Mallorca, Balearic Islands, Spain

Mallorca is an island off the coast of Spain in the western Mediterranean sea, approximately 130 miles south of Barcelona, and 150 miles east of Valencia.

At 3,640 square kilometres, it is the largest island of the Balearic Islands (that include Ibiza, Menorca & Formentera), all of which are a part of Spain. Unusually for a Mediterranean island, Mallorca is fertile and green, with an amazing array of natural landscapes from soaring mountains in the west (the Tramuntana mountains), to beautiful vineyards in the fertile central plain, and of course, wonderful golden sand beaches along it's coast.

Mallorca's population was 790,763 in 2006, 869,000 in 2012 and is continuing to increase at a frightening rate.

The Geology, Vegetation & Wildlife in Mallorca

The formation of the Baleares islands is estimated to have taken place around 150 million years ago. At first, Mallorca was joined to the Spanish peninsula as an underwater island before its present configuration came into being.

The Tramuntana mountains run up the western coast for around 90 km and the highest peak is Puig Major at 1445 metres. These mountains are a continuation of Betic mountain range on the Spanish mainland. The mountains become steeper the further north you go, and all along the coast, there are cliffs that drop dramatically into the sea. Roads are sparse through the mountains and one of the best ways to appreciate the scenery is from the sea on a boat. The other way, of course is to get your walking boots on and hit the many hiking trails that run from village to village. Much of the area is protected and has been designated a UNESCO site. The steepness of the slopes make it difficult to farm the land, although some of it has been terraced which allows cultivation of olive trees and vines. These are two of Mallorca's main agricultural crops, along with citrus fruits (in particular oranges), almonds, grains and vegetables.

To the north east lies a smaller mountain range, the Llevant. You'll find much lower altitudes (around 500 metres) here but equally beautiful and rugged countryside. These hills extend southwards and get steadily lower, with only a couple of peaks reaching over 400 metres.

Much of Mallorca is made up from limestone. This type of rock dissolves over time in water and gives rise to gorges and the many cave systems found in the foothills of the mountainous regions. The same rock means there are very few lakes on Mallorca as water seeps through to form underground water systems. These basins provide water to the population. The scarcity of rainfall in Mallorca means that the water table is easily challenged and this is a limiting factor when considering further population development in Mallorca.

Scrub forests comprising pine, buckthorn, rosemary, wild olive, lentiscus and dwarf fan palms were the island's main vegetation. Rockrose and lavender predominated in the sierra, wheras Holm oak trees thrive in high rainfall areas in the mountains. On the coast in the sand dunes there are Ammophila grasses. But of all the non-human species on Mallorca, it is only the pine tree which isn't in decline, and this is because of human intervention.

The sparse vegetation supports only a few animals. The smallest are field mice and wood shrews; the largest, the civet cats. Birds, on the other hand, have always been plentiful. Even though their habitat is under constant threat the number of bird species number well over 2000 when counting indigenous and migratory species. Bird watching is particularly prevelant in the north of Mallorca.