This ever-popular Spanish star has ravishing beaches, antique towns tucked up in its mountains and the Balearics islands’ most cultured city – Palma – where a Gothic cathedral serve as a backdrop to an excellent café and restaurant scene. A popular haunt of both the rich and famous, and a youthful crowd looking fun in the sun – we’re looking at you, Magaluf – Majorca can be done at a luxury level or on a budget.
This island likes to party, as seen in its special penchant for festivals – often organized through package holidays to Majorca. Its annual multi-day music concert in May, Mallorca Live (that’s the Catalan spelling of Majorca), has taken the Balearic Islands by storm in recent years. Previous headliners include The Prodigy, Primal Scream and, Jamiroquai, the international acts mixed in with local talent and a range of music genres.
Majorca’s on the map as the location of ITV’s summer Love Island show. That youthful scene is alive and well on Palma beach, where chat-up lines are flexed as much as those well-oiled pecs. And as it’s close to the island’s international airport, you can be stripped off and lying on the sand within moments of touching down. But don’t just stay in Palma, there are 262 beaches to choose from. Port d’Alcúdia, one of the biggest resorts in the north, has an immaculately maintained 10km arc of pine-studded golden sand. Cala Deià, to the west, has a pretty pebbly beach in a hoop-shaped cove, is a great place for a swim – the water is clean and cool, and there are beach bar-restaurants to refuel at too.
You’ll be spoilt for local vino here, as Majorca has around 60 vineyards. In recent years, lots of those wineries have started offering tours and tastings too. Binissalem’s Bodega José Luis Ferrer is widely regarded as Majorca’s best red. Book ahead for an hour’s tasting (€11), which comes with local crackers and Mahon cheese. Though when you’re planning what to in Majorca’s winelands, you could always let Mallorca Wine Tours do the organizing for you – they run everything from a VIP Finca Experience to a bike-riding vineyard and tasting tour.
It’s not all about beaches and boozing here: the mountains, crisscrossed with roads and footpaths, camouflage a string of beguiling villages where life goes at a gentle pace. Some say Estellencs is Majorca’s prettiest, where a huddle of old stone houses cling gingerly to steep, sea-facing slopes. Fornalutx is another jewel in Majorca’s crown: its location is knock-out, with honey-coloured stone houses set in a valley perfumed by orange and lemon groves. Then there’s beautiful Deià, the long-time haunt of British poet Robert Graves. This ancient mountain village is glued to the steep terraced slopes high above the sea. It’s kept a surprising air of tranquillity, too, and you can wander off into the wooded ravine.
No question, this is one of the finest Gothic churches in Europe. It stands out for the beauty of its medieval architecture, flooded with kaleidoscopic shafts of light, and for the later additions made by no less a figure than Antoni Gaudí. All flying buttresses and spiky columns, this Gothic masterpiece is a treat from the outside as well. Its imposing exterior, seemingly rising up from the water, is perpetually bathed in golden sunshine. The whole structure derives its effect from its sheer height, impressive from any angle, but most startling when viewed from the waterside esplanade and the café’s around.
One of the quirkier things to do in Majorca is to hop on the rattly vintage train that winds its way over the mountains from Palma to Sóller. The line was completed in 1912 on the profits of the orange and lemon trade: the railway was built to transport the fruit to Palma. These days, the 28km journey is a tourists’ delight. With narrow carriages that look like something from an Agatha Christie novel, the train threads upwards to spend five minutes tunnelling through the mountains, where the noisy engine and dimly lit carriages give the feel of a rollercoaster ride. Beyond, out in the bright mountain air, are the steep valleys and craggy thousand-metre peaks at the heart of the Serra de Tramuntana.
A day at the oasis-like gardens of the Jardines de Alfabia is one of the best things to do in Majorca. The watered trellises and terraces dating back to green-fingered Moors. Brightly coloured flowers cascade over narrow terraces to the sound of gurgling watercourses, and at the end of the path lies a verdant jungle of palm trees, where bulrushes crowd in on a tiny pool of water lilies. It’s an enchanting spot, especially on a hot summer’s day. Metres from the pool is the house, a modest hacienda with a wide veranda and high-ceilinged rooms. Inside is an eccentric mix of antiques and curios, including paintings of local bigwigs and exotic animals, most memorably a particularly odd-looking elephant.
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