Mallorca Travel Guide
Hola intrepid explorers and welcome to our Mallorca travel guide the only place to find out everything you need to know before you travel.
But what comes to mind when you hear the name Mallorca?
If youre from the UK, theres a pretty good chance that we all picture it in a similar way. Magaluf and package holidays. And although Mallorca does cater for those just looking to kick back by the pool with a
glass jug of sangria, it barely scratches the surface of whats on offer.
But rest assured when it comes to Mallorca, we've been there, done that and we've bought that proverbial tee-shirt. Now we're back, we're ready to share everything we learnt from our travels, including the vital stuff about food, transport plus a whole more about things to do in Mallorca.
Heres what to expect from our Mallorca travel guide:
- Some facts about Mallorca
- A better start with Holiday Extras
- Travelling to Mallorca
- Travelling around Mallorca
- What's the food like in Mallorca?
- Things to do in Mallorca
Some facts about Mallorca
Mallorca is a part of Spain - more specifically, its the largest of the Balearic islands. Its location in the Mediterranean means that the sun shines all year round, and is hugely popular with tourists from all over the world - so famous, that the island is known as the star of the mediterranean. Mallorca has a population of nearly 900,000 people, but a staggering 28 million pass through the Palma de Mallorca airport every year.
Many come to Mallorca for the glow of its white sandy beaches, like those at Magaluf and Palmanova. But theres something here for everyone. A short hop from the idyllic coast, Mallorcas landscape is dominated by two mountain ranges: the Serra de Tramuntana in the west and the Serra de Llevant in the east. Both ranges are woven with roads to guide you through some of the most stunning drives in the world, but its not just cars that enjoy the sights. Mallorca attracts around 150,000 cycling tourists every year, and there are many dozens of hiking routes mapped across the island.
But if hiking and cycling isnt your pace, youll feel at home in the intimate and picturesque villages that are lightly scattered through the green mountain ranges. Isolated towns like Valldemossa and Sóller offer room to breathe from the busy beaches. You can enjoy delicious Mallorcan cuisine, sample historic culture and the arts, or just watch the sun pass the surrounding hilltops as you enjoy a glass of spanish wine.
Theres so much to see and do in Mallorca, and yet that image still exists - a cheap party holiday. In this guide well show you how just a couple of days venturing out of your resort can do so much to enrich your holiday, helping you to make memories that will last a lifetime.
So grab your passport and sunnies and come along with us on a Mallorcan adventure.
Mallorca at a glance
- Flight time from the UK - 2 hours
- Average temperature - 10C in January, 25C in August
- Mallorca or Mallorca? - Mallorca is the traditional, Spanish spelling, whereas Majorca is anglicised. Want to fit in like a local? Use Mallorca.
A better start with Holiday Extras
Any start to a trip with Holiday Extras is going to a good one, which was exactly the case when we went to Mallorca.
After excessive checking and cross-checking to make sure wed packed everything we needed, the crew travelled from Holiday Extras HQ to Stansted airport bright and early, fuelled by coffee and anticipation. Arriving in good time, we dropped off our checked luggage and made our way to the luxurious Escape Lounge, ready to consume as much brunch and hot beverages as our bodies could handle. You have to get your moneys worth, after all.
Sufficiently relaxed and ready for our flight, we boarded the plane and flew south-east towards Spain. Mallorca is a 2 hour, 1,000 mile flight from London and you'll land at the capitals airport, which is where our guide starts
Travelling to Mallorca
Mallorcas only commercial airport is Palma de Mallorca, conveniently located only 5 miles away from the islands capital. This means youre not short of options ways to getting to Palma and beyond. Here are some of your best options:
- The Palma Metro will take you directly from the airport and serves 9 different stops throughout the city. Just bear in mind that the metro only operates between 06:15 and 23:00. For more information, routes and maps take a look at their website.
