Mallorca is a popular travel destination in Europe, beloved for its sunny climate and so many visitors fly in and out every year without exploring beyond the poolside and enjoying the many delights of La Isla de la Calma. Here are my top 10 things to do in Mallorca to ensure you make the most of your visit to this most lovely of the Balearic Islands:
1. Cap de Formentor
The Cap de Formentor is Mallorca’s northernmost point, snaking out from the head of the island in a wild and craggy ridgeline. There are stunning views from a number of places (watch out for the tour buses) and make time for a stop at Cala Formentor, one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. Here the Umbrella Pines provide emerald green shade above the white sand. Walking tracks will take you off the main road and through the rugged landscape to secluded coves.
2. Palma de Mallorca
This buzzing and cosmopolitan city is a stylish place to eat and shop at some of Mallorca’s best restaurants and shops. Lively cafes and a strong cultural life make Palma de Mallorca a must see on any holiday to Mallorca. Palma’s fabulous gothic cathedral – La Seu – dominates the city’s skyline with its towering sandstone walls and flying buttresses rising from the sea walls. The cathedral dates back to 1230 and was built to demonstrate of the might of Mallorca’s Christian conquerors, being built on the site of the main mosque. Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi might be most famous for his work in Barcelona but he put his mark on the Palma cathedral’s interior around the beginning of the 20th century as part of a restoration project. Look out for the wrought iron candelabra and the Crown of Thorns installation.
3. Banys Arabs
In the heart of Palma lies the last remnants of what was once the Arab city of Medina Mayurqa. The Banys Arabs date from the 10th century baths and were probably part of a nobleman’s house. There is a domed tepidarium with 25 round shafts for sun light. The supporting columns are each unique in decoration and it is thought they were salvaged from Roman buildings. The courtyard of the hammam has cactus, palm and orange trees and you can imagine people relaxing after the bath.
4. Just a few gorgeous beaches
Mallorca is famous for its beaches and beach life: there are over 200 hundred beaches! Many of the best long white, sandy beaches have resorts built next to them and can be busy, with great facilities for families. If you want to get away from the crowds the coastline is dotted with calas, small coves that offer tranquil seclusion and clear waters. Down to the south of Mallorca you will find large stretches of beach where there has been no development. Cala d’en Borgit is a small picture postcard wild beach bay on the south east coast of Mallorca and Cala Varques (or Barques) is another quiet and unspoilt beach.
5. Take the train from Palma to Soller
The quaint little Sóller railway has been trundling daily along its narrow gauge route since 1912. The 27.3 km route between Palma de Mallorca and Sóller passes through olive groves and verdant countryside, past the village of Bunyola, through the Sierra de Alfabia mountain range and down to Palma. There are thirteen tunnels, several bridges and the eight-metre cinc-ponts viaduct. The lovely old carriages are meticulously maintained using traditional methods.
6. The Valley of the Oranges
There is much to explore from Soller, or from Puerto de Soller on the coast. This lovely old town is the heart of the Valley of the Oranges, a region where good growing conditions and ease of (seaborne) export meant that citrus fruit were the source of considerable prosperity. The valley is like an amphitheatre with long arms reaching up to the surrounding peaks of the Serra de Tramuntana, growing orchards of olives, figs and of course oranges and lemons. Don’t miss the many, many silky smooth flavours of ice cream at Sa Fabrica de Gelats, the artisanal ice cream factory in Soller. The mountain villages of Binibassi and Fornalutx are among the prettiest in Mallorca with winding, narrow streets and colourful painted tile decoration on the 16th century houses.
7. The Serra de Tramuntana
Mallorca’s Serra de Tramuntana mountain range is on the Unesco World Heritage Site list and a day or more spent walking in the Serra de Tramuntana is the perfect way to see the real, and surprisingly green, beauty of Mallorca. This is truly rugged country, crossed with ancient stone pathways where burros sometimes still seem to be the only way to transport goods, and gnarled olive groves that look like they’ve been growing since Julius Caesar was a boy. The multi-day Drystone Trail (GR221) follows the old cobbled paths which have connected villages and estates of the Serra for hundreds of years. There is a network of refuges where you can have a drink, a piece of cake, a good meal or even stay the night. There are magnificent views across peaks and valleys, as well as walks through steeply terraced olives and sun-dappled oak and pine forest.
8. The Lluc Monastery
The Lluc monastery has been Mallorca’s spiritual heart since 1246 and boasts an inspiring setting in the Serra de Tramuntana mountains. The monastery has been the focal point of pilgrimages since the 13th century and there are pilgrims’ footpaths leading here from both Inca and Pollenca. So the story goes, an Arab shepherd boy, newly converted to Christianity, discovered a dark wooden statue of the Virgin in a cleft in the rock. The shrine was built to house La Maroneta (the little dark one). Lluc is also famous for Es Blauets choir, named for their blue cassocks, who perform daily at the 11am service. The Blue Boy choir was founded in 1531 to comprise of 40 boys, ‘natives of Mallorca, of pure blood, sound in grammar and song’. My favourite part of Lluc is the rocky botanical garden, where you can wander at peace and enjoy the quirky garden decoration.
The tiny village of Deia, where the foothills of the Serra de Tramuntana drop down to the sea has become famous for its literary and musical residents and visitors over the years. From writer Robert Graves to Anais Nin and more latterly Richard Branson, the village has had some famous names drinking at the local bar Sa Fonda. Hotel de la Residencia is where they stay but you can visit the hotel’s excellent Tafona Gallery to see exhibitions by international and Spanish artists. The village is built on a hilltop and the road winds up and up to the church at the summit, where you will find the tombstone of Robert Graves who lived here in Mallorca for many years. Walk down to the Cala Deia, a very beautiful (and rugged) small shingle beach with clear waters and rock pools. A small shack-like restaurant serves fresh fish and cold beer.
Valldemossa is a picturesque village in the mountains inland from Deia and Soller. Its beautiful Royal Charterhouse, originally a Carthusian monastery, played host in the mid 19th century to the composer Frederic Chopin and writer George Sand who were fleeing the scandal caused by their affair. La Cartoixa nowadays also functions as a cultural centre and is the setting for the annual Chopin Festival in summer. There is a museum, the old pharmacy of the monastery and amodern art museum with works by Picasso and Miro. There are also performances of traditional dances by the Parado group of Valldemossa, one of the ways people keep Mallorquina customs and art forms alive.
So there you have it, my top 10 things to do in Mallorca. Miss these and you have missed out on the best Mallorca has to offer. Of course Mallorca is just waiting for you to discover many more beautiful little places of your own.
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you been to Mallorca? What things do you recommend to see and do in Mallorca?
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