‘I went to tiny island right by Majorca with crystal seas and untouched sands’
Majorca is one of the most popular Balearic Islands but there’s a smaller island next door that’s well worth a visit thanks to its crystalline waters and amazing sand dunes
Unable to resist the delicious smell any longer, I dive into the fresh piece of monkfish in front of me. It’s certainly the tastiest piece of fish I’ve ever had, served with pine nuts and green tomatoes. What makes this food really special, though, is not the incredible flavour, but where it comes from.
Each of the tomatoes on my plate were handpicked by the kitchen staff while I watched – all part of the experience here at the Andreu Genestra Restaurant, in Zoëtry hotel hidden in the rolling countryside, just a 25-minute drive from the Majorcan capital Palma.
With its own market garden of more than 26,910 sq ft, its own vineyards and fresh fish sourced from the nearby islands, it’s easy to see why chef Andreu Genestra was awarded a green Michelin star for the restaurant recently.
This isn’t the only restaurant in Majorca that’s directing its focus towards sustainability either. In fact, it’s a growing theme across all of the Balearic Islands. With millions of visitors flocking to Majorca, Formentera, Ibiza and Menorca every year, sustainability projects have become increasingly important. And although some regions in the Balearics, such as Majorca’s Magaluf and Ibiza’s San Antonio, are often associated with raucous nightlife, this is far from the only reason to visit.
Step a few miles away from the party spots and you’ll find crystal clear seas with untouched sand dunes and delicious seafood that’s caught and served up in nearby restaurants that same day.
All of this is most evident in Formentera.
The tiny island was named a certified Starlight Tourism Destination due to its lack of light pollution. We were able to catch a brilliant glimpse of Saturn and Jupiter through a telescope at the Formentera Astronomical Association – based in Gecko Hotel & Beach Club – while the moonlight shimmered on the sea.
Another perk of Formentera’s small size is its wine. The vines here do not require treatment thanks to the island’s favourable conditions: high temperatures, low rainfall and high salinity. The vineyards remain untouched and today it is one of the few places in the whole of Europe that the International Organisation of Vine and Wine has declared free of the phylloxera plague.
I was able to sample some of the top-notch grapes at Bodega Cap de Barbaria, which produces exquisite whites, reds and sparkling wines.
If you’re looking for a place to stay, then just 250 yards from Platja del Puig beach sits the easygoing Hotel Casbah which was awarded an honorary tourism award in 2022 from the local government for its sustainability.
Owner Juan Vicente Boned has invested in a machine which turns all the hotel’s waste into compost – and the fruit trees and the vegetable gardens within the hotel grounds provide fresh produce for the onsite restaurant.
Make sure to stroll along the coast and take a dip in the clear sea while you’re here too. The reason Formentera’s waters are so translucent is down to the seagrass which acts as a carbon sink and provides a habitat for marine life.
A boat trip with Daisee Aguilera Fletcher, head of the Save Posidonia Project and chief executive of Whitesand Solutions, will show you exactly how they are protecting this patch of sea. As we sailed through the waters, we learned how visiting boats dropping anchor on the grass cause much local ire. Because of this there is now a patrolling team and systems in place to make sure all anchors go on the sand to prevent damage to the delicate ecosystem.
It isn’t only Formentera working hard on sustainability, Majorca is the biggest of the Balearic Islands and it is hugely popular with British families and kids.
That was on show in the busy Playa Garden Selection Hotel in Playa de Muro on the east of the island which is aiming to teach the next generation of eco-warriors.
The resort’s Woogi Nature children’s programme revolves around the four elements of nature: fire, water, air and earth. The ‘My Eco Garden’ activity educates children on how to love and respect the planet. It’s not all about the kids though.
The hotel also has an organic garden and BioCorner in its restaurant which only uses produce sourced from nearby – and let’s not forget the after-hours live singing and dancing entertainment for the adults.
For a more relaxed and exclusive setting away from the crowds, check into Sir Richard Branson’s new five-star Son Bunyola Virgin Limited Edition hotel, set in untouched landscape. It’s a sight to behold in the valley with rolling mountains and sunsets kissing the distant sea.
The hotel opened in June after being converted into a luxury property while preserving the historic 16th century elements such as the main tower. It took Branson more than 20 years to obtain the planning permissions but the result does not disappoint.
When you’re not admiring the impressive architecture, walking in the 1,300 acres of land or dining on local produce in the hotel, it’s worth making the one-hour drive to a vast farm and fig plantation in Son Mut Nou in Llucmajor.
It can only be traversed in a rickety golf buggy and with fig trees from all over the world, it was a thrill to try the fruit straight from the source, tasting sweet and fresh.
We found out there is nothing you cannot put figs into. Fig coffee, fig liqueur
and even fig mustard – I purchased two jars to take home. Just a 40-minute drive away is another delight for the culinary senses – Joan Marc Restaurant in the busy town of Inca. Here foodies can gorge on local seafood such as squid and hake, as well as dill soup and pork loin served with cabbage.
Or, for active holidaymakers, Galatzó in Es Capdellà, Calvià, is home to some excellent walking trails.
Hiking is one of many elements of sustainability that the Majorca tourist tax is being invested back into and this UNESCO world heritage site is the best place to do it.
During our short trek we passed the Ses Porqueres de Galatzó which has been purposely built as a hostel for hikers.
Seven huts have been built across the northwest of the island using money from the tourist tax.
Just another way that the Balearics are taking impressive steps to showcase their sustainability.
Book the holiday
- Flights to Majorca and Ibiza are available from up to 23 airports across the UK.
- Trasmapi operates a 35min ferry service between Ibiza and Formentera with departures every half-hour. Adult return around £41. trasmapi.com
- Rooms at the Hotel Casbah in Playa de Migjorn, Formentera, start at around £122 a night room-only. hotelcasbahformentera.com
- Rooms at the Playa Garden Selection Hotel & Spa in Playa de Muro, Majorca, start at around £69 a night room-only; £181 all-inclusive. gardenhotels.com
- More info at illesbalears.travel sustainableislands.travel