'A sky like turquoise, a sea like lapis lazuli, mountains like emerald, air like heaven', enthused Romantic composer Chopin of his new home Valldemossa in 1838. His words ring true almost two centuries later in western Mallorca. The Serra de Tramuntana range ripples all along the west coast, surveying the Mediterranean from above.
Serra de Tramuntana
Dominated by the splendid Serra de Tramuntana range, Mallorca’s northwest coast and its hinterland are remarkably wild, ensnared by scarred limestone peaks and cliffs that loom over brilliant blue sea like ramparts. Gold-stone villages and ochre hamlets sit atop hillsides, their rhythms and hues providing tantalising insights into ancient Mallorca.
Northern Mallorca is the island's heart and soul, bundling coastal drama, cultured towns with spirited fiestas, a twinset of white-sand bays and an exciting portfolio of adventure sports into one enticing package. The Serra de Tramuntana is at its most fabulous where the range culminates on the Cap de Formentor, flicking out into the Med like a dragon's tail.
The forbidding geography of the coast between the Badia de Palma (Bay of Palma) and Colònia de Sant Jordi has preserved this area as one of Mallorca's least developed. Much of the shoreline is ringed by high, impenetrable cliffs lashed endlessly by the waters of the Mediterranean. They may not always be very accessible, but their untamed, raw beauty is hypnotising.
Central East Coast
For the millions of tourists who descend every year on its sandy beaches, splash in its gentle waves and stay in all-inclusive resorts, the coast from Cala Millor to Portocolom is paradise. But for those who mourn the loss of Mallorca’s once-pristine coastline, the overdevelopment is nothing short of a catastrophe. But the crowd-weary shouldn't be put off entirely.
Pollença is beautiful. On a late summer afternoon, when its stone houses glow in the fading light, cicadas strike up their tentative drone and the burble of chatter floats from cafe terraces lining the Placa Major, the town is like the Mallorca you always hoped you would discover.
Look beyond the occasional blip of tasteless development and you'll find a sprinkling of little-known treasures in Mallorca's southwest crook. Use Andratx, Port d'Andratx or Sant Elm as your springboard for day trips to the exquisite coves of Portals Vells or a boat trip over to Illa de Sa Dragonera.
Just a few kilometres inland from the coast, Alcúdia is a town of quiet charm and character, ringed by mighty medieval walls that enclose a maze of narrow lanes, historic mansions, cafe-rimmed plazas and warm-stone houses. On the fringes of town are the captivating remains of Pollèntia, once the island’s prime Roman settlement.
The ochre town of Sóller lies in a valley surrounded by the grey-green hills of the Serra de Tramuntana. The Arabs saw the potential of the valley, known as the Vall d’Or (Golden Valley), and accounts of orange and lemon groves, watered from sources in the hills, date to the 13th century.