Island of Cabrera, the best preserved coastal landscape in Spain

The island of Cabrera is located to the south of the island of Mallorca. It is just over an hour’s sail from the island and belongs to its municipal district. Since April 29, 1991 it has been part of the Cabrera Archipelago Maritime-Terrestrial National Park.

From a military enclave to natural paradise


The island of Cabrera from a viewpoint. | Shutterstock

The Cabrera Archipelago Maritime-Terrestrial National Park is the treasure hidden by this island. The analysis of the natural assets of such an environment has its own page. It also includes places to sleep and eat in the south of the island of Mallorca. This is precisely the starting point for a getaway to this island.

The fragility of the ecosystem imposes the strict observance of regulations. This concerns both the behavior during hiking and the anchoring of boats and underwater practices. In any case, the aim is to cause the least possible interaction with the ecosystem.

A bit of history of the island of Cabrera

Island of Cabrera

Island of Cabrera. | Shutterstock

Before knowing what to see in Cabrera, it is worth reviewing its history. The island has been used by the main Mediterranean civilizations of antiquity. Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans and Byzantines set foot on the island.

A letter of Pope Gregory the Great in 603 indicates that there was a monastery there. During the 5th and 6th centuries, it was common to establish hermit communities on islands in the western Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Since 1999, a team of archaeologists from the City Council of Palma de Mallorca has been carrying out a project on the island of Cabrera. This work is called ‘Recovery, consolidation and museumization of the Byzantine Monastery of the Island of Cabrera’. The aim of the project is to find out what that community of Cabrera monks was like.


The crystalline waters of the island allow visitors to enjoy the beach the whole year. | Shutterstock

During the history of Cabrera in the 13th and 14th centuries, the Barbary pirates used the island as a base. From there they frequently attacked the Mallorcan coast. For this reason, in the 14th century, a castle was built, today declared a Historic-Artistic Monument. The fight against the aggressive plunderers was very hard. So much so that in the 16th century alone it was destroyed and rebuilt ten times. It is believed that the same rock used at the entrance of the port was used to erect the small fortress.

On July 22, 1808, the French army of Andalusia capitulated in Bailén and its 18,000 soldiers were distributed differently. The officers sent to France, 4,000 were interned in the Canary Islands and 13,000 were taken to Cadiz. In a short time, epidemics killed about four thousand of the latter. Faced with the risk of contagion to land personnel, the 9,000 or so survivors were sent to the island of Cabrera.

Supplies were supposed to arrive from Mallorca, but storms and logistical errors prevented this. This caused terrible famines and consequently all kinds of excesses took place. Among the most terrible were cases of anthropophagy and cropofagia. The captivity of the 3600 survivors ended in 1814, when peace was signed. A monolith was erected on the island in their memory.

Island of Cabrera

Island of Cabrera. | Shutterstock

At the end of the 19th century, the island of Cabrera became the private property of the Feliu family. They tried to cultivate vines and built a winery, which is currently used as a museum. In this space, elements of ethnology and nature are exhibited along with the island’s way of life.

In 1916, the British Admiralty denounced the Spanish government pointing out that, from Island of Cabrera and Mallorca, the smuggler Juan March gave supplies to German submarines operating under the Austro-Hungarian flag in the Mediterranean. This led to its expropriation, for 362,148 pesetas. It thus passed into the hands of the Army, which used it as a target practice area.

In July 1936, the few soldiers and inhabitants of Cabrera joined the side of the coup. However, the crew of a Republican submarine captured them soon after and transferred them to Menorca, where they were killed. After the war, the island of Cabrera was once again a military firing range. The artillery shots and maneuvers did not put an end to the extraordinary preservation of its flora and fauna. For this reason it became a National Park in 1991.

The hidden treasures of the Island of Cabrera

In terms of heritage, there is little to see in Cabrera. However, what there is is of great interest. The Cabrera archipelago is made up of two islands and 17 islets, of which the most important is the island of Cabrera itself, the largest of them all. It is followed in size by the island of Conejera or Conillera.

Lighthouse n'Ensiola

Lighthouse of n’Ensiola. | Shutterstock

The Cabrera Archipelago National Park can be visited on boats that leave daily from Colonia de Sant Jordi. On Tuesdays and Sundays, they also leave from Porto Petro. For visits in private boats, authorization from the Park Administration is required. Access is limited to a certain number of boats per day.

There are both terrestrial and underwater archaeological sites to see in Cabrera. One of these is the 14th-century castle. Its access is at the main pier and follows a path called Sa Platgeta, with a steep climb at the end. It has a height of 72 meters above sea level and from the top you can see a truly spectacular landscape.

castle island of cabrera

14th century castle. | Shutterstock

However, the most important remains to see in Cabrera are Pla de ses Figueres, where the monastic monastery has been located. In addition, three areas from different periods have been found there.

The salted fish factory, the oldest, has remains of ceramic material from the 5th to 7th centuries. More recent are the Barracks of the Napoleonic prisoners, from between 1809 and 1814. Finally, there is the Byzantine Necropolis and the purple workshop, from the 7th century AD.

One of the most important natural assets to see in Cabrera are its flora and fauna. Seabirds and birds of prey stand out, to which must be added the passage of more than 130 species of migratory birds. Hiking is a great way to enjoy the whole area.

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