Menorca/Minorca #1 Blog: Cala Pregonda

One of our favourite places in Menorca was Cala Pregonda
One of our favourite places in Menorca was Cala Pregonda

“Ah, Menorca,” sighed Jordi, a man we met at La Confiteria, when we told him we’d spent almost three weeks there, his voice softening an octave, the hand not wrapped around his negroni rising to touch his heart. “Paradise.”

Travel writers have called it “an Eden floating in the Mediterranean,” a sentiment shared by those we met, mingled with a touch of surprise that we Canadians had come to Menorca (Minorca in Catalan), an island with fewer than 100,000 people, so small you can drive across it in less than an hour. “Poc a poc,” or “little by little,” its way of life.

“Isn’t that where the Brits go to drink and party on the beaches?” friends asked before we left, confusing Menorca with Mallorca, another Balearic Island—home of tennis superstar Rafa Nadal—with ten times the population and more tourists in August than Menorca gets in an entire year.

Quiet, pastoral and cultural, Menorca attracts mostly Spanish tourists (40%), followed by visitors from the UK (fewer now because of Brexit, Jordi says), France, Italy and Germany. An anti-development sentiment began here in the 1970s, compared to Mallorca where, as you may have read, 10,000 citizens are currently staging weekend protests to reclaim their beaches from the island’s masses of tourists.

For more than thirty years, I’ve wanted to visit tiny Minorca (700 km2). I’m not sure what piqued my interest. It may have been when UNESCO declared the entire island a Biosphere Reserve in 1993. Or maybe I read about the Camí de Cavalls, a 186 km path encircling the island that was built in the eighteenth century. Or maybe I saw photos of their ubiquitous stone-walled farms and hand-carved, olive-branched gates. Or learned that the island has more than 1,600 Talayotic ruins from 3,000 years ago…

The capital is Mahón (Maó in Catalan), but the former capital, Ciutadella, is less urban, more picturesque and vibrant.You can choose your favourite from more than a hundred beaches, the water so pure you can see clear through it. Marshes, gorges, forests and trails host endemic plants and migratory and resident birds (it wouldn’t surprise me if Jonathan Franzen has birded here). There are agritourismos producing wine and cheese, boutique hotels repurposed from nineteenth century homes, and a blight (in the south) of white, hollow and empty hotels preparing to swallow hundreds of travellers this summer. Museums, churches and art galleries, including Hauser & Wirth where we went on its opening day this season. And restaurants serving spiny lobster stew, local fish fresh off the boat and served plain as an Agnes Martin painting, Minorcan red-cow beef and capers stew, tiny purple artichokes…(In 2022, the island was named one of the European Regions of Gastronomy. )You need a “slowcation” to savour the island’s many pleasures.

Geologically, the island’s south and north are distinct. The land in the south is composed of skeletons of millions of sea organisms mixed with quartz and fragments of other rocks, making for postcard white-sand beaches populated with sunseekers. The north (our favourite area) is made up of volcanic conglomerates and sandstones, older, darker, and fossilized (like us). More rugged and remote, the north is considerably secluded and serene, the beaches wilder and windblown.

Of our many hikes on Menorca, our walk on the central north coast from Playa Cavalleria to Cala Pregonda, even though the guidebook for the Camí de Cavalls says it’s the most demanding of the twenty sections of the trail, was our favourite. (The elevation gain is only 300 metres over 9.6 kilometres.)

You can see why.

Out and back, the hike dips alongside the copper-hued sandy coves of Ferragut, Mica, Valent and Binimel·là. Because it was unseasonably warm (22°C in early May), not only were people sunbathing, a few were starkers.

One reason this hike was so memorable is the spot Magellan chose for us to enjoy the lamb-and-potato sandwiches that Paqui made us from the leftovers of the previous night’s dinner. A secluded spot away from the main beach and overlooking a rocky outcrop that summoned me to its peak.

Belonging to the Balearic Islands, an autonomous region of Spain, Menorca was home to the Talayots before it was invaded by the Carthaginians, the Vandals, the Romans, the Arabs, the French, the English and the Spanish—in 1500 BC, Menorca was Spain’s most populous region. Today Minorca has two co-official languages: Catalan and Spanish.

In a Catalan regional election held while we were on Menorca, the pro-independence parties aiming to separate from Spain suffered a major setback, their combined votes sinking below the absolute majority threshold for the first time since 1980. “It’s complicated, even for we Spaniards,” Jordi told us.

In both Spanish and Catalan, pregant means “praying,” referring to a rock at Cala Pregonda that some say looks like the silhouette of a woman praying. But the word pregonda is more complicated—in Catalan, pregonda translates to “question”; in Spanish, it means “proclamation.” Without question, we proclaim Cala Pregonda our favourite beach on Menorca.

Navigation

Ansell, Rodney. Walking in Menorca. London: Sunflower Books, 2023. Not much on Cala Pregonda in this guidebook, which focuses on long walks on country roads.

Carter, Humphrey. “Mallorcans being called on to storm the beaches this weekend.Majorca Daily Bulletin. May 29, 2024. A day after this article, eight drunken Brits were arrested for starting a brawl with the police and throwing trash into the sea.

European Regions of Gastronomy.

La Confiteria, one of the oldest bars in Barcelona and recognized as a landmark establishment by the City Council.

Lara, Sergi. The Camí de Cavalls. Menorca: Triangle Books, 2022. Not much on Cala Pregonda in this guidebook, either. But it does say that the walk from Binimel·là to Pregonda “is an absolute must, a walk between two of the most emblematic coves of the north coast.”

Rodriguez Florit, Agusti. Geology of Menorca. Barcelona: cegeglobal.

4 Responses

  1. What a beautiful spot and not being overrun with tourists is a bonus. I can understand your attraction.

    1. We imagine it’s super busy in July and August, but off-season what a treat. Javier, one of the people we met who is a guide for flower-spotting and birdwatching, says it’s not bad in the wintertime, either, but probaly not much in the north with the wind and a lot of tourist facilities shut down until May 1.

  2. Nice looking country, looks pretty toasty.
    Starker’s eh, rather self explaining.
    Cheers,

    1. Yeah, on two different hikes we saw “starkers” on partially secluded beaches. Boring us–only had our bathing suits on once—at a hotel pool!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Destinations
Magellan

Skumakun: Land of Plenty

For her maiden camping voyage, Rove-Inn, our 2008 Land Rover, wheeled to South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park. Original inhabitants of this area called it Skumakun (Land

Read More »
Destinations
Spice

Everybody Goes to the Golden Falls

Everybody who goes to Iceland, well okay, almost everybody, goes to Gullfoss, the “Golden Waterfall.”  It’s the most popular waterfall in the country, one of

Read More »
Art & Architecture
Spice

On Christmas Eve, Arctic Dwarfs

The dwarfs aren’t there. Yet. But three kilometres from the Arctic Circle in Iceland where the Arctic Henge ascends above the village of Raufarhöfn, there

Read More »