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Geography and Landscape

Geography

Menorca, or Minorca (Latin: Balearis Minor), is a Spanish island in the Mediterranean Sea, which belongs to the Balearic Islands. Menorca is the most eastern and northern of the Balearic Islands. The Spaniards of the mainland also call the island "isla verde y azul", the green and blue island.

Menorca Satellite photoPhoto:Public domain

Menorca is approximately 50 kilometers long and maximum 22 kilometers wide. Menorca's extremes are Cap Cavalleria in the north, Illa de l'Aire in the south, Cap de Sa Mola in the east and Cap de Bajolí in the west. The total coastline is more than 200 kilometers. The total area of the island is 683 km2, making Menorca the second largest of the Balearic Islands.

The capital Mahón is located 160 kilometers from Palma de Mallorca, 210 km from Barcelona, 315 km from Algiers in North Africa, 350 km from Marseille, 360 km from Valencia and 370 km from Alguer, a town in Sardinia. Cape La Mola, the easternmost point of Spain. The highest town in Menorca is Ferreries, 150 meters above sea level.

Landscape

Menorca is predominantly hilly and quite rocky. The center in particular is characterized by a hilly landscape. The highest elevation on Menorca is Monte Toro (Arabic for "highest mountain") at 357 meters.

Monte Tora, MenorcaPhoto:Publlc domain

On clear days you can see both the north and the south coast from Monte Toro. Remarkable is the large statue of Christ standing on top of the hill. Other "high" peaks are the S "Enclusa (274 meters) and the Santa Àgueda (264 meters). Menorca has about 70 bays with sandy and rocky beaches, and many ravines and caves.

In Menorca, roughly speaking, landscape can be divided: in the center and the north it is slightly hilly and the bottom is slate-colored and sometimes reddish. The south is characterized by karst plateaus where several dozen gorges have been carved by watercourses.

In October 1993, UNESCO declared the entire island a Biosphere Reserve (Reserva de la Biosfera). Officially, more than 40% of the island is now under nature protection and there are 19 protected nature areas.

Cala'n Porter, MenorcaPhoto:Maria carmen Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Spainno changes made

The coasts of Menorca are rocky, but the cliffs are interrupted by bays with long sandy beaches and small inlets or calas. Menorca has more beaches than all other Balearic islands combined. The best and most beautiful beaches are in the south and are: Playa de Son Bou, Porta de Ciutadella, Son Xoriguer, Cala'n Bosch, Santandriá, Cala'n Blanes, Cala Tirant, Son Saura, Arenal d 'Castell, Es Grau, Cala'n Porter and Cala Santa Galdana. The north coast of Menorca is very capricious, it almost looks like Norwegian fjords. The special rock formations have been carved out by storms and the sea over thousands of years. Many quiet and unspoilt beaches are located here: Cala Tirant, Port d'Addaia, Cala Pregonda and Na Macaret.

Cova d’es Coloms, MenorcaPhoto:Andrómeda7 Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The sheltered harbor bay of Mahón, six kilometers long and up to 1.2 kilometers wide, is considered the best sheltered natural harbor in the Mediterranean and the second largest natural harbor in the world. The coastline within this fjord is approximately 20 kilometers. There are also three islands in the bay: Illa del Rei, Illa Quarantena and Illa d'es Llazaret.

The brook through the ravine of Algendar flows all year round and flows into a wide river next to the beach at Cala Santa Galdena.

The Cova Polida is a cave that is only accessible by water and shows a very large number of dripstone formations. With a height of 24 meters, a width of 16 meters and a depth of 11 meters, the Cova d’es Coloms is one of the most impressive underground monuments in Menorca.

Striking are the geysers, which on the west side of the Cala en Forcat spray small fountains of sea water into the air. These so-called "bufadors" cannot be traced back to a volcanic activity, but to an ingenious system of caves and corridors that reacts to water pressure.

Climate and Weather

Menorca has a typical Mediterranean climate with mild, rainy winters and warm, dry summers. From the end of October, the cold northern Tramuntana wind can blow. The coldest months are January and February; August is normally the hottest month.

Climate table Mahon, MenorcaPhoto:Hedwig in Washington CCAttribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The average daily maximum temperature is 20.3°C, rising to 28°C in July and August and falling to 14°C in January. Menorca has an average of 315 sunny days per year, but is the wettest island in the Balearic Islands; the rainy season therefore lasts from October to April.

