Landscape of Majorca. Oscar Pipkin / © ICEX
The Autonomous Community of Balearic Islands is a single province region consisting of the islands of Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera as well as other small islands. The Region is located in the Mediterranean Sea, to the east of the Iberian Peninsula. It has a land area of 4,991.66 sq. kilometres / 1,927.3 sq. miles and a population of 1,119,439 inhabitants (2012). The capital city is Palma de Mallorca.
The region is notable for its production of extra virgin olive oil, which is covered by the Protected Designation of Origin Aceite de Mallorca.
With regards to livestock production, pig breeding is widespread. Some of the animals come from the original Iberian pig stock, and are used in making first-class meat products such as the famous sobrasada, as well as camayot and other lesser-known products. Sheep farming provides the islands with cheeses, although the best known is the (PDO) Mahón-Menorca cheese made from cows' milk.
Gastronomy in the Balearic Islands traditionally gives pride of place to seafood, with specialties including the famous lobster stew and different combinations of rice with fish and shellfish. Another favorite with tourists is a sweet pastry, the ensaimada, filled with custard, crystallized melon or sometimes even sobrasada, a savory pork and pimentón paté.
The Balearic fishing fleet consists of over 416 vessels and catches amount to 3,800 tons a year.
The area's winemaking tradition is protected by two Designations of Origin: Binissalem-Mallorca and Pla i Llevant. Quality wines are also produced in small wineries on the islands of Ibiza and Menorca.
Read more: Wines from Spain
The Balearic Islands are a leading tourist center in Spain. Balearic Islands were visited by 10,442,837 foreign tourists in 2012.
Ibiza was declared a World Heritage site by the UNESCO in 1999, with a view to preserving its biodiversity and culture. Menorca is declared Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. In 2011 the Cultural Landscape of the Serra de Tramuntana (Tramuntana montain range) in Mallorca island was declared World Heritage.
Palma de Mallorca houses two significant art collections belonging to the Fundación Pilar i Joan Miró and to the Fundación Juan March.
The Archipiélago de Cabrera National Park is the foremost environmental resource of this group of islands, in addition to the natural parks of S´Albufera de Mallorca, Sa Dragonera y S´Albufera d´Es Grau, Illa den Colom i Cap de Favaritx.
In recent years, a number of 'olive-oil routes' have been set up on the island of Majorca. They lead visitors to olive groves and to oil mills past and present, suggesting country walks, stays in singular establishments and meals in top-quality restaurants.
In 2012, the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) awarded 45 blue flags to beaches on these islands, as well 21 marinas.
More info: Turismo Baleares
The islands have preserved their Mediterranean identity, as well as a pronounced island personality, expressed by their own language, Majorcan, which is a dialect of Catalan. The Spanish Royal Family has a summer home on the island of Majorca, where tourism has traditionally thrived. In Menorca, one can find both pre-historic monuments and vestiges of the British presence on the island, while Ibiza is a paradise for party-goers. Ibiza also offers natural areas of great beauty, both inland and along its coasts.
Some internationally renowned personalities from the Balearic Islands are Ramón Llull (1232-1315) mystic and poet, and Miquel Barceló (1957) artist. 2007 saw the inauguration of the great work in ceramics produced by Miquel Barceló for the cathedral of Palma de Mallorca. This city is also home to the Pilar and Joan Miró Foundation, with its exhibitions and seminars on Miró's work.
Fiestas and Food Festivals
The fiesta of San Juan de Ciudadela (Menorca) is celebrated each year on June 24, with extraordinary equestrian games. Horses feature in many celebrations on the island, such as those at El Mercadal or Sant Luis.
Fiesta de la Butifarra in Sant Joan: Every September, this town holds a gastronomic festival in celebration of one of the island's typical pork products, the butifarra. This is a sausage made of pork and seasoned, unusually, not with pimentón but with other spices.
Feria de Sant Tomas and Muestra de las Matanzas de Sineu (Majorca): On the third Sunday of December, the village of Sineu reminds us of the pig slaughters that used to be popular events all over Spain, with demonstrations of how the local sausages and sobrasada were made.
The villages on the islands hold markets to sell their produce: tomàtigues de ramellet, small, dark tomatoes. Other products of the Balearic vegetable gardens are the red-yellow island peppers and a variety of purple carrot.
The climate is not conducive to curing hams, but the Majorcans prepare a unique sausage, called sobrasada, made from the porc negre, the local breed of pigs.
A coca, a tender pizza-like flour base, is generally accompanied by vegetables or traditional cured meat products. Cocas can also be sweet and eaten as a dessert or as a breakfast pastry.
One of the most highly praised dishes is the caldereta de langosta (lobster stew) from Menorca. Mayonnaise, made with eggs and oil, takes its name from Mahón, the capital of the island of Menorca.
Although the ensaimada (a typical spiral shaped pastry) is, without doubt, the Baleares' most well known pastry, there are many others, such as quartos (small cakes), rubiol, crespell (lemon and orange cakes) and flaó (a round cake made with fresh cheese and anisette).