Mallorca is largest of the Balearic Islands which comprise of Minorca, Ibiza, Carbera and Formentera in addition to Mallorca. It covers an area of 554 Km. It has been a preferred destination of the rich and famous since the 1950s and in recent times the European budget traveler. The island’s capital city Palma was a favorite holiday destination of Princess Diana who spent many a summer in Palma the capital city at the invitation of the Spanish King Juan Carlos and his wife Queen Sofia who maintain a summer residence there.
Mallorca is not only about its beaches, it has a mixture of the mountains as well with the Serra de Tramuntana range located in the North West and the Serra de Llevant in the east and the Central plain between them. The highest peak on the island is Puig Manor. The mountains provide the source of the main water supply for the island. In the shadow of the mountains is the coastline which has quaint sleepy fishing villages and towns. Palma, the capital of the Balearics is a bustling city which came into prominence during e 19 century. During this time the French occupied Algeria and attacks on Majorca ceased more sea traffic and economic development came to Palma It was at this time that the famous composer Frederic Chopin along with his lover the French novelist George Sands spent time at the Carthusian Monastry in Valldemossa in the mountains. Mallorca soon became a prime tourist destination and nearly 20 million tourists visit Mallorca every year.
Getting to Mallorca
Several Commercial Carriers as well as chartered flights and a host of low cost budget airlines call at Palma de Mallorca’s Son Sant Joan Airport. The airport is the third busiest airport in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona. It is housed in a single terminal with all the amenities of a modern airport.
By Rail & Ferry
There is no direct rail link to the Island but one can get to Valencia or Barcelona by high speed trains from other part of Spain and then take one of the overnight ferries to Palma. They take about six hours to reach Palma. There are ferries from Marseille in France as well. These ferries arrive at the ferry port located to the south west of the Paseo Maritimo the main promenade of Palma.
By Cruise ship
Mallorca is on the itinerary of many a cruise liner. Cruise liners call on the port of Palma all year round, the traffic is the highest during the summer months of June to September.
Getting into Palma from the airport and other destinations on the Island
The Airport is served by the PM19 highway. Taxis and private cars use this highway to get into the city of Palma in approximately 15 minutes. Buses are also available to Palma de Mallorca from outside the arrival hall, the bus numbers 1, 17, 25 go into Palma. Car rentals are available at the airport too and various car rental companies have their agencies at the airport.
Palma has a bus service called Empresa Municipal de Transports Urbans de Palma de Mallorca. This is a local bus service which also goes to the airport and other towns and beaches. One should remember that the frequency of the buses is lower at nights, on Sundays and in the low tourist season . There is also a hop on and hop off bus service number 50 which takes tourists to the sites around Palma city. The tickets are valid for the entire day that they are purchased and one can hop on and off at ones whim .
There exists no local train service within the city of Palma but connections are available from Placa de Espanya in Palma to Inca in the center of the Island, to Puerto de Soller on the Southwest, to Manacor, Sa Pobla and Sineu.
Many tourists prefer to bike around the island and there are several rental shops as well as bike lanes on principal roads to facilitate and encourage bicycle riding.
Mallorca is blessed with Mediterranean climate with temperatures hovering around 30C (86F) during the summer months of June to September. This is peak tourist time in Mallorca. However Mallorca does have a winter with temperatures falling below 10C in the winter months. In 2005, it even snowed on the mountains of the Island.
Being a popular tourist destination English, French, German are enough to get by on the island especially in the areas with heavy tourist concentration. The locals speak a catalan dialect called Mallorquin.
Mallorca is renowned for its beaches which are the hub of night life as most of them have bars, restaurants and discos. Different nationalities establish communities along the various white sand beaches so while the Germans set up camp at EL Arenal, the British congregate at Magalluf Forementor beach is one where the Hotel Formentor is located and this is the beach for celebrity spotting. The 40 beaches around Palma offer a wide variety of water sports such as Para sailing, jet skiing and banana boating to the young revelers who throng the beaches of Mallorca from all over Europe and elsewhere. Es trenc is the most famous beach in Mallorca.
Located on the way to Palma Nova beach is Marine Land an aquatic park featuring Sea lion, dolphin, and parrot shows as well as displays of Polynesian pearl diving.
Alcudia is an historic old town; the resort with the same name is located 3 km from here. It was a Spanish fortified city with gates and towers which exist till today. Polentia a roman amphitheater is located nearby as is the Orator de Santa Anna one of the oldest Mallorcan churches S’Abulfera is a salt marsh outside Alcudia where one can spot a large variety of birds.
Another outpost of the Moors is an ancient town, Arta in the hills on the east coast of Mallorca. Ses Paisses just outside Arta has ruins of the Bronze Age. Olive, almond, carob groves encircle the area. The day to visit Artaa is Tuesday which market day and the farmers from the neighboring hillsides bring their produce to sell in the center of the town.
Castell de Bellver (Palma)
The Castle was the summer residence of the Mallorcan kings which also served as a prison. In its present day avatar it is a Museum with displays of old artifacts and coins.
Limestone caves Cuevas del Drach at Porto Cristo
These famous caves are a popular tourist attraction and known for their pure white stalactites and stalagmites and their underground lake. The tour takes tourists around the needle like formations and finishes with an underground concert on the lake during which musicians on a boat play concertos illuminated by candlelight while the rest of the cave is in darkness surely a magnificent sight.