January March May July September

Day temperature 13.5 15.6 21.3 28.3 26.2

Night temperature 7.3 8.6 13.4 20.0 18.8

Hours of sunshine per day 4.5 6.0 9.9 11.9 7.8

Rainy days 9 8 5 1 6

Water temperature 14.0 14.0 17.0 23.0 23.0

Plants and Animals

Plants

Menorca has about 200 types of flowers, including different types of orchids. Approx. 25 types of flowers and plants are only found in Menorca.

White Orchid, MenorcaPhoto:Mike Murphy Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Blackberry bushes, pine and holm oak forests, olive trees, thistles, hedges and blackthorns dominate the landscape.

At a lower level we find mastic bushes, evergreen maple, strawberry trees, buckwheat, myrtle, broom, juniper bushes, oleanders, wild asparagus, arum.

Oleander MenorcaPhoto:Alvesgaspar Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic no changes made

Beach lilies, white and black rock roses grow in the dunes and reed is found in the moist areas.

Rocks are covered with lichens and thorn bushes or "socarells" defy the often strong coastal winds.

Animals

The fact that there are several bird of prey species indicates that the food chain is still intact, and that is a happy observation today.

The animal world on Menorca consists of small mammals, reptiles, insects and many birds. Mammals include martens, ferrets, weasels, rabbits, bats, some species of voles, and the shy hedgehog.

Reptiles include the Mediterranean turtle, lizards and some small harmless snake species.

Seagull in the harbor of Mahon, MenorcaPhoto:Donkey shot Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

All biotopes that can be distinguished on Menorca have their own bird world. Wood and turtledoves and blackbirds live in the ravines or "barrancs". On the cliffs and in the harbors gulls, petrels, shearwaters and cormorants. In the woods and in the fields woodcock, goldcrests, nightjars, flycatchers, partridges and quails. You can also see skylarks, crested larks, buntings and ravens.

Venus mussel, MenorcaPhoto:Public domain

The tourists are fond of crawfish, anglerfish, swordfish, groupers, stockfish, gurnard, bream and sea bream, as well as squid, shrimp, mussels, hommer, sea spiders and sea daddies. The escopinya or Venus mussel is special.

Wild duck, MenorcaPhoto:Vera Buhl Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Between Playa de Son Bou and the holiday resort of Sant Jaume, the Marisma de Son Bou wetland stretches out, an important habitat for wild ducks, migratory and waterfowl and reptiles of all kinds. In spring and autumn, Menorca is a stopover for thousands of migratory birds, including cormorants, herons, spoonbills, sand martins, bee-eaters, coots, water rails, reed warblers, waders, grebes, sandpipers, pochards, whelter and terns. The best places to view many of these species are the S'Albufera des Grau marshes (70 ha), the coastal areas and the southern ravines.

Buzzard, MenorcaPhoto:Oliver Wolters Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany no chabges made

In addition, there are various birds of prey and scavengers on the island, such as ospreys, dwarf eagles, red kites, falcons, buzzards, sparrow hawks, vultures, harriers and little owls. Many species of small insectivores close this line.

The S'Albufera lagoon is separated from the sea by a sand barrier, which creates saltwater marshes next to a freshwater lake. Eels and turtles live in the saltwater marshes. 400 meters off the coast is the island of Ille d’en Colom, which is home to a protected lizard species, Lacerta lilfordi.

Menorcan black horsePhoto:Laura perez cezar CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

The black horses of the Menorcan breed are special.

History

Prehistory

People probably lived on Menorca about 6,500 years ago. The oldest traces of human habitation are at least 4000 to 5000 years old. The Talayotic period is the most remarkable in Menorcan prehistory and is characterized by the colossal megalithic monuments. This period falls in the late Bronze Age and lasted until about 200 BC.

From this prehistoric period, for example, date from the nearly 20 burial and residential caves near Cala Morell, which were used between 2000 and 3000 years ago.

Naveta d’es Tudóns, MenorcaPhoto:Public domain

One of the most famous prehistoric monuments is the Naveta d’es Tudóns, a limestone naveta east of Ciutadella, and one of the oldest structures in Europe. The funerary monument, in the shape of an upside-down boat, is estimated to be 3000 to 4000 years old. The naveta comprises two spaces above each other, separated by a ceiling of stone slabs (dimensions: 14 m long, 6 m wide and 4 m high). The remains were placed in the upper chamber.

Also to the east of Ciutadella is a beautiful, fully intact prehistoric taula (Catalan for table), 2.70 meters high and 1.90 meters wide. The taula at the remains of Torralba d'en Salort is also beautiful to see. Taula's, huge T-shaped "tables" up to four meters high, probably had a religious, ritual function.

