Mallorca has been working hard to turn its back on the long-standing belief that it is simply a party-island. Instead of a hedonistic booze-fuelled haven for its Anglo-German neighbours, it aims to carve itself a new reputation as a cultural hideaway and a foodie escape. Blessed with nearly 300 sunny days a year, the island is temperate almost year-round, and thanks to its state-of-the-art airport, is accessible from all over the world.
Although Mallorca is the largest of the Balearic Islands, the island finds itself full during the summer months because its stretching sandy beaches and seaside resorts are well known on the tourist-trail. Post-exam revellers, biking enthusiasts and young families all take the short hop to Mallorca for a much-needed summer escape and guaranteed sunshine. Near to 30 million passengers passed through Palma airport during 2019, a third of which were tourist visitors.
Whilst the island can find itself full to capacity in peak season, if you can arrive in September when the tourist masses have vacated, and whilst the warm weather remains and the service trade is still in full swing, you’ll find Mallorca to be a somewhat relaxed, calmer destination – a diverse holiday sanctuary.
It is true that Mallorca has room to satiate almost any holiday desire; party goers, cycling aficionados, hikers, fly and floppers, birdwatchers, foodies, and even culture vultures. But if you don’t fall into a holidaying category and are looking to find a little of ‘something of everything’, hire a car and take a pick-a-mix holiday. You will be spoilt for choice for destinations and accommodations, from peaceful mountains fincas, low rise seaside hotels, or city break apartments.
For something authentic and unique with Mallorcan character, choose the ancient town of Pollença as your base.
Pollença is situated 70 kilometers north east of Palma. The best way to get there from the airport is by car.
You’ll arrive having driven through the Serra de Tramuntana, the backbone of the northwest of the island, a cascade of magnificent mountains which protect the north of the island from cold winds.
On arrival you will be settled in a perfect location just moments in a car from an eclectic choice of coastal offerings – rugged cliff edges, long stretches of sand, small turquoise blue water beach coves or pine tree lined promenades.
On foot you have access to spectacular city walks, incredible views over the town and beyond to the ocean, and of course to local markets, restaurants and shops in abundance. Make sure you take the obligatory walk up and down the 365 steps from the main square to the elevated church at Esglesia del Calvari. It’s a great stretch after lunch, and people watching paradise, which leads you past the town hall and many homes and gardens along the way.
Pollença is an ancient medieval town, a maze of narrow cobbled streets which all somehow lead to its impressive main square which is lined with cafés and bars.
Many native Mallorcans choose to live in Pollença, which gives it an authentic feel and makes it the perfect destination to get an understanding of real-life on the island, perhaps a like a mini Palma.
The town itself and the regions close by house local artisans who try to keep the traditions of Mallorca alive, and many of whom allow visitors to observe the making of their crafts.
Visit Teixtis Vicens if you are a textiles fan, a family run factory founded in 1854. They showcase the typical roba de llengues fabric and produce many of the infamous and colorfully crafted textiles (towels, tablecloths, furniture fabric) you’ll see across the island. A smaller outfit is Casa Maria embroidery, which is tucked away in a corner of Puerto de Pollença who will supply you with bespoke, lovingly stitched Christening and Confirmation garments.
If you are a fan of pottery (or not), don’t miss a visit to see Bernard at Abco Ceramics. Bernard will walk you through a demonstration, and wow you with throwing skills and dedication to his own brand of island pottery brilliance. The designs feature colourful sea-scenes which are lovingly painted by hand, each piece being unique.
Day boat trip
After the artisanal perambulation, reward yourself on a trip round the northern peninsular on a day boat with www.thalassaphilosophy.com, a boating company owned by two friends who are in love with the Mediterranean waters that hug the northern Mallorcan coast. From Porto de Pollença, Thalassaphilosophy will take you to tranquil coves that are serene and empty, and blessed with crystal clear waters for swimming. If you are not on board for sunset, head to Formentor.
A trip to its cliff top lighthouse isn’t for the fainthearted, but if you reach the top, the pink and purple sunsets will take your breath away, and you’ll want to return to see them (and also the cats that frequent to cozy into the sun warmed stone walls).
It wouldn’t do Pollença justice to pass by without a nod to their mouth-watering cuisine, everything being fresh and local. Rental villas can organise a private chef to come to you and cook a gastronomic feast, if that takes your fancy. If you are lucky, Lluis (who used to head up the acclaimed Clivia in Pollença), will come to spoil you with Pica Pica (squid in spicy tomato sauce), teach you how to make Arros Brut (dirty rice) and Ensaïmada de Crema (a lard based pastry and sweet cream dessert).
If something less decadent takes your fancy, don’t miss the famous Sunday market which takes place between the winding streets and in the main square at Pollença.
Take a local’s morning coffee and do what they do, watch the vibrant scene spring to life in front of your eyes. In full flow, the market brims with colourful fare, cheese, vegetables, locally made linens, wine, flowers, and many leather trinkets you’ll fall in love with, but won’t need.
The Frito Mallorquin
When you’ve had enough shopping, indulge in something the locals are born knowing about; Frito Mallorquin. It’s the one dish that you just can’t leave without trying. According to legend, Frito Mallorquin originates from the 14th century during the Arab domination of Mallorca. It is a filling dish which uses cheap ingredients said to have been eaten by peasants. Today it is eaten by those in the know, as a treat.
Frito Mallorquin is a greasy comforting dish, which can be eaten at any time of the day, although it’s a hangover saviour and always a triumph. Potatoes, red pepper, artichokes, peas, fennel tops, olive oil, chili, garlic, black pudding, and offal – liver and often kidneys too.
If you are not a fan of liver, you may prefer Frito de Matanzas which uses pieces of pork loin instead of offal, or Frito Marinero which uses seafood. The best version of frito is debatable, but what is not, is the superb Matanzas served near the new square in Pollença at Cafeteria l’aturada. They don’t have a website or a social media handle, so already you know it’s a place you should be.
In fact, Pollença is the place to be, and now it’s raining in western Europe it’s the perfect time to plan a visit to this Mediterranean gem.
When to travel
June & September see pleasant average temperatures between 18 – 28 degrees Celsius, making these late spring and early autumn months the best time to travel.
What to wear
Mallorca is situated in the heart of the Mediterranean. Dressing well isn’t a must, but most of the locals do, perhaps with more of a relaxed feel than Italian or French style.
In the summer months it is very warm, so cotton and linen work best to keep cool.
In the spring and autumn, you’ll need long trousers and a jumper or jacket for the evenings. If you visit during the winter months, carry a brolly for the 50 or so days the island welcomes some rainfall.
Where to stay
Mon Boutique Hotel – Great view over the square, comfy beds and the best breakfast (inc. homemade lemon jam) on the island. Rooms from €100 per night
Where to eat
Cala Barques, Cala San Vincente
Super fresh seafood. Calamari & Paella both brilliant here, but anything fish will be wonderful. Outstanding vista over a tiny rocky cove. Great wine list. Something about the service made me feel a little like being at school, but don’t let this put you off, it’s one of the best spots on the Island.
Make sure you call ahead to book. Telephone: +34 971 53 43 36
How to travel
Fly from all international airports. Prices from London start from £99 return. Check google flights for best deals.