The islands have been inhabited since prehistoric times, around 5000 BC, and there are many Cyclopean remains. These show the communities constructed dwellings of stone. There is evidence of primitive agriculture including the keeping of domesticated animals. Jewelry, pottery and tools appear to have been manufactured. Later Phoenician traders frequently visited them. In 654 BC the Carthaginians founded what is today Ibiza city. Roman occupation followed and the Visigoths in turn evicted them. The Moors invaded the islands during the 8th century and there is still evidence of their 300 year occupation to be found in the islands architecture and the customs of the islanders themselves. Christians reconquered the islands during the 13th century. Mallorca falling first in 1229, followed by Ibiza six years later.
Minorca was the last to fall in 1287. Initially the islands flourished as Catalan colonies but famines and raids by pirates encouraged by isolation from the mainland saw the Balearic Islands decline. The Bourbons following the conclusion of the Spanish War of Succession in 1715 occupied Mallorca and Ibiza. Minorca however was ceded to the British under the treaty of Utrecht along with Gibraltar on the Spanish mainland. British rule over Minorca continued until 1802. In the Spanish Civil War, 1936-39, Mallorca and Ibiza were soon under the control of Franco’s forces enabling the Italian fleet to use Mallorca as it’s base and offer support to the insurgents. Minorca remained Loyalist until 1939. The 1950’s saw the first charter flights land in the islands bringing the tourists that have in turn bought prosperity to the islands and their peoples involved in this lucrative trade. After tourism agriculture and fishing make significant contributions to the economy of the islands. Fruit, olive oil, wine, majolica ware and silver filigree are exported in quantity.
This is a popular yacht charter destination and most people will find what they are looking for, be it motor or sail, monohull or catamaran, day boat charter Mallorca, skippered or crewed yachts.
The Balearic Islands yacht charter season generally runs from April to the end of October. July and August are the hottest and tends to have lighter winds; it is also the most expensive time to charter a yacht. April-May and September-October have a lot of plus points, the temperatures are more comfortable, those sailing are likely to get better winds, it is not as expensive and while ashore you will avoid crowds of July and August.
Mallorca is the largest of the Balearic Islands and covers over 3,500 sq. km. Prior to 1276 Mallorca’s history was the same as the other islands. But then the kingdom of Mallorca was formed and included the island along with some areas of both mainland Spain and France. Perpignan, in Roussillon, France was the capital of the kingdom. It was returned to the crown of Aragon in 1343 and flourished until the discovery of the Americas and the subsequent change in major trade routes. The island is known for its stalagmite caves and architectural treasures and prehistoric monuments. A further landmark is the abandoned old monastery where both Chopin and George Sand lived. Es Pla, a large fertile plain, where cereals, flax, grapes, and olives are grown, dominates the interior. Pigs and sheep are raised. There is also limited mining of copper and lead and quarrying of marble.
In addition to numerous anchorages Mallorca has a lot of marinas, including; Puerto de Palma de Mallorca, Puerto de Cala Nova, Puerto Portals Marina, Puerto Sol de Mallorca, El Toro Marina, Marina de Santa Ponsa, Marina Andraitx, Marina San Telmo, Puerto de Soller, Pollensa Marina, Bonaire Marina, Alcudia Marina, C’an Picafort Marina, Serra Nova Marina, Puerto Cala Ratjada, Puerto de Cala Bona, Porto Cristo Marina, Cala d’Or Marina, Porto Petro Marina, Campos Marina, Rapita Marina, Puerto de s’Estanyol, Arenal Marina, San Antonio de la Playa Marina, Puerto de Cala Gamba, Puerto de Cala Portixol. More detailed information on these marinas can be found in the Balearic Islands section of our cruising guide.
Palma de Mallorca, on the south coast and renowned for it’s spectacular sunsets, is the capital city. La Seu is the city’s enormous cathedral. Built on the site of a former mosque, construction commenced in 1230. It was completed some 370 years later in 1600. Anybody, today, who has tried to hurry a Spanish builder will be undismayed at what to others must look like an eternity in time. The city also has museums, Renaissance mansions a plenty in the old town and many attractive churches.
Puerto de Palma de Mallorca is an enormous marina set in the capital. In addition to the marina facilities commercial shipping, fishing boats, ferries and the military, uses the port. All this commercial traffic has right of way. Entry and shelter are excellent in all conditions. The marina gets very crowded in the summer months and berths are extremely difficult to obtain. There is a useful anchorage in a bay to the east of the port.
Puerto de Cala Nova is medium sized purpose built marina. The marina is somewhat overshadowed by the surrounding high rise buildings but on the whole is pleasant. Entrance is easy and shelter good in all but strong E-SE winds when some swell may be experienced. There are several small beaches nearby but these get very crowded in the summer months. Palma de Mallorca is only a short distance away.
The Serra de Tramuntana Mountains, rising to nearly 1500m, dominate the northwest of the island. The combination of a rugged, rocky coastline, pine forests, olive groves and small, charming villages, Deia in particular, perched high above the Mediterranean, make this part of the island quite beautiful.
