Are you thinking of visiting Mallorca?
Many travel articles lament that some resort areas of Mallorca (namely Magaluf on the southwest coast) are overbuilt and overrun with hordes of sunburned tourists, interested only in party beaches, booze and wild nightclubs.
We never saw that side of Mallorca.
On the contrary, we discovered there are many wonderful things to do in Mallorca!
Best things to do in Mallorca
We were completely taken by the beautiful island – from hiking the oh-so-picturesque countryside and swimming at ravishing beach coves to touring manor houses oozing with history.
As for places to stay in Mallorca, we found the fincas especially enchanting.
We started our visit in Palma de Mallorca, the island’s cosmopolitan capital city.
Then we set off to explore Mallorca’s scenically dramatic northern region.
Here you find the non-touristy side of Mallorca, including several idyllic towns like Deia.
Spelling and location of Majorca
First, before we cover what to do and places to see in Mallorca, let’s clear up any confusion over the island’s spelling.
You might have seen the word “Mallorca” (Spanish spelling) spelled “Majorca” (English spelling). We mix it up and use both spellings here.
You may also want to know: Where is Mallorca?
The largest island in Spain’s Balearic Islands, Mallorca is set in the Mediterranean, almost due south of Barcelona. (The other Balearic Islands are Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera.)
Okay, ready now to discover what to do in Mallorca for yourself?
1) Get lost in the narrow streets of Palma
You’ll likely fly into Palma de Mallorca – and you’ll want to spend at least a couple of days here.
The historic old town is an enchanting rabbit warren of cobbled streets, lined with shops (ah, the shoe stores!), cafés and bistros.
Take in the honey-colored buildings, flaunting beautiful casement windows and Juliet balconies. Soak up the atmosphere as you wander the medieval streets.
You may get lost. But that’s part of the fun of exploring, right?
And you can always ask a store owner or other local for help to orient yourself if you’re hopelessly confused.
2) Ogle the Palma de Mallorca cathedral
Apart from shopping and eating, one of the best things to do in Palma de Mallorca is to visit its fabled Gothic cathedral.
The Palma cathedral (known as La Seu) is the most-visited of all Palma de Mallorca attractions.
Perched overlooking the seaside, it’s truly a stunning landmark. (Unlike most other Catholic churches, there’s a fee to enter and see it – get your skip-the-line tickets here.)
We’re struck by the enormity of the pillars holding up its vaulted ceilings and the beauty of a large rose window (one of the world’s largest stained glass windows).
The cathedral isn’t all medieval though.
A huge, quirky crown of thorns above the altar was sculpted by the quixotic architect Antoni Gaudi. It has you scratching your head over whether its eclectic style (frankly, it looks a bit like papier mache) clashes with or enhances the traditional cathedral design elements.
Knowing Gaudi, that’s probably what he intended.
3) Admire the Royal Palace of La Almudaina
While sightseeing in Palma de Mallorca, the Royal Palace of La Almudaina is very much worth visiting too. It’s opposite the cathedral, so it’s easy to do.
While the site dates back to Roman days, the current palace was rebuilt in the 14th century. (Almudaina means “fortress” or “citadel” in Arabic.)
The Spanish royal family still celebrates official functions in the palace when they visit.
Inside, many original 16th century Flemish tapestries hang on the walls, and some ceilings are ornately painted in traditional Mallorcan black-and-red colors.
While you can soak up its history, be aware that many of the palace’s vast rooms aren’t decorated with furniture.
Equally impressive as the architecture, however, are the gorgeous views you get over the Bay of Palma, dotted with luxury ships and yachts.
4) Visit the Joan Miro Museum
Set atop a hill overlooking gardens and the sea, this museum houses more than 6,000 pieces of Miro’s art work. You can see unfinished paintings, as well as sculptures and graphics.
The displays are set out in a way that looks as if Miro just put his paintbrush down and wandered off for lunch.
(Note: The museum is closed on Mondays.)
5) Stroll the Jardines de S’Hort del Rei
Another of the most popular places to see in Palma de Mallorca is the Garden of the Royal Palace (Hort del Rei Park).
