Spain’s Balearic Islands: Exploring Mallorca
GoNOMAD DESTINATION GUIDE: MALLORCA, SPAIN
By Habeeb Salloum
Her words put us in an upbeat mood for our meandering in north western Mallorca – the Balearic Islands’ largest island and one of Spain’s most appealing tourist havens.
Leaving prosperous Palma, a city of some 375,000 and Mallorca and the Balearic Islands’ capital, we drove through a countryside filled with orchards and lush green fields.
Soon we were driving through a narrow valley edged by high cliffs until we reached the small town of Valldemossa, (an Arab name meaning the ‘valley of Moses’) 17 km (10.5 mi) from Palma.
A Miserable Winter
It is famous for its Cartoixa Reial Royal Monastery, known as La Cartuja, where in 1838-1839 Fredric Chopin and the French lady writer Georges Sands, renowned for her novel ‘A Winter in Majorca,’ spent the winter together.
During the twenty years he lived on and off the island, he left many landmarks, among these marrying a local woman and buying a great deal of property.
In gratitude for his work in making Mallorca known around the world, in 1877 he was named freeman of the city of Palma, and in 1910 this title was made extensive to the whole island of Mallorca.
The town is today featured on many postcards and has become a tourist attraction par excellence, drawing many day-trippers from Palma.
Leaving this charming jewel of a town we drove through the Tramuntana Mountains with their breathtaking scenery. As we drove on the windy coastal road, at times climbing high to reveal dramatic sea views, we passed the home of actor Michael Douglas and the one-time home of Archduke Ludwig.
I was surveying the wooded cliffs falling into the blue sea far below when we reached the striking picture postcard village of Deiá with its honey-colored houses. Sheltered by the mountain from the northerly winds, it spills down to the valley below.
Deriving its name from the Arabic, al-da’a (the village), this town of some 850 souls, set amid almonds, citrus fruits, and olives, is for many a magical place – a mecca for artists, writers and the affluent.
A Lush Valley
After lunching in La Residencia, the best hotel in the district, we followed the narrow winding coastal road. At times it seemed that a little turn and we would tumble us down into the sea.
After a short drive, we turned and drove into a lush valley bursting with olive and orange groves located between the mountains and the sea in which sits Soller – a town with its surrounding area of some 14,000.
A charming and arty place, Soller is enveloped by breathtaking scenery, rimmed by mountains on all sides – a veritable Eden. Only a half an hour drive from Palma via a newly built toll tunnel, the town is fast becoming Palma’s weekend outing spot.
Many of some 10 million annual visitors to Mallorca – 30% German, 30% British and 10% from mainland Spain, with the remainder being mostly from the Scandinavian countries – during their stay usually make a trip to this enchanting valley.
The aura of the landscape in this tourist haven is conducive to enticing those who have an inclination for literature and the arts,” I thought to myself as we tumbled out of the bus in Palma, the heart of the Balearic Island.
1) Taxis are numerous and provide an inexpensive way to get around the coastal resort areas. For trips going inland always agree on the price with the driver before entering the taxi.
2) There are two official languages: Castilian Spanish and Catalan. As well, English and German are spoken in most tourist areas.
3) A popular day-tripper destination, Soller can be reached on a vintage train ride from Palma. From Soller, a tram takes one to the Port of Soller or a 20-minute walk takes one to a pebbled beach cove with a charming bar, which provides a good place to swim and relax in a dramatic setting. The beach can be also reached by car via a windy lane down the hillside.
The beach can be also reached by car via a windy lane down the hillside.
4) Pearls are the gifts to buy while visiting Palma. Mallorquin pearls, manufactured in the town of Manacor, are world famous.
5) The favorite Mallorquin sweet is ensaimada – a spiral-shaped bun and sobrassada is the islands’ most famous sausage.
6) Leaving a small tip is customary – in bars, restaurants, and hotels, from 5-10% of the cost of food or drink.
Where to Stay:
If a traveler wants to stay on the Coast for a while there is no better place than La Residencia, the best hotel in the district. It has been voted the 4th Best Leisure Hotel in Europe, Asia Minor & the Russian Federation in 2005 by the Conde Nast Traveller readers.
In Palma, one of the top hotels to stay is Castillo Son Vida, situated in a castle of medieval origin, surrounded by 500 hectares of subtropical parkland and with magnificent views of the bay of Palma, the hotel is a 5-star top luxury abode.
07013 Palma de Mallorca, Spain.
Tel: 34 971 790 000. Fax: 34 971 790 017.
For other hotels in Palma see Website: www.mallorcahotelguide.com – Mallorca
The Spanish Tourist Office
666 Fifth Ave. 35th, New York, N.Y. 10103, U.S.A.
Tel: 212/265-8822. Fax: 265-8864.
Habeeb Salloum is a travel and food writer, as well as the author more than a dozen books, who lives in Toronto Canada. He is GoNOMAD’s oldest contributor, and going strong! Click his name above to see his books on Amazon.