Torre d’en Gaumés. MenorcaPhoto:Daniel lobo Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

The largest megalithic settlement, Torre d’en Gaumés, is located south of Alaior, with three talayots, a temple complex, a colonnade and a water place with a reservoir and filter installation. Talayots are large, round structures that were used both as homes and as watchtowers. During the height of the Talayotic period, the island was already visited by various other peoples, who were looking for trade partners or conquering new areas.

Relations with Phoenicians and Greek navigators (they called the island of Meloussa) were peaceful and purely trade-oriented. However, the Carthaginians had other plans for the island and in the mid-5th century BC. Menorca was conquered. Led by Magos, Hannibal's brother, they occupied the ports and the Menorcans were forced to enlist in the Carthaginian army. Their skills as stone throwers would be of great influence during the Punic Wars.

Roman road, MenorcaPhoto:Public domain

In 123 BC. Menorca was conquered by the Romans under the leadership of Quintus Caecilius Metullus. The Romans called the island Minorica or Balearis Minor and a period of prosperity followed. Several fortresses were founded such as Iammona (now: Ciudadella), Mago (now: Mahón) and Sanisera (now: Sa Nitja), which all became part of the new province of Insulae Balearis. Important for the island were the roads that the Romans built between the various villages and cities.

Middle Ages

Taifa of DeniaPhoto:Tyk Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

In 427 AD. Menorca fell into the hands of the Vandals, who fanatically pursued followers of the Catholic faith. In 534 the Byzantines took over the island from the Vandals and it became part of the Byzantine Empire. Then the Catholic Church in Menorca was also restored.

Towards the end of the 7th century, the Moors conquered North Africa from the Byzantines, leaving the Balearic Islands unprotected. It did not take long before the Balearic Islands were taken by the Moors. Menorca was now called Minurka and annexed to the Caliphate of Córdoba in 913. In 1015, Menorca was included in the Almohad kingdom of Denia, an Islamic sect. They divided the island into four districts and established irrigation systems and fruit plantations. During this period, the population increased and different religions coexisted peacefully.

Jaume I of Aragon, IbizaPhoto:Public domain

The 13th century saw a radical change in the rule of the western Mediterranean with the advance of the Catalan-Aragonese troops. Majorca was conquered from the Moors by the armies of Jaume I, and the Arab rulers were allowed to become his feudal servants in Menorca in 1232. The island retained this status until 1287, when Menorca was conquered by Alfonso III with an army made up of Sicilians, Majorcans, Catalans and Aragonese soldiers and mercenaries. The Moors were arrested as slaves or exiled after payment of a ransom. Many were also simply thrown overboard on the high seas. Only the wealthy Arabs were able to stay and eventually mingled with the Menorcan population. Christianity was restored and Alfonso divided Menorca among his followers. In 1291 Jaume I dies and Menorca is from that time ruled by the kings of Majorca and Catalan becomes the main language.

In 1349 the kingdom of Majorca came to an end and Menorca was annexed to Aragón, which in 1492 allied itself with Castile and Granada, thus starting to take shape in today's Spain.

Turkish, English and French rule

Barbarossa, MenorcaPhoto:Public domain

In 1535 Mahón was attacked by the army of the Turkish pirate Barbarossa. Resistance was pointless, the city was looted and burned, half of the inhabitants were murdered or enslaved.

In 1558 the same incident took place in Ciutadella by the Turk Mustafa Piali and this city was also largely destroyed. The 17th century did not go well either because of pirates and diseases that decimated the population. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the English acquired the right to use the port of Mahón. In the following years, the influence of the English on Menorca grew and Mahón became the most important city on the island. Eventually Menorca was occupied by the English and Dutch troops in the name of Archduke Charles of Austria. This situation was confirmed in 1713 by the Treaty of Utrecht when the English finally gained dominion over the island. Mahón then also became the new capital of Menorca, at the expense of Ciutadella. However, a road across the island to the two major cities was laid by the English governor Richard Kane. Under his regime, agriculture and livestock were protected and government, industry and trade regulated.

Cardinal Richelieu, MenorcaPhoto:Public domain

The British era ended in 1756 with the invasion of the troops of the French Cardinal Richelieu, who took over the island from the English without a fight. This was not that difficult because the island was only defended by 300 English soldiers.