- The bus departs from within the airport compound, where youll take Route 1 to Palma city. This is the cheapest option for getting to Palma, setting you back 1.85 per adult, but didnt appear to be the most comfortable method of transport, particularly when contending with luggage as well.
- A taxi will take you directly from the airport to your accommodation, with ranks outside of arrivals. Generally, taxi charges are charged per kilometre with a minimum charge. The prices also change depending on the time of day or whether it is a holiday.
- We decided to get an airport transfer, and if you too want to travel in style, its the only way to go (well, other than a limo, but sometimes less is more). A short walk from arrivals, we were greeted by our driver and what was effectively a private minibus for the 3 of us. This afforded us copious legroom, a welcome blast of air conditioning to quell the Mediterranean heat and a chance to get some travel tips from a friendly local. And with airport transfer prices starting from £9.88 through Holiday Extras, it was a no-brainer.
Travelling around Mallorca
Once wed arrived at our accommodation, dropped off our bags and chased an errant sparrow out of the kitchen (dont ask), we were ready to start exploring all that Mallorca had to offer. Although you can get around the island on public transport, we went for the freedom that only a hire car can afford. Specifically, we rented an electric car and after just a few hours of driving, it became clear to us that its the best way to experience Mallorca. Heres a few reasons why
Electric car hire in Mallorca
You couldnt miss our BMW i3 in the crowded pick-up car park; the designers definitely leaned into the futuristic appeal of electric vehicles, opting for blue mood lighting, smooth convex angles and a Space Shuttle white finish. It might not be to everyones taste, but for anyone who grew up dreaming of piloting rocket ships more than driving cars, theres a small sense of fantasy fulfillment to be had.
Now Ive adequately outed myself as a nerd, lets take a look at how it was to drive. None of the crew had ever driven an electric car before, and a few things were immediately obvious. Theres no gears and when you press the accelerator pedal, it goes like billy-o! If you too are a plug-in novice, we definitely recommend having a few laps around the car park or a quiet stretch of road to get a feel for the car first. But once you get the hang of your new wheels, it can be an absolute blast, the closest thing to driving a go kart on a main road. Another thing youll notice as soon as you set off is how quiet it drives, even at high speeds. This was one of the unexpected benefits we discovered on location, as it meant we could enjoy the picturesque views and serenity without the roar of the engine to take you out of the moment. Its the closest thing to cycling through the winding roads without all the huffing and puffing.
Another great incentive for renting an electric car in Mallorca is the extensive free parking options. To encourage more people to ditch their petrol powered car in favour for a greener option, the Mallorcan authorities allow permit parking in any bay marked by blue lines. This includes plenty of on-street spaces in Palma and beyond, helping you to avoid the hassle of having loose change and saving you money.
Its also worth remembering the environmental benefit of choosing an electric car over its traditional counterpart. In an effort to preserve the natural beauty of the island, the Mallorcan government is hoping to be all electric by 2050, and your choice of vehicle can help to achieve this goal.
To learn more about our experiences hiring an electric car in Mallorca, take a listen to the recent episode of our sustainable travel podcast - Green On The Go. We discuss everything you need to know before hitting the road on your next holiday.
Whats the food like in Mallorca?
If youre looking for a culinary adventure beyond the all-inclusive buffet, Mallorca has a wealth of options to enjoy. Heres some of our picks from our time there
If youre looking for an alternative to a fry up to start your day, hidden within the quaint side streets of Palma is a vegetarian bagel restaurant called Bagel!
In Bagel, the ingredients are locally sourced and the bagels are cooked on-site fresh every day. The location, smack bang in the middle of Palma Old Town, means its a great place to visit for a quick bite while youre exploring the city. We can't overstate how good the food was. It was absolutely delicious and going to places that are not only locally sourced, but also vegan and vegetarian is a good way to get out of your comfort zone.
