The village of Alaior, also known as Alayor, was built as a refuge for the inhabitants who were at risk of attack by invaders at the time. However, this village was born by two very important churches nowadays.
The last stop, and the largest town in Menorca, is a very nice town to visit. If you want to enjoy a quiet holiday, impeccable architecture full of magic and meet new people, visiting Alaior will be a great option. This part of the island has a style all of its own, where leisure is part of the nights here.
This village (as Alaior deserves to be called in Menorca since Alfonso XII granted it the title) was created at the express wish of another king, James II of Mallorca, in 1304, when the parish of Santa Eulària already existed and to group together the scattered inhabitants in the outlying area. The previous existence of a farmhouse called Ihalor in the area is documented, a name that is often used instead of the current one.
Throughout history it has always maintained its independence, almost always on the fringes of the orders that Ciutadella or Maó tried to impose on it, settling for the tertiary position behind them in the never-ending battle for the role of main town. This independence, which it still defends today, was achieved with its university institution founded in 1439, a title that for more than three hundred years guaranteed its self-government on a municipal level.
It can be said that tourism was introduced to the island through Alaior: the Cala’n Porter development was the first and that of Son Bou did not take long to fill the pages of the first travel brochures in which Menorca was featured. However, this priority activity is not very noticeable in the town centre, perhaps because a few kilometres of almost virgin landscape separate it from its satellite urbanisations. As mentioned, the outskirts of the city are great for cycling excursions, especially to the north, where one of the spots worth visiting is the hermitage of Sant Llorenç de Binixems, a traditional destination for local processions.
The recent widening of the main road has somewhat obscured the image it once offered, but anyone entering Alaior from Maó will still be able to contemplate the “everlasting” view of a hillside of houses crowned by its main temple of worship. It dominates and imposes the church of Santa Eulària, built in the highest part of the village to earn respect and obedience, symbolic or otherwise, for the role it plays or played in the life of the village. The first work dates from the 14th century, but there was a reconstruction in the 17th century that corresponded to Baroque details. A little gloomy inside, the exterior dazzles by contrast, exposed to the sun that illuminates it and to the winds, but as solid and well fitted in as can be seen in some aspects of the building: the curious turrets on the main façade or the buttresses, which reinforce its castle-like appearance.
Sant Diego, a Franciscan church and convent, is another remarkable building. Its old cloister, known as the Pati de la Lluna, is particularly beautiful, even with its separation into dwellings (and steps are being taken to convert it into a public space for a variety of uses). The Can Salort building, full of character, now houses part of the UIB, the University of the Balearic Islands.
A detailed walk will allow you to discover not only the most obvious and immediate – the streets that make up what has always been “the centre”, those closest to the Plaça Nova, the Carrer Major or the Town Hall, with an imposing entrance – but also the views from its historic boundaries. Near the church is the Munt de l’Àngel, with its water tower that competes with two old mills and the square that forms both a car park and a viewpoint. It looks south and east and, beyond, towards the ravine interrupted by the orchards. This view to the south reveals a blue horizon. In fact, from Alaior you can see the sea.
Still in the northeast of the town, another square shaded by pine trees, that of the hermitage of Sant Pere, marks the exit from the cemetery, with Es Cós as the obligatory direction. On this promenade on another slope, today oriented towards the industrial estate, the horse races of the fiestas take place, and it is the last road in the town for the inhabitants of Alaior. The cornices of the stone walls flanking it offer the public a raised grandstand from which to watch the equestrian competition.
Although the region is known mainly for its links with the tourist industry and, secondly, for the manufacture of footwear – with world-renowned brands – it has not lost its original link with the countryside and rural tasks. The annual agricultural and livestock fair, with breed competitions and machinery exhibitions, reflects the vitality of the dairy industry, which is directly linked to these sectors. Cheese manufacturers have modernised production methods and greatly expanded their markets, and as all brands offer products of unquestionable quality, the purchase of this typically Menorcan product for one’s own consumption or as a souvenir or gift is highly recommended.