The Cathedral O La Sea (Palma)
The scenery in Palma de Mallorca is dominated by the turrets of the immense gothic Cathedral which was built in the 13th Century. It is located in the old town and is dedicated to the patron saint of Palma Saint Sebastian. Antonio Gaudi added a wrought iron canopy in 1909. The museum of the Cathedral has saintly artifacts as well as portion of the True Cross. The Cathedral has a wonderful ambience with its high ceilings and stained glass panels. Miquel Barcelo a local contemporary artist is working on a ceramic installation at the Cathedral.
Museu d’art Modern i Contemporani (Palma)
Museu d’art Modern i Contemporani is a famous art exposition in Palma featuring the works of the local artist Miquel Barcelo as well as works by Kadinsky, Piccasso ,Miro and Dali amongst others. It is built on the remaining site of the 16 century Bastilo de Santt Pere and affords a stunning view of the harbour.
Banys Arabs (Palma)
The only indications of the Muslim conquest of the island are the old Arab bath houses. With their domed ceilings and columns the baths are exponents of Islamic architecture. They are the backdrop for a popular picnic spot.
Joan Miro Foundation (Palma)
The Palma studios of surrealist artist Joan Miro constitute a permanent exhibit of the artist’s works and contain 100 paintings, sculpture and drawings.
Pollensa (old Town)
Pollensa is an old hill top town in North East Mallorca. It is largely unaffected by the commercial tourism which has invaded the rest of the Island. Placa Major is the town square and a hub of activity with a regular Sunday market and bars and cafes. The church of Pollensa called the Nostra Senyoura dels Angels is mobbed on its candle lit Sunday service. Near the square of the town is a cypress tree lined stone way leads to a chapel which has the statue of Mare de Deu del Peu de la Creu. Near Pollensa is an 18 century monastery which is a tranquil spot that affords gorgeous views of the wooded hillside.
Soller and Puerto Soller
Soller can be reached by train from Palma via an extremely scenic train journey through the lush hills and plains. The town is located between the mountains and the sea and is covered with almond and orange groves. It has cobbled stone squares which are populated by tapas restaurants and ice cream parlors. It also has the Church of St Bartomeu and two museums the Natural Science Museum and The Museu Municipal. It is also the site of an annual art festival held in the summer months and artists from all over the world participate in this festival.
Puerto Soller, accessible by tram from Soller is a quaint fishing village.
This picturesque town in the mountains was the locale for the affair of French novelist George Sands and composer Federic Chopin in 1838. They occupied a cell in the Cartoixa Reial Monastry and were shunned by the local populace during the winter they spent in Mallorca.
Superior golf Courses abound on Mallorca with the best course at Son Vida Club de Golf along the Andrade Highway which is a part of the luxurios Sol de Vida hotel. Some of the other courses are at Santa Ponsa, Andratx and Alaenda.
Palma boasts of world class night life options. It has many international acts come to perform at its various clubs. Paseo Maritimo and Casaco Antigua are the night life hubs of the city. Sa Llotja is yet another part of town with its narrow streets teeming with tapas bars, cocktail bars and a diverse selection of restaurants. People in this city tend to party until the wee hours of the morning.
Popular restaurants in Palma de Mallorca
Celler Sa Premsa
An old cavernous restaurant which features hearty local fare on its menu. It is decorated with wine barrels and posters of bull fighters and features table sharing and friendly wait staff. It is located on Placa del Bisbe Berenguer de Palou.
Located in a restored town house this café serves a menu of drinks and light fare. The Café is located on Calle San Miguel.
A cocktail lounge situated in the center of Palma near Pl Reina and Apuntadores. It is yet another bar in a restored town house with bow tied wait staff and classic music and a patio with huge flower arrangements. It is well worth a visit even though it is expensive.
A bar with a minimalist ethos amongst the several tourist infested hedonistic clubs on Magaluf and El Arenal. Other popular discos in Magaluf are Bananas Disco and the BCM Empire Disco which is comprised of three floors and is always pulsating with a party atmosphere.
The main sea front promenade of Palma has clubs like Abraxas and Titos. El Garito is another popular trendy club on Paseo Maritimo. Paseo Maritimo is also the docking point of luxurious multi million dollar yachts at the Club de Mar. The wealthy proprietors of the yachts then come ashore to Palma for the throbbing night life.
When in Palma one must try the local cuisine which has several influences.The Spanish Paella ( an aromatic rice dish garnished with sea food and meats), a sabrosada (a pork and red pepper sausage), a Spanish omelet made with potatoes and also rabbit meat are all among the culinary delights of the island.A variety of tapas (finger foods)many of them fish based are available at many bars that dot the Island.
A large variety of hotels and apartment suites are available on the Island. One must decide one’s budget and one’s vacation priority before booking online. The Passeo Maritimo in Palma has a variety of luxurious hotels like Hotel Victoria, Sol Palace as well as the four star Mirador and the three star Casa del Sol.
Apart from the usual tourist souvenirs and alcohol which is relatively cheap in Mallorca, Majorca is also the center of manufacturing a cultured brand of pearls called Majorca which are famous the world over and are available in many stores on the Island.