Maybe you call them avarcas or abarcas, menorquinas or Menorcan sandals – or perhaps you didn’t really know this special style of sandal had their own name – I certainly didn’t before I visited Menorca for the first time.
Either way we both know that these shoes are super cute. So when I discovered that the Balearic island of Menorca is famous for making them, I knew I’d be bringing at least one pair of avarcas home from my trip.
If you’d like to shop for these handmade sandals while on holiday, read this guide to the best places to buy avarcas in Menorca.
The Avarcas Story
Avarcas have a unique history; the story goes that a local peasant was in need of a sturdy, comfortable shoe which kept his feet cool while working on Menorca’s rocky land. He came up with the design for avarcas in the 1950’s and the sandals became popular with villagers and farmers.
During the 1960’s demand grew and people began taking these shoes back to the neighbouring Balearic Islands of Ibiza and Majorca, onto mainland Spain and to France.
Soon Menorca was making the sandals to order for people over the world, including the Spanish royal family – and the rest is history.
Now of course this style of sandal is famous way beyond Menorca’s shores and is synonymous all over the world with a laid back and chic brand of effortless European style.
HOW TO SHOP FOR AVARCAS
So whether you quite realize it or not, you were already familiar with Menorca’s most famous export, now it’s time to buy some for yourself.
Avarcas traditionally have uppers made from cowhide, with soles crafted from worn out car tyres. The classic colours are natural leather hues, so browns and beiges with a rustic and casual look. These days they come in a massive range of designs and fabrics and can be seen treading streets across the planet in every colour and pattern imaginable.
So if you’re lucky enough to visit the island of Menorca you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to bag an original pair of hand made Menorcan sandals from the very place they were first created – and you’ll find plenty of different places to indulge your desire to shop for avarcas in Menorca.
Because these shoes are handmade every pair is different, and while you can buy online, there’s really no substitute for visiting the shops and markets of Menorca, trying on different styles and brands, and touching the leather for yourself to choose the most supple and find your perfect fit.
Menorcan sandals also tend to be best when bought a little light as they stretch and mould to the shape of your foot very quickly, giving you years of comfortable wear.
So, where exactly should you buy avarcas in Menorca?
1. Buy Avarcas At An Outlet Store – The Mibo Factory, Es Migjorn Gran
When a shoe shop is attached to the very factory that makes the shoes, a visit becomes doubly tempting, even essential. When we arrived, the small factory was alive with activity. Avarcas in various stages of production lined the shelves, sewing machines whirred and the smell of glue hung in the air. The handmade sandals are still produced in the traditional way with so much care and attention to detail.
Mibo can make bespoke sandals to order and if you visit the factory shop and they do not have the colour or style you want in your size they will make them to order within a day or two.
We followed the sandal-making process from start to finish, starting with a choice of soft colourful leathers. Next the leather is cut to size and lined. The rubber sole is attached to the insole and the upper and strap machine stitched into place. After being checked for quality control they’re boxed up and sent on their way.
The leather uppers traditionally were tan coloured but nowadays avarcas are a fashion statement and come in a rainbow of colours, fabrics and styles. Think sheepskin, Broderie Anglaise, metallic, painted, embroidered and embossed.
Designs have evolved too – with cork wedges, creepers and platform styles to choose from and Mibo sandals are ‘Avarcas de Menorca’ certified to guarantee quality and geographical authenticity – no fakes here!
2. See Avarcas Made By An Authentic Local Craftsman – Tony’s Avarcas, Mahon Harbour
Also known as Mercadal sandals after the area where they are presumed to be invented, the original Menorcan sandals were of course totally hand made in small workshops, and if you want to recreate this experience you should head for the tiny Avarcas workshop on Mahon harbour, run by local craftsman Tony.
This rustic cavernous shop is also where Toni and his family continue to hand make every colour and style of avarcas for everyone from babies to adults right in front of your every eyes, and it’s a great feeling to support a local business doing things in the same way they have been done for decades.
3. Choose From A Huge Selection Selection Of Avarcas – The Avarca Shop, Mahón
The quality of the leather is an important factor for avarcas, because a soft nubuck will stretch and fit your foot quickly and easily and never give you a blister or dig in.
I have to confess that it was from the Avarca Shop that I bought my own two pairs of avarcas – after much deliberation on the colours. I paid just €24.95 per pair and so far I’ve personally found the taupe colour to be indispensable for summer and if I go back I will definitely get the slightly darker shade too.
I found it useful that this store offers a wider fit, but I plumped for the classic style and I have been really impressed. Most of the different colours have very soft leather but I did notice on a few pairs a thicker leather is used, maybe this is something to do with the dyeing process, as it tended to be darker or brighter colours but the avarcas I bought are now the most comfortable shoes I own.
You can buy online from Avarca Shop or visit the store.
4. Browse Sophisticated Sandals – Cova D’En Xoroi Caves, Cala en Porter
Cova D’En Xoroi is Menorca’s chicest destination for drinks – a cool bar set in a series of natural caves perched above the ocean with incredible views out to sea, and it makes for a popular place to watch the sunset as well as one of the most scenic places to visit in Menorca.
But the shop attached to this stunning bar is no slouch in the design department either, and is a great place for any discerning shopper to head for, including those looking for the trendiest avarcas.
What’s lovely about buying your avarcas here is the unforgettable setting, the rather glamorous selection of styles, featuring glitter and leopard print, and the chance to wear them straight away while sipping a cocktail. You can also buy avarca-themed goodies like keyrings and coasters here, amongst all the stylish stock.
Want More Than Sandals?
Even if this style of sandals isn’t for you, Menorca’s relationship with quality footwear goes beyond Menorquinas and you can do more than just buy avarcas in Menorca; the luxury footwear brand Pretty Ballerinas was also founded on the island, and you can visit the Pretty Ballerinas outlet to buy shoes, handbags and accessories from Jaime Mascaro and Pretty Ballerinas at discounted prices.
So, for such a small island, Menorca really does punch above its weight in the shoe shopping department.
If you’ve bought avarcas in Menorca and would like to recommend the place you found your own favourite sandals, please leave a comment below.
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