10 Things To Do in Mallorca; Caves, Castles, Cathedrals & more!

A great getaway location is Palma de Mallorca (Majorca). This tourist destination is the capital (and largest) city of the Balearic Islands in Spain. It can be intimidating deciding where to go and what to do on the island, so here are my recommendations to ensure an adventure filled trip! There I discovered that most of this dazzling island is covered by a mountain range – a pleasant surprise when we landed. This leads me to my first recommendation when visiting this popular island…
Road Trip Views
1) Rent a car. Start with something relatively narrow, and not a large SUV, or a Fiat (we’ve had issues with those on tight narrow bumpy drives), but definitely leave the comfort of your hotel and drive through the mountains. Literally. There are tunnels carved out through the mountains to get you to the other side faster than zig-zagging up and around. The freedom of driving allows you to make your own schedule, stay where you like and stop when you want for photos of this stunning landscape. Warning, do not follow Google maps blindly, as multiple times we ended up in some sticky situations going uphill in places that were likely meant just for hiking. We may have gotten stuck in a pothole or two – don’t tell the car rental company!
Fornalutx
2) Break in Smaller towns. Okay, you got the car, snacks and a full tank of gas, now what? My first stop would be Fornalutx, nestled in the Tramuntana mountain range. Voted one of the most beautiful places in Europe, I can see why! Stop here for lunch with a view, stroll through the town, and get lost among the cobblestone streets and orange trees. I enjoyed the free range to explore wherever we liked, including an old unique cemetery that was hidden away. We spent a few hours here just basking in the sun and admiring the authenticity of this charming quiet place, with only 1 bus stop – can you imagine! Some other great towns to stop along your road trip include Valldemossa, Soller, Pollenca, and Alaro.
Bellver Castle at Sunset
3) Hike up to Bellver Castle. Built back in 1300, this circular castle was once a residence to kings and queens, then converted into a military prison, and is now the post for the city’s history museum. I really enjoyed our time spent here, especially with the lack of tourists during the down season. A unique aspect of this stop is that you can hike around it for free on their many trails; an activity we did on Christmas Day. So camp out and enjoy the sunset over the Mediterranean sea.
Palace of La Almudaina
4) Feel like a royal at Palace of La Almudaina. By now you probably get that we have seen a lot of palaces. They are fun to visit for the architecture, history and décor inspirations (crown molding and gold everywhere, am I right!?). Royal Palace of La Almudaina dates back to Roman times and hosts one of the most beautiful chapels in the city! For any EU residents reading this, they also have free admission on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, so now you have no excuse not to visit. However, it was a bit on the small side and is not as glamorous as Versailles, so don’t walk in with high expectations.
Castell d’Alrao
5) Castle ruins in the hills. Sick of castles yet? Hope not because this top 10 contender is worth the drive out of the city. Perched on top of a large rocky mountain, overlooking the town of Alaro, above the clouds are the ruins of Castell d’Alrao. We followed Google’s suggestion to drive up and it was terrifying! The roads are tiny, windy and bumpier then the 29 Dufferin Street bus in Toronto if you can believe that. The narrow roads make it nearly impossible when passing other cars, especially the people that bring their large SUVs, so good luck with that. I pretty much held my breath the entire drive to the restaurant near the free parking lot. We walked from the lot to the castle, which takes about 1.5 hours if you are not an avid hiker. Tip: Pack water and snacks. There is another parking spot much further up the hike, but I have noooo idea who would want to drive there, as at this point the road is pretty much non-existent and truly a one lane road, so if there is oncoming traffic one car would have to back up on the mountain, not my view of a good time. Ascending to the top is rewarded by one of the best views in Palma and an opportunity to check out the castle ruins and monastery at the top.
Palma Marina
6) Walk along the waterfront in Palma. Strolling along the marina is the perfect way to check out the puddle jumpers to the personal yachts rivaling Carnival Cruise Line. Stop for a drink, watch the sunset or lick some ice cream. This is one of the most inexpensive things you can do, AND a great way to view the city. A fun game on your walk: look at the names of the boats along the way, pick your favourite and try to guess how the owners can afford them! Yup, we are nerds.
Cathedral de Mallorca
7) Cathedral de Mallorca is the architectural jewel of the island. It does cost money to go inside, however, if you are there over Christmas Eve you can enter for free for the midnight mass (which actually starts at 11, not 12, and I recommend starting to line up early, at least by 10:30 pm). This is the best way to see the Cathedral in all its glory, lit up and decorated for the festive season, filled with the delightful smell of incense and singing churchgoers. There is a large selection of cathedrals to visit, however, during our trip; most were closed during the day. Oh, Island time.
Port de Pollenca
8) Stop for a swim at Port de Pollenca. This beach is great to explore with its soft sand and near perfect washed up shells. Though it was not warm enough to swim in December, the empty beach was the perfect setting for a nice long walk and some photos for the Gram. End the stroll by watching the sunset while eating cheese and crackers, and let’s not forget some Spanish wine. Or you can grab tapas at one of the many local restaurants – though not all will be open this time of year. See my previous blog post about this HERE. Plus, if you are like us, we prefer not to have tapas and like full entree meals.
Palma de Mallorca
9) Old town timing. Palma’s old town looks like a movie set. Not only is it filled with all the best places to eat, shop, and see, but it really gives the feeling that you are traveling through time. The roads are tiny and untouched, as they would have been originally. Most of the must-see tourist museums are located within this downtown core, including the cathedral and palace. It houses scenic squares, century-old streets, gothic details and Instagram worthy hot spots like Passeig del Born. Be sure to nibble on some tapas (often overpriced), street meat (literally a paper cone filled with jamón serrano [ham]) and their famous Paella rice dish (great for vegetarians).
Coves de Campanet
10)  Explore the caves. The Coves de Campanet are located on Mount Sant Miquel, in Northern Mallorca. Visits include an hour guided tour through multiple spacious chambers. It was a really unique experience, which we were lucky enough to enjoy without a crowd. Normally in the summer, the groups can span from 75 to 100 people, which can get quite crowded through certain passages. Since we were alone with one other couple, we were allowed to venture off and explore on our own, and allowed to take as many photos as we’d like! It can be a bit slippery, wet and hot inside, so dress appropriately.