Found in the historic center of the city, near the cathedral (#2), the gardens were originally part of the Almudaina Palace.
Today they’re a small public green space, with lovely fountains and shady trees.
6) Shop at the Mercat de Santa Catalina
Established in 1920, the Mercat de Santa Catalina (Santa Catalina Market) is Palma’s oldest food market. Dozens of artisan food producers sell fruit, veggies, meat, cheese, seafood, flowers and pastries.
Staying on a super yacht? (Why not!) The market is the perfect place for your chef to stock up on fresh produce and other great food supplies.
Or just browse, and maybe sit down at a little café in the market for a tapa with a glass of wine.
7) Take the train to Soller
From the capital of Palma de Mallorca, there’s a wonderful narrow-gauge train that goes to the town of Soller.
The train has been trundling through the craggy Serra de Tramuntana mountain range since 1912, bringing in both day-trippers and visitors (like us, who stayed a while in Soller).
The vintage wooden carriages are a trip back in time, with brass ceiling lamps, burnished wood paneling and wood benches.
The Soller train trip takes about an hour – squeezing through 13 tunnels. The time passes all too quickly because the scenery is just so darn scenic!
8) Stroll the streets of Soller
Now that you’re in Soller, spend some time just enjoying being in this lovely small village in the countryside.
There’s really only one main street and a square – the Plaza de la Constitucion – lined with bars and cafés.
For the fine art of whiling away time and people-watching, plonk yourself down at one of the outdoor cafés, order a cappuccino and cake or pastry, and soak up the atmosphere.
Oh, and don’t forget to try some freshly-squeezed orange juice!
Nestled in the Valley of the Oranges (Vale de los Naranjos), Soller is surrounded by orange groves – and it’s famous for its delicious oranges.
9) Enjoy the art at the Can Prunera Museum
In Soller, be sure to visit the Can Prunera Museum.
In a beautifully restored Art Nouveau mansion, this art gallery showcases modernist and contemporary art, featuring the works of Joan Miro, Paul Klee and Fernand Leger. (And on a hot day, its air conditioning is a welcome reprieve.)
10) Jump on the Port Soller tram
From Soller, you can hop aboard an open-air streetcar that rumbles the few miles out to the fishing village of Port Soller.
Port Soller is a great place for strolling its waterfront promenade and enjoying a seafood lunch or dinner.
11) See Es Pontas
The wind and sea have carved some incredible rock formations and cliffs in Mallorca.
One of the most unique formations is Es Pontas.
This 65-foot natural rock arch in the sea is found off the coastline in the southeastern part of the island, near Cala Santanyi.
We confess we actually didn’t see it for ourselves, but it gets good TripAdvisor reviews!
12) Hike the GR221 “Dry Stone Route”
Mallorca is laced with many fine walking trails. Naturally, walking in Mallorca is a hit, and outdoor enthusiasts love walking and hiking holidays on the island.
Hiking the GR221 “Dry Stone Route” is popular.
An ancient 90-mile trail of stepping stones, the path was used by Mallorca locals to walk across the mountains from village to village before roads were built on the island.
Today, the well-maintained GR221 trail runs from Port D’Andratx in the southwest of Mallorca to Pollenca in the northwest, and the full trek takes about eight days.
At the end of each section, you can can find a hostel (“refugio” in Spanish), set up for hikers to stay the night.
13) Walk from Soller to Fornalutx (Spain’s prettiest town)
As an alternative to tackling the whole Dry Stone Route (#12), do as we did – and walk just a short part.
We walked the section from Soller to the town of Fornalutx, then looped back to Soller.
Set against a backdrop of imposing mountains, Fornalutx has been dubbed “Spain’s prettiest town.”
Whether that’s true is debatable; Deia (covered next) could claim that title too. But the walk (okay, let’s be honest, “hike”) to Fornalutx is certainly a thoroughly enjoyable one.
The gradual climb takes you through bucolic countryside, past farmhouses and orange and olive groves, to Fornalutx’s leafy town square.
At an outdoor café, we refueled on cappuccinos and crusty ham baguettes, before returning to Soller.
