Mallorca's great escapes: where to go to escape the crowds

Advertisement

Mallorca has grown up. Sure, the island still has a touch of the wild child in coastal resorts like Magaluf, but travellers are finally waking up to the fact that the island is so much more than the sum of its fly-and-flop resorts and boozerias.

The real Mallorca, as locals have been at pains to point out for years, dances to quite a different tune  one of early morning goat bells at hilltop hermitages, foot falling on rock on the trails of the Tramuntana, and cicadas striking up their tentative drone as day fades into phenomenally starlit night.

So you want to slip away from the madding summer crowds? Read on for our pick of the island's greatest escapes  from mountain drives to hidden bays, coastal trails to former monasteries where you can slow the pace and enjoy the silence.

The rocky Formentor coastline. Image by Kerry Christiani / Lonely Planet The rocky Formentor coastline. Image by Kerry Christiani / Lonely Planet

Into the Tramuntana

Nowhere has Mallorca's recent volte-face been more apparent than in the Tramuntana, the spectacular limestone range that draws a rough and ragged line across the west and north of the island. A Unesco World Heritage site since 2011, this is Mallorca at its wildest, where valleys slice through jagged peaks scarred by the elements and cliffs plunge abruptly to the sea. Here gold-stone hamlets look as though they have been precariously pasted onto hillsides that rise above olive groves and citrus orchards.

True, the Tramuntana's charms are no longer a secret, but even in August it is possible to give the crowds the slip in its less-explored reaches. One of Mallorca's most exhilarating drives is the Ma10 coastal road between Andratx and Valldemosa, which takes in alluring little villages like Estellencs and vine-draped Banyalbufar, founded by the Moors in the 10th century, where stone-walled terraces taper down to the sea.

The beautiful town of Valldemossa. Image by Kerry Christiani / Lonely Planet The beautiful town of Valldemossa. Image by Kerry Christiani / Lonely Planet

Hidden bays

The coastline of the Tramuntana is punctuated with bays sheltered by sheer, forest-cloaked cliffs. While there isn't much towel space in Port de Sóller, Cala de Deià or Cala de Valldemossa in summer, peace can often be found just one cove over. The turquoise bay of Sa Calobra is rammed with day-trippers in high season, but neighbouring Cala Tuent, a gorgeous sweep of a cove backed by pine-clad mountains, receives just a trickle of local beachgoers.

At the island's northern tip, Cap de Formentor flicks out like a dragon's tail, and driving the peninsula's hairpin bend-riddled coastal road is pure drama. Skip the main beach in favour of the tiny coves that huddle below wind-buckled peaks, such as tranquil Cala Bóquer, Cala Murta and Cala Figuera – all easily reached on foot.

Equally worth seeking is the Cap des Pinar peninsula that thrusts eastward of the resort of Alcúdia. A string of pretty coves with sea of bluest blue are your reward for going the extra mile. Loveliest of all is Platja des Coll Baix, a dazzling white crescent embraced by pine-speckled cliffs, which is reached by a 2km footpath from the nearest parking spot in the woods – or alternatively by boat should you happen to have one.

Badia de Palma aside, Mallorca's south coast can also be surprisingly quiet, especially on Platja des Trenc, a 3km ribbon of salt-white sand and azure sea. In nearby Colònia de Sant Jordi, boats depart for the short crossing to Illa de Cabrera, the only national park in the Balearics. The cluster of 19 uninhabited islets conceals some wonderfully calm beaches.

The coastal trails on the Cap de Pinar peninsula. Image by Kerry Christiani / Lonely Planet The coastal trails on the Cap des Pinar peninsula. Image by Kerry Christiani / Lonely Planet

Coastal trails

While more challenging hikes in the Tramuntana are out of the question in summer due to the heat, there are some terrific coastal footpaths that allow you to tiptoe away from the crowds, though these are best tackled in the morning or in the late afternoon when the day is cooler.

In the island's east, footpaths weave through the Parc Natural de la Península de Llevant, a pine-brushed swathe of nature reserve, dominated by the low mountain range of the Serra de Llevant. The coves that indent the coast are sleepy and pristine, and birdwatchers are in their element with the chance to spot peregrine and Eleonora's falcons and Audouin's gulls.

Explore quiet bays near Cales de Mallorca on the east coast. Image by Kerry Christiani / Lonely Planet Explore quiet bays near Cales de Mallorca on the east coast. Image by Kerry Christiani / Lonely Planet

Venture further south of here to hop from one glorious bay to another on a trail that takes in sheltered coves and deep inlets of crystal-clear turquoise water, such as Cala Bota, Cala Virgili, Cala Pilota and Cala Magraner. The 13km (return) walk begins at Finca Can Roig, a rural estate near Cales de Mallorca. To get there, take the Carretera Porto Cristo– Portocolom (Ma4014) and at Km6 turn east toward Cales de Mallorca. Continue 2.2km and veer left; after 200m you’ll reach the entrance to Can Roig.

Sunset viewpoints are two a penny in Mallorca, but nowhere beats the fiery spectacle at Sa Fordada, reached via a footpath that threads through olive groves and below cliffs honeycombed with caves. The trail begins at Son Marroig, the romantic former abode of Hapsburg Archduke Luis Salvador.

Crowd-free luxury at the Cases de Son Barbassa. Image by Kerry Christiani / Lonely Planet Crowd-free luxury at the Cases de Son Barbassa. Image by Kerry Christiani / Lonely Planet

Silent sleeps

Avoid the big resorts and do your homework and you'll find some great escapes and fincas/agriturismi (ranches/farmhouses) that offer silence by day and star-gazing by night. Websites like Agroturismo en Mallorca (agroturismoenmallorca.com) and Associació Balear d’Agroturismes (rusticbooking.com) give a good overview of what's out there.

The island has a handful of hermitages that have been converted into simple digs with entrancing views. No taxi driver is crazy enough to tackle the helter-skelter of a road that twists up Santuari de la Mare de Déu del Puig, so the journey from Pollença must be made in true pilgrim style on foot. It's worth it for the total peace and phenomenal views that await at this 700-year-old hermitage. Closer to the sea, La Victoria Petit Hotel Hostatgeria on the Cap des Pinar peninsula is another serene retreat.

Want to up the romance? More luxurious rural escapes in the west include blissfully secluded S'Olivar in Estellencs, with big sea views, olive groves and an infinity pool, and adults-only agriturismo Sa Pedrissa on the Valldemossa-Deià road. Over on the east coast near Capdepera, the country estate Cases de Son Barbassa snuggles among herb gardens, carob, olive and almond trees  a setting so sublime you might never want to leave.

Kerry Christiani is the author of the new Mallorca guide. When she's not hiking in the Tramuntana or tapas bar-hopping in Palma, she is busy writing some of Lonely Planet's other European titles. Follow her on Twitter @kerrychristiani.