Mahon, Menorca, Spain

Menorca is one of the four main Balearic Islands. Capital Mahon is known for its British-style Georgian houses and sheltered harbor. Its Santa María Church at Plaça de la Constitució is a highlight.

There may be no beaches within Mahon itself, but you’re spoiled for choice along the coasts, draped with pine forests and sand. Foremost among those nearest to Mahon is Es Grau, a picturesque crescent with enticing shallow waters. It’s backed by the gentle rolling dunes of S’Albufera des Grau nature reserve. This protected wetland occupies the northeastern corner of the island and is a major reason the island is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Menorca has been inhabited since at least 2000 BC, and one of its great intrigues are the 35 ancient monolithic stones known as “taulas” scattered around the island. The island has changed hands many times during more recent history and the British took temporary ownership during the eighteenth century. This perhaps explains the island’s taste for gin, and a trip to the Xoriguer distillery will introduce you to the local variety.

Another British legacy is the fortress on Mola, a strategic peninsula at the entrance to the harbor into Mahon. Never originally finished, the Spanish twice improved the defenses to create the fortifications that remain today.

Mahon is adorned with elegant 18th-century mansions, quaint churches and a Gothic cathedral, while Plaza de la Esplanada, the city’s biggest square, features the impressive red Town Hall. Menorca’s former capital, Ciutadella, is worth exploring too, a delightful jumble of shady plazas and centuries-old churches, with a Gothic cathedral of its own. Elsewhere on the island you may be drawn to the fishing village of Fornells celebrated for its lobster dishes, Monte Toro which is the island’s highest peak, or just views of meadows dotted with wildflowers.