An Introduction & guide to Mallorca
Imagine an island with turquoise-blue seas, secret coves, soft golden sands, lush green foliage, soaring rugged mountains, sleepy honey-stone villages, and a vibrant capital city. A place steeped in history, with a rich artisan and cultural scene, featuring gastronomic excellence. Well, this island’s name is Mallorca and, thanks to its many charms, more and more people are visiting all year round.
Mallorca really does have it all - glorious beaches and majestic mountains, a wealth of historical buildings and cultural experiences, a buzzing and cosmopolitan city, theme parks for all the family and all the shopping you could care to do whilst on holiday. Whether you want to visit one of the beautiful country houses, enter one of the remarkable caves, or chill out in a beach club, Mallorca has it.
Each region in Mallorca has its own particular appeal - the northeast for history, the east coast for beaches and caves, the north and west for spectacular mountains and picture-postcard villages. To know about the real Mallorca, you should drive across Es Pla, the fertile plain at the centre of the island with its almond groves, windmills and old market towns. Choosing where to stay depends on what you want to see and do, from the bustle of Palma to the dreamy coastlines, or head inland for many luxury retreats where you can get away from it all.
The island has also been well-known for its purpose built resorts and package holidays. Very popular they were too but Mallorca has changed since their hey-day in the later part of the 20th century. Local town halls on Mallorca have invested time and energy into smartening up their resorts and making them a lot more family-friendly. Mallorca is now a destination where everyone can find their own spot.
Is it Mallorca or Majorca?
It's only the British, their historical colonies, and the Irish who use the word 'Majorca'. To everyone else, it is Mallorca. 'Mallorca' comes from the Latin for 'larger island' - 'insula maior'. This is in reference to its smaller neighbour, Menorca, 'insula minor'. As you see, no 'j' is mentioned, and this is because the letter 'j' didn't exist in Latin until around the 13th century when it was introduced to take the place of 'i' when used as a consonant (as in 'maior').
The English language is based on several languages, one of which is Latin. Now, we're not Latin scholars, but it seems that English embraced the use of 'j' more than the Mediterranean countries. So, 'maior' became 'major' and hence Majorca. As Mallorca continued to belong to what became Spain in the years subsequent to the Catalan invasion, the Catalán version 'Mallorca' remained as the name used by the rest of the world.
Beaches in Mallorca
With over 500km of coastline, there are more than 200 beaches to choose from on Mallorca. Many of the best beaches are backed by holiday resorts and have great facilities from shops and cafes, to sun loungers and watersports. Equally, there are vast stretches of beach, particularly in the south, where there has been no development and where virgin calas with Caribbean-esque seas await you. The east coast is filled with little sandy coves, ideal for sailing and snorkelling, while the west coast has a mixture of beaches and dramatic cliffs with stunning scenery.
Also see: Beaches in Mallorca
Where is Mallorca?
Mallorca is one of the Balearic Islands in the western Mediterranean, off the east coast of Spain. Its location means it is no more than a three-hour flight from northern Europe, making it easily accessible for those in search of a little piece of paradise. The easiest and quickest way to get to Mallorca is to fly. Palma de Mallorca airport is located in the south of the island and airlines fly from all over Europe throughout the year. You can also take a ferry (passenger or car ferry) from the Spanish mainland (Barcelona, Valencia) which will take around 7-8 hours.
Also see: Towns & Villages in Mallorca
Events in Mallorca
Being a Spanish island, Mallorca hosts many fiestas and festivals throughout the year. From agricultural fairs in the Spring and Autumn, to live music and DJ concerts in the summer, religious festivals and international sporting events, there is always plenty going on.
Sights & Attractions in Mallorca
A rich cultural history has left many remarkable sights to explore in Mallorca. Castles and ruins, cathedrals and monasteries, grand manor houses and gardens, along with a host of art galleries and museums are there for you to visit.
