The largest of the Balearic Islands is renowned as a tourist destination with around eight million visitors making their way to its shores every year. Many of these tourists are after a simple beach holiday, with no responsibilities and the Spanish trio of sun, sand and sangria on tap, and they won’t be disappointed. There are holiday resorts of every kind around the coast of Mallorca, from package tourist hotels around the Bay of Palma and the Bay of Alcúdia to family-friendly resorts at Puerto Pollença and along the east coast. But beyond these meccas of seaside fun are other destinations that reveal Mallorca’s true beauty, away from the demands of mass tourism.
The island’s capital Palma is a truly cosmopolitan city, with high-quality shops and restaurants, an atmospheric old town, an impressive cathedral and decent museums. From here you can catch a train along the century-old narrow-gauge railway to Sóller, a pleasant town surrounded by citrus groves and high peaks. The railway runs through tunnels cut through the mountains of the Serra de Tramuntana. This range of rugged mountains stretches all the way along the western side of the island and drops dramatically into the sea in a series of steep cliffs and inaccessible coves.
The ruggedness of the terrain and the lack of long sandy beaches mean that this coast has escaped large-scale development and remains an area of unexpected solitude, with fabulous hiking and birdwatching opportunities among the pine forests, reservoirs and unspoilt mountain villages. Its wild beauty has attracted discerning travellers for centuries, including the poet Robert Graves who made his home at the village of Deià. Northeast of here the mountains provide the island’s most dramatic scenery and most thrilling roads, but also shelter its most important Christian shrine at Lluc, where a monastery is overlooked by Massanella, Mallorca’s highest peak at 1352 m.
This is one of many monasteries that dot the island, providing simple, tranquil accommodation in fabulous natural settings. However, if you’re after something a bit more luxurious, Mallorca has that too. The island has a glut of high-quality accommodation from sleek and discreet designer hotels to ultra-comfortable fincas tucked away in the island’s interior whose rural serenity seems light-years away from the teeming activity of the coast. There are excellent restaurants too, from Michelin-starred establishments to local joints where the simple cuisine is raised to culinary heights by the freshest of ingredients.