Off the east coast of Spain sits the small archipelago of islands known as the Balearics. On hearing the names Mallorca (the largest), Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera, you might not expect much from these isles – their reputation is harshly doused in 'Brits Abroad' stereotypes and heavy partying (that's on you, Ibiza). But the truth is that anyone avoiding the Balearic Islands because of these pre-conceived ideas is missing out entirely on four islands steeped in beautiful coastlines, dazzling beaches, a strong dose of culture and historical towns. Whether you're into your diving, want to explore on foot or simply want to flop on pristine beaches, there's an island for you. These are the best Balearic Islands to visit for every type of traveller.
For nature-lovers and laid-back travellers: Formentera
This small place is one of the best Balearic Islands for peace and quiet. It's far less frequented or developed than its big sister, Ibiza, despite being only a 30-minute boat ride away, and has managed to keep a laid-back atmosphere, perfect for those looking for a more chilled vibe. Nature lovers, too, should put this island on the top of their list, with its miles of rugged coastline dotted with white sand beaches, crystal clear blue sea ideal for swimming, snorkelling or diving, and salt flats that flamingos call home.
Slow is Formentera's default setting, so travellers who don't want the hectic, pulsing pace of Ibiza will feel right at home here - there's even a ban on new beachfront properties. In the sixties and seventies, the island became a bit of a draw for hippies, and the free-spirited feeling certainly lives on. There are plenty of markets full of local crafts, including the lantern-lit market of El Pilar de la Mola, coincidentally also the highest village on the island, so a trip there guarantees great views over the island.
Sea views in Formentera © Tono Balaguer/Shutterstock
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For families and beach bums: Menorca
While all the Balearics have great beaches, the ones on Menorca really stand out, often described as the easy option for reaching Caribbean-level quality sands. You'll often find little coves and secret hideaways of white, squeaky sand with rippling turquoise waves lapping onto shore, shimmering in the sun. So where to go? Check out Cala Mitjana, Cala Trebalúger, Calas Coves, Cala Macaralleta... we could go on, but you get the idea.
One thing you'll notice with the beaches in Menorca are the shallow waters, making this one of the best Balearic Islands for families, especially those with young children. It may spoil them for life, but some things are worth the risk! For families a little older and more daring, Menorca is the perfect place to get the gang into diving, with its impressive water clarity and amazing marine life. If you're on a budget or don't fancy the commitment to diving, the snorkelling is still fantastic here.
Menorca is known for its Caribbean-style coves © Pawel Kazmierczak/Shutterstock
For the nightlife and culture: Ibiza
Predictable? Yes, perhaps. But Ibiza and nightlife truly do go together like a good gin and tonic. With its season of clubbing at renowned places like Pacha (and plenty more), stylish open-air bars with A-list DJ sets, there's enough options in Ibiza to keep you going into the early hours of every day of the week.
Ibiza as the best Balearic island for culture might come as a bit more of a surprise, however. Exploring the island's UNESCO-listed Old Town is enough to make you change your mind, with its majestic Dalt Vita Fortress and other snippets of history right in front of your feet. Another great spot to explore is the Es Cana market, where you'll find all sorts of trinkets and local crafts on offer.
Ibiza Old Town by night © Mariusz Stanosz / Shutterstock
For those who want it all: Mallorca
The largest island, Mallorca, offers so much that it can't be placed under any one category. This is the best Balearic Island for a bit of everything: the beaches are jaw-droppingly beautiful and the nightlife here can suit all styles. With its 2,500 restaurants and 41 marinas, you won't be at a loss for any type of cuisine or a pleasing view while you dine.
Mallorca is also a great place to take your family, particularly teenagers, who will be kept adequately entertained without too much pouting. Palma offers attractive promenades and trendy boutiques as well as plenty of culture with the Santa María Gothic cathedral overlooking the bay and the Moorish-style Arab fortress, Almundaina. If outdoor thrills are more their thing, you can take your pick of cycling and hiking trails around the island, and Alcudia and Pollensa are great bases for adventures. For slowing things down, make a pit stop at the local wineries.
Mallorca has something for everyone © Balate Dorin/Shutterstock