Travel Guide "Mallorca"
Just about 2 flight hours from middle Europe, Mallorca, the well-known island paradise awaits its guests with 300 sunny days per year.
But please, don´t think that Mallorca´s popularity is to the disadvantage of its stunning diversity and breath-taking beauty. No, unique oases of relaxation and attractions for mass tourism co-exist at close range – close enough to conveniently reach which ever, but at the same time far enough apart to think you are on two different islands, when alternating between the options. Independent travelers or families with children, the island beckons all holiday makers with its incredible possibilities, all predetermined to surpass their expectations.
Mallorca is an island of contrasts. The international flair in Palma city fascinates, the idyllic countryside in the island´s centre enchants – and the choice of sunny, sandy beaches is amazing.
With 3640 m², Mallorca is the largest Balearic island (originally Mayor = bigger; compared to Menor = smaller) and measures about 110km in length and 70km in width.
The number of inhabitants surpassed one million in 2006, with 400.000 people living in Palma. About 100.000 foreigners live on Mallorca with a residence permit, most of them probably Germans.
Mallorca might be an Eldorado for beach lovers and outdoor fans, but there is much more. Mallorca is also steeped in history and culture. Once you grasp their former importance, it is most fascinating to visit its historic buildings and icons as the Palma cathedral, the Palacio Real or some of the churches, monasteries and fortress towers.
First settlers – probably from Spain or France - are estimated to have arrived on Mallorca about 4.000 and 3.000 BC. They lived in caves, sustained on agriculture and livestock breeding for centuries and built the famous Megalith-tombstones from huge rocks.
About 1.300 BC Arabs conquered the island of Mallorca. In three subsequent Punic wars between 264 and 146 BC the Balearic people fought side by side with the Carthaginians against Rome. It is said that the name Baleares evolved then due to their fighting skills with catapults (the Greek word for throwing is “ballein”).
About 123 BC the Romans finally conquered Mallorca and founded Palma city. Their main trading goods included olive oil, wine and wheat. Due to massive building development, there are little reminders of Roman civilization in Palma, but some excavated ruins in Alcúdia and Pollença are worthwhile a visit.
Following bloody invasions first by the Vandals in the course of the Germanic migration period, then by the Byzantine general Belisario in 534, the first Muslim ships reached Mallorca’s coast in 707. With France as an allied force, Mallorca was first able to fend off the new intruders, but in the end had to surrender to the Islamic dominance in 902.
Only in September 1229, Jaume I. of Aragon succeeded to free Mallorca from the Muslims and for the Christians, laying the foundation for the Royal kingdom of Mallorca. A cultural highlight during Mallorca´s colorful history is the building of the cathedral, which Jaume I. dedicated to Blessed Virgin Mary
In 1276 the Royal Kingdom of Mallorca and the Crown of Aragon combined to form an independent state with the Catalan regions of Southern France. In 1521/22 the population revolted against the tax system of Karl V.
In 1715 King Philipp V. prohibited the use of the Catalan language. Only in 1977 democracy was re-installed and only since 1983 the Balearic Islands are self-governed. Today the official languages are Spanish and Mallorquin – a Catalan dialect. The Balearic Islands have a regional government and local island councils on every island.
Mallorca’s climate is balanced and moderate. This is mainly due to the Mediterranean Sea, which acts as a thermal storage system. Temperatures seldom drop below freezing point and the summer heat is usually cooled down by fresh sea breezes. Statistics show that the sun usually shines about 300 days a year. In summer there is literally no rain falls at all.
If you appreciate lonely beaches and a blooming nature, you must visit Mallorca in March and April. The water temperatures however will only rise by mid of May. For many guests, June and September are also favorite travelling months, as they can indulge in all their past time favorites plus fully enjoy the beaches and water sports. July and August is peak season and international guests and locals alike flock to the beaches.
In October tourism generally slows down and although temperatures are most pleasant and the ocean´s water most likely warmer than 25°Celsius even throughout November, the statistic claims that it rains more often in October than in any other month of the year. Anyway, autumn and spring are the best times to indulge in hiking and cycling. For independent travelers and golfers even December might be the right time to visit with still many beautiful sunny days and without the pre-Christmas frenzy.
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Mallorca is blessed with plenty of interesting places and must-see icons, so you can relax and choose to explore only those that interest you most. Our favorites include:
1. Seaport Palma and La Seu Cathedral
The city´s diversity and beauty fascinates all visitors. Here, everything co-exists peacefully on most confined space: tranquil courtyards of glamorous, aristocratic palaces and traffic-congested street cafés, incense scented, gloomy church interiors and the bustling, colorful market halls, the sun-lit, hectic shopping miles and the shady, quiet arcades.