The French stayed until 1763 and they also got along well with the local population. In 1763 the English got the island back at the Peace of Paris. This period would be much less successful for the population. Hunger and misery led many residents to emigrate to Florida in the United States. This period lasted until 1782. Menorca was now conquered by a Franco-Spanish army led by the Duke of Crillon and Spanish sovereignty was restored. English Admiral Byng was executed.

The British occupied the island once more, from 1798 to 1802. On November 15, 1798, General Quesada surrendered to the English troops and the third English period began. In 1802, the Treaty of Amiens assigned Menorca definitively to Spain. After this, the history of Menorca entered calmer waters and the island "disappeared", as it were, from the secular political scene. In 1854 a permanent steamboat service was established between Mahón and Barcelona. In the first half of the 19th century, the island went badly economically, as a result of which many islanders emigrated to Algiers in North Africa.

Twentieth century-present

Many Menorcans also emigrated at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, this time mainly to Cuba, Argentina and Uruguay. Important for Menorca was the opening of the first shoe factory in 1853, when the foundations were laid for the further economic development of the island.

In the Spanish Civil War, Menorca remains republican and is the last part of Spain to surrender to dictator General Franco. Catalan was banned under his dictatorship (1939-1975).Menorca airportPhoto:jf1234 e Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

In 1953, the first charter flight landed in Menorca, but it was not until 1969 that Sant Clement Airport was opened and tourism could begin to flourish. In 1975 Franco died and the monarchy was restored. In 1978 a new constitution provided for a limited autonomy of the Spanish regions, including the Balearic Islands.

In 1983 the Balearic Islands were declared an autonomous region, with Catalan and Spanish as the official languages.

In 1993 Menorca was declared a UNESCO Landscape Reserve with the aim of protecting the environment and supporting traditional industry and tourism.

See also the history of Spain on Landenweb.

Population

Menorca has just under 100,000 inhabitants (2017). About 130 people live per km2, and Menorca is therefore about half as densely populated as Ibiza and Mallorca. More than half of all islanders live in the cities of Mahón and Ciutadella. Tourists flock to Menorca every yearPhoto:Roberto Faccenda Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

More than a million tourists visit the island every year, especially in the months of May to October. Just under 7000 ex-pats, mostly British, live permanently in Menorca.

Language

Menorca heeft twee officiële talen: het Spaans of ‘Castellano’ en het Catalaans. Verder spreekt ca. 80% van de bevolking nog een variant van het Catalaans, het Menorquin. Deze taal bevat nog vele Arabische en ook wat Franse elementen.

Spanish dialectsFoto:Stephen Shaw at the English Wikipedia CCAttribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes

Many places, institutions and geographic names are indicated in both Spanish and Catalan / Menorquin:

Catalan/MenorquinSpanish
MaóMahón
CiutadellaCiudadela
Sant ClimentSan Clemente
Carrer (street)calle
Plaça (square)plaza
Avinguda (avenue)avenida
Tornescru (screwdriver)destornillador
Beggar (beggar)mendigo
Bifi (meat)carne
De res (welcome)de nada
Bon dia (good morning)buenos dias
Em dic (imy name is…)me llamo
Clau (key)llave
A reveure (see you soon)hasta pronto

Religion

Almost all residents are adherents of the Roman Catholic faith.

Festes de Sant Joan in CiutadellaPhoto:Roser Goula Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) no changes made

From June 23, so-called patron's parties take place almost every week, starting with the Festes de Sant Joan in Ciutadella. This famous festival is graced with fantastic equestrian games, performed by more than a hundred riders on black stallions of the Menorca breed. The festivities end on 7 and 8 September with the patron saint of Nuestra Señora de Grácia in Mahón.

The festivals are a combination of religious expression and traditional customs. There is almost always also a procession, in the ports of Mahón, Ciutadella and Fornells even boat processions in honor of the patrons of the fishermen and sailors, Virgen del Carmen.

Ciudadela Cathedral, MenorcaPhoto:Unknown Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The most important church in Menorca is the Cathedral of Ciutadella. The church is built on the foundations of a former Arab mosque. The cathedral was built in the 14th century, but was destroyed several times and then restored. The classicist main portal dates from 1814. In 1795 the church was given the status of cathedral, when Ciutadella was given a bishop again after 1,300 years. Next to the cathedral is the episcopal palace or Palacio Episcopal (Ca’l Bisbe) from the eighteenth century.

The Santa María Church in Mahón dates back to the eighteenth century and is known for its beautiful organ made by the Swiss organ builder Johann Kyburz. The organ has four manuals and more than 3000 pipes.