The island's capital city, Palma, is the place to marvel at impressive architecture, from medieval times through to Modernist creations. Palma is also home to the most varied nightlife, with top quality restaurants and a host of late night bars and clubs.
Things to Do in Mallorca
Yachts are a big thing in Mallorca. The island boasts many international sailing regattas each year and embodies numerous world class marinas and yacht charter companies all around the coast. Whether you are interested in a half-day boat trip or a week’s yacht charter, you will find the island more than equipped for your individual needs.
The stunning scenery throughout Mallorca is ideal for enjoying outdoor pursuits. You can find protected Natural Parks in all four corners of Mallorca, as well as the rugged and beautiful Tramuntana mountains that run down the west coast. Walking and hiking are popular activities with a wide variety of well-maintained paths and clear signage suitable for all abilities. Cycling is massive in Mallorca, the island is a well-established destination for the professional road cycling teams during the off season and there are plenty of routes to choose from. The warm and dry climate is also perfect for golfers and there are around 20 golf courses throughout the island.
For those with families, you can expect some great waterparks, adventure parks and petting farms. The resorts are particularly well geared up for the little ones. Remember to check for local festivals that the kids can get involved with.
Restaurants in Mallorca
Mallorca has experienced a food revolution in the past 10 years. Many young Mallorcan chefs have come home after working in high-end international restaurants and have opened up their own places where they create fabulous modern Mediterranean dishes. There are half a dozen or so Michelin-starred restaurants featuring inventive cuisine in beautiful yet relaxed settings. Tapas are also a very popular option, and Palma is the place to head to experience the fresh, modern take on these small plates. And don't forget to try the local Mallorcan wine, there are some really excellent vineyards on the island.
Also see: Where to Eat in Mallorca
Nightlife in Mallorca
In the summer months, Mallorca comes to life with bars and clubs open until the early hours of the morning. You will find there are late-night bars with DJ's in most towns and resorts while, for a quiet drink, the exclusive cocktail bars and wine bars in the ports should be explored. To start the evening off early from the comfort of a sunbed and a cocktail in hand, then Mallorca’s luxury beach clubs are the place to be. For the night owls out there who like to end their evening (or morning) at 05:00, the Paseo de Maritimo in Palma offers up the major nightclubs like Pacha.
In the winter months, whilst the resorts and major clubs tend to shut down, the city of Palma continues to burst with life. This cosmopolitan city offers something for everyone with plenty of bars to visit, from a quiet night with a cocktail or gin and tonic to a crazy night out on the town with friends. You see there is much more to Mallorca’s nightlife scene than the mischievous town of Magaluf!
Where to Stay in Mallorca
Mallorca is not only one of the most popular holiday destinations in the Mediterranean, it's also one of the most diverse. Whether it’s a relaxing beach holiday with your family, a city break with your partner in crime or an outdoor adventure with your friends, there's something for each and every one of you. The choice of holiday accommodation is equally varied from boutique hotels and fincas to modern villas and apartments, there are quality options for a wide range of budgets.
The north of Mallorca possesses family-friendly holiday resorts Alcudia, Pollença and Formentor. With their unspoilt historic towns and more than accommodating beach resorts, they provide the perfect setting for an impressive family holiday. Relaxing by the beach might be your thing? Or possibly kite surfing, wakeboarding or even cycling? Well, the north of the island has it all! Don’t forget you can also stay in the more tranquil towns of Artá and Capdepera and stunning beach resorts like Cala Ratjada, all of which have their own fair share of things going on for youngsters and families in the summer months.
The east and south-east coasts host a range of family holiday resorts like Cala d’Or, Porto Petro and Cala Millor, each of which are popular in their own way. This side of the island offers up some of the most beautiful beaches on the island where stretches of white sandy beaches meet the glistening turquoise waters. Some hot spots include the Caribbean-like waters at the beach of Es Trenc and the Cuevas del Drach (dragon caves) in Porto Cristo.
