Mallorca is known as the ‘island of calm’ with holidaymakers generally heading to its shores to de-stress and unwind. And with around 30 spas to choose from with every form of alternative therapy you could wish for, there’s plenty to help you relax. Mallorca is also a big favourite with sailing buffs, including Spain’s King, Juan Carlos.
Palma de Mallorca, the island’s vibrant capital city, is where most people arrive but not everyone stops to explore. Palma is stylish and sophisticated which can be something of a surprise as many visitors initially underestimate its attractions. Palma has in fact developed into one of Spain’s most beguiling cities.
Fronted by its beautifully imposing cathedral and royal palace, the city’s cobbled lanes spread off from the seafront into the heart of the old town, where pedestrianised shopping streets and charming squares prevail. Expect ancient courtyards and chic bars as well as vibrant nightlife and a strong arts scene.
Mallorcans love to shop and the Old Town bursts with boutiques and high-street shops selling big-name brands and designer goods. The main shopping streets are Jaime III (with its designer boutiques), Carrer del Sindicat, Carrer de Sant Miguel and other streets radiating off Plaza Mayor. Avinguda d’Alexandre Rosselló is home to many high-street shops too, including the up-market department store, El Corte Inglés.
Much of Mallorca is pure heaven for those who seek rural tranquility. Traditional villages lie scattered across the countryside as sheep bells tinkle, almond blossom floats in the air and peace prevails.
One of the most talked-about hiking trails on the island is the 13th century UNESCO World Heritage site track which uses Pollenca as a base for the walk up to the Son Amer hermitage. Alternatively, trek along the dry stone wall route GR221 past a combination of coast, holm oak forests and mountain heights.
Sierra de Tramuntana runs across Mallorca’s northern coast and offers stunning views and challenging mountain biking and hiking with its diverse calas (beaches) and rocky outcrops dotted along the way. Steep cliffs drop into deep blue sea and picturesque villages such as Deiá cling to the mountainsides.
Golf courses abound in Mallorca so you are more than likely to find the perfect course for practicing your swing while on holiday.
Golf courses grace many of the island’s most beautiful spots, often including sea views. Most courses are 18-hole – they range from easy to fiendishly tricky – with one of Mallorca’s most respected courses being at T Poniente near Sant Ponsa.
Perhaps the most challenging golf course on the island is Pula which is used on the European Tour. Meanwhile, Andratx Golf Club, designed by Gleneagles Scotland, is known for its difficult holes. Son Servera Golf Club to the south of Mallorca is also quite challenging, with its narrow fairways and plentiful bunkers.
Near Palma, you will find the Championship course at Puntiro, designed by Jack Nicklaus’ company, and the Son Termens Golf Club, featuring famously hilly fairways and small greens.
Just like in the rest of Spain, eating out in Mallorca is an important part of daily life. Seafood dominates in Mallorca’s coastal resorts (monkfish, sea bream and shellfish being specialties), while regional dishes are served up in traditional restaurants throughout the island.
Mallorcan cuisine is often hearty with meats, soups and stews appearing on most menus, in addition to ever-popular roasted suckling pig. Some of the island’s most loved local dishes include: sobrasada (spreadable red, spicy sausage); tumbet (baked layered potatoes, courgettes and aubergines topped with tomato sauce); lomo con col (pork wrapped in cabbage leaves); and gató de almendras (sponge cake made with almonds).
Bear in mind that evening meals are served late in Mallorca, usually after 9pm, and it’s not uncommon to see families sit down for a meal as late as 10.30pm, especially during the hot summer.
On Saturday mornings, don’t miss Palma’s indoor food market stalls at Mercado Olivar and Mercado Santa Catalina – and join in with the city’s residents who enjoy fresh oysters and champagne amidst the bustling fish stalls.
For culture lovers
Architecture enthusiasts can enjoy a graceful mix of Moorish, Gothic and Renaissance styles at Palau de l’Almudaina in Palma. Originally home to Mallorca’s Moorish rulers and expanded for the Catalan kings, the ‘palace of the citadel’ was an official island residence of King Juan Carlos I before his abdication in 2015. The gardens and fountains are also beautiful to wander around.
For yet more Gothic architecture, don’t miss Palma’s cathedral, noted for its vast size and stunning stained-glass windows. Construction began in 1306 and continued for four centuries before being revamped by Gaudí from 1902 to 1914. Beautifully lit up at night, the cathedral is Palma’s most famous landmark.
If you’d like to pay homage to Robert Graves, one of Britain’s most famous war poets, head to Deiá, a sleepy Mallorcan village, where he wrote his most famous works. Explore his rambling villa which is now a small but very informative museum, and visit his grave in the nearby cemetery.
A ride on the Palma to Sóller Railway is a must for vintage railway enthusiasts and a great way to get to and from the charmingly traditional town of Sóller, nestled amid the Tramuntana Mountains. This 1912 wooden locomotive makes a scenic 27-kilometre trip up through the mountains, forests and olive and orange groves – a great opportunity to sit back and enjoy Mallorca’s spectacular rural scenery.