Sailing's the Way to Discover Spain’s Sun-drenched Mediterranean Islands
The Balearic islands of Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, Formentera and Cabrera lie off the Spanish Mediterranean coast 60 miles from Valencia. With up to 300 days of sunshine per year, the Balaerics have a cosmopolitan ambiance where the culture has become as varied as the islands themselves. There’s something for everyone from secluded bays and quaint fishing harbors to smart seaside towns and modern marinas.
While a Balearics sailing holiday is certainly possible from a Spanish mainland base, most charters begin and end at Palma, Mallorca. From Palma, keen sailors can easily circumnavigate Mallorca in a week. That allows time to bathe in the scenic beauty of the northeastern coast of the Balearics' biggest island, stopping at picturesque coves and idyllic anchorages along the way. To take in Ibiza and Formentera, most charterers need to head straight there from base and thus omit Menorca and much of Mallorca from the itinerary. On a two-week charter, all of these beautiful islands come into play.
Despite its reputation as a package holiday destination that can be noisy and crowded, if you're doing the Balearics by sailing charter you'll soon discover that this is a place of great scenic beauty and historical interest, and there are plenty of tranquil bays to escape to. And if you want to join the onshore fun, that's easy to fit into your itinerary as well.
Getting Around this Spread-out Group of Islands
Most Balearic sailing holidays start with a flight to Mallorca and the main sailing base of Palma (there are smaller bases at marinas dotted around the islands, including at Ibiza and Formentera).
It is quite feasible to cross to the Balearics from a base on the Spanish mainland, particularly when doing an extended charter. The nearest mainland charter bases are at Denia, a little more than an hour's drive south of Valencia. Ibiza is 55 nautical miles (100km) from Denia, making this a viable starting point if your holiday focus is the smaller southern islands in the group.
The Balearic Island archipelago forms a string 150 miles long and said to contain 20,000 anchorages! To adequately cover all main islands on one sailing holiday means an extended charter. So if your holiday time is limited to the most popular 7-day plan, you will need to make some difficult choices.
Mallorca alone offers all you may need on your holiday out of Palma, with local destinations dotted around the coast, particularly on the south and east sides. The small island of Cabrera should be included, and a passage across to Menorca is also possible on a week-long time frame. To include Ibiza and Formontera in comfort, you will need to forego Menorca and northern Mallorca. Or take a longer holiday! It's 68 nautical miles (125km) from Palma to the beautiful northern Ibiza bay of Cala San Vicente.
Weather and Sailing Conditions in the Balearic Islands
The summer sailing season is long in the Balearic Islands, with hot but comfortable summer temperatures and steady humidity around 70%, and a short, mild winter. The island topography creates its own local land and sea wind pattern, known as the embat, which builds during the day before tapering off late in the afternoon. The predictable summer breezes of the embat make afternoon sailing around the Balearics a real pleasure and add much to the region’s appeal as a charter holiday destination.
Sea conditions can become less pleasant, particularly in the shoulder seasons, when colder winds come from the north to over-ride localised winds. At times sailing the northern coastlines of Mallorca and Menorca and the stretches of water between those islands can be uncomfortable to some crew members. That's in contrast to the calm waters generally expected around Palma and southwards during the charter season. Similarly, weather from Sardinia can cut up the water to the east. Such conditions, where they do arise, are predictable and easily avoided with attention to weather forecasts and good itinerary planning.