It’s about a 4.5-mile hike there and back (2 to 3 hours of walking time).
The hike turned out to be one of the most fun things to do in Mallorca for us, especially as we badly needed the exercise.
14) Visit Deia
Imagine a place where you’re buried standing up. That’s Deia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The spot where the tiny village clings to the mountainside is so steep, there’s no flat ground to be buried lying down.
Deia is home to artists, poets (Robert Graves lived here for the last 50 years of his life) and those wealthy enough to afford its pricey real estate.
It’s charming to stroll the streets of Deia – it’s a village you really must see in Mallorca!
Neon pink bougainvillea grows wild everywhere. Artists’ studios abound. Windowsills of old stone houses sport jars of paint brushes.
And the views of the turquoise Mediterranean Sea far below are mind-blowing.
Celebrities love Deia too. Who knows, you might bump into Beyonce or Kate Moss? (Both have spent time in Deia.)
15) Swim at Cala Deia
There’s a donkey track that winds through the forest of pine trees beyond Deia. Follow that, and you come to one of the best beaches in Mallorca – Cala Deia (our favorite beach).
This hidden pebble cove at the bottom of the village is where you can swim in limpid crystal clear water and eat fresh fish at a simple seafront restaurant.
Of course, retracing your steps is another matter.
Our thighs burned big time on the hike back up the 1,000 vertical feet to Deia.
But such are the delights – and challenges – of the sun-splashed Spanish island of Mallorca.
16) Walk to the Capdepera lighthouse
From the port town of Cala Ratjada on the northeast coast of Mallorca, it’s an easy 30-minute walk through pine forests to the Capdepera lighthouse. Try not to envy the beautiful villas along the way too much!
At the lighthouse, perched high on rocky cliffs, the sea views are simply gob-smacking. On a good day, you can see the small island of Menorca.
Marked walks take you around the clifftop to view the lighthouse from different angles too.
17) Go wine tasting in Mallorca
We love wine tasting.
At home, we’re fans of the boutique Okanagan wineries in BC (Canada).
Mallorca produces some great wines too. That’s not surprising given its climate, and the island is home to more than 70 vineyards (by last count).
The oldest winery on the island is the family-owned Bodega Ribas winery (established in 1711), located in the village of Consell.
One of the best things to do on Mallorca for wine lovers is to take a historical tour of the winery. Afterwards, seated in a lovely courtyard, you get to sample some of their wines along with tapas.
18) Check out some cool caves
There are two sets of caves near the town of Porto Cristo.
The temperature inside the caves is about 70 F – so on a hot summer’s day, they’re one of the most pleasant tourist attractions in Mallorca to visit!
The most famous Mallorca caves are the Drach Caves (Cuevas del Drach).
They comprise four inter-connected caves which extend for well over a mile. It’s particularly interesting to see the stalactites, which are shaped like fishhooks.
The caves also contain an underground lake (Lake Martel), one of the largest underground lakes in the world.
You can visit the Caves of Drach on a one-hour long tour. The tour includes a classical music concert and a boat trip across the lake.
Intrigued? Then check out this guided 4-hour tour which combines a tour of the caves with a visit to Porto Cristo.
Caves of Ham:
The other set of caves are the Caves of Ham (Cuevas dels Hams).
We didn’t do this, but you can take a walking tour through the Caves of Hams.
There are three key caves, and you can learn about the history of Mallorca and how these amazing caves were shaped. One of the caves even has a large underground lake called the “Sea of Venice.”
19) Tour Mallorca manor houses
Another pleasant activity in Mallorca?
Touring the island’s elegant palatial manor houses.
From the white neoclassic marble temple at one end of the garden, there are magnificent views of the ocean below and of the surrounding terraced hillsides, studded with almond and olive trees.
We also enjoyed peering through glass showcases at old Ludwig’s red leather-bound books – he loved the island so much that he wrote a nine-volume set detailing Mallorca’s botany and natural history.
20) Stay in a finca
Mallorca is blessed with many rural fincas – farm estates converted into delightful escapist accommodations, typically including organic country-style breakfasts in their rates.
