Menorca’s (pop. 72,000) 200km coastline of raw beaches, rustic landscapes, and well-preserved ancient monuments draws ecologists, photographers, and wealthy young families. Unfortunately for those on a budget, the island’s unique qualities and ritzy patrons have resulted in elevated prices. Atop a steep bluff, Mahon (pop.
25,000) is the main gateway to the island. The popular beaches outside Mahon are accessible by bus. Transportes Menorca buses leave from C. Josep M. Quadrado for BPIatges de Son Bou (6 per day, ‚1.80), which offers 4km of gorgeous beaches on the southern shore. Autocares Fomells buses leave C. Vasallo in Mahon for the breathtaking views of sandy Arenal d’en Castell (30 min. 3-5 per day, ‚ 1.70), while TMSA buses go to touristy Cala’n Porter (7 per day, ‚1.10) and its whitewashed houses, orange stucco roofs, and red sidewalks. A lOmin. walk away, the 13 Covas d’en Xoroi, caves residing on cliffs high above the sea, are inhabited by a network of bars during the day, and a popular disco at night. (Bar cover ‚5, includes one drink. Open Apr.-Oct. daily 10:30am-9pm. Disco cover ‚15. Open daily llpm-late.)
The tourist office is at Sa Rovellada de Dalt 24. (3971 36 37 90. Open M-F 9am-l:30pm and 5-7pm, Sa 9am-lpm.) Posada Orsi is at C. de la Infanta 19; from PI. s’Esplanada, take C. Moreres, which becomes C. Hannover; turn right at PI. Constitucio, and follow C. Nou through PI. Reial. 971 36 47 51. Breakfast included. Singles ‚15-21; doubles ‚26-35, with shower ‚30-42.) To get to Hostal La Isla , C. de Santa Catalina 4, take C. Concepcio from PI. Miranda. (fax 971 36 64 92. Singles ‚25; doubles ‚40.)
Northwestern Spain is the country’s best-kept secret; its seclusion is half its charm. Rainy Galicia hides mysterious Celtic ruins, and on the northern coast tiny Asturias allows access to the dramatic Picos de Europa mountain range.
If, as the Galician saying goes, rain is art, then there is no gallery more beautiful than the Northwest’s misty skies. Often veiled in silvery drizzle, it is a province of fern-laden eucalyptus woods, slate-roofed fishing villages, and endless white beaches. Locals speak gallego, a linguistic hybrid of Castilian and Portuguese.