A Mallorca travel guide – sandy beaches, karst mountains and ochre-hued villages clinging to clifftops
Get your bearings
By far the most popular Balearic, Mallorca sits prettily in the Mediterranean Sea off Spain’s east coast. In the island’s south-west is cultured capital Palma, overshadowed by a mighty Gothic cathedral. Edge west to the party-mad resorts of Palma Nova and Magaluf. A drive north through windmill-dotted flats brings you to the rugged Tramuntana Mountains, where honey-colored villages like Deià and Valldemosa rise above olive and citrus groves. The road swings giddily north-east to jagged Cap de Formentor, then gently south-east to the fine sands of family-friendly Puerto Pollensa, Puerto d’Alcudia and Cala d’Or.
Fine white sands, shallow turquoise waters and kid-friendly activities draw families to Mallorca hotels in low-key Puerto Pollensa, lively Puerto d’Alcudia and neighbouring Can Picafort’s pine-clad coves. Find a secluded bay to snorkel in azure waters in east coast Cala Ratjada. Yachts bob in the swish marina of Cala d’Or, which attracts beach-goers with its half-moon coves and watersports. For palm-flanked beaches and a fiesta vibe, choose southern twins Palma Nova and Magaluf.
The wild Tramuntana Mountains form Mallorca’s northern spine, with vertiginous peaks and bizarre karst formations beckoning climbers and hikers. For snapshots of village life, visit Sóller’s winding streets and orange groves, and ochre-hued Deià spilling artistically down a hillside. Pilgrims worship the miraculous Moreneta virgin statue at 13th-century Lluc Monastery, dwarfed by thickly wooded mountains. Scale 365 cypress-lined steps to the Calvari chapel for far-reaching views over Pollensa’s rooftops.
Tots keep amused for hours digging sand and paddling in shallow waters on family holidays in Mallorca. For splashy fun, there are wave pools and whizzy slides at Hidropark in Puerto d’Alcudia and Magaluf’s Aqualand. Kids enjoy the glittering stalactites at the Caves of Drach and Calvià’s gentle pony rides in Palma Nova. For an eco-friendly spin, hire bikes to spot wading birds among the reeds in S’Albufera Nature Park’s wetlands.
Trace Mallorca’s prehistoric origins at the talayotic village of Ses Païsses. Alcudia’s imposing medieval walls rise close to the Roman archaeological site Pollentia. Classical music enthusiasts praise the piano recitals at Carthusian Valldemosa Monastery, where Chopin composed his Raindrop Prelude. A riot of flying buttresses, Palma’s Gothic La Seu Cathedral is illuminated by the kaleidoscopic oculus maior (great eye) rose window. Glimpse Picasso and Miró originals in the nearby Contemporary Art Museum.
Olive oil, garlic and almost every part of the pig are used in Mallorca’s robust cuisine. Begin the day like a local over a cortado (espresso) and a snail-shaped, sugar-dusted ensaïmada pastry. Coastal resorts serve Mediterranean views and fishy treats like monkfish and paella. Head inland for rustic fare in converted fincas and wine cellars. Feast heartily on suckling pig, flavoursome arros brut ‘or dirty rice’, and tangy sobrasada sausage, washed back with full-bodied Binissalem red wine.
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