Smallest of the 17 Spanish autonomous communities, the Balearic Islands (Illes Balears in Catalan, Islas Baleares in Spanish) welcome more tourists per capita than any other region apart from the Canaries. The archipelago is composed of four main islands: Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera.
Majorca, the largest, was the seat of the eponymous kingdom, founded in 1231 after the conquest of the archipelago by the King of Aragon. The Royal Palace and cathedral are the main attractions of Palma de Majorca, the Balearic capital and only city. The rest of the island is rugged and mountainous and interspersed with spectacular coves of aquamarine sea and white beaches. The highest peak, Puig Major, rises to 1,445 m (4,741 ft).
Minorca, to the north, is equally beautiful, but a bit flatter and more laid back. It also has a rich collection of Megalithic monuments.
Ibiza, to the south, is one of the Mediterranean party capitals, famous around the world for its vibrant nightlife scene and electronic music. It may come as a surprise than that Ibiza is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site for Biodiversity and Culture, owing to its unique marine and coastal ecosystems, its very ancient history (former Phoenician colony), and the exceptional Renaissance military architecture of the Upper Town of Ibiza.
Formentera, a smaller island just south of Ibiza, has barely 10,000 inhabitants and is renowned for its pristine white-sand beaches.
Most of the Balearic population of 1 million speaks Catalan as well as Spanish.
Balearic cuisine is regarded as part of the wider Catalan cuisine, as it shares many dishes and ingredients with Catalonia and the Valencian Country. French mayonnaise was invented on Menorca and named salsa mahonesa, after its capital Mahon. The French took the recipe with them after their victory over the British at Port Mahon in 1756.
Typical Balearic culinary specialties include arròs brut (soupy rice cooked with game and mushrooms and spiced with cinnamon, saffron, pepper), arròs de la terra (grinded wheat with vegetables and sausages), caragols (snail stew), ensaïmada (pastry filled with reduced pork lard), flaons (sweet, round pasty filled with cheese), mè rostit/porcella rostida (lamb/piglet roasts), tombet (sliced potatoes, aubergines and red bell peppers fried in olive oil), trempó (salad of onions, green peppers and peeled tomatoes), and sopes mallorquines (soupy stew made from cabbage and other vegetables and served with bread).