The Balearics: Live in splendid isolation

Always a favourite holiday destination, the Balearics are now one of Britain's top choices for second homes
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The Independent Online

Britain's favourite holiday destination is fast becoming the favourite second-home destination too. Majorca welcomed 2.5m British holidaymakers last year, and the latest research is showing that British buyers are topping the international market for homes on the largest of the Balearic islands.

Britain's favourite holiday destination is fast becoming the favourite second-home destination too. Majorca welcomed 2.5m British holidaymakers last year, and the latest research is showing that British buyers are topping the international market for homes on the largest of the Balearic islands.

Property prices on Majorca have grown steadily since the mid-Nineties, with gains of between 12 to 18 per cent per year. Growth such as this makes investment in an island property a very attractive proposition - and the 250 sunny days a year ensure a long season for would-be holiday lets.

It is not, however, simply cheap travel and guaranteed good weather that make this island the most popular of the Balearics. "Topographically, it offers such a wide range in such a small area," says Michael Cunnington, residential director for Kühn & Partner, the island's largest estate agents. "The coastline goes from sandy beaches to cliffs - there are mountains, river valleys, rich farmlands in the central plain. It has friendly family resorts, as well as quiet unspoilt inland regions, lively towns - something for everyone."

Cunnington should know. He bought a farmhouse there almost 25 years ago and, using his background as an interior designer, totally renovated the building.

"I thought it was just something to do for a while," he says now. "But I came to love the island - and stayed." He's in good company; other Brits who have fallen for Majorca include Richard Branson and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, who have homes in the mountain region between Soller and Valldemossa, as does Michael Douglas.

Model Claudia Schiffer favours the elegant, lively town of Andtrax in the south-west, where Kühn & Partner's most upscale property development is luring high rollers. The Las Brisas development really is exclusive; only 15 mansions have been built on the secure hillside site above the town. Most of the homes have separate guest houses, all have magnificent interiors, gardens and pools with gyms and saunas. Prices start at €5m- and six of the houses (pictured on the front cover) are already sold.

Much of the Majorca property market is top-end apartments (especially in the very attractive capital, Palma), villas and renovated fincas. Plots are becoming harder to find, as new environmental protection limits building land. Mass tourism is mainly restricted to the hotel-based resorts in the south; large-scale new development is unlikely elsewhere. Property prices were stable last year but as the land shortage kicks in, there will be significant price increases for properties in prime locations.

Kühn & Partner dominates that top-end market. Established almost 40 years ago, the business now has more than 20 offices in Majorca and Ibiza. But it also has affordable holiday homes like its own development of apartments, Residencial Betlem, on the north-east coast. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments are directly on the sea, with balconies, open fireplaces, fully-fitted kitchen and dining area, marble-tiled bathroom with underfloor heating. There's a communal swimming pool, underground parking, 24-hour security and residents also have access to a small private bay, priced from €265,000.

Menorca's name means "the little one", compared to Majorca ("the big one"), and though Menorca can't offer its larger sister's vast range of landscapes, it has some of the best unspoilt beaches of any Mediterranean island. The coastal resorts are quiet and family-oriented with the emphasis on villas and apartments rather than hotels.

The island has numerous attractive villa developments including Son Parc, Binibeca and Fornells. Selling agents escape2balearics.com says the island's two major towns - the easterly capital, Mahon and Ciutadella in the west - are attracting much interest from would-be buyers; not surprising, as both are attractive old ports with fine buildings, good restaurants and shopping.

The agency has an immaculately renovated Ciutadella four-bedroom town house for €550,000, with traditional beamed and vaulted ceilings. Wherever you choose on an island of only 35 miles, it will be within easy reach of the airport, and the same applies to even smaller Ibiza, where every point on the island is within an hour's drive.

Originally known as the White Island because of the white-painted buildings, it drew the more bohemian tourist in the Sixties, becoming a centre for pseudo "hippy" culture and nude beaches. Today's Ibiza has grown up somewhat and its beaches attract family holidaymakers as well as the young visitors keen to sample the lively club scene. Away from the beaches, the hinterland still shelters unspoilt villages.

Prestige Properties has specialised in selling homes in Ibiza for more than 20 years. It not only sells but also manages houses and apartments. It has several two-bed, two-bath houses in the Cala Moli development in San José, with sea views from the large terraces, open fireplaces in the main living room, private gardens and garage and swimming pool and tennis court, from €240,000.

Kühn & Partner have a superb villa near the long-established family resort of Santa Eulalia with unobstructed views of the sea and surrounding countryside.

The two double bedrooms have ensuite bathrooms, the main reception rooms include a split-level dining area, lounge with fireplace, study/extra bedroom and glass conservatory. There is also a separate guest apartment, covered terraces, a chlorine-free swimming pool with solar panels, double garage and lush Mediterranean garden with ponds, palms and fruit trees, priced at €900,000.

Kühn & Partner: www.kuhn-partner.com, 00 34 971 22 80 20; Escape2balearics.com: www.escape2balearics.co.uk, 0161 351 2160;

Prestige Properties: www.ibizaprestige.com, 00 34 971 19 04 55

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