They offer a different type of stay than a conventional hotel, and you shouldn’t leave Mallorca without bedding down in at least one finca.
21) Climb the steps in Pollensa Old Town
Pollenca (also spelled Pollensa) is another scenic town on the north coast of Mallorca. Like Deia (#14), it oozes charm.
A popular activity in Pollenca is to climb the 365 Calvari steps from Pollensa Old Town to the 18th century chapel, Oratori del Calvari.
At the church, you’ll be rewarded with great views!
Also spend some time leisurely exploring Pollenca’s cobblestone streets; you’ll enjoy checking out the town’s shops and restaurants.
22) Drink in the view at Cap de Formentor
Located on the northernmost point of Mallorca is Cap de Formentor.
It’s an understatement to say this stretch of coastline is dramatic. Think soaring limestone peaks buffeted by winds.
The lighthouse at Cap de Formentor stands at an elevation of 1,260 feet above the sea. The panoramic views from here make you feel there’s just you, the sky and the sea.
You get there by driving a windy 8-mile road from the town of Pollenca.
23) Escape to SaTorre
Close to the Palma de Mallorca airport, you can escape to SaTorre, a 15th century rural estate that’s been turned into a luxury resort.
24) Drive the “snake” road to Sa Calobra
Because the mountain slope is so steep, the road had to be designed as a switchback – making the pattern of a snake.
And it’s one of the most epic drives in the world!
Starting from the town of Escorca at the foot of Puig Major (the highest peak on the island), the 8-mile stretch of road is very narrow with few guardrails and no central divider or marking.
And there are 12 hairpin curves of 180 degrees or more on the Sa Calobra road.
The most famous curve is the legendary Nus de Sa Corbata (Knot of the Tie), where the road passes under itself in a 360 degree curve. Gulp!
25) Hang out at Platja des Coll Baix
Some say Platja des Coll Baix is the best beach in Mallorca.
Near Alcudia on the northern coast, it’s certainly one of the island’s most remote and beautiful; you can only reach it on foot or by boat.
If hiking there, be prepared for a medium-difficulty trek about four miles each way.
But it’s very picturesque. You pass through pine forests and then have to do some rock climbing, navigating massive boulders.
The quiet beach itself is a mix of pebbles and coarse sand, lapped by the clearest turquoise water – and you may be visited by wild goats.
26) Tour the Santuari de Lluc
Founded in the 13th century, the Santuari de Lluc is a monastery and important pilgrimage site, surrounded by high mountains in northwest Mallorca.
The main attraction is the beautiful Basilica, with its gold ornamental motifs. Also try to catch a performance by the Lluc Choir (Els Blauets) – their singing is beautiful!
There’s a small museum attached to the monastery site, and you can also wander through tranquil botanical gardens.
For a unique overnight experience, you can even stay in one of the former monks’ cells.
27) Go horseback riding in Mallorca
If you or your children would like to go horseback riding, check out Hipica Formentor.
Several riding tours are offered, from 45-minute rides for kids under 6 and one-hour rides for beginners to 4- to 5-hour tapas rides and multi-day riding holidays.
Hipica Formentor follows a natural horse care philosophy. All horses are bare-hoofed and ridden with bitless bridles.
28) Slow down in Cala Figuero
Cala Figuero is the quintessential fishing village, with a laid-back charm. White-painted houses cling to hills lining the narrow harbor.
Get here early in the morning, and you might see the local fishermen returning with their daily catch. Later in the day, they can be seen mending their nets on the dock.
Of course, the seafood is totally fresh.
One of the most pleasant things to do in Mallorca is to drop by Cala Figuero for a long lazy fish lunch – and slowly watch the world go by.
29) Visit Valldemossa and Chopin’s love nest
Another one of the best places to visit in Mallorca is Valldemossa.
Pretty as a picture, Valldemossa is a small village set high in the Tramuntana mountains, about a 20-minute drive from Palma de Mallorca.
It’s probably most famous as the place where Polish composer Frederic Chopin spent a winter with his love, the French writer George Sand. They stayed at the Royal Charterhouse Valldemossa, a palace-cum-convent.
