Island Hopping Part II: The Unknown Gem of Menorca

Maybe it's because I've lived on the opposite side of the world my whole life, but when it came to vacations, Menorca would not have been on my list. In fact, a year ago I couldn't even have told you that Menorca existed.

But after spending nearly a week on the island for the festival of Sant Joan, I will wholeheartedly tell you that if it's not already on your bucket list, it should be.

As far as places to go and conquer while you're still young, we all know the regulars: Take a crew and conquer a few days in Vegas, go to a full moon party on Koh Phangan in Thailand, do Carnaval in Brazil, get your drank on in Munich for Oktoberfest, experience first-hand the clubs in Ibiza, yadda yadda...

And then there are the hidden gems. 

It's no secret that when it comes to putting on festivals, Spain doesn't mess around. From Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, to Valencia's Fallas, to La Tomatina festival in Buñol, the country isn't afraid to bring it's A-game. And who doesn't love a little island-vibe thrown in?

Ammunition for the hazelnut-throwing battle

Ammunition for the hazelnut-throwing battle

The Sant Joan festival on Menorca (held in late June) more or less consists of thousands of people filling the streets of Ciutadella, the second largest city on the island, to simultaneously lose their shit for a solid few days. Think a mix between a festival and college and a huge family gathering, a range of ages from eight to eighty, throw in a calvary of horses, a live orchestra, dangerous games that involve sardine-packed crowds and jousting-like games and trying to narrowly dodge horses galloping through said crowds, city-wide hazelnut throwing battles in the streets, port-side fireworks, all in the midst of a white-walled city that resembles a mix between Greece and Morocco...and there, my friends, is more or less Sant Joan.

Caragol des Born where the horses rear up and the crowds try to touch them for good luck

Caragol des Born where the horses rear up and the crowds try to touch them for good luck

Jocs de s'Ensortilla

Jocs de s'Ensortilla

While the festival was nothing short of epic, the icing on the cake is that Menorca has so much more to offer. The thing is, Menorca isn't just a party island. In fact, Menorca is fairly dead most of the year. Outside of Sant Joan, it's a small, quiet Spanish island that boasts of beautiful beaches and crystal clear Mediterranean water. Especially for the adventurer at heart, Menorca is an explorer's paradise. For cliff jumping, Cala en Brut is an adrenaline enthusiast's heaven; there are various platforms you can jump from so whether you're into the highest heights or would rather make a quick hop into the water, you can find something for just about everyone. Throw in some incredibly crystal clear blue Mediterranean water, and it's not too difficult to claim the place as paradise.

Cala en Brut

Cala en Brut

Cala en Brut

Cala en Brut

If you're more of a land explorer, there's no shortage of places to check out on the island. There's an ancient path that encircles the island (about 116 mi) called the Cami de Cavalls which was originally used and patrolled by troops on horseback to protect the island from invaders. Depending on which section you decide to take, the trail offers everything from seaside cliffs covered in fields of wild garlic, to a giant natural archway made out of rock, to pine tree thick woods, to some of the most stunning beaches and views along the coast. 

Wild garlic fields 

Wild garlic fields 

We decided to take the trail from Cala Turqueta to Cala Macarella with a pit stop in between at Cala Macarelleta. Cala Turqueta has a pretty beach and a small cliff jumping spot which is a nice start to the hike. We somehow managed to get there at the same time that a traveler set up camp on top of the cliffs to play some flamenco on his guitar which only added to the epicness of the moment. Cliff jumping on a spanish island to the sound of flamenco? Check and check.

Cala Turqueta

Cala Turqueta

Once we arrived at Cala Macarelleta, we took a trail on the left side of the beach which leads up the side of the cliff to offer views of the cala below as well as the next cala over, Cala Macarella. The place is known for their "floating sailboats," named so because the water is so clear that the shadows of the sailboats make them look like they are floating on air. Absolutely stunning.

Cala Macarelleta

Cala Macarelleta

Cala Macarella - "Floating Sailboats"

Cala Macarella - "Floating Sailboats"

Cala Macarella - "Floating Sailboats"

Cala Macarella - "Floating Sailboats"

You also don't have to go too far on Menorca to find countless seaside caves to adventure in or a cliff to watch the sunset. Walking along the cliffs of Binibequer one afternoon, we found a handful of caves that looked like something straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Seaside cave exploring

Seaside cave exploring

For a less swashbuckling experience, walking along the port in Ciutadella is beautiful, especially at night. Or if you're looking for a slightly longer walk, you can head down to Mahón, the largest city and capital of the island, which has the second largest natural port in the world.

Port - Ciutadella

Port - Ciutadella

Even caves have windows to watch the sunset... (Port - Ciutadella)

Even caves have windows to watch the sunset... (Port - Ciutadella)

Port - Mahón 

Port - Mahón 

So after experiencing first-hand the madness of Sant Joan, cliff jumping and cave exploring, and swimming in some of the most beautiful coves in the Mediterranean, it strikes me that this is just one hidden gem out of the whole world. If you asked me a year ago, I wouldn't have been able to tell you where in the world the Balearic Islands were. And here I am now, halfway across the world, reveling in the fact that this place exists and that I might not have come here except for the very specific circumstances in my life that led me to this place, to this point in time.

And I start to think of how small this island is. Of how many other small islands there are that I have never been to or heard of. How many caves and beautiful beaches and cliff-top sunsets occur day in and day out all around the world, waiting to be discovered, waiting to be enjoyed.

And while my wanderlust only grows each time I travel, it makes me think of how many of the places I have yet to see. It's funny how that works, isn't it. The more you travel, the more you realize how much you have yet to learn, have yet to see, rather than the other way around. Your bucket list gets longer rather than shorter the more you travel. The more you realize how little, rather than how much, you know.

And every once in a while, I think it's good to be reminded of how much you have yet to learn. That there is so much more of the world to see. And while I am realistic and know I won't get to every place on my list, I think maybe it's the detours, the hidden gems like this small island that you find unexpectedly, the Wow, how does this place exist and I haven't been here til now moments that are perhaps the sweetest. 

Here's to the next adventure - Cheers! 

P.s. Stay tuned for posts on Running of the Bulls and adventures in Croatia in the upcoming weeks!

Catching the sunset at Cala en Brut

Catching the sunset at Cala en Brut