Menorca is the second largest of the Balearic Islands and lies in the heart of the western Mediterranean, almost exactly halfway between Algiers and Marseille. The island has a total area of 702 square kilometres with 216 kilometres of coastline and the longest distance is 47 kilometres between the two principal towns of Maó and Ciutadella.
Es Castell, on the eastern tip of the island, is the first town in Spain to see the sun rise. The northern half of the island has a rugged rocky coastline, with small beaches of red sand beneath towering cliffs. The rocks here are the oldest on the island, and the gentle rolling hills include Monte Toro, which at 358 metres is the highest point on the island. Exposed to the strong northerly tramuntana wind, vegetation on the northern coast is sparse and few trees soften the stark rocky horizons. But the southern half of the island, known as the migjorn, is largely flat and consists of a limestone plateau with wooded ravines and gorges cut by the rains of thousands of years which lead down to beaches of soft white sand. These sheltered secret areas, with high cliffs honeycombed with caves and tunnels are ideal nesting places for birds of all kinds, from the Egyptian Vulture, with an imposing 2 metre wingspan, to nightingales, whose song echoes throughout the island in spring and early summer.
The average temperature throughout the year is an equable 17 degrees, but in summer the maximum can climb into the mid thirties. However, with sea breezes and the frequent tramuntana, a strong northerly wind, it is rare for the island to be uncomfortably hot for too long a time. The summers are dry with practically no rainfall from June until September, but winters are cool and moist, with abundant rainfall and heavy dews which help feed the large natural aquifers in the limestone strata which form a vital part of the island’s water supply. The average rainfall varies within the island itself, with the south receiving about 400 mm a year compared with the more abundant 650 mm in the north east closer to the windward side of the island.
Wild olive, prickly pear, evergreen oak flourish on the island, but introduced pine tees are gradually supplanting the hardy indigenous species. Wild herbs grow in the exposed northern coastlines, and in the ravines of the south numerous species of wild orchid and asparagus flourish in spring and summer. Lush pasture divided by the striking dry stone walls, which are such a characteristic and beautiful part of the Menorcan landscape, covers much of the island.