Ten ways to break a sweat in Mallorca, Spain
Mallorca has been saying adiós to the cheap-as-chips package holiday cliché over the past few years to focus on its year-round outdoor appeal.
And whether you are jumping off a cliff, negotiating the Tramuntana's gruelling hairpins by mountain bike or kayaking to secluded coves too tiny to appear on maps, a rise in adventure travel has given a whole new meaning to the idea of a wild holiday in Mallorca.
Gazing out from Mallorca's distinctive limestone peaks. Image by Andy Christiani / Lonely Planet.
1. Cliff jumping
Yes, cliff jumping sounds more death wish than delightful beach holiday, but with guides who know the rocks like the back of their hands, this suicidal-sounding pursuit is perfectly safe. On the same level as bungee jumping on the Richter scale of nerve-shredding pursuits, you jump off cliffs between three and 12 metres high - not colossal by any means, but it feels that way in the freeze-frame moment when you leap and plunge. Listen for the euphoric whoops and yells in north coast Cala Sant Vicenç, where locals doing dives and even the odd somersault show how it's done properly.
Go: Experience Mallorca offers half-day cliff jumping excursions from April to October for €55. The minimum age is 12.
Mallorca's rugged coastlines, almond, orange and olive groves, forests of pine and limestone crags whipped into bizarre formations by the elements are best explored on foot, hikers say. And they are right. For an alpine-style ascent, trek up to 1367m Puig de Massanella, the island's second highest peak, for 360-degree views of the bald, steel-grey heights of the Serra de Tramuntana. Among our other half-day favourites are the 8km round hike from Sóller to Mirador de Ses Barques lookout, returning via the hill town of Fornalutx; and the phenomenal 5km trudge from Ermita de La Victòria hermitage to 359 Penya Rotja, a real cliff-hanger of a hike with dazzling sea views. In the south, you can hop from one fine-as-flour sand beach to the next on a full-day, 16km walk from Cap de Ses Salines to Colònia de Sant Jordi. The best multi-day trek? Factor in a week for the GR221 Ruta de Pedra en Sec (Dry Stone Route), an epic 150km traverse of the Tramuntana, with overnight stops in refugis (rustic mountain huts) where goat bells are your wake-up call (learn more on www.conselldemallorca.net).
Go: Walking is possible year-round, but avoid mountain hikes in July and August. Local tourist offices and newsagents stock maps and guides, such as Cicerone's Walking in Mallorca. Go it alone or join one of the guided treks run by Tramuntana Tours, Bike & Kite and Mon d'Aventura.
Mountain hikes along Mallorca's rugged coastline. Image by Andy Christiani / Lonely Planet.
3. Kite surfing
A beautiful breeze whips off the sea that rolls into Sa Marina in the broad Bay of Pollença. From April to September, these shallow turquoise waters and the north coast's reliable thermal winds create the ideal conditions for mastering jumps and loops, kite surfers say. Surfers launch their kites off this mountain-flanked bay and nearby Playa de Muro, a long sweep of pine-backed sand that forms part of the Parc Natural de S'Albufera wetlands.
4. Mountain biking
Bradley Wiggins once called Mallorca a 'Scalextric set for cyclists', which neatly sums up the compact scale and challenging terrain of this bikeable island. In February, the Mallorca Challenge race kick-starts the pro cycling calendar and road racers can be seen tearing along the serpentine roads of the Tramuntana, two abreast, as almond trees shower the limestone heights with snowy blossom. Mountain bikers swear by the cooler, greener months, which take the sweat out of the island's climbs and descents in the north and west. The 55km loop from Pollença to Lluc monastery, the 12km helter-skelter ride down to Sa Calobra and the giddying road to Formentor, a limestone promontory that flicks out to sea like a dragon's tail, should all be high on your list. If you're not quite ready for the climbs yet, stick to the flat, bird-rich wetlands of Parc de s'Albufera.
Mallorca's challenging terrain is perfect for cyclists. Image c/o Bike & Kite.
