The CHILL Factor

Menorca is a fist of land rising from the Med that is so compact you can see the whole of it as you come in to land at its capital, Mahon. It’s popular with Spanish holidaymakers from the mainland – it’s always a good sign that a destination has something special when the ‘locals’ favour it.

And it’s easy to see why.

It’s like a home from home for them, without the stress.
Even for a nation renowned for an easier pace of life,
Menorca takes relaxing to a whole new level.

There’s no crime, no hassle and no way you can do anything but soak it up. Menorca relies heavily on the tourist trade but has managed to keep its intrinsic Spanishness almost completely intact.

Ibiza may be known as the party isle, but holidaymakers
who come to Menorca do so for one reason… to chill. It has traded none of its heritage and DNA for mass appeal, unlike some of the high-rise resorts on the mainland costas.

No, here in Menorca you’re like a guest in a local family’s house. They are welcoming but their lives go on the way they have always lived them.

BEACH HEAVEN
No fish and chips and Watneys Red Barrel here. You’re an honorary Spaniard for the time you’re on the island, so
you’d better act like one! Part of this is due to Menorca being late on to the tourist scene, even though it has more than made up for it since.

A turbulent history has seen it fought over by successive world powers from the Romans to the Moors, the French, British and the Turks. Even Spain itself has fought its own people for ownership of the island during the dark
days of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. Mahon encapsulates the way of life perfectly, a microcosm of the island with history from every corner of its myriad of narrow streets and attractive squares.

In the first century, Moors invaders established Cuitadella on the west coast of the island as the capital, but the British opted to switch it to Mao, now Mahon, at the start of the 18th century
as part of the same treaty which established Gibraltar across the water as a British territory.

Mahon’s beautiful squares are full of numerous great pavement cafes and bars. Historic buildings share the
centre with shops, bars and restaurants seamlessly. The Arch de San Roque, which unfortunately is now all that remains of the wall that once encircled the city, is mightily impressive.

The city’s magnificent cathedral, the Church of Santa Maria, is a must. It contains a spectacular organ which features four keyboards and more than 3,000 pipes. To explore the island properly, hire a car. Taxis are really the only way to get about, so days out can soon get very expensive.

Menorca’s beaches are legendary. The best are located in the south and east which are, as you’d expect, the most sheltered sides of the island.

Head for Binibeca, a whitewalled town straight out of the holiday brochures. There are a couple of nice restaurants, but everyone heads for the sheltered sandy cove with its idyllic views. The craggy rocks wrap their arms around the bay and make the water calm and family friendly.

Punta Prima at the very southeastern point of the island is busier as a town, but the water lapping against the immaculate beach is slightly more unpredictable, particularly if the currents are strong.

The white sand and clear water of Sa Mesquida on the east coast make it one of the island’s most popular beaches – some 20 miles from Mahon, but well worth a day out.

ROOMS WITH A VIEW

Are you ready to chill out like never before? Then you’ll want the island’s most relaxed hotel, where you can kick back and be pampered in style. One thing you may not want is a bunch of youngsters disturbing your peace. Not everyone has kids, and if you’re looking for peace and quiet on the most laid-back island in the Med, they can be a nuisance. Barcelo Hamilton is Mahon’s premier adults-only hotel. It’s only a couple of miles down the road from the city centre, a slice of luxury in the heart of Es Castell’s breathtaking harbour.

Make sure you book a room overlooking the harbour and bay – the views are stunning and it’d be easy to while away your time just sitting and watching an array of sailboats, yachts, megayachts and cruise ships drift by your window. The Hamilton merges old and new. Its modernist glass and steel frontage is crafted onto centuries-old buildings in the street at its rear.

One of those houses has been transformed into the Sa Casa, one of three magnificent restaurants in the hotel, offering tapas and varied international dishes reflecting the island’s multicultural past. The Sa Cova restaurant is level with the harbour at the front and guests can eat on the waterfront.

The emphasis is on health and wellbeing – as it is at so many Barcelo hotels around the world. The Hamilton’s U-Wellness programme has its own gym, spa and massage rooms, as well as the unusual experience of the fl otarium – a high-saline bathing pool set in an underground cavelike stone room where guests fl oat away their aches and pains – before returning to the two outdoor pools at the heart of the hotel.

Couples can take advantage of open-air massage beds at the Blue Sky Bar on the roof. It gives a quite spectacular 360- degree view of the bay – plus you can sip your cocktails and drinks from the comfort of one of the several Jacuzzis set in the floor.

At night, the illuminated pools and seats provide a stunning setting for a variety of live music and DJs throughout the week.

Rates at Barceló Hamilton start from £80 per room per night, based on two sharing on a B&B basis and including taxes. For more information, or to book your own break, visit: barcelohamiltonmenorca.com or call +34 971 362 050.