Recently I was writing a list of places my friend should visit in Spain, and as I read him out my proposed agenda, he scoffed at the idea of Mallorca. ‘Isn’t that just Magaluf, all about the booze and wild nights out?’ he asked, and I remembered that was exactly what I had expected when I boarded my flight to Mallorca a few years back.
But the truth is, I barely did Mallorca justice because I went with that expectation myself. I was looking forward to a holiday, think crystal-clear waters, days by the beach, afternoons snacking on tapas and relaxing in the lush 5-star hotel in Mallorca I’d booked into. I even left my camera at home so I could completely switch off, with just a few changes of clothes and my iPhone in my pocket.
What I found in Mallorca though was so much more than I had been expecting. If you are a Brit like me, then the reputation of Magaluf is something you will be well aware of; but in reality, Magaluf is such a tiny part of this otherwise best island to visit, with a whole host of history, culture and amazing nature to enjoy.
While my week-long holiday to Mallorca didn’t allow me a chance to experience everything the island offers, here are a few suggestions of places you really should visit when you come to Mallorca. I’ll be adding to this list after my next trip; now I know just how much this year-round sunny escape holds.
Port de Sóller
I’ll start with my favourite discovery of my trip to Mallorca, Port de Sóller.
Getting to Sóller is part of the charm, and the El Tren de Sóller provides a wonderful journey from the capital of Palma.
Winding its way along the narrow track, you can literally reach out and touch lemon trees on the route. The old, wooden train is adorable and goes through the Sierra de Alfàbia mountain range with a mix of tunnels and bridges, and some of the views are I’d daresay the best on the island.
Once you arrive at Sóller, you’ll feel like you have been transported to a different island. The mountains tower around you in the small town, while the lapping waves bump the small boats together in the port. It’s a romantic place to come and stay if you want to feel like you have got away from the crowds, although in the summer months many people head over here on day-trips.
The town sites about 3km away from the port and both are well worth visiting, though a sunset drink at the port is really a highlight.
In Sóller be sure not to miss the intricately decorated Església of Sant Bartomeu, or the fantastic views from the lighthouse in the Port. Thanks to the stunning scenery around Sóller, it also makes for a great starting point to hike into the mountains.
Hiking Barranc de Biniaraix
There are plenty of incredible hikes in Mallorca, which will take you through untouched mountains and tumbling waterfalls, but the Barranc de Biniaraix, which takes you through a rugged ravine not far from Sóller is the one I opted for. Be warned though, set off early in the morning as the route can get quite tough if you make the full loop in the mid-day sun.
The trail takes about five-hours if you plan on making a loop from Sóller, and can be a full-day hike if you do the full track and loop. The trail is not exactly a tough hike, but some may prefer to hire a guide as the route at some points can be quite steep and require climbing.
Once you leave the valley in Sóller and head into the Biniaraitx gorge itself, you’ll appreciate the incredible change of scenery. Olive and lemon trees line the terraces around the gorge, and the karst canyon has been shaped over the years by the water which has passed through it.
There are various walking routes you can take, but the loop to the farmstead and back is a good bet if you don’t want anything too strenuous. For those who venture on though, you’ll be reward by even more lakes, waterfalls and insane vistas looking out across the mountains and ocean. You can find a list of hiking routes here.
The waters and beaches in Mallorca are that beautiful shade of light blue that tropical islands conjure up, not islands in Europe, so if you enjoy heading to the beach or watersports, you are in luck.
Playa de Palma is not far from the airport, and it was here where I enjoyed a couple of nights of luxury in a stunning hotel (Iberostar.com) before I went to stay in Sóller. This long stretch of sand is ideal for those wanting to be closeby Palma, and not have a long transfer when they land, but there are plenty of smaller and even more stunning beaches across the island you should find time to visit.
In the south of the island, Caló des Moro is undoubtedly a show stealer, and I was so glad to be visiting in the off-season as this tiny cove with its turquoise waters would surely get crazy busy in summer. It’s a small beach, but close by are plenty of other stretches of sand you can relax on if you arrive to find Caló des Moro has already been overtaken by other sunseekers.
Not too far from Sóller is Cala Banyalbufar beach, and although this isn’t your typical beach which a huge sandy stretch, it’s stunningly beautiful, especially as vineyard terraces wind up from it. It’s certainly one I would suggest visiting, even if just for a dip and some photos, and in case you can’t tell I loved everything along the west of Mallorca near Sóller.
The capital city of Mallorca, Palma, is dominated by the Santa Maria Cathedral, a grand Gothic building which rivals the centrepieces of most Spanish cities. Inside you’ll find a mix of intricate architecture showcasing how the church has been added to since its 13th-century construction, and its prime position in Palma along the water makes it a true marvel.
Just next door to the church is the Royal Palace of La Almudaina, which showcases the Moorish history of the island. This vast Arabic fortress was used as the royal residence on the island, and you’ll need a good few hours to take in the history inside, where the stone rooms with their arched ceilings are seriously impressive. The 15th-century Lonja de Mallorca is another building well worth exploring.
Palma itself has a cool vibe about it, and of course, being Spain, there are plenty of restaurants and bars to enjoy the fresh local seafood or enjoy a glass of local wine accompanied with Tapas. Cala Major, a seaside resort slightly further down the coast is another great place to spend a few hours or enjoy dinner alfresco.
I’d go as far as saying that Palma de Mallorca is a great Spanish city break even if you don’t explore the rest of the island, you can read my quick guide to a weekend in Palma here.
Cap de Formentor
The drive to the tip of Mallorca, Cap de Formentor, provides some incredible views as you change from stretches of sand to rugged inland mountains, though the road does get a bit sketchy towards the end of the drive.
The lighthouse at the peak provides some great photo opportunities, and it’s super breathtaking. The cliffs falling into the ocean with the crashing waves made this the second most beautiful part of the island that I visited.
Nearby, the coastal drive to Port d’Alcúdia is another beauty, and a little bit more laid back and relaxed than the south side of the island. From Port d’Alcúdia you can also take a ferry onwards to Barcelona if you don’t wish to fly from the island.
Port d’Alcúdia is home to the Alcudia beach, which is a long stretch of cove with shallow waters ideal for relaxing in, but just inland is the Ciudad Romana de Pollentia, a Roman excavation site that is worth a visit if you are into learning the history of the island. Excavation works are ongoing, but the vast enclave houses a theatre amongst the old residential area, and it’s insane to see the Roman building work, dating back to BC, on a Spanish island.
As I said, I really didn’t do Mallorca justice, neither with my itinerary or my photos, but it was an excellent introduction to an island I had stupidly written off as a night-club only destination. I can’t wait to go back to explore all the other villages and incredible buildings I missed on this first visit.
A few more places I wish I had visited are:
Drach Caves I heard these caves are awe-inspiring and consist of four historic caves which run for about 3.5 kilometres. There are also the Coves dels Hams which is where the light/sound show is, so don’t get the two confused
Cala Figuera A cute little traditional town away from the resort areas, I saw it on lots of postcards and think it would be a great place to go for the photo opportunities.
Valldemossa Charterhouse A grand palace and monastery, a little inland from the coast and nestled in the mountains, it looks like a worthy side-trip for both the history and photos.
Any tips for my next visit to Mallorca? I’d love to hear them in the comments!