Society

Since 1983, the Balearic Islands have been an autonomous community of Spain, along with sixteen others. The government of the Balearic Islands is based in Palma de Mallorca, the capital of Mallorca. Menorca itself still has an Island Council or "Consell Insular", just like the other major islands of the Balearic Islands.

Municipalities of Menorca

Public domain

The Central Island Council stands up for the general interests of Menorca, local interests are represented by the municipal councils and the mayors. Menorca has eight municipalities: Mahón, Ciutadella, Alaior, Es Castell, Ferreries, Sant Lluís, Es Mercadal and Es Migjorn Gran. For the current political situation in Spain see chapter history.

Economy

Some hills are terraced and only in the south the fields are irrigated. Agricultural crops are: grain, flax, vegetables, sweet potatoes, melons, figs, pomegranates, almonds and (wine) grapes.

Typical for the Balearic Islands and therefore also for Menorca are the stone walls that surround cornfields and meadows and divide the land into countless parcels. The dairy industry is leading in agriculture; there are still about 30,000 (black and white) cows grazing on the island.

Schoes MenorcaPhoto:Oliver Griebl Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

It is worth mentioning that shoe industry can look back on more than a century of tradition. At the end of the 19th century, almost 40% of the population made a living from footwear manufacture. The most famous shoe factories are at Alaior and Ferreries. For decades, all kinds of leather fashion accessories have been made in Menorca; bags, vests, belts and jackets. Typical Menorcan are the "abarcas", traditional leather sandals with soles made from car tire. Other typical products of Menorca are fashion accessories, chic fabrics and ceramics. One of the largest fashion accessories fairs in Europe is held annually in Mahón.

For a village like Fornells fishing and lobster fishing are the main source of livelihood, besides tourism of course.

Queso MahonPhoto:English Wikipedia user Asphaltbuffet CC-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Famous Menorcan products are the "queso Mahón" or Mahón cheese (Alaior is the cheese center) and the "salsa mahonesa", the mayonnaise named after the capital Mahón.

In 1756 French troops defeated the English. The French army commander Richelieu held a feast in honor of this and asked the cook to make an exquisite sauce. Prepared from egg yolk, olive oil, lemon juice and herbs, the salsa mahonesa became a culinary world hit under the name mayonnaise.

Basic ingredients for a mayonnaise (Salsa Mahonese)Photo:Public domain

There has been an airport in Menorca since 1969, which was extensively modernized in the 1990s. There are ferry connections all year round between Mahón and Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Valencia and Alcúdia in Mallorca.

The main thoroughfare is the connection between Ciutadella in the west and Mahón in the east (49 km). In less than an hour you can cross the entire island in this way. There are also important, modernized roads between Es Mercadal and Fornells and between Fornells and Mahón. For the rest, the road network consists of small roads that run like bones to the villages on the coast. Many of the bays on the north and south coast can only be reached on foot or by bicycle.

Holidays and Sightseeing

After Mallorca and Ibiza, tourism has become of great importance to the Menorcan economy in the 1970s. More than three quarters of a million foreign tourists visit the island annually between May and October. To that are added the Spanish tourists. Only one in two hundred tourists comes to visit between November and March. 55% of the population is employed in the tourism industry.Little bay in MenorcaPhoto:Travelinho Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The large hotel and apartment complexes, usually located near the beaches, are largely owned by Spanish, German or British tour operators. The number of hotel towers is limited because strict rules for the construction of new hotel accommodations have been in force for 25 years. They want to prevent Majorcan situations at all costs. The vast majority of tourists come from England, followed by the Germans and Spaniards from the mainland.

Mahon, MenorcaPhoto:Henning.Schröder Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Mahon is the island's capital and one of the most picturesque cities in the Mediterranean. Sights of the city are, the old town, the gothic church of Santa Maria, the bridge of San Roque and the museum of Hernandez Mora. The harbor in Mahon is an impressive natural harbor that stretches 5 km inland. The harbor is lined with restaurants, bars and boutiques. No visit to Menorca is complete without a lazy afternoon or balmy evening on the waterfront, where you can admire yachts while enjoying good food and a local drink or two.

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Sources

Kelly, T. / Menorca
Kosmos-Z&K

Klöcker, H. / Menorca
Deltas

Mallorca & Ibiza, Menorca & Formentera
APA Publications

Montserrat, J. / Reiseführer Menorca : ein Streifzug durch die Insel
Triangle Postals

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated September 2021
Copyright: Team Landenweb