When we first went to the Mediterranean island of Menorca in the early 70s, no one had heard of it. They knew about its close neighbors Mallorca and Ibiza, but Menorca had no profile and is still thought of as the "quiet" island. This is a good thing. Instead of parties as a unique selling point, the whole island is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. An increasing number of visitors arrive with mainly wholesome pursuits in mind.
Photographs by Jim Powell except where noted.
Above: Yes, there are beaches on Menorca, sandy in the south and rocky in the north, but it's also a fantastic place to walk. Walking and beach visits are best early in the day or late. Otherwise it's just a case of "mad dogs and Englishmen."
Above: The best kind of walk culminates in a swim, and this hike ends at Bini Dali, a small cove on the south of the island with a horseshoe-shaped sandy beach and rocks to jump from. It could also end at Bini Safuller which is strictly rocky, with ladders leading snorkelers down to the depths. Or it could end at any rocky outpoint of your choosing. Photograph by Julian Arkell.
Above: This walk could really end anywhere, as the island is criss-crossed with paths which were originally bridleways, hence the name Cami de Cavalls on the sign above. These merge with old Roman roads, so the going can be slightly rough, used by cyclists, occasional horseback riders, and pedestrians with sturdy footwear. Photograph by Sarah Webster.
Above: "I know where I'm going!" A sensible Roman road cuts through the underbrush. The route we are taking begins in a small lane near the airport and is known as Camin Vell de Bini Dali. The walk is mainly populated by Spanish mainlanders and Menorquins. Our guide, Sarah Webster, says that the walk "is about 45 minutes long and can be performed ida y uelta [round trip]." Photograph by Sarah Webster.
Above: It is likely that you will find yourself encountering this kind of terrain. After the Biosphere Reserve declaration, the network of horse trails—along the perimeter of the island as well as through the interior—was reclaimed by a walking group of local Menorquins.
"These revived trails have been embraced by a new generation of young Spaniards," says Webster. "They thrive on mountain biking and walking." In the "early years" (the 1970s, when some of us first visited), the road near Webster's house hardly seemed accessible. "And yet a horse and carriage regularly traveled its length to go into town and back," she recalls. Photograph by Sarah Webster.
Above: Striking off the main highways and byways, the agricultural fabric of Menorca reveals itself. Stone huts for animals merge with stone walls embedded with curious animal troughs and piggeries. The fields are mainly red-brown soil punctuated with desiccated plants, having adapted in their own way to the desert-like conditions. Shown here: a giant umbellifer running to seed and playing host to some molluscs.
Above: There are farmhouses and gardens along this walk but no paved road in sight. How do people live in this wilderness? Morning glory and bougainvillea are signs of civilization. Photograph by Kendra Wilson.
Above: Much of the vegetation in Menorca looks familiar, but different. Shown here, tough old rosemary living cheek by jowl with some thorns.
Above: Other edibles look positively inviting, like these figs readying themselves for ripeness toward the end of August.
Above: A milestone tree. When you pass this unmissable tree you know you almost deserve a swim.
Fauna to look out for on any hike in Menorca are hoopoe birds (Upupa epops), quail, vultures, a multitude of beetles and the island's mascot, the gecko lizard.
Hop from rural Menorca to rural Mallorca: Off the Grid at Finca Es Castell.