If youre craving something sweet afterwards, make your way to a local bakery to try an ensaïmada, a Mallorcan pastry that dates back to the 17th Century. With a choice of chocolate and fruit fillings, youll no doubt try to replicate the recipe when you get back home - its that good.
Whatever your tastes might be, you wont find a better evening meal than amongst the rendy, cool little restaurants, cafés and stores of one of Palmas most stylish neighborhoods - Santa Catalina.
Santa Catalina is one of the citys most popular districts. A cultural revival of this already culturally rich area has brought in a crowd of gourmet foodies, global culture and exciting nightlife.
If youre a foodie, youll want for nothing in Santa Catalina. Its the perfect place to sample Spanish and Mallorcan cuisine, but its also the best place to grab food from all over the world - Indian, French, Italian, Thai, Mexican - you can find it all here in some of the highest rated restaurants in Palma.
But if youre not quite ready for a sit down meal, try the Mercat de Santa Catalina, Palmas oldest food market. Its a great mix of old and new - the grocers sell locally sourced produce like they have for generations, but the building is also outlined by cool market bars - and even a sushi restaurant!
As we all know, holiday calories dont count, meaning theres never a better time to indulge in some sweet treats.
Aside from ensaïmadas, no trip to Mallorca would be complete without one of their orange-based desserts. First brought to the island from the Middle East during the Middle Ages, oranges have become a staple of not only the Mallorcan palette, but also the landscape, with Sóllers 'Valle de los Naranjos' being a sight (and scent) to behold. You really cant go wrong when it comes to your choice of dessert, but an Orange Sóller takes some beating. A cocktail of fresh orange juice, vanilla ice cream and whipped cream, its reminiscent of a Walls Solero, but so much fresher and more vibrant.
Things to do in Mallorca
Refuelled and raring to go, it was time to explore some of the highlights that Mallorca had on offer away from the holiday resorts.
If you flew to Mallorca, Palma would be your first exposure to the island, and although many quickly zip through on route to the beach, the capital has plenty to offer in its own right.
Port de Palma
Alongside the aforementioned Santa Catalina district and old town, theres also the citys picturesque harbour area. The Port of Palma is the biggest port in the Balearic Islands. The port serves all kinds - commercial cargo, recreational sailing, fishing, and private boat hire included. The wealth of facilities and attractions here have lead it to become one of the most important cruise ports in the entire Mediterranean - you can expect to see many enormous, luxurious cruise ships docked here. You might even be flying to Palma to start your own cruise holiday.
If you decide to take a stroll along the promenade, keep an eye for cats on the beach. These furry felines are well looked after by volunteers and charity groups, who make sure theyre all well fed and have access to clean drinking water. For the best chance of seeing them, take a look at the area that surrounds the Anima Beach restaurant; we saw more than we could count (and I can count to at least 5).
Look to the west from Palma, and youll see ancient towers peeking out above the greenery that blankets the mountain side - Castel de Bellver, or Bellver Castle.
This royal fortress is so well maintained, its hard to believe that its been standing for almost 700 years. What makes Bellver Castle totally unique among spanish castles though, is that it is totally round. Three round towers are connected by arches to a circular outer wall, which can be reached by paying a small charge to enter the museum.
The view of Palma from the castle is renowned for being absolutely stunning - in fact, the name of the castle, Bellver, means lovely view in Catalan.
In June 2011, the Serra de Tramuntana, or Tramuntana mountain range, was awarded World Heritage Status by UNESCO, as an area of great physical and cultural significance. Nestled in these mountains and just a 15-20 minutes drive from Palma is a beautiful town of Valldemossa. Its a picturesque place, almost exuding a cinematic quality. When you arrive, youre surrounded by lush greenery, wildflowers and the fresh smell of citrus.
With a population of around 2,000 people, this place is a little sanctuary of blonde stone architecture in a sea of green. Small, locally-owned businesses serve amazing coffee and Mallorcan cuisine along the old cobbled streets.
