Millions of visitors every year flock to Mallorca and many return year after year, attracted by the reliable sunshine and the warm, turquoise-blue sea. There’s always been a lot more to the Balearics, as the island group is called, than just beaches and bars, of course. As activities augment or replace simple sunning, and the holiday season generally gets longer, the islands are attracting new admirers.
Thousands of Europe’s cyclists in rainbow gear take to the roads of Mallorca in March, April and May bring hikers to exclaim over the islands’ wildflowers. By June, human migration in the opposite direction really starts to heat up. Many keep their boats here, anything from a dinghy to a millionaire’s gin palace. This is a sailing paradise with safe harbours and marinas a short cruise from quiet coves.
Those who have never been here claim that the islands are loud and covered in concrete: Mallorca has sometimes had a bad press. Believe the negative noises, and you’ll miss out on two treasure islands that can’t be duplicated anywhere. Mallorca & Menorca. Loud? In summer, indeed, in the brasher places, but the sound comes from people having the good time they came for, in the company they like. If you want to avoid the hubbub, then you can.
Because previous generations moved inland to get out of range of marauding pirates, it means that today’s islanders can live almost unmolested by the beach-bound majority of modern invaders. So, against the odds, much of the islands’ traditional life and values have been preserved. However, the repeated waves of visitors bent on pleasure-seeking have inevitable had some effect on the local way of life.
Farmland began to be left untended as people took jobs in the holiday industry or in constructing its facilities, although plenty of people still have “normal” occupations and are level-headed on the subject of tourism.
Land sales for development as well as income from the influx of visitors have made the Balearics the most prosperous region of Spain.
Whether you’re in Palma or an inland village, you can reach any point on Mallorca in half a day, and Menorca is even more concentrated. Tour companies offer excursions by road or in combination with a boat trip, to see the mountain and coastal scenery of the north-west, the beaches, the spectacular caves near the east coast and various purpose-built attractions. Almost two-thirds of the permanent population of Mallorca live in Palma, and a glance at the map shows how the islands road system radiates from the city.
A quiet traditional Mallorcan town burrowed in a peaceful valley south of the Serra de Tramuntana. Many of the streets feature the blonde stone architecture, typical of the traditional mountain villages on the island, making it a pretty place to visit. A massive mountain crag 822 meters high is crowned by the Castell d’Alaró, a ruined fortress dating from the Moorish era.
The town of Andratx is located in a valley on the southwestern tip of the Serra de Tramuntana mountains. Surrounded by orange groves and almond trees, which leave a ‘snowfall’ of blossom each February, Andratx is a pretty, sleepy rural town that embodies the authentic Mallorca. The region of Andratx is one of the most attractive tourist destinations thanks to its privileged location on the southwest of the Tramuntana mountains.
The country town of Arta, 8 kilometres inland, seems far removed from tourism. No hotels but prosperity brought by the holiday business has nevertheless rubbed off. Tucked in a gorge, it is surrounded by the mountains of the Llevant Natural Park along with some of the island’s most fascinating rural plains. The fortified church of Sant Salvador offers panoramic views and is definitely worth a visit.
A pretty hilltop town of honey-coloured stone has attracted plenty, ever since Robert Graves, the poet and author of I, Claudius, came to live here with Laura Riding in 1929, followed by a strange coterie of admirers. It is located about 16 kilometres north of Valldemossa, and it is famous for its literary and musical residents.
Port de Pollença
A small town in northern Mallorca with a perfectly sheltered, gently sloping sandy beach, a spectrum of hotels, apartments, and villas and a selection of restaurants. It was founded in 1230 after the defeat of the Moors and the name comes from the old Roman capital of Mallorca, Pollentia, sited some miles away near Alcudia. Until 1802 the town belonged to the Order of the Knights of St. John, and many wonderful stone buildings in the centre date from their time.
The town has evolved from a small fishing harbour into an all-purpose port for commercial, naval and pleasure craft and a summer resort located in North East Mallorca. Restaurants and night clubs have multiplied, and hotels and apartments have spread ever farther around the bay to form an almost unbroken ribbon of buildings. Port d’Alcudia has a large beach which links up to nearby Muro Beach.
A town steeped in old-world charm, Valldemossa lies in an idyllic valley in the midst of the Tramuntana mountains. The town was transformed by the short visit, over a century ago, of French writer George Sand and her lover Frederic Chopin. The daytime tourist invasion seems to swamp Valldemossa, but by evening time the town can sit back and breathe again. At least as significant to Mallorcans as their Chopin connection is the fact that in 1531, Valldemossa was the birthplace of their saint, Catalina Thomas. You can see statues of her in churches all over the island, and coloured tiles bearing her image decorate nearly all the doorways in Valldemossa.
Travelling to Mallorca
Palma de Mallorca’s airport is linked by daily non-stop flights to many European cities and for the intercontinental air travellers, the usual gateway to Spain are the Madrid and Barcelona airports.
Car ferries operate daily all the year round from Barcelona and Valencia to Mallorca and extra boats are put on in the high season.
Palacio Can Marques. Opened in late 2018, this hotel is one of the capital’s best boutique hotels. Housed in a beautifully renovated 18th-century former city palace, it has 13 uniquely designed suites, each with high-quality artwork and hand-picked furniture. A courtyard offers a place of peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and the hotel restaurant serves classic French cuisine.
Have you been to any of these beautiful towns?