Menorca is the easternmost of the Balearic Islands, and also the most distinctive. Declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1993, this small Mediterranean island of barely 702 square kilometres, 216 kilometres of coastline and fewer than 100,000 inhabitants is unquestionably one of the Mediterranean islands still suffused with a sense of balance, providing a respite from the everyday bustle.
Known to many as the "Windy Island" because of the gusting Tramontana, Menorca is above all an island of contrasts, largely thanks to the differing landscapes of the north and south. The north is rugged, dominated by cliffs which slice the island clean off at the edges, plunging down into the sea. The south, meanwhile, is a bed of Tertiary limestone, particularly rich in vegetation and traversed by gullies which open out into beaches of white sand and crystal-clear waters. One could say that they are two islands in one, watched over by a lighthouse at each of the five corners.
Combine this wealth of landscapes with the traces left by the host of different cultures who have made their mark on the island, and its huge megalithic legacy, above all the "taulas" and "talaiots" built more than 5,000 years ago by the earliest inhabitants, and the result is a truly special and unique Mediterranean island with its own distinctive character and identity.
Measuring almost six kilometres in length from the mouth to the wharf, the Port of Mahón is the second-largest natural port in Europe. Thanks to its Western Mediterranean location, and also its size, depth and the shelter it offers, it has over the centuries been seen as a prime strategic site, the object of both the military and commercial interests of countless civilisations.
Its waters have witnessed the arrival of Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Turks, French and British, some prospering more than others, and on occasion, as with the British, arriving in the island to stay for more than seventy years, even using it as a bargaining chip in international disputes.
Gazing over its calm, tide-free waters creates the sensation of beholding a majestic lake, dotted with such outstanding villas as the Golden Farm on the northern shore, little ports such as Cales Fonts and El Fonduco on the southern shore, watched over from on high by the jagged outline of the city of Mahón atop its cliff.
Halfway between Europe and North Africa, and on the route from the islands of Sardinia, Corsica, Italy and Greece, Mahón has been and remains a port of call for vessels seeking shelter, or simply an idyllic spot in which to cast anchor.
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