This summer my family and I took time to explore the Balearic isle of Mallorca, often overlooked in favour of its more glitzy and glamorous neighbour - Ibiza. We fell in love with the calm clear water, fresh seafood, and medieval hilltop towns.
To see the best of Mallorca there is no one place to stay, there are many beautiful little pockets to explore. While there are a couple of highways that run to the north and east of the island many of the roads are delightfully windy with breathtaking views - especially up on the Serra de Tramuntana’s mountain pass.
Slow tripping would be the best description of how to explore this laid back island, or escape the schedule altogether by chartering a yacht and setting your own pace.
Mallorca’s capital, Palma is a medieval city is rich with history and impressive architecture with the magnificent Catedral-Basílica de Santa María standing like a fortress on the edge of the city. Narrow streets and gothic grandeur make up the 13th Century Old Town which is also home to independent boutiques and more mainstream stores, as well as delicious little cafes and bars. Stroll along the Portixol Marina to see the megayachts and visit the increasingly hip Santa Catalina to enjoy dipping in and out of the many restaurants and bars. We loved spending time at a street food market in the shadow of the cathedral, exploring the old town and finishing the day at one of the cities beach bars – making us feel that the city truly has it all.
Stay at Convent de la Missio, a modern take on a traditional Mallorcan style hotel with natural linens and whitewashed walls, it’s a stylish oasis in the heart of town with a sundrenched roof terrace and necessary plunge pool.
Deia is made up of a collection of delightful restaurants and artsy boutiques, a smattering of beautiful private villas hidden on the hillside – all with views over the mountains, terracotta tiled roofs and out to sea. The one road that snakes all along the mountain, with Valdemossa on one side and Soller on the other, runs through the middle of Deia but traffic is minimal. Accessible by boat or hidden down a steep, unmade, windy lane, perched above a rocky beach, it’s not a restaurant you’d easily stumble upon but Ca’s Patro March the cliffside restaurant made famous by the opening scene of the Night Manager is worth the effort. We gorged on octopus and squid washed down with copious amounts of rose.
Stay at the dreamy Belmond Residencia – the last spot in Deia the sun hits before dropping behind the mountains. Relax on the terrace- abundant with blooms, with a sundowner, as the pianist plays and enjoy a very special holiday moment.
Soller, like many in Mallorca, is a town of two parts; Port de Soller consists of a palm tree lined boulevard wrapped around a horseshoe bay where lively bars and restaurants look out over the beach and marina, and the picturesque old town is set back from the coast in a valley, flanked by the Tramuntana mountains. Linking the two, and going onto Palma, is a wooden tram that shuttles along the promenade and through to the old town throughout the day.
The station in Soller is worth a visit for the collection of Picasso and paintings by Miro – an unexpected treat in this unassuming town. The sea is perfectly calm in Soller, protected by the tiny opening in the bay – idea for us with a new addition to our family. At the weekend locals flocked to the beaches but come Monday we had it all to ourselves. We loved strolling on the Promenade and settling in for sunset drinks on Randemar’s terrace. Stay up in the hills at Ca’s Xorc – a converted farmhouse now with idyllic gardens and an infinity pool overlooking the mountains. The port and old town are a short taxi ride away.
Like Soller on a larger scale, Pollenca is split between a thriving port town perfect for families with millpond calm water, sandy beaches and touristy centre which quietens down as you venture past the waterfront villas on the idyllic pine walk; the old town is hilly and sprawling with the 365 Colveri steps, not for the faint hearted in the summer heat, taking you to a charming chapel on the hill and far reaching views across the town, surrounding countryside and towards the bay. Sunday morning is home to a thriving market day where locals stock up on fresh produce and tourists buy ratten bags and panama hats. We sat outside a lively bar on a shady path for a cold drink and watched the world pass by laden with all its shopping.
Cap Formentor is a must visit. There’s an easy drive to a viewpoint for magnificent views of soaring craggy cliffs. An offensively early wake up from our young son meant that we ventured a little further one morning to hike to Talaia d’Albercutx which offered the most spectacular panoramic views as the sun lit up the peninsula. Continue past the viewpoint along the impressive winding mountain pass to Formentor beach. A kilometre stretch of white sand with lush pine trees providing necessary shade make this a pretty and popular beach. The areas most exclusive hotel, Royal Hideaway Formentor, is here away from the crowds and is the most comfortable way to spend time in this part of the island.
Mallorca’s north east sees the least tourist footfall and is home to barely visited beaches found down unmade tracks that can prove detrimental to the belly of your rental car. As is prevalent all over Mallorca, pretty hilltop towns sit between undulating hills peppered with remote fincas and the occasional windmill. We visited Arta on a Tuesday, market day, the tiny town was thriving and we stumbled across a local parade with atmospheric drumming and people dressed up with huge caricature faces to celebrate Sant Salvador. In the evenings Capedera was close by our hotel and we dined at the main square a couple of evenings. It was the perfect Mediterranean setting with children playing the square and local families conversing into night.
Our hotel was the main reason for visiting this region and we felt by staying here we not only discovered a hidden gem of a property but also a region. The Predi Son Jaumell is one of those rare hotels that is super stylish with great service and a Michelin star restaurant that also accepts children. We met many other grateful parents with well behaved children who also delighted in not having to succumb to kids clubs and water slides.
We had the most magical summer exploring this beautiful island and found taking the time to discover the lesser visited areas made all the difference. Now we’ve done all the ‘hard work’ I shall look forward to arranging special journeys for foodies, hikers, sun worshippers, sailors, families or couples – there is something for everyone on this jewel in the Balearic Sea.