Balearic Islands – WorldAtlas

Although Spain is located largely on the Iberian Peninsula, it also has many islands in the oceans and seas of the world. Some islands are located in the same area, forming an archipelago or chain of islands. The Balearic Islands group is one of the Spanish archipelagos in the Mediterranean Sea. Mallorca, the largest island in Spain, is part of the Balearic archipelago. Some of its islands are popular tourist destinations, known internationally as party destinations.


Where are the Balearic Islands?

Map of the Balearic Islands.

The Balearic Islands are located in the western Mediterranean Sea, near the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. The archipelago is located approximately 80-300 km off the coast of Spain, Valencia being the closest municipality to the mainland. It is bounded to the south by mainland Africa, to the north by Catalonia and by the island of Sardinia to the east. The Balearic Sea separates the island group from mainland Spain. Mallorca, the largest island in the archipelago, is located almost halfway between Ibiza (southwest) and Menorca (northeast). The archipelago is a Spanish province and an autonomous community.


Cala Llombards beach, Mallorca, Balearic Islands, Spain. Image Credit: Balate Dorin / Shutterstock

The Balearic archipelago comprises four main islands and several other islets in the Mediterranean Sea. It covers approximately 4,992 km2, representing only 1% of the Spanish territory. The islands are grouped into two groups, the Gymnesian Islands (comprising Cabrera, Menorca and Mallorca) and the Pityusic Islands (Formentera and Ibiza). Most of the islands and minor islets are located near the larger islands.

The Balearic Islands are an extension of the Sub-Baetic Cordillera of the Iberian Peninsula, with a threshold near Cape Nao in the province of Alicante connecting the two. The islands are varied terrain, characterized by plains, plateaus and rolling hills. Until the 19th century, the coastal areas of the archipelago did not have large settlements due to the numerous raids of the Barbary pirates. However, these areas are now home to some of the largest cities in the archipelago.

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Es Vedra, a minor island off the coast of Ibiza, Balearic Islands, Spain.

The archipelago comprises four main islands: Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera. The most popular minor island is Cabrera due to the Cabrera Archipelago Maritime-Terrestrial National Park on the island. The other minor islands include Es Vedrà, Es Conills, Tagomago, Sa Conillera, Colom, Na Redona and Ses Bledes.

Mallorca (also spelled Mallorca) is the largest island in the archipelago, spanning 3,640 km2. It is bordered to the northeast by Menorca, to the southwest by Ibiza, to the southeast by the island of Cabrera and to the west by Dragonera. Palma, the capital of Mallorca, is also the capital of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands. The island is home to approximately 897,000 people and has a population density of 246 people per km2, which makes it one of the busiest places in Spain.

Menorca (also spelled Menorca), located northeast of Mallorca, is the second largest island in the Balearic archipelago, covering 696 km2. Its capital and largest city, Mahón, is located to the east. Menorca’s population is around 93,397. Its location in the middle of the western Mediterranean Sea means that it has long been a meeting place between different cultures.

Ibiza, located southwest of Mallorca, stretches 572 km into the Mediterranean Sea. It is the closest island to mainland Spain about 150 km from Valencia. About 148,000 people live on the island, with Ibiza Town being the largest settlement.

The island of Formentera is the smallest of the four large Balearic Islands. It covers an estimated area of ​​83.2 km2 and is 9 km long. The island is located about 6 km south of Ibiza. Its population is around 12,000 people.


The Balearic Islands experience a Mediterranean climate due to their location in the western Mediterranean Sea. This climate is characterized by mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. In summer, the subtropical ridge often influences the climate of the region by keeping the weather conditions dry. In winter, the subtropical ridge moves towards the equator, causing frequent precipitation. Thus, the islands receive most of their precipitation in the spring and winter. The temperature ranges from 15 ° C (59.7 ° F) in January to 30 ° C (85.6 ° F) in August. The average temperature is 21.8 ° C (71 ° F), while the average annual precipitation is 450 mm.

Brief history

Torre des Savinar, built in 1576. Ibiza, Balearic Islands, Spain.

According to legends, the Greeks called the islands Gymnesiae because the inhabitants of the islands were always naked during the summer seasons. Other legends from ancient Greece suggested that the inhabitants lived in caves and hollow rocks. They too, according to the stories, had a deep love for their wives and would give ransoms up to four men for one woman. Throughout their history, the islands were under the rule of the Carthaginians, Romans, Phoenicians and Byzantines, and were sometimes self-governing.

In the 800s and 900s, pirates used some of the islands for hiding and stealing fleets, forcing the Emirate of Cordoba to take control of the islands and integrate them into state territory. However, the piracy has not stopped. In 1113, the Republic of Pisa led a crusade on the island, which included more than 400 ships. The Crusaders defeated the Balearics and conquered Palma, thus ending its period of maritime domination. After the islands were under the control of the Berbers for some time, King James I of Aragon recaptured Palma in 1229.

Menorca became a British dependency in the 18th century after the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht between Portugal, Spain and Great Britain. In 1756, the French conquered the island which they retained throughout the duration of the Seven Years’ War. The British recovered it after the war, but their domination over it would be short-lived. It was returned to Spain following the signing of the Treaty of Amiens in March 1802.

Human settlement

Palma, Mallorca, Balearic Islands, Spain.

The four main islands and the surrounding islets and minor islands are administered as island councils. Only the island council of Mallorca is subdivided into six counties, while the other three island councils also serve as separate counties. Each of the nine counties is subdivided into municipalities, which are again divided into civic parishes.

The population of the Balearic Archipelago has grown steadily since the beginning of the 20th century. According to a 2017 estimate, the islands have a combined population of 1.15 million people, the majority of which (around 80%) live in Mallorca. Ibiza is the second most populous island with 111,000 inhabitants, while Menorca has 87,000 inhabitants. Formentera is the least populated island, with almost 8,000 inhabitants. Palma, Mallorca, is the largest city in the archipelago with around 410,000 inhabitants.


The flora and fauna of the Balearic Islands are typical of the Mediterranean, with many endemic species. The ecosystem includes salt meadows, gorges, mountainous areas and cliffs, where plant and animal species live. There are over 400 species of fish and hundreds of invertebrates, birds and crustaceans living on and around the islands. The seabed meadows form a meadow which is an important food and protects many species. This plant is also responsible for the clear water of the sea.

On earth, there are 124 endemic plant species, 31 orchids, 32 ferns and a few introduced plant species. In addition, there are over 300 endemic animals, most of which are snails and insects. Some of the animal species include the Lilford Wall Lizard, Mallorcan Midwifery Toad, Balearic Shearwater, Balearic Warbler, and Eurasian Blue Tit.