Travelers should explore the stunning historic district by foot – and by no means omit a visit of Palma´s most famous icon, the magnificent cathedral La Seu, completed in 1604. It is allegedly one of the 4 most beautiful churches world-wide – and especially in the morning, when the sun triggers a most amazing light spectacle shining through the rose window of the main absidal consisting of 1236 glass pieces.
2. Sóller Valley
The lovely town is surrounded by most picturesque mountain tops and romantic orange orchards. We recommend to visit the town by taking a scenic ride on the famous Ferrocarril, the nostalgic small train dating back to 1912. Five times a day this adorable train leaves from Placa Espanya in Palma and puffs its way through almond orchards, olive fields, orange and lemon gardens up and down the mountain ranges to the beautiful Jugendstil-station in Sóller. The ride lasts about 1 hour and the train travels through 13 tunnels, the longest being 2.857 meters. A second historic train connects Sóller with Port de Sóller, the seaside resort 2 km further ahead.
3. Cala Figuera
The small holiday and seaside resort Cala Figuera probably hosts Mallorca´s most romantic harbor. Every morning local fishermen unload their freshly fished sea products. Cala Figuera has no own beach, but you can get a boat ride to sandy beaches nearby.
In the evening the “Moon-Bar” and other music places at Carrer Pintor Bemareggi invite to celebrate another perfect day.
4. Dripstone Caves of Portocristo
The Coves del Drac and the Coves del Hams are Mallorca´s largest dripstone caves and popular attractions. The impressive Dragon Cave offers no guided tours, but instead a tawdry beautiful spectacle on the world´s largest underground lake: A boat with a mini-orchestra glides across the dark water is all of sudden surrounded by light and beams. Thereafter the visitors are invited to a boat ride. The smaller caves of Hams also offer a similar show at their underground lake and a virtual Jules-Verne Show.
The picture-perfect mountain village Banyalbufar is located a mere 25 km north-west of Palma along the most scenic coastal road C-710. Its houses cling dramatically to the steep coast line with small beach, dropping into the sea. The romantic terraces, built in Moorish times can best be explored by foot – up and down the many steps, and this is also how to find the idyllic small cafés with breath-taking views. Restaurant Son Tomas offers delicious local dishes – and well-worth a stop for lunch.
No other island village is decorated with more heart than the centre of Valldemossa. Tiles on every house show pictures with scenes of Santa Catalina´s life (1531-74), who was canonized in 1930 and - being the only Holy Majorcan there ever was – is adored by all compatriots.
World famous is the charterhouse of the historic monastery of Valldemossa, since the composer Frederic Chopin stayed here in winter 1838 together with his lover, the writer George Sand. Chopin allegedly came to the island to cure a lung disease, but today it is assumed that the two used the time as a romantic stay – an outrageous scandal for society then. George Sand wrote her much-noticed “Winter on Mallorca” here (a book reveling about the beautiful nature on the island, but picking the Majorcans almost to pieces), while Chopin composed his famous “Raindrop-Prelude”.
7. Peninsula Formentor
The long stretched, pristine, rugged peninsula is a must-see, but careful: the 18 km long winding scenic dream road might be well patronized. It might then be a good idea to stop at the Mirador of the mountain pass with breath-taking views of the photogenic rocky islet and the majestic mountain scenery dropping dramatically into the deep blue ocean.
At the end of the 30 min hiking trail panoramic views across half of the island and unsurpassed sun sets reward the visitor.
8. Sa Calobra
There are two ways of reaching the enormous, rock-lined river mouth of the Torrent de Pareis, the second largest Canyon in Europe – and both are spectacular: the 14km serpentine road, winding down a difference of 800m in altitude – or a boat trip from Sóller lasting one hour while passing most stunning mountain sceneries.
The breath-taking estuary mouth of Sa Calobra can then only be accessed by walking through 2 pedestrian tunnels (about 200 m long), which might get uncomfortably sticky, when full coaches arrive. Early in the morning and past 17h00 (in summer) are the best times to enjoy this unique miracle of nature.
9. Puig de Randa
Puig de Randa is the name of the holy mountain with 3 monasteries right in the middle of Mallorca. Above the village Randa a mountain road leads to Nostra Senyora de Gràcia. It was built in the 15th century – and provides stunning views across the plains of Llucmajor to the archipelago of Cabrera. About 1 km further up the mountain nestles Santuari de Sant Honorat, which dates back to the 14th century and which is still inhabited by monks.