At the other end of the spectrum, the west of Mallorca is famous for its dramatic scenery thanks to the Tramuntana mountain range and picture postcard towns like Valdemossa, Deià and Soller. The south-west of Mallorca is a mixed bag of prestigious ports (Puerto Portals, Port Adriano and Port d’Andratx) and cheap and cheerful package holiday favourites (Palma Nova, Santa Ponsa and Magaluf) within close proximity to each other. Here you will also find the capital, Palma, a trendy city break destination thanks to its beautiful architecture, beaches, art galleries, good shopping, first-rate restaurants, and buzzing nightlife. It therefore comes as no surprise that this side of Mallorca caters for people of all ages from the young fashionistas all the way through to the older retired generations.
For those who like to avoid the tourists and get a more authentic Mallorcan experience, you will find Mallorca’s inland towns might be more your thing. Perhaps try Sineu, Inca or Santa Maria del Camí. From here you can explore Mallorca’s finest vineyards, visit traditional village markets and fairs
Also see: Where to Stay in Mallorca
Villas in Mallorca
If renting a villa in Mallorca is more your thing, then you won't be disappointed. There are literally thousands of villas in Mallorca to choose from. The main area for villa rentals is in the north-west, around Pollença and Port de Pollença. This is a great area for family holidays, thanks to its lovely big beach, family activities and gentle nightlife.
Hotels in Mallorca
Mallorca's hotels range from unique historic buildings that have been converted to provide every modern convenience, to beautifully charming fincas (converted farmhouses) in the countryside. Being so accessible for many wealthy Europeans means there is a big market for luxury accommodation in Mallorca, and the choice gets better and better each year. The capital city, Palma, has a wonderful range of small boutique hotels set in the old town, full of character and charm.
History & Culture in Mallorca
The island has been inhabited by humans since 7000 BC. The Phoenicians, seafaring people from the Levant, were the first to colonise the island in around the 8th century BC and established numerous colonies. The island was occupied by Romans in 123 BC and flourished with the cultivation of olives, grapes (wine making) and salt mining. From the 700s, the island was increasingly attacked by Muslim invaders from North Africa. In 902, the Arabs conquered the Balearic Islands leading into the Moorish era. The Moors revamped Palma and it became known as Medina Mayurqa.
Medieval Mallorca was under the leadership of James I of Aragon (known as James the Conquerer). In 1229, he invaded and occupied the island under his Crown of Aragon and called it Regnum Majoricae. In 1230, the magnificent La Seu cathedral in Palma (one of Mallorca’s most significant heritage sites) started to be built and works continued for 400 years. More recently, renowned architect Antoni Gaudi has added to the masterpiece.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, otherwise known as the Modern Era, the crown of Aragon was in dynastic union with Castile but Mallorca was under constant attack from the Barbary corsairs of North Africa, which is why so many watchtowers and fortified churches were built on the island. In the early 18th century, the War of the Spanish Succession resulted in the replacement of the dynastic union with a unified monarchy under the rule of the new Bourbon Dynasty. In 1716, Mallorca became how it is known today, as part of the Spanish Province of Baleares.
The 20th century saw more disturbance in Mallorca. At the start of the Spanish Civil War, there was a failed attempted invasion on the 16th August 1936 with the hope to drive the Nationalists from Mallorca and reclaim the island for the Republic.
Since the 1950s, Mallorca has turned into a holiday destination for foreign visitors with more and more tourists coming from England, Germany, Sweden and Italy. They come not only for the warmer climes and beautiful beaches and breathtaking scenery but the historical architecture from the Romans right up until the modern Gaudi influence.
Whilst there are art galleries aplenty on the island, one of the most important visits is, Joan Miro’s studio. Joan Miro is Mallorca’s most celebrated artist, who grew up and resided on the island. Today his studio is open to the public in Palma where people can view his works. Other artists and writers have been coming to the island for decades, Robert Graves, one of England’s greatest poets, resided (and was buried) in the quaint mountain village of Deià, which has since become a popular destination for the rich and famous.
Also see: History of Mallorca
Location: Mallorca Island