Today, you can tour the Charterhouse and see the cell where Chopin and Sand lived. Not only is the building lovely, but you also get spectacular views of the surrounding mountain ranges!
It was hot when we visited Valldemossa, so we bought ice-cream in the village after our tour. (It didn’t really cool us off, but it sure tasted good!)
We also sampled coca de potatas – Valldemossa’s famous pastry – which is a sweet bun made from potatoes, sugar and lard.
30) Tour Bellver Castle
Commanding a fabulous hilltop position on the outskirts of Palma de Mallorca, Bellver Castle (Castell de Bellver) was built in Gothic style for King James II in the 14th century.
It was intended to serve as a royal residence. Few royals actually lived in it though, and it was later used as a military prison in the 1700s.
What’s unique about the castle is that it’s circular in shape – one of just a handful of European castles built like this.
You can also enjoy some of the best views of the city from the castle.
31) Explore Mondrago Natural Park
With sand dunes, forested ravines, wetlands and gorgeous sandy beaches, Mondrago Natural Park (Parc Natural de Mondrago) is one of the best places to go in Mallorca for nature lovers.
You can walk the hiking trails, sunbathe and swim at the beaches (the main beach is S’Amarado Beach) and see all sorts of birdlife.
Located on the southwest coast near the small town of Santanyi, the park is quite secluded and only accessible by car (not public transport).
32) Float in a hot air balloon
For a unique bird’s eye view of Mallorca, how about a hot air balloon ride?
You’ll get a different perspective of the sunrise or sunset on this 5-star-rated hot air balloon flight with IB Ballooning. Sip champagne while gliding over small villages on the northeast coast and soaking up stunning views of the Tramuntana mountains.
Talk about a Mallorca bucket list experience!
33) Chill at Calo des Moro
Okay, we know you want to know more about Majorca’s beautiful beaches.
And those beaches really are some of the best Majorca attractions when it’s hot and sunny outside!
On the southeast coast, Cala del Moro (Calo des Moro) is not exactly a secret. But it’s worth going for a swim in its impossibly turquoise waters.
The beach itself is a tiny stretch of white sand bordered by steep cliffs. (And you lose the sand at high tide, when you’ll be sitting on boulders by the water instead.)
It’s a bit tricky to reach though, as you have to walk down a very steep path.
Note that this is a natural beach – there are no restaurants or facilities. So bring drinking water and whatever else you need to be comfortable.
Mallorca travel tips
Car rental tip:
When renting a car to get around the island – recommended – smaller is better.
We regretted our free “upgrade” to a larger rental car, which was harder to navigate Mallorca’s charming but twisty narrow roads.
Best time to visit Mallorca:
If you want sunny warm-to-hot-weather, the summer months are the best time to go to Mallorca. But this is also the high season, so everything will be more crowded.
We visited Mallorca in September – and the weather was perfect. We could hike, swim and sightsee, all in comfort.
Late September to early October and May to June will see fewer tourists.
Where to stay:
In case you missed it, here’s our comprehensive post on where to stay in Mallorca. It covers the best areas to stay on the island, as well as 15 enchanting hotels and fincas.
Because different parts of the island offer different activities, we suggest you first stay in old Palma de Mallorca.
Then follow that up with a vacay in Mallorca’s less-traveled northern and/or western countryside.
Now you know the top things to do in Majorca and how to visit!
No doubt about it.
Mallorca is a magical Mediterranean island.
If you seek culture, history (and yes, shopping) – along with elegant hotels and quaint country inns, tranquil beach coves, scenic hiking trails and off-the-beaten-path explorations – pack your bags for a Mallorca vacation!
Have you been to Mallorca? Did we miss any of your favorite places to visit or Mallorca activities?
Let us know! You can share your thoughts in the Comments below…
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Photo credits: 4, 6, 9 to 11, 15, 16, 18, 19, 22 to 24, 28 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 25, 27 Belmond La Residencia | 31 Caves of Hams | 33, 34 Fincahotel CanColl