On top of the mountain finally lies enthroned the historically most important monastery, the Santuari de Nostra Senyora de Cura. Ramón Llull withdrew to this place in 1263, after having given up his hedonistic life at the Royal Court of Mallorca. He wrote about 250 works, most of them in Catalan – and by doing so making Catalan a literature language. He carried out research, teachings and missionary work all over the world.
10. Port de Portals
Port de Portals is Mallorca´s answer to Marbella – and accordingly this sophisticated yacht harbour attracts all those society people, who want to see and be seen, including the royal family. The mooring places are the most expensive on the island – and the harbour promenade is lined with designer boutiques and gourmet restaurants. The international flair is delightful, but you will certainly also find down-to-earth places in between, where the Mediterranean ambience and an attentive service are offered at moderate prices.
To be bored on Mallorca is virtually impossible, no matter if you are old or young, if you are keen on sports or not, if you travel with or without children, in summer or winter. Active holiday makers and sun worshippers are in best hands on Mallorca, but also shopping fans, night owls, nature lovers, gourmet experts or culturally interested guests can indulge extensively in their favorite pastime activities.
Along the coast line of about 550 km, about 150 beaches invite for enjoying the sun and sea. Endless stretches of sandy beaches, scenic pebble beaches, cozy coves and hidden bays – the choice is yours. Beaches for small children, for divers, surfer, water sport fans, romantics or the party people, there is beaches for everybody.
Annually awarded with the blue EU-flag and usually cleaned daily, the most popular beaches and bays include: Es Trenc Es Trenc, Can Picafort, Bahia de Alcúdia, Cala Mesquida, Playa de Palma, Cala Mondrago, Portals Vells, Paguera, Sant Elm, Cala Millor oder Port de Sollér.
Of course an island traditionally offers plenty of water sports options, and so does Mallorca. Equipment for wind or kite surfing, water or jet skiing, and diving is available at many beaches and you can rent out pedal boats, kayaks or book charter yachts or sail boats with or without a crew. Party boats, glass bottom boats and even a real submarine offshore Magaluf complete the picture.
With Aquacity in El Arenal, Mallorca has one of the largest water fun parks in Europe – and Aqua Park in Magaluf or Hidro-Park in Alcudio guarantee equal excitement, as they are also all about water slides, bathing fun and culinary delights in between.
The Marineland in Calviá however is a dolphin and sea lion show enchanting adults and children alike. Also interesting is the parrot show, the shark basin and the mini-zoo including penguins, flamingos, monkeys and many other animals.
Golfing, cycling and hiking are among the most popular outdoor activities on the island, as well as walks along the scenic coastline or rejuvenating wellness and spa-treatments, but there is basically no limit for body exercise to adrenalin sports.
All beach fun sports as beach volleyball, badminton and Frisbee can be enjoyed, as well as tennis, horseback riding, climbing, mountain or quad biking or more unusual sports as paragliding, abseiling, flying in microlight aircrafts or piloting a formula car on a race track.
Golf on Mallorca is always in season – and there is the right golf course for every handicap, usually amidst most serene landscapes surrounded by outstanding natural beauty. From easy to most challenging, from publicly open to protect elite courses for the privileged, from moderate to expensive – the choice is yours.
Due to its geographic location in the Mediterranean Sea and being surrounded by other cultures and trading posts Mallorca´s history is very eventful – and at the same time it always attracted artists from overseas, seeking tranquility and remoteness for creating a master piece.
In Palma there is countless cultural centers, museums and art galleries, but culturally interested guests revel about the many traditional villages and towns with their historic churches and monasteries, the well-preserved fortresses and palaces – or fabulous country estates, which have been transformed into museums of popular art and exhibitions.
Another dominating part of Majorcan culture is of course its folklore activities, to be experienced during many secular and clerical celebrations. Traditional dances, music and costumes pass on from generation to generation in every region– and form an important part of every fiesta.
When it comes to shopping, there is no better place to shop until you drop as Palma city. The main shopping miles are located in the picturesque old town near the cathedral. The Passeig de Born mostly hosts designer shops and boutiques – and in the teeing Ave Jaume III fashionable clothing, shoes and accessories in all price ranges await the visitors. Placa Mayor nearby is another hub for shopping fans. Like the beams of a star 4 well frequented shopping streets spread out from here leaving nothing to be desired.
But be careful: The majority of shops close down during siesta time between 13h00 and 17h00. On Sundays you will only find a few open supermarkets and beach shops.
The colorful market days throughout the island and the manufactures of Majorcan products are also well worth a shopping visit. The choice of products ranges from leather goods from Inca, to pearls from Manacor and many hand-crafted island-typical souvenirs consisting of glass, ceramics or olive wood. Many manufacturers allow visitors to watch the production process.
