The ever-popular star of the Mediterranean, Mallorca has a sunny personality thanks to its ravishing beaches, azure views, remote mountains and soulful hill towns.
For Miró it was the pure Mediterranean light. For hikers and cyclists it is the Serra de Tramuntana's formidable limestone spires and bluffs. For others it is as fleeting as the almond blossom snowing on meadows in spring, or the interior's vineyards in their autumn mantle of gold. Wherever your journey takes you, Mallorca never fails to seduce. Cars conga along the coast in single file for views so enticing the resort postcards resemble cheap imitations. Even among the tourist swarms of mid-August you can find pockets of silence – trek to hilltop monasteries, pedal through honey-stone villages, sit under a night sky and engrave Mallorca's lyrical landscapes onto memory.
Return to Tradition
Mallorca's culture took a back seat to its beaches for decades, but the tides are changing. Up and down the island, locals are embracing their roots and revamping the island’s old manor houses, country estates and long-abandoned fincas (farmhouses, estates) into refined rural retreats. Spend silent moments among the olive, carob and almond groves and you'll soon fall for the quiet charm of Mallorca's hinterland. Summer is one long party and village festes (festivals) offer an appetising slice of island life.
Mallorca tops Europe's summer holiday charts for many reasons, but one ranks above all others: the island's stunning coast. Beyond the built-up resorts, coves braid the island like a string of beads – each one a reminder of why the island's beaches have never lost their appeal. Go west for cliff-sculpted drama and sapphire seas, or head north for hikes to pine-flecked bays. Scope out deserted coves in the east, or dive off bone-white beaches in the south. With a room overlooking the bright-blue sea, sundown beach strolls to the backbeat of cicadas and restaurants open to the stars, you'll soon click into the laid-back groove of coastal living.
Eating out in Palma has never been more exciting, with chefs – inspired as much by their Mallorcan grandmothers as Mediterranean nouvelle cuisine – adding a pinch of creativity and spice to the city's food scene. Inland, restaurants play up hale-and-hearty dishes, such as suckling pig spit-roast, to perfection, pairing them with locally grown wines. On the coast, bistros keep flavours clean, bright and simple, serving the catch of the day with big sea views.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Mallorca.
Originally an Islamic fort, this mighty construction opposite the cathedral was converted into a residence for the Mallorcan monarchs at the end of the 13th century. The King of Spain resides here still, at least symbolically. The royal family is rarely in residence, except for the occasional ceremony, as they prefer to spend summer in the Palau Marivent (in Cala Major). At other times you can wander through a series of cavernous stone-walled rooms that have been lavishly decorated.
Entered via a cloistered garden, the monastery is a huge complex, dating mostly from the 17th to 18th centuries. Off the imposing central courtyard rises up the grand façade of the late-Renaissance basilica, behind which is a rather gloomy interior and a fine altarpiece by Jaume Blanquer; the Virgin Mary and Infant Jesus statuette is contained in a room behind the altar. The church received an ornate, baroque-style revamp in the early 20th century, based on plans drawn up by Gaudí.
Palma’s vast cathedral ('La Seu' in Catalan) is the city's major architectural landmark. Aside from its sheer scale, treasures and undoubted beauty, its stunning interior features, designed by Antoni Gaudí and renowned contemporary artist Miquel Barceló, make this unlike any cathedral elsewhere in the world. The awesome structure is predominantly Gothic, apart from the main facade, which is startling, quite beautiful and completely mongrel. The stunning rose window is the largest in Europe, see it up close by visiting the roof terraces.
The 688-hectare Parc Natural de S’Albufera, west of the Ma12 between Port d’Alcúdia and Ca’n Picafort, is prime birdwatching territory, with 303 recorded species (more than 80% of recorded Balearic species), 64 of which breed within the park’s boundaries. More than 10,000 birds overwinter here, among them both residents and migrants. Entrance to the park is free, but permits must be obtained from the visitor centre, which is a 1km walk from the entrance gates on the main road.
Straddling a wooded hillside, the Castell de Bellver is a 14th-century circular castle (with a unique round tower), the only one of its kind in Spain. Jaume II ordered it built atop a hill known as Puig de Sa Mesquida in 1300 and it was largely completed within 10 years. Perhaps the highlight of any visit is the spectacular views over the woods to Palma, the Badia de Palma and out to sea.
South of Pollença, off the Ma2200, one of Mallorca's most tortuous roads bucks and weaves up 1.5km of gasp-out-loud hairpin bends to this 14th-century former nunnery, which sits atop 333m Puig de Maria. If you come pilgrim style (the best way), the stiff hike through woods of holm oak, pine and olive will take you around an hour – Pollença shrinks to toytown scale as you near the summit. Be sure to avoid the midday heat and pack some water.
This house, palatial by any definition, was one of several residences of the phenomenally wealthy March family. Sculptures by 20th-century greats, including Henry Moore, Auguste Rodin, Barbara Hepworth and Eduardo Chillida, grace the outdoor terrace. Within lie many more artistic treasures. Not to be missed are the meticulously crafted figures of an 18th-century Neapolitan belén (nativity scene).
Built with flair and innovation into the shell of the Renaissance-era seaward walls, this contemporary art gallery is one of the finest on the island. Its temporary exhibitions are worth viewing, but the permanent collection – works by Miró, Barceló and Picasso – gives the gallery its cachet. Anyone turning up on a bike is charged just €2.
Casa Robert Graves is a fascinating tribute to the British writer and poet who moved to Deià in 1929 and had his house built here three years later. It's a well-presented and rewarding insight into his life and work; on show you'll find period furnishings, a detailed film on his life, love life and writings, and sundry books, pictures and everyday objects that belonged to Graves himself.