
Of course Menorca is famous for its beaches, so it's well suited for keen kayakers and confident canoers. They'll have their pick of sheltered coves to explore. Many of the beaches can only be accessed from the sea, so what better way to discover them?
Stay on land at Parc Natural S'Albufera d'es Grau if walking, hiking, bird watching, and getting back to nature is more your scene. Follow the two foot trails around this protected area on the north-east coast – it's a haven for spotting local wildlife.
For history buffs, Menorca does not disappoint. The beautiful Gothic and Baroque churches in the ancient former capital of Ciutadella are welcome sights for any enthusiastic explorer.
Navetas, which date back to around 1400 BC are built from large stones, resembling inverted boats and are thought to have been collective tombs. Located just west of Ciutadella, the Navetas des Tudons is the most famous of these structures.
Then there are Taulas, unique to Menorca. Originating around 800 BC consisting of two huge, rectangular, limestone slabs placed in a T shape, these figures were thought to originally be sacrificial altars, roof supports or places of worship.
Had enough history? Now inject some culture with a fiery Spanish fiesta. Running from June to September, Menorca's street party style celebrations aren't just a show for tourists. Locals will party away with their neighbours alongside visitors to the island. Dance, sing and laugh into the evening, as you mingle Menorcan-style.
Karen and Melvin: "We visited Alaior for the fiesta and enjoyed the carnival, sideshows and evening fireworks. All the local people created a great atmosphere! It takes around three hours to watch the parade, walk the streets, join in the activities and then watch the fireworks. There's a funfair feel to the occasion."
Menorca's charming atmosphere and idyllic beaches mean holidays here are all about getting to know the local area. But this is a holiday, so relaxing is an absolute must – especially if you've eaten and drunk into the early hours the night before! Luckily our villas are well equipped for a lazy day at home.
Karen and Melvin: "We love the privacy of staying in a villa – it's so spacious. Having our own pool is a definite plus too because you're not sharing it with other children or adults, so there's no rush for a sunlounger in the mornings!"
"We mainly stay at the villa during the day, relaxing with a book by the pool, and having a car gives us the opportunity to go to Mahón or elsewhere for the day."
When lunchtime calls, why not light up the barbecue? Show off your grilling skills by preparing fresh fish and kebabs for a fantastic Menorcan feast.
Why not discover magical Menorca for yourself? Find the perfect villa and start planning for all those wonderful beaches and cultural gems.