When it comes to culinary delights, Mallorca is also an island with many faces. Over 2000 restaurants and inns cater for locals and visitors alike.
The local cuisine is characterized by moderate prices, as the „Cuina Mallorquina“ has its roots in the simple eating traditions of its farmers and fishermen and is based on seasonal availability of home-grown products. It is easy to find excellent traditional restaurants serving grilled fish and meat, suckling pigs, rabbits, patatas fritas (chips), Paella or Arrozes (rice dishes). Choosing to visit some of the many tapa-bars on the island is another good option to get to know local specialties in small bites (=Tapas).
Those searching for international gourmet cuisine will also not be disappointed. There is more and more restaurants scintillating in cooking delicacies from all parts of the world – and besides the four star-awarded gourmet restaurants on the island, excellent eating places can be found in every region of the island.
Beach Clubs & Nightlife
Mallorca also has a wide range of options for party people and night owls. Hot nightclubs in Palma, party arenas in El Arenal and countless clubs, discos and bars in many other holiday towns allow for celebrating life until the sun rises.
Virtual Club or La Terrazas Beach Club in Calviá or the Puro Beach Club (Cala Estancia, Palma) are the most important club addresses for the glamorous in-crowd and all, who want to see and be seen. The stylish chill-places combine a pool area, restaurant, bar and beaches – all in one. Tip 1: The secret dress-code is white. Tip 2: Pack your groovy evening dress, then stay until the sun sets and the party people arrives.
If you want to bring your dog or cat to Mallorca, all you need is a health certificate (max 10 days old), and a rabies vaccination proof (not older than 12 months, not more recent than 1 month). But be aware: Dogs are not well received on most beaches, at most restaurants and most guest houses. Taxi drivers might even refuse their services.
In winter, temperatures can drop to 0°Celsius, so don´t forget warm pullovers.In summer you will seldomly need more than a shirt/T-shirt and short pants, but you should dress properly, when going down-town. The locals are easily upset about scantily dressed tourists in the streets – and it is also not appropriate to visit restaurants and bars half-naked.
Quantitative restrictions for importing or exporting tobacco or alcohol have been abolished within EU countries! But be careful. If you exceed the following quantities, you will have to convince custom officers that your goods are still for private use only! Quantities should not exceed: 800 cigarettes, 200 cigars, 400 cigarillos, 1 kg tobacco, 10 l spirits, 20 l other liquors up to 22%, as well as 90 l wine (with max 60 l of sparkling wine) and 110 l of beer.
For Swiss visitors and their duty-free shopping the following amounts still apply: 200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250gr tobacco, as well as 1 l spirits or 2 l liquor and 2 l of wine, 50 g perfume or 0,25 l Eau de Toilette.
You should always prefer bottled water to tap water. The tap water might be harmless by and large, but it tastes salty and has usually been treated with many chemicals. You can use it for brushing your teeth, but if you are thirsty, we recommend bottled water, even if the 2l and 5l water bottles account massively for increasing Mallorca´s garbage piles.
To enter Mallorca, Europeans only need a valid passport or ID-book. Children under 16 must carry along their own child identity card or be registered in the passport of one parent.
Although you might have heart loud criticism concerning the slow reactions of ambulatory emergency services, the medical facilities on Mallorca are excellent. There are many emigrated German doctors, even German hospitals, as well as a wide range of international medical specialists, mid-wives, alternative practitioners, physio-therapists, ambulatory care organizations and retirement homes.
Lunch time for locals is usually around 14h00 and dinner not before 21h00. It is considered to be not polite to join other guests at a table, even if only one person occupies a large table. When entering a restaurant, wait for the waiter/waitress, allocating table for you. To choose a table yourself is also impolite.
You should also refrain from ordering drinks at the bar, when occupying a table. This is the waiter´s job, beside that prices may vary between bar and seating area. It is common to receive only one bill for one table, so if your group want to split the bill it is up to you to pool the money when paying – or sort out the amounts later.
In bars and restaurants it is common to leave a tip of 5-10% of the invoiced amount. “Keep the rest” is not the appropriate way to tip. Just wait until the waiter returns with the correct change, then leave the tip behind on the table. 2,50 Euro are well received by maids and about 1 Euro make a taxi driver happy.
On weekdays shops are generally open from 09h00 – 13h00 and from 16h00/17h00 – 20h00. On Saturdays they do not reopen after siesta time. Supermarkets are the exception to the rule. They remain open during all lunch times, on Saturdays and in season some even open up on Sundays.