So you’re thinking of visiting Mallorca?
Many travel articles lament that some resort areas of Mallorca (namely Maguluf on the southwest coast) are overbuilt and popular with hordes of sunburned British and German tourists on cheap package holidays – who are 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 – from hiking the oh-so-picturesque countryside to swimming at ravishing beach coves to touring manor houses oozing with history.
If you explore the island’s scenically dramatic northern region instead, you discover the non-touristy Mallorca, including several idyllic towns like Deia. Closer to the Palma de Mallorca airport, you can escape to SaTorre, a 15th century rural estate.
Visiting Deia: One of the top things to do in Mallorca
Imagine a place where you’re buried standing up. That’s Deia, on the island of Mallorca (also spelled “Majorca”). And it’s charming to walk down Deia’s narrow stepped streets on Mallorca vacation.
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, the tiny village clinging to the mountainside is so perpendicular, there’s no flat ground to be buried lying down.
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 far below are mind-blowing.
If you continue on down the donkey track through the pine forest beyond Deia, you come to a hidden pebble cove at the bottom, where you can swim in still, limpid waters and eat fresh fish at a simple seafront restaurant.
Of course, retracing your steps is another matter.
Our thighs burn big time on the hike back up the 1,000 vertical feet to our hotel, the lovely La Residencia. But such are the delights – and challenges – of the sun-splashed Spanish island of Mallorca.
Walking in Mallorca
Mallorca is laced with many fine walking trails.
Walking/hiking holidays are popular with outdoor enthusiasts, in particular, Mallorca’s famous “dry stone” route. An ancient 90-mile trail of stepping stones, the path was used by locals to walk Mallorca across the mountains from village to village before roads were built on the island.
We join a section of this trail on a loop from Soller (another picturesque town, famed for its juicy oranges) to Fornalutx.
The gradual climb takes us through bucolic countryside, past olive groves and farmhouses, to Fornalutx’s leafy town square, where we refuel at an outdoor cafe on cappuccinos and crusty ham baguettes, before returning to Soller.
Fornalutx: Spain’s prettiest town
Fornalutx has even been dubbed “Spain’s prettiest town.”
Whether that’s indeed true is debatable; Deia could claim that title too. But the walk (okay, let’s be honest, “hike”) to Fornalutx is certainly an enjoyable one.
Mallorca manor houses
Another pleasant pastime? Touring the island’s elegant palatial manor houses.
We visit Son Marroig, a mansion built in 1276 on top of a steep hillside, later acquired by Archduke Ludwig Salvatore of Austria in the 19th century. From the white neoclassic marble temple at one end of the garden, there are magnificent views of the ocean below and surrounding terraced hillsides, studded with almond and olive trees.
We also enjoy 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 its botany and natural history.
Train to Soller
Even travelling to the northern part of the island is fun.
Since 1912, a narrow-gauge train to Soller has been trundling through the craggy Tramuntana mountains from the island’s southern capital, Palma de Mallorca, bringing in both day-trippers and visitors like us who stay a while. The vintage wooden carriages are a trip back in time, with brass ceiling lamps, burnished wood panelling and wood benches.
Squeezing through 13 tunnels, the train clackety-clacks for an hour to Soller.
From Soller, you can then hop aboard an open-air streetcar that rumbles the few miles out to the fishing village of Port Soller – a great place for strolling its waterfront promenade and enjoying a seafood lunch or dinner.
Best things to do in Palma de Mallorca
But you can’t go to Mallorca and not spend time in Palma de Mallorca.
In the capital, the historic old town is an enchanting rabbit warren of cobbled streets, lined with shops (ah, the shoe stores!), cafes and bistros.
Two of the best things to do in Palma de Mallorca are to visit the cathedral and Almudaina Palace.
1. Palma de Mallorca’s cathedral:
The most-visited attraction in Palma is its famous Gothic cathedral.
Perched overlooking the seaside, it’s truly a stunning landmark. 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).
Palma de Mallorca’s cathedral isn’t all medieval though.
A huge, quirky crown of thorns above the altar, sculpted by the quixotic architect Antoni Gaudi, 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.
2. Almudaina Palace:
Opposite the cathedral, the Almudaina Palace is worth visiting too.
Built in the 14th century, the Spanish royal family still celebrates official functions in the palace when they visit. Many original 16th century Flemish tapestries hang on the walls, and some ceilings are ornately painted in traditional Mallorcan black-and-red colours.
Equally impressive, however, are the gorgeous views over the bay of Palma, dotted with luxury ships and yachts.
Holiday in Mallorca? Go for it!
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 (sleep in a castle or farm finca!), tranquil beach coves, scenic hiking trails and off-the-beaten-path explorations, pack your bags for a Mallorca vacation combining old Palma with Mallorca’s less-travelled northern countryside.
Have you visited Mallorca? What’s your favorite part of the island?
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We’re Janice and George Mucalov, professional award-winning travel writers, sharing tales of luxury travel with a twist of adventure.