Sitting atop a hill in the mountains, Valldemossa is the highest town in Mallorca. Its famously known as the place where Polish composer Frédéric Chopin and his lover, the French writer George Sand, spent a winter together in 1838. George Sand went on to write a book about their experience, A Winter in Majorca, which is for sale in many stores around Valldemossa.
The Carthusian monastery at which Chopin and Sand spent their winter is the main reason most tourists arrive in Valldemossa, and the art galleries, restaurants and museums are why they stay. You can also visit the birthplace of Catalina Thomas, and a shrine in her honour. But if youre more captivated by the landscape than the history, the Tramuntana mountains surrounding Valldemossa are covered with a network of well-signed hiking trails leading to surrounding villages.
Our tip? Pack plenty of water and sturdy walking shoes; some of the hike trails take up to five hours and encompass areas of loss rocks and steep inclines. Im not suggesting my decision to try the trek in Converse plimsolls almost caused me to drop expensive camera equipment, or at least thats the official line Im going with...
Each of Mallorcas small, scattered towns has an authenticity thats hard to find nearer the coast - and Sóller is no different. Inhabited by humans since Talayotic times over 7000 years ago, the high mountains surrounding the town meant that it was pretty isolated from the rest of Mallorca, and missed out on much of the Roman occupation of the island.
During the 19th century, Sóller grew rich as a major exporter of olives and citrus fruit. This money helped the town invest into fantastic modernist architecture and railway connections - something the town is just as famous for today as it is for delicious oranges.
That old railway journey connects Palma to Sóller - and its an incredibly popular route, you should expect queues. The railway and the tram are an iconic part of Sóller - the bold, orange wooden trams pass through the streets, and pedestrians stop to watch them go by.
We came to Soller in our hire car - the driving routes are beautiful, we didnt regret it - but we just couldnt miss out on that famous train either. We left the car parked safely in Sóller, and caught the wooden tram down to our next destination.
Port de Sóller
The 20-minute tram journey takes you down out of the valley that protects Sóller to the sea, and along the cost of a quiet seaside resort town called Port de Sóller.
Port de Sóller was originally a small fishing village designed to service the main town of Sóller, which was located further inland to protect it from pirates and other sea-faring invaders. The tramline that was made to connect the sister towns is still used today for transporting supplies back and forth - like olives, fish and, of course, oranges.
This town was described until recently as one of Mallorcas best kept secrets. Unlike infamous resort towns like Magaluf and Palmanova to the south, Port de Sóller came through the tourism overdevelopment stage in the 70s and 80s relatively unscathed. And its very lucky - the rapid expansion of these towns consumed some of Mallorcas most beautiful coastal areas.
Many of the hotels hastily built during this time have since been closed, or renovated into apartments or office blocks. The term Balearización was coined by newspapers at the end of the 50s to describe the damage that these coastal regions faced due to short-sighted and rushed urban planning, attempting to try and grasp at more income from the tourism boom.
But these resort towns arent pure evil in nature, not at all. 80% of the islands economy based on tourism, and some estimates suggest that Mallorcan people have the highest standard of living in Spain. However, its still a good move to think cleverly about where youre putting your Euros while youre here.
Visiting local businesses directly supports the Mallorcan people, rather than giving your money to a big brand thats probably not based on the island. Buying local produce supports the very same people, and means your food hasnt had to be shipped in, making it better for the environment. All these little things add up and can work with your luxury resort holiday too!
And if youre looking to spend an evening away from your relaxing resort, then the tranquil Port de Sóller may be just the place. Down by the sea away from the mountains that cradle the main town, Port de Sóller faces out from the West coast of the island, meaning there are beautiful sunsets to enjoy.
To wrap up...
Thats it for our time in Mallorca. We hope its helped demonstrate that just two days out of your resort can go a long way in enriching your holiday. We know time away, whether it be with friends, family or even by yourself is precious, and by taking the path less travelled youre bound to make memories that will last a lifetime.
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