The Balearic Islands consist of three large islands - Mallorca, Minorca and Ibiza;
two smaller islands - Formentera and Cabrera; and a number of small islets. The population is
approximately 825,000. Politically the islands are part of an autonomous province of Spain
with its administrative capital in Palma, Mallorca. The language is derived from Catalan.
The Michelin Green Guide Spain distinguishes between the three largest islands in the folowing way:
"The Balearic Islands are one of the country's most popular tourist
destinations. Of the three main islands, Mallorca and Ibiza attract large numbers of
Spanish and foreign (particularly German) visitors who come here to enjoy their
magnificent landscapes and beaches and lively nightlife. Menorca tends to be
quieter, finding popularity with those in search of a more relaxing holiday."
The Balearic islands are a continuation of a Spanish mountain chain known as the
Balearic Cordilleras. Over millions of years, earth movements have pushed these mountains up and down, at times providing
a land bridge with the Spanish mountains, at other times - the last 5 million years - isolating them as islands
in the Mediterranean. They are mainly made of limestone and red sandstone with a small amount of volcanic rock.
The Michelin Green Guide also describes the landscapes:
"The lush vegetation produced by the Autumn rains is one of the sunny islands'
greatest attractions. Pines shade the indented shores, junipers and evergreen oaks cover the
upper hillsides, while almonds, figs and olives cloak the plains."
Tourism is concentrated on the coast whereas, inland, the islands are far more tranquil.
Unlike the other islands, Mallorca (Majorca) can offer winter tourism as well as the
usual summer 'sun and sangria'. Read more about
, sometimes spelled Minorca,
is the wettest of the three major islands, with a strong and sometimes cold and northerly wind in the winter months. As
a consequence, tourism is highly geared towards May-October when it is much warmer and often hot and sunny, Most of the accommodation is on the coast in hotels, apartments and holiday
's tourism is highly concentrated in the
peak summer months with almost half of the visitors being young and British - the other half being mostly
young and not-British. Most of the resorts are virtually shut outside the 'season' with the
inhabitants away in the Canary Islands and elsewhere finding work.
is a much drier island than the other Balearics.