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Apart from the countries I’ve lived in, Spain is the country I’ve visited the most. By a long way. But until May this year, I hadn’t been back for about 10 years… and then I went twice in the space of 4 weeks. And I didn’t just go to Spain twice – I went to the Balearic Islands, just off the country’s southern coast, twice.
The first time was a week in Menorca for the #MustSeeMenorca conference. And a few weeks later I jetted back to the Balearics to see what Ibiza has to offer.
When you visit two neighbouring islands, that are part of the same country and the same group of islands, in such a short time, I suppose it’s only natural to compare them. And even though Menorca and Ibiza sit at opposite ends of the party/chill spectrum, I kind of expected them to be pretty similar.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
When I try to list the similarities, only three come to mind: the pretty white houses, the equally Instagrammable pink flowers that cover their walls and the climate. Apart from that, they could have been two completely different countries – let alone part of the same archipelago.
So, on that note, let’s look at how they compare:
While Ibiza does have some great restaurants, they’re pretty hard to find in the main towns. You’ll see pizza, chips, kebabs, pies and British food every few metres, but you’ll have to trek a little further to find any Spanish dishes. In fact, it’s a whole lot easier to find paella in London than it is in Ibiza. Keep your eyes peeled, though – the few hidden spots are totally worth working up the appetite for.
Some of the best food we ate included a seafood paella, a Portuguese cream cod dish and a chicken piadina. And if you’re a fan of Spanish ham, that’s pretty easy to find too.
A nice little discovery as I left Ibiza was the amazing food at the airport. Yes, really. I was fully gearing up for a Burger King breakfast until I found a cervecerìa tucked away at the back of the departures hall serving the best salmon and avocado toast ever. For 4,50 euros.
They also serve soya lattes and cappuccinos – something that’s fairly easy to find inmost of Ibiza. Now there’s something I wasn’t expecting.
In Menorca, on the other hand, it was hard to eat anything but traditional Spanish dishes.
We mostly ate tapas, with highlights including garlic shrimps, ham croquettes and some of the juiciest pork I’ve ever tasted. As you might expect from an island, the seafood in Menorca was delicious, and there was plenty of it too. The fact that I have no photos of the food is probably a good sign of how tasty it was… I just couldn’t wait to eat it.
Winner: Menorca! Give me tapas and seafood any day of the week.
Drinking in Ibiza
I headed to Ibiza expecting to find drink prices that would make London look like a constant happy hour – and in the big clubs like Ushaïa that’s exactly what you get. In the supermarkets, however, it’s a completely different story. And that story involves the best demi-sec cava I’ve tasted for less than 2 euros, so I guess it all balances out.
On the surprising side, WKD and Smirnoff Ice still seem to be going strong in Ibiza and you’ll come across those infamous blue bottles – and all the bad kind of nostalgia they bring with them – in every bar you visit.
Drinking in Menorca
Menorca’s capital Mahón is known – but should really be better known – for its gin. The island’s famous ‘Xoriguer’ gin distillery can be found there, and is where Menorca’s gin is still made the same way it was 300 years ago. Sadly I was working and missed out on the gin distillery tour and tasting, but I still got to taste it throughout the week. And it is good.
The ‘Binifidet’ winery is also worth a visit, even if you’re teetotal or allergic to wine like me. We watched another incredible sunset every night, but none was as colourful as this one (above – just look at that pink sky!).
Winner: It’s a tie! Maybe if I’d visited the distillery, Menorca would have been an easy winner, but who can resist delicious and almost-free cava?
It would be impossible to talk about Ibiza without mentioning the nightlife. For all its beaches, sunsets and yoga retreats, Ibiza is still first and foremost a party island – and pretty much synonymous with the phrase “party island” itself.
Although I didn’t go to Ibiza purely for the parties, I couldn’t have visited without going to at least one of the clubs. We chose Ushuaïa, a huge hotel that hosts all-day and all-night pool parties, because David Guetta is playing there every Monday. It set us back a whole 50 Euros for entry alone but was worth every cent – even after getting my phone stolen at the end of the night (more on that soon). If I went back, a pool party at Ocean Beach Ibiza would be top of the list too.
It doesn’t really need to be said but… Ibiza sure knows how to party.
Menorca, on the other hand, is definitely not an island for party-lovers. Everything closes early. There are no nightclubs (although some of the guests in our hotel certainly found somewhere to stumble back from one night). It’s pretty much silent after 8pm.
What Menorca does have, however, is one of the coolest bars ever. It’s call Cova d’en Xoroi, it’s in a cave and I wrote all about it in this post. In short: don’t go to Menorca for the bars, but don’t leave the island without at least one visit to this bar.
Winner: Sorry, Menorca, but it was always going to be Ibiza.
When I booked a flight to Ibiza, I had visions of white sandy beaches just waiting to be Instagrammed. After all, they do call it the White Isle.
And while Ibiza had plenty of beautiful beaches, we didn’t really have time to visit some the island’s best. Next time I visit, I’ll be heading straight to the far south of the island to see Las Salinas beach, as well as Cala es Cavallet and Cala Salada.
Menorca has the kind of beaches that make you gasp in surprise and reach for the camera when you first see them.
Because so much of the island is largely untouched, you never know when a stunning beach is waiting silently behind a muddy rock path. The element of surprise certainly adds to the experience of finding a new beach, but there’s no denying that the island is just full of impressive shores waiting to be admired.
Winner: Menorca…just. Even though ibiza had more than its fair share of idyllic coastlines and too-blue-to-be-true waters, it couldn’t quite compete with the Menorcan beaches I’d visited a few weeks earlier. It’s not to say Ibiza’s beaches aren’t worth getting excited about – it’s just Menorca’s are kinda hard to beat.
Part of the reason we went to Ibiza was to watch the sunset at Café del Mar, like we did just over a decade ago. When we got there, however, that plan quickly changed. The whole area around Café del Mar is far more built up than it was years ago, and it kind of takes away from the experience when you can’t see the sun through the crowds and someone’s hassling you to buy a mojito/fake watch/can of beer every couple of minutes.
We stayed and watched it – from the rocks instead of from the bar. And it was a beautiful sunset, but not beautiful enough to distract me from the salt pools between the rocks.
As it turned out, there was an even better sunset just behind our apartment in Platja Pinet. The area was mostly empty and the sky turned a beautiful shade of pink every night. The lesson: skip the commercialised areas and find your own special place to watch the sunset.
There were three sunsets that stood out in Menorca. The first was the winery mentioned above, where we watched the sky turn all shades of pink over the endless vineyards. The second was at the cave bar, also mentioned above. And the third was from a boat, heading back to the mainland from Lazareto island, and I’m gutted I didn’t take a photo.
Winner: It’s a tie! But I’m leaning towards Ibiza because our ‘secret sunset’ was such a highlight of the week.
It’s still kind of crazy to me that these two islands are so close together on the map yet couldn’t be further apart in character. But hey, that’s just a good reason to visit both – and I’m sure I’ll go back to both at some point. Next stop: Majorca?
Have you been to Ibiza or Menorca? Which would you rather visit?
READ NEXT: 4 Surprising Things You Can Do In Menorca.
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