The Balearic Islands

Guide to the Spanish Balearic Islands, a group off the country's eastern coast.

Guide to the Spanish Balearic Islands

Balearic Islands - A small group of islands located just off the eastern coast of Spain, the Balearic Islands are only 51 miles from the Spanish mainland. The Balearic Islands cover and area of 5,000 km2 and comprise 4 main islands plus some smaller islands, and together form an autonomous region of Spain.

The largest of the Balearics is Mallorca (Majorca) with an area of 3,640 km2, the other main islands in order of size are Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera.

The Balearic Islands enjoy a fabuolous Mediterranean climate, with hot summers alleviated by cooling sea breezes, making perfect holiday weather, and of course the Balearics do attract millions of holidaymakers and tourists each year. Locations vary from quiet Menorca beaches to rowdy Ibiza nightclubs and discos, so there is really something for holidaymakers of all tastes and ages.

The history of the Balearic Islands of course goes back many centuries and their strategic location in the Mediterranean Sea between Africa and Europe have made them a target for invasion and conquest since early times in man’s history.

It is thought that the earliest settlers arrived from the mainland (Iberian Peninsular) in around 4000 BC and artefacts and tools have been uncovered in caves, from about this time, these early settlers would have been hunters and shepherds. Early settlers in Menorca were the Beaker People, a well known race of Western European settlers, who acquired their name due to their custom of burying their dead in the company of pottery beakers.

The Phoenicians arrived in the Balearic Islands in around 1000 BC and established a trading settlement in the north of Menorca called ‘Sanisera’ which became part of their important Mediterranean route. A little later came the Greeks, who explored but did not settle in the islands due to the hostile nature of the inhabitants. The name of the islands is thought to be derived from the Greek ‘ballein’ which means ‘to throw with a sling’, the sling-shot being the chosen weapon of the native islanders.

In the 7th Century BC the Carthaginians arrived, they established a fortified settlement in Ibiza called ‘Eivissa’, and history tells that the famous Hannibal (of elephant fame) was actually born in Ibiza.

The Romans took Ibiza in 146 BC and Menorca and Mallorca in 123 BC and the islands were re-named Balearis Major (Mallorca), Balearis Minor (Menorca) and Ebusus (Ibiza). The Roman occupation brought stability and wealth to the islands together with an organised society, roads and communications were improved and vineyards were planted for the production of wine. The decline of the Roman Empire led to invasion by the Vandals in 425 and later by the Byzantines under Belisarius.

The Balearic Islands fell under Moorish control in the 10th Century, somewhat later than most of the Spanish mainland, when forces under the Emir of Cordoba conquered Mallorca and Menorca. The Moors remained in the islands for three centuries and changed their appearance with their architecture and irrigation methods.

Christian forces under Jaime I arrived and conquered Mallorca in 1229 and later Menorca fell to Alfonso III in 1287 after which the islands fell into economic decline. The Balearics remained under Spanish control until the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714), when Britain supporting the Hapsburgs, took control of the harbour at Maó (Mahon) for the Royal Navy and then subsequently the whole of Menorca. Menorca briefly came under French control in 1756 but was returned to Britain in exchange for the Phillippines and Cuba in 1763. By way of the Treaty of Amiens in 1802, Menorca was finally given back to Spain.

During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) the Balearic Islands were split politically when Menorca and Ibiza sided with the Republicans, while Mallorca sided with the Nationalists. After the death of Franco in 1975, Spain underwent a process of decentralization and in 1983 the Balearics became an autonomous region of Spain, known as the Comunidad Autónoma de las Islas Baleares. The capital of the Balearic Islands is Palma de Mallorca.

An already thriving tourist industry grew considerably during the following years, boosting the ecomomy of the islands and bringing prosperity to its inhabitants. The Balearic Islands have also seen a large influx of foreign property buyers, seeking that perfect holiday home in the sun, many have chosen to settle on the islands permanently.

Mallorca is by far the most visited of the islands, and it has some busy coastal resorts such as Magaluf, Alcudia, Puerto Pollensa, Porto Colom, Santa Ponsa, Cala Millor and Palma Nova.

The Balearic Islands today is a wonderful location to visit, with a reliable climate. plenty of fine beaches, lots of interesting places to visit and widely varying locations, The people of the islands are friendly and welcoming and many speak good English especially in the bigger resorts. Flights to the islands are readily available and economically priced and ferries are available from the Spanish mainland via ports such as Denia, Alicante, Barcelona and Valencia.

So why not take a trip to the beautiful Balearic Islands some time soon.

Balearic Islands Links: Ibiza - Mallorca - Menorca - Formentera

Balearic Islands Golf: Ibiza Golf - Menorca Golf - Mallorca Golf - Spanish Golf Courses

Balearic Islands Weather: Majorca Weather - Ibiza Weather - Menorca Weather

Balearic Islands Towns: Palma de Mallorca - Mahon - Ibiza Town

Balearic Islands Resorts: Alcudia - Cala Galdana - Cala Millor - Es Cana - Es Pujols - Magaluf - Palma Nova - Portinatx - Porto Colom - Porto Cristo - Puerto Pollensa - Santa Ponsa - San Antonio - Santa Eulalia - Son Bou

Related: Balearic Islands Guide - Builders