MENORCA - Introduction
On the 7th of December 1993, the island of Menorca received the highly acclaimed status of International Reserve of the Biosphere, by UNESCO. This being an acknowledgement of the harmony between the island's socio-economic development and the continued efforts towards the conservation of the environment.
Situated at the eastern extremity of Spain's Balearic Island archipelago, in the centre of the western Mediterranean basin, Menorca remains the least known and most remote island of the Balearics. Although it is the second largest of the archipelago, it is small in comparison to the main island of Mallorca, with a surface area of only 701 sq.km and measuring 49 kilometres in length by an average of 16 kilometres in width. Its population is also low at 72000.
This little known island is of incomparable natural beauty. Having remained largely unchanged by the tourism boom of the 70's and 80's, it is today the most unspoilt island of the Balearic archipelago, retaining an almost untouched natural environment and a high degree of tranquillity. This little disturbed natural setting, of which over 40% is now protected, hosts the majority of Mediterranean ecosystems, including several species of flora and fauna that are unique to the island.

Fornells harbour


Rugged north coast - Cala Pilar


Limestone cliffs - south coast


Stalactites and stalagmites

Geologically, Menorca has two well defined zones, separated by a fault line running through the centre of the island from the port of Mahon, its capital, in the south east, to Cala Morell on the north west coast. To the north of this line, the island is composed of a complex mixture of older rock formations, dating back almost 400 million years to the Devonian period of the Primary or Palaeozoic era. This is the most markedly wild and hilly area of Menorca, where much of the rugged north coast is only easily accessible by boat, where the few beaches are mostly of reddish sand, and many of the rock formations are deep red or of grey slate as is most pronounced along the east coast, notably at Cabo Favaritx.
To the south of this fault line, the countryside has a much more gentle aspect. This predominantly flat limestone plateau is composed of much younger sedimentary rock dating back less than 25 million years. It is in fact a portion of seabed that had been forced upwards during the formation process of the island, an area which contains many fossils of bottom dwelling marine life.
Although mostly flat, this limestone plateau has some interesting features in that there are several deep gorges or canyons cutting through it. Canyons carved into the soft limestone by ancient rivers that once drained the island's hilly north, at times when rainfall was much more abundant, perhaps toward the end of the last Ice Age.
With the exception of the low lying marshland and sand dunes fringing the long sandy beach between Son Bou and Santo Tomas, much of the south coast features an almost continuous series of high cliffs, indented only by occasional small creeks together with a number of truly magnificent turquoise coves, where the beaches are of fine white sand and surrounded by dense pine forest.

Magnificent turquoise coves


Caves and caverns


Protected ecosystem

 

This coastline, is however specially unique in that it has a great number of caves and cavern systems, many of which still remain undiscovered or unexplored, both under the sea and inland.
In contrast to this, the north coast has very few caves and caverns, excepting the area between Addaya and Arenal d'en castell and along the headland to the east of Fornells, where the enormous cave complex known as Na Pollida is to be found. One of the most fascinating aspects of these caves are the beautiful golden formations of stalactites and stalagmites that are found in all but a few, both below and above sea level.

 

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