The Balearic holiday favourite has suffered since the early eighties from its sun, sand and cheap booze reputation. Although in more recent years the Mediterranean island has dusted itself down and reinvented itself into a much more palatable – if not trendy – travel destination. For those determined to forgo the slightly dodgy charms of the overcrowded high-rise resorts for chic cites, peaceful retreats and rustic villages here is an alternative guide to Majorca for travel snobs…
Sadly often overlooked, the Mallorcan capital – thanks to a multi-million-pound facelift – has recently come into its own. With a new collection of art galleries, museums and a handful of swish boutique hotels, Palma can now easily compete with other European tourist cities. For your culture fix head for the city’s answer to the Tate Modern – Es Baluard or Palau March an elegant mansion on Palma’s seafront where you’ll find great views and a private art and sculpture collection belonging to one of the world’s richest men. For a more relaxing city trip take a stroll (or a Segway ride) down the landscaped promenade to the Portixol marina. The newly gentrified port area is home to a number of great eateries, swanky bars, hip beach clubs and of course more choice of tapas bars than you’ll know what to do with.
- Also check out my guide to spending a boutique 48 hours in Palma
The north of the island is a good place to start your escape from the crowds. Comparatively unspoilt and far more peaceful than the south, the north is known for its mountains and picture-perfect towns and villages. One of which is the ancient Pollença. Most houses here were built in the 17th and 18th centuries and the narrow winding streets have a distinctly medieval feel. Highlights include the 365-step stairway leading up to a chapel, although only visit if you’re feeling energetic.
Fornalutx claims to be the most picturesque village on the island if not Spain. It enjoys a privileged location in a valley surrounded by the island’s highest peak and plenty of bounteous orange groves. Fornalutx is all saffron-colored cottages and stone cobbled streets, with not all-day breakfast cafe or binge drinking Brit in sight.
Sóller, the largest settlement in rugged North West, has long been overlooked in favour of its glitzier neighbours. Once attracting outdoorsy types (lured by the excellent hiking and cycling trails) the pretty but isolated town is now attracting a more well-heeled traveller. The collection of boutique hotels, newly renovated harbour and neat promenade lined with cosmopolitan cafes and elegant street lamps hails a new era of 20th-century-style tourism.
One of the jewels of the Mediterranean and a must-go when visiting Majorca, Deya is a small coastal village on the northern ridge of the island known for its literary and musical residents. When visiting you’ll see why it has attracted so many notables. Located in a valley in the shadow of the Serra de Tramuntana mountains its an idyllic landscape complete with orange and olive groves spilling out from the overhanging cliffs.
Santa Maria del Cami
This is a peaceful rural market town and artistic hub located on the Palma-Ina railway. People on their Balearic Holidays visit for the beautiful location, to buy locally produced arts and crafts and also to experience one of the excellent wine tours also based here. Most of Majorca’s potters work close by and the town is the centre of manufacture of roba de llengues (‘which means ‘cloth of tongues’). This is cotton woven into bright zigzag patterns and used in curtains, bedspreads and upholstery.
Es Torrent de Pareis
Es Torrent de Pareis -located on the west coast – is one of the largest Mediterranean gorge canyons. A haven for nature lovers, hikers and gorge walkers this area is perfect for anyone wanting to escape the crowded beaches. It’s also arguably one of the finest walks on the island allowing you to take in the limestone scenery. Unlike some other Mallorcan canyons, Es Torrent de Pareis does not necessarily require climbing/caving equipment which means it’s also suitable territory for less ambitious walkers.
Mondrago Natural Park
For more unspoilt natural beauty head for the South East of the island. The Mondrago natural park is centered around two larger bays with sandy beaches, one of which was voted the best beach in Europe. One of the island’s best-kept secrets, the area has plenty of paths, pine forests and wildlife including water birds such as the coot and redshank. Thankfully there is only small development in Mondrago as it hasn’t been marketed to the masses. This is also unlikely to change in the future due to its protected status as a national park and an area of outstanding beauty.