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…
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!