Mallorca holidays, Balearic Islands
The Balearics - especially Majorca and Minorca - have been one of Europe's most popular sun 'n' sand holiday destinations for years. They are cheap to get to via package deals, less expensive than most of Europe thanks to Spain's low cost of living, enjoy a superb Mediterranean climate with plenty of sun and host some of the Mediterranean's best beaches.
But the Balearic Islands have more to offer than just price-friendly beach life. From spectacular landscapes for nature lovers and hikers (Majorca), historic Spanish towns, museums and archeological sights for culture vultures (Minorca) to wild nightlife for wild things (Ibiza), the Balearics cover most holiday bases.
The Balearics are in the Mediterranean, a part of Spain and consist of four islands, Majorca (Mallorca in Catalan), Minorca (Menorca), Ibiza (Eivissa) and Formentera, all (except Formentera) with regular charter flights from the UK and other European countries; to get to Formentera fly to Ibiza and take a ferry from Ibiza port. See the Balearics map lower down the page.
Majorca, the biggest of the four islands, is an all-round, well-sorted resort island with both cultural and historic monuments as well as the requisite beaches.
Mallorca (same place!) excels at complete holiday packages offering a bit of everything from 'sun, sand and sea' relaxation, a walk in the great outdoors, a glance at local art and culture and a night or two on the tiles followed by a blinding hangover.
The island, however, works equally well for more mature tourists who, for example, do not want to stay in a noisy beach-side hotel but want to do big hikes in spectacular surroundings or perhaps simply walk over a few hills and rocks in the morning, splash in a discreet hotel or rented villa's pool in the afternoon and finish off the day with a modest Spanish meal accompanied by a few glasses of Rioja.
Note that Majorca is the Balearic island for people who take their walking/hiking seriously, while Menorca is great for beach life and Ibiza perfect for party animals who like to slump in the sand before/after a hectic night.
Palma de Mallorca, the capital, Majorca
Palma Mallorca*** The must-see, elegant capital of Majorca on the south coast contains some magnificent architecture including one of Europe's grandest cathedrals, Le Seu, rising out of the city walls and emblazoned with startling Gaudi windows.
There's also a unique circular Muslim castle, the Palau de l'Almudaina, the well-preserved Banys Arabs (Arab Baths) as well as other historic monuments.
Art lovers should not miss Museum d'Art Moderni Contemporani and Joan Miró's art foundation. Stroll the exotic old arab quarter to see exquisite palaces and courtyards or enjoy waterfront bars, restaurants and shops in the sophisticated port area.
Finally, be sure to take a delightful antique train ride to Sóller (Tren de Soller), a delightful little town north of Palma, that passes through the picturesque countryside of Sierra de la Tramontana.
Valldemossa, popular for pilgrimages in remembrance of Chopin.
Valldemossa** this charming town standing on the slopes of the Tramuntana mountains is famed for its Carthusian monastery, La Cartuja, where Polish composer Frederic Chopin once stayed several months.
It is the second most visited building on the island; you can see Chopin's piano and music scripts there.
Hiking from Valldemossa on the Archduke Luis Salvador Rideway.
Sierra de la Tramontana*** the limestone mountain range that stretches along the northwest coast is perfect territory for outdoor enthusiasts.
Take the scenic driving route, the R710 from Andratx to Pollenca and continue on to Formentor Cape. The towns of Sóller, Deia and Fornautx, Pollenca are worth visiting as well as Lluc monastery; it's a place of pilgrimage and the starting point for many hikes in the Tramontana mountains.
Walking around Formentor Cape, Majorca
Sa Calobra** a pebble beach with strange rock formations at the mouth of the Torrent de Pareis gorge is one of Majorca's most spectacular landscapes.
It's located in the heart of the Tramontana mountains and can be reached by a challenging drive or by sea. It is extremely popular so will be crowded in the summer.
Formentor Cape*** this narrow peninsula at the northern tip of the island offers a spectacular view of the dramatic and rugged coastline. To get to the viewpoint requires another great scenic drive starting from the pleasant town of Pollenca.
Parc Natural de s’Albufera** the Balearics' largest and most important wetland nature reserve, this is an excellent place for bird-watching. It's accessible only by bicycle or foot and easily reachable from the bay of Alcudia, a popular beach resort.
Magaluf beach, Majorca
Majorca has over 230km of craggy, turquoise coastline embracing more than 70 sandy beaches, rocky headlands, and secluded coves.
Here are a few of the best beaches:
- if you like action-packed, lively beaches, then popular resort stretches such as Palma Nova and Magaluf are ideal, both clean, Blue Flag certified, with fine white sand, crystal clear waters, excellent shore facilities and nightlife.
- Cala Mayor (also known as Cala Major), a few km from Palma city, is a watersports mecca. It is fringed by high rise hotels and packed with tourists in July and August, especially at weekends when the locals join in the madness.
Cala Pi beach, Mallorca
- for unspoiled, quiet beaches away from tourist resorts, head to child-friendly Cala Pi (photo above) or picturesque Cala Mondrago with its two sandy coves.
- possibly Majorca's most famous beach, if not the best, is 3.5 kilometers long Es Trenc, with soft white sand and very little development though some consider the sand to be 'dirty yellow' and of course it's crowded in high season.
for isolated, and unspoiled try the half-moon bay and dunes of of Es Dolc or Es Carbo in the southern part of the island.
In the north of Mallorca is massive, unspoilt 2km long Playa de Muro, near the resort of Alcudia, and Cala de Deia, a pebble beach with lovely bar on the rocks overlooking sea.
- for more remote beaches with great natural beauty, try Cala Torta, Estreta, Mitjana, but only if you do not mind bumpy mountain roads to get there.
Best: March-June, September
OK: Just about all year, with little rain or humidity and temperatures generally between 15C in winter and 25C in summer, though in August and September temperatures rise to 30ºC and water temperatures are between 25ºC and 27ºC, which is perfect for sun-seekers, but prepare for crowds and higher prices then.
From October to February tourists should expect some damp days but it never rains endlessly and in the winter season visitors will be alone on deserted beaches and be able to enjoy a serene vacation.
The west coast of Majorca
- Too many visitors and cars in high season at main attractions including some of best beaches, leading to traffic jams and parking problems. And who needs those on holiday when you live in a European city?!
- Some Majorca tourism is of the low-level, package-holiday kind, with style-free hotels to suit, though these tend to be clustered in concrete ghetto regions that are not difficult to ignore. There are plenty of lovely traditional houses and hotels in glorious locations on this sizeable island.
- Although the Balearics are among Europe's best value destinations for flights, the prices for hotels, drinks, clubs etc. have been on the up recently.
EU citizens do not need visas, nor do many other country residents
- including USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, for visits
up to 90 days.
Spanish sockets are mostly 230v and take 2 round pin plugs.
The Balearic Islands are a healthy environment generally but if need be Spanish pharmacists usually speak good English and have wide powers
to prescribe medicines. i.e. try them first for small medical
problems. The sign is a fat illuminated green or red cross.