Regional Image of coast at Sant Elm, Mallorcacoast at Sant Elm, Mallorca

Each of the Balearic islands (Illes Baleares in Catalan, the local language) has its own personality, though you'll find easy access to sun, sand and sea on all four. Mallorca, the largest island, has a mountainous interior dotted with upscale resort towns, while Ibiza is known for its wild nights. Menorca boasts beautiful rocky coasts and quiet coves, and tiny Formentera is home to some of the archipelago's best beaches.

Palma de Mallorca, the capital of Mallorca, is a transport hub and a good place to start your visit. Shoppers flock to the stylish stores of the city, and the cathedral here is one of the islands' top sights. Beyond Palma you can visit pristine towns like Dei? and Valldemossa, both along the rugged Serra de Tramuntana that runs along the northwestern coast. The later has an interesting cultural centre about Mallorca called Costa Nord. Run by local homeowner Michael Douglas, it's a great place to learn about the island's history. For wide beaches and calm waters, there are plenty of resort towns to choose from. Port de S?ller is a busy place packed with restaurants, while for a bit of peace and quiet you can head out to the remote shores of the Platja de Formentor.

Ibiza is known worldwide as the home of the rave and the birthplace of mega clubs like Pach?. The anything-goes attitude attracts a fun and fanciful mix of bohemians, clubbers and even families out for a good time. Needless to say, nightlife is a major part of the Ibiza experience, but you don't have to wait until 1am to have fun here. Beaches and chill bars line the coast, while the tiny white-washed towns of the interior are the perfect place to escape from it all.

Quiet Menorca is a world away from the parties of Ibiza. With its sleepy towns and rocky coast, this small island is a paradise for walkers and nature enthusiasts. It's also a popular place with pre-history buffs; some of Spain's oldest monuments are found on this modest island. On the eastern end of the island are the ruins of an interesting Bronze Age settlement called Talat? de Dalt. Other ancient ruins and monuments are found throughout the island. You'll also want to visit the capital, Ma?, and the large town Ciutadella, which sits clear across at the other end of the island. Both have pretty ports, busy commercial centres and are convenient bases for exploring the rest of the island.

The smallest Balearic island is Formentera, an odd boomerang-shaped land sitting just off Ibiza's shore. With few resorts and none of the mega tourism of Ibiza or Mallorca, Formentera is a quiet island known for its long, golden beaches. Many people pop over to Formentera on day trips from Ibiza.

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Regional Image of coast at Sant Elm, Mallorcacoast at Sant Elm, Mallorca

All four islands enjoy a mild Mediterranean climate, with sunny days, low rainfall and a long summer that lasts from April through October. Winters can be damp, which makes them seem colder.

Regional Image of coast at Sant Elm, Mallorcacoast at Sant Elm, Mallorca

There are numerous direct flights from the UK and Europe, most of them heading to Mallorca or Ibiza. Flight time is just over two hours. Once on the islands the best way to travel between them is by ferry or jetfoil, which tend to be cheaper than flying.

On the islands, public transportation is available but scarce. If you plan to do much exploring you need your own car.

Regional Image of coast at Sant Elm, Mallorcacoast at Sant Elm, Mallorca

It should be no surprise that water activities dominate on the Balearic Islands. The list of watery pursuits is endless; you can swim, surf, windsurf, snorkel, scuba dive, sail and ski on resorts throughout the islands. Some of the best places for water sports are Menorca's southern coast (especially the resort Cala en Bosc) and areas like Mallorca's Port d'Andratx.

Yet don't ignore the islands' interiors. All are full of trails and paths ideal for walking or cycling. The quiet coast of Menorca is a haven for walkers, while Mallorca's rocky Formentor peninsula offers a rewarding challenge for in-shape cyclers. The Serra de Tramuntana in northwest Mallorca is another good hiking or biking destination.

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