Two bays dominate the north east coast, the Bahia de Pollenca and the Bahia d’Alcudia. An almost continuous string of sandy bays and beaches make up the eastern coast and unsurprisingly this area has seen intense development.
Pollensa Marina is set at the head of a beautiful wide bay. The water is on the shallow side and attention must be paid to the depth when approaching and entering the marina. Winds from the NE – SE can make entry difficult and sometimes dangerous. The old town of Pollensa is worth a visit. The area is good walking country with a 1 mile stroll N to Cala Vincente worthwhile.
Alcudia Marina is situated in a larger harbor, which is used by commercial and fishing craft. The marina is easy to approach and enter but shelter is limited with E – SE winds. There is considerable tourist development and the whole area is very crowded during the summer. There is a Roman theater, St Martin’s cave and a castle and museum, which may be of interest.
The southern coast, by contrast, is in the main rocky cliffs plunging into the Mediterranean. Port d’Andratx, on the south west coast, is a small attractive town built on low hills all around a narrow bay. Majorca has a magnificent coastline consisting of rocky outcrops intermingled with many small coves that offer excellent sandy beaches.
Andraitx harbor serves both as marina and is home to the local fishing fleet. The surroundings are most attractive as is the local village. Although the housing developments have taken away some of its original charm. Entrance is easy and protection good. Yachts can though expect some gusts from the high surrounding hills and strong winds from the S – SW can produce swell.
The semi-arid island of Sa Dragonera is part of a chain of islands off the southern coast of Mallorca, known for its abundance of wildlife and high, stunning cliffs. The wildlife includes peregrine falcons, migratory birds, and seabirds. Indigenous lizards and bats are also found on the island and timid mular dolphins can sometimes be seen around the coast. Head for the eastern shore and the natural harbor of Cala Lled. There is an excellent visitor’s center here and some great walking trails that take in historical sights as well as some superb views and wildlife spotting.
Cabrera, an important bird sanctuary, also lies of the south coast of Mallorca. Yachts wishing to visit need to apply for a permit by sending copies of their sailing license and passport(s) to the base three weeks before arrival. Puerto de Cabrera, on the northwest coast, has 50 laid moorings and yachts must use these overnight. It is possible to anchor in S’Illa des Fonoll bay on the east coast during the day. These restrictions are to protect the algae plant, which makes a major contribution to the food chain of this island.
Ibiza, covering 572 sq. km, is the third largest of the islands. The capital is Ibiza city, renowned for it’s extravagant nightlife. This attracts large numbers of tourists; over one million now visit every year. Some of Spain’s most famous discos are to be found hear along with plethora of bars, cafes and restaurants. The Dalt Vila, a souk-like walled city, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are plenty of beaches but in the summer months these get very crowded. Cala Mastella on the east coat and Beniras on the west are two of the best. Santa Eulalia is an attractive village and has three great beaches; Playas de Santa Eulalia, Cala Blanca, and Es Canar. San Juan also boasts good beaches such as Cala de Sant Vincent, Cala Portinaitx, and Cala Xarraca and the remains of a Carthaginian temple in the cave of Cueva des Cuieram. The locals of San Jos not only have a host of beaches but also one of the most beautiful churches on the island. The north of the island is popular with cyclists and hikers. Inland the landscape is rocky and pine trees grow in abundance. Fishing and salt works contribute to the economy with some subsistence farming, aided by irrigation. Little rain falls and the predominant crops are almonds, figs and olives.
In addition to some lovely anchorages there are several marinas on Ibiza; Marina Botafoch, Puerto Ibiza la Nueva, Puerto San Antonio-Abad, Puerto Santa Eulalia. More information on these marinas can be found in the Balearic Islands section of our cruising guide.
Formentera is the smallest of the Balearic Islands (just 12 miles top to tip) located just off the south coast of Ibiza. Compared to the other islands Formentera is relatively underdeveloped with good beaches with powder white sand and clear blue waters. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking and walking.
Puerto de Sabina, the island’s harbor, gets very crowded in the summer and charges are very high. More information on this harbour can be found in the Balearic Islands section of our cruising guide. There are good beaches to the NE of the marina. San Fransisco Javier is worth a visit.
Covering 702 km, the island of Minorca is the second largest of the Balearic Islands. In 1708 during War of the Spanish Succession the British occupied it. France seized it during the Seven Years War but in 1763 the Treaty of Paris returned it to British rule. In 1782, during the American Revolution, the French allied with Spain seized the island but sixteen years later the British returned once again. The final chapter came in 1802 when the Peace of Amiens awarded Minorca to Spain. But even today there is still strong evidence of British occupation. Architecture has a distinctive Georgian feel even down to the sash windows. Today Port Mahon, lying at on the east coast, is the capital and the island’s major port. The harbor is both deep and sheltered and overlooked by the town built on the cliffs at the southern end.