There are more museums and churches in Palma then you could count on one hand, or even two. As long as you are not traveling over the Christmas holidays you will have an incredible list of opportunities to explore. You can vacation here on any budget, but I recommend coming when more attractions are open.

Have you been to Spain? Did you visit Palma de Mallorca? Let me know in the comments below, Id love to hear from you!

Cheers,
Melissa

South Africa Part 2

South Africa
If you haven’t read part 1, I suggest doing so first! South Africa is way too amazing to cover in just one post so I have split my top 10 favourite stops into two posts. So let us dig right in with what to know for your Safari game drive!
Elephants in South Africa
6) Park It: We did two game drives through Addo Elephant National Park. This park is the 3rd largest in all of South Africa and was created in 1931 to provide sanctuary for the remaining elephants in the area.  The cool thing is that all the animals and vegetation in the park are originally from that area. The park rangers prevent the influx of animals (such as giraffe and cheetahs) and any vegetation that does not actually originate from that area. They have over 700 elephants, along with buffalos, rhinos, zebras, antelope, hyenas, monkeys, ostrich, lions (rare to see as they only have 14 in the entire park) and the largest population of the flightless dung beetle! Our first drive was insanely early in the morning (up for 3:30 am), and it was chilly! Be prepared with layers, it is cold. We thought ahead and brought fleece, gloves and hats. We were there in September, which is their spring, so most days have a bit of a crisp breeze, with a nice warm afternoon in the sun. I found that the animals were more active on our second drive in the afternoon, as the watering hole was the meetup spot for almost 50 elephants!
J Bay
7) Surfer Dude: If you are a surfer, or think now is the time to learn, ride the waves in Jeffrey’s Bay! Jeffrey’s Bay is in the top 5 most famous surfing destinations in the world and hosts the annual World Surf League. This town was pretty quiet during our visit, as summer has not started yet, but I can see the potential during the peak surfing season for sure. It did have some cute souvenir shops, an awesome beach with a quickly rising tide, and beautiful accommodations at Mandyville Hotel, who were super accommodating to us with gluten allergies (which is quite rare).
Cape Town
8) Cape Town: A must see on this side of the Western Cape is Table Mountain. You can get to the top via a cable car (book your tickets ahead online and be prepared for a long line up), or by a 2-hour hike. We opted for the cable car as we had limited time to explore and wanted to spend most of our time viewing from the top, turns out, either option takes the same amount of time during peak times. Once there, you will have incredible views of Cape Town and it’s Harbour on one side, and the never-ending ocean on the other. The landscape is rocky with some bushes and adorable Dassie’s running around (A gopher like animal, actually related to the elephant family surprisingly). We were lucky enough to experience this at sunset and had a view that would give Santorini a run for its money. However, if you stay that late you will have to wait for HOURS to take the cable car down, and be prepared for lots (and lots) of butting on epic proportions. In Cape Town, I would also suggest my usual, a free walking tour. That way you can explore the city on foot safely with a guide, and learn about the history and politics of the country. We did feel rather unsafe in Cape Town, we were harassed for about 6 blocks by an aggressive homeless man and nobody stopped to help us out. We ended up going into a store and waited for the person to leave. It really ruined the vibe of the city for us.
South Africa
9) Townships: I don’t recommend heading to a Township on your own. These government made neighbourhoods have high poverty and practically no employment. They are so bad that even our Uber driver would not venture to one. If you do, go with a guide in at least a small group and ONLY during daylight hours. I’m not even exaggerating this. We made a quick stop at Kayamandi Township and met with a wonderful local who made homemade Xhosa treats such as amagwinya (deep-fried dough bread, not so great for your stomach If you are GF) and chakalaka (a vegetable spicy relish, great for vegetarians). She also explained the traditional wardrobe that women would wear to a wedding (how fitting since we were on our honeymoon) and filled our stomachs and hearts. Within the first 30 seconds of exiting her house, we had someone threaten us for our cameras, so we quickly got into the van and left.
Baboons
10) Baboons: If you are driving along Cape Point, you are bound to see these creatures at some point (usually near mountains) We stopped to take photos of the baboons on the side of the road. However, I warn you not to get too close. As adorable as these old world monkeys are, they are not pets. They can be very aggressive (especially if you have food) and are incredibly smart (they can zip open your purse, inspect your lipstick and open car doors). So make sure to leave space between you and them if you decide to get out of your car! Also, watch out for traffic, but that’s a given.
Elephant Hugs
The great thing about driving in South Africa is that every 100 Km, the scenery drastically changes. The ecosystem is so diverse that one moment you are gazing up at snow-topped mountains, and the next fields of the canola flower. Instead of cows you will see Springbok (an antelope, apparently they taste delicious), and will constantly want to stop for photos, guaranteed! I had no idea that South Africa would be so rich in landscape, really I envisioned walking into The Lion King, but it is so much more than that. It is a beautiful country with an immensely long list of things to do and see, filled with welcoming people, magnificent wildlife and delectable food. If you have the opportunity, book your tickets and go see for yourself!
KVDV PHOTOGRAPHY

Photos courtesy of KVDV Photography!

Check out my YouTube video on the Top 15 Things To Do in South Africa HERE.

Cheers,
Melissa

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