While Menorca is an arid land, the Santa Ponsa property is surrounded by parks and vegetable gardens, following the principles of permaculture
Santa Ponsa, Menorca
In one of the most protected areas in Europe, Santa Ponsa, a 17th-century Finca of 100 hectares, with fully listed terraced gardens, offers guests the opportunity to discover a wild and preserved nature in a place full of history. Guests can walk through the gardens and explore the surroundings, take the paths that lead to vineyards, the cliffs or the limestone quarry, while enjoying the Catalan cuisine, relax at the spa or take part in different activities from yoga and meditation, to cooking and pottery classes.
Rebuilt in the middle of the 19th century, the property now dominates eight hectares of tiered gardens; the architecturally features predominant Minorcan elements, with Spanish and Moorish influences. Cupolas, moucharabieh, and miniature ziggurat recall the previous centuries, reminding how noble families from Barcelona used to visit the island in the past. Nowadays, Santa Ponsa hosts a hotel and restaurant with a spa, immersed in 100 hectares of tiered gardens, an oasis of relaxation and well-being in the arid lands of the island.
Renovating while respecting the environment
Building a hotel while respecting the heritage of the original building hasn’t been easy, of course. As Guillaume Foucher, co-founder owner of the collection Les Domaines de Fontenille, explains: «we’re used to buying and renovating historic houses, but in Santa Ponsa, it was very difficult. Menorca is a very protected environment, everything is listed, and we couldn’t nor want to change things drastically. We weren’t allowed to build a swimming pool, for example. Still, it has been interesting to find alternative and conservative solutions: we decided to put the swimming pool in an old cistern, respecting the history and the functions of the building. To us, preserving the first feeling we had when we saw the house was crucial: we even created a basement to expand spaces without increasing the volumes on the outside, respecting the original building».
Not only the building itself has been preserved, but also the gardens. While Menorca is an arid land, the Santa Ponsa property is surrounded by parks and vegetable gardens, following the principles of permaculture. «We have organic cultures, and we even produce wine locally; this is not something we imported; we’re continuing a tradition of decades of organic cultivation on the island. Luckily we have plenty of water on the property, and we can offer our vegetables and fruits: we’re aware that our guests want to eat and enjoy food that grows 50 meters from their table, organic and locally sourced.»
The Nura Restaurant – Permaculture and organic local ingredients
Talking about food and cultivations, Santa Ponsa also hosts a restaurant, where the Catalan chef Albert Riera creates a seasonal and healthy menu for the guests. «When we opened Nura restaurant,» states Foucher, «we decided to call him because we loved his creativity and he perfectly understood the essence of Santa Ponsa. He works with products supplied by our vegetable garden of more than 5,000m2 in the southern part of the Santa Ponsa terraces. and locally sourced meat, cheese, and fish. The Menu is adapted to the local production, with plats du jour that change according to availability and seasonality of the ingredients, which are always fresh. All of this while respecting the tradition of contemporary Spanish cuisine, tangy and lively, focused on the product».
Nura Restaurant is around 4 km from the other property, Torre Vela. Here, the restaurant Siempreviva offers a different experience to the guests of the two hotels, highlighting planchas, vegetables, and offering plates such as paella, baked fish, and barbecues, all in the intimate atmosphere of the main house’s patio. «What we love about the two hotels, Santa Ponsa and Torre Vella», explains Foucher.
«Is that they offer two completely different experiences. Torre Vella takes its name from the watchtower in the center of the house, one of the most typical classic Minorcan Finca: classified as an ‘exceptional cultural property,” the main house is built around a central courtyard and extends its agricultural constructions over more than 200 hectares which end on the South Coast of the island. Being so close, the two hotels share guests that can move from one to another to try different experiences and enjoy two very different faces of the island».
The gardens – Eight hectares of vegetation
The well-being experience doesn’t finish with healthy and local cuisine at the restaurant; Santa Ponsa is entirely focused on finding balance and wellness at the spa, as Foucher explains: «Our spa is made to help our guests connect with the surrounding nature and relax, detox and regenerate with skincare routine; we use organic products, part of which comes from our own plantations, and essential oils that we extract from our aromatic plants. The spa and the terrace on the rooftop of the cistern are dedicated to clients who want to relax and enjoy the panorama, while being totally immersed in the gardens».
And indeed gardens are the pride of Santa Ponsa; the eight hectares of gardens are rich in unique vegetation: palm trees, giant fig trees, exotic flowers, orange trees fields surround the red-facade finca and offer guests shadow during the summer. «The finca is at the top of the hill and the gardens arrive at the bottom, close to the sea level», explains Foucher.
«Santa Ponsa it is like an oasis: when guests arrive from the north of the island, which is arid and deserted, they enter the hotel and right beyond the building suddenly discover all the gardens hidden behind the house. Of course it took time and hard work to clean and rebuild the gardens, but fortunately the cisterns provide water, so that it is very easy to water gardens and keep a lush vegetation».
What they wanted to create is an Alice in Wonderland atmosphere, a magical garden, a true immersive 360° experience, in which they take the citrus from trees to prepare gin tonic for the guests and the gardens provide ingredients both for the spa and the restaurant.
Gardens, created in the 18th century, flourish in fact in an architectural structure of Moorish style. Enclosed by walls, deployed in terraces over more than 6 hectares, it is a profusion of plants and flowers. Hundreds of palm trees, lemon and orange trees creating a place where reconnection with nature is immediate.
An holistic approach for rooms and decor
This holistic approach influenced also the rooms and the interior decor of the hotel; Santa Ponsa has 22 rooms and suites divided between the main building, the barns and independent houses in the gardens. «The decor reflects the past and the former owners’ taste for travel: colonial spirit, rattan lounges, extension of the gardens into winter gardens and a simple decor, inspired by the typical Menorca style».
Talking about the history of the Finca, Foucher explains that the first owner was the founder of a boat company, used to travel abroad; and when he came back from his travels, he brought home plants from different countries and influences and inspiration from all over the world.
Santa Ponsa hotel, thanks to its holistic approach at 360°, is also very connected with seasonality of the island; the restaurant is closed during the winter, even if with the pandemic tourists changed holiday habits, as Foucher explains: «Flight companies improved connections and added more direct flights to Menorca. We’re lucky that weather is enjoyable all year long, and we can now benefit from these changes».
Les Domaines de Fontenille is a collection of luxury hotels in beautiful settings in Spain and France, such as Menorca, Luberon, Calanques and Tuscany and offers a special journey, both physical and intellectual, sensory and initiatory. Located in Alaior, Santa Ponsa Fontenille Menorca offers a restaurant, a seasonal outdoor pool, a gym and a bar, immersed in opulent gardens.