The limestone peaks of the Unesco-listed Serra de Tramuntana that ensnare the west of the island are a natural playground for canyoneers. Strap on a helmet, climbing harness and neoprene suit to burrow deep into ravines like the Torrente Gorg Blau Sa Fosca, one of Europe's most dramatic canyons. It's a challenging 6.5km, highly technical descent, with 300m-high walls, 40cm-wide gaps and a 400m stretch in total darkness to negotiate. The going is easier in the Torrent d'es Pareis, Torrente Coanegre and Torrente de Na Mora, where a day spent boulder-hopping, climbing up sheer-sided cliffs, abseiling down waterfalls and swimming in freezing rock pools of sapphire blue will leave you exhausted but elated.
Go: Tramuntana Tours offer canyoning excursions graded from easy to difficult; prices depend on group sizes. Peak canyoning season is when the rain falls from October to April.
Don't look down! Experiencing a different view of Mallorca by abseiling a steep rock face. Image c/o Experience Mallorca.
6. Sea kayaking
Many of Mallorca's loveliest beaches can only be reached by boat. To the island's north and west, where the Tramuntana mountains fall abruptly to the sea, the coast is indented with dramatic coves and you don't need a yacht or speedboat to reach them. A sea kayak allows you to tune into the gentle rhythm of the sea and explore rock formations, blowholes, caves and quiet bays at your own speed. Marine falcons, cormorants and wild goats are frequently sighted, and you might even spot the odd dolphin or flying fish. The coastline around Sóller in the west and Cala Sant Vicenç, Formentor and Cap des Pinar in the north is ideal.
Outside it might be 35°C in the sun, but you'd never guess in the cool twilight of the limestone caves that rear above Mallorca's north coast, closed to (yet hidden from) the bays of Pollença and Alcúdia. Headlamps on and gear safely stored, you enter a slit in the rock and encounter a maze of subterranean chambers where stalactites drip like wax candles and minerals glitter. One minute you're crawling through narrow passageways, the next you are in a cathedral-like vault big enough for 30 people to stand at ease. Switch off your headlamp for a second and the silence is deafening, the darkness total.
Go: Experience Mallorca leads half-day caving excursions year-round, which cost €50/€55 in the low/high season. The minimum age is 12. Wear long clothes that you don't mind getting dirty.
Exploring a subterranean wonderland in Mallorca's limestone caves. Image c/o Experience Mallorca.
If you have ever sat on a beach and wondered what is around the rugged rocks, coasteering is one exhilarating way to find out. A summer alternative to canyoning (being that bit closer to the sea), this is a heart-pumping mix of swimming, climbing, scrambling, abseiling, cliff jumping and traversing the rock horizontally using the sea to catch your falls. Get kitted out in a helmet, life jacket and sturdy shoes to grapple with the rocks. Coasteering locations reach from Bonaire near Alcúdia in the north to Peguera in the southwest.
9. Scuba diving
One look at Mallorca's iridescent blue sea and divers are itching to slither into a wetsuit. There are scuba diving centres offering PADI courses, excursions and rental gear up and down the island. Formentor is every bit as spectacular below the water, with underwater caverns where stalactites glisten, wall dives and crevasses teeming with moray eels, grouper and anemones. Or go south to the island's cluster of marine parks and pristine islets - Illa de Sa Dragonera and Illa de Cabrera have wrecks, cave drops and brilliantly clear water swirling with rays, octopuses and barracuda. With a little luck, you can spot dolphins and ocean sunfish in summer. For wreck dives, the Islas Malgrats off the coast of Santa Ponsa can't be beaten.
Go: Mallorca Diving lists 10 reputable dive centres. Diving is best from May to October. A one-tank dive will set you back around €45, a two-hour intro course around €80.
10. Rock climbing
Rock climbers rub their hands together with anticipation at the mere thought of Mallorca's perfect limestone walls. This is one of Europe's premier destinations for sport climbers, with abundant overhangs, slabs and crags. Climbing here is concentrated on three main areas: the southwest for multi-pitch climbing, the northwest for magnificent crags and the east for superb Deep Water Soloing (DWS). A holy grail to climbers, Sa Gubia is a huge fist of rock combed through with multi-pitch routes. Other climbing hotspots include the ragged limestone crags of the Formentor peninsula and the coves of Porto Cristo and Cala Barques in the island's east.
From the adrenaline rushes of Mallorca to a feast of tapas in Madrid, plan your perfect Spain trip with Lonely Planet's Spain travel guide. And while you're in planning mode, book a palacio or backpacker bunk-bed in one of Lonely Planet's expert-picked hotels and hostels in Spain.