An island of infinite variety, culture and charm
With its rugged coastline, sandy beaches and clear sapphire waters, Majorca is one of the jewels of the Mediterranean. Away from the coastline’s sheltered coves and dreamy sunsets, you’ll find the agricultural heartland and the Tramuntana mountains – a Unesco World Heritage site blossoming with orange, lemon and almond trees.
The capital, Palma, boasts cultural attractions and chic boutiques aplenty – while the coastal and inland villages offer charm and authenticity. Surprisingly, Majorca wasn’t always such an idyll, with a tempestuous history that has witnessed countless assaults from the Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals and Moors. All the same, that rich combination of cultures has created the cosmopolitan, welcoming, and open society of islanders today.
Enjoying a mild climate for most of the year, Majorca is ideal for relaxing beach holidays, outdoor sports, and gastronomic getaways.
Anna Nicholas, our resident expert, offers her top tips on the hottest places to eat and stay, plus the best things to do this season.
Try dinner at recently opened Kairiku (Carrer Nou, 10; 00 34 871 51 53 45) in Campos, with expert chef Bruno Peixoto serving experimental Japanese gastronomy known as omakase, meaning ‘trust the chef’. This is an exclusive culinary experience served in a cellar with only nine other diners.
Pop by new Deià hangout Bistro Rullan (Carrer Arxiduc Luís Salvador, 14a; 00 34 971 18 86 70), a hit with the in-crowd, which offers fresh and healthy Mediterranean fare. Aside from its pretty terrace and good-value menú del día (menu of the day), it is known for its excellent selection of gins and local wines.
• The best restaurants in Majorca
Discover the secrets of olive oil production with a fascinating guided tour of the rural estate of Aubocassa (Camí de Son Fangos; 00 34 971 100 388). Here you can visit the peaceful olive groves, old mill, and sample exclusive olive oils and wines. Prices start from €15 (£13).
• The best things to do in Majorca
Recently opened four-star Can Mostatxins: Frare (Carrer del Lledoner, Alcúdia, 00 34 971 66 77 34) is garnering a great reputation for its warm ambience and stylish rooms. Its restaurant, Apolonia, serves innovative Mediterranean cuisine under the direction of hot new talent: executive chef Cristina López.
Hire car at the ready, your day kicks off early in the pretty mountain town of Valldemossa, with a visit to Celda de Chopin (Carrer es Cos, 2; 00 34 696 405 992) – the atmospheric Carthusian monastery where Frederic Chopin and his lover George Sand spent the winter of 1839. Tour the austere cells where the couple stayed, followed by a walk in the gardens and a traditional hot chocolate and coca de patata (potato bun).
Your next stop – on the outskirts of the village of Deià – is La Casa de Robert Graves (Ctra Sóller, 6; 00 34 971 63 61 85), home of English poet Robert Graves from 1932 until 1985. Here you’ll find the writer’s study still brimming with original artefacts, and the house is surrounded by idyllic gardens. Follow the road to sunny Port Sóller, looking out for its orange-hued century-old tram, and take lunch at Kingfisher (Carrer de Santa Apollonia, 2; 00 34 971 63 88 56) – which offers glorious views over the harbour, and a fresh fish-focused menu. Highlights include ceviche, sweet Sóller prawns and even cod in beer batter, with hand-cut chips and homemade mushy peas.
Later head for the Jardins d’Alfàbia (Ctra Palma-Sóller; 00 34 971 613 123), which hark back to the 13th century and are only a 15-minute drive from Port Sóller. Just past the tunnel, you will see the grand Hispanic-Moorish property with its avenue of plane trees. Park here and visit the hacienda-style house, noting the ancient Moorish elements such as the spectacular coffered ceiling that dates back to 1170.
Don’t leave without exploring the exquisite gardens that still exemplify the landscaping prowess of the original Moorish owner, Ben-Abet. Not to be missed is the spectacular pergola with 72 columns and 24 stone hydras. Afterwards, take a break at the shady café in the grounds and enjoy a cortado (coffee shot with milk) or freshly squeezed orange juice.
If you’re staying in Deià, take a pre-dinner stroll through the village and up to the sea-view church and cemetery, to see Robert Graves’s unpretentious memorial stone that simply reads, ‘Robert Graves, poeta’.
Descend the hill and dine at the enduringly popular Restaurante Sebastián (Carrer Felipe Bauzà; 00 34 971 63 94 17), which for 25 years has attracted a loyal band of local and international guests with its creative and seasonal Mediterranean menu. Reserve a table on the cosy candlelit front terrace and order dishes such as turbot with roasted beetroot, parsnips and spinach.
For a late night tipple with the in-crowd, head along the street to laid-back Sa Fonda (Carrer Arxiduc Luis Salvador, 5; 00 34 971 63 63 93), which serves cocktails to a chilled soundtrack. On Saturday nights, local live bands – such as Pa Amb Oli – take the stage.
Arriving in Alaró around 10am, follow the signs for Es Verger restaurant (Camino del Castillo de Alaró; 00 34 971 18 21 26) – situated on a rough and winding single track. Leave your vehicle in the car park, put on good walking shoes, and head uphill for approximately one hour to the remains of Castell d’Alaró, a 15th-century castle dating back to Moorish times.
Standing atop the 800m mountain, the small cluster of buildings includes a chapel and the castle’s defence walls. The views are magnificent, encompassing the Tramuntana mountains, Mediterranean Sea, and the island’s agricultural heartland. Catch your breath and have a coffee in the jolly Castell d’Alaró Guesthouse (00 34 971 940 503) at the summit, before taking the easy walk back to Es Verger for an early lunch of roast lamb or pork. You’ll want to book ahead, as the restaurant is often busy.
Leave Alaró and make for the little village of Consell, just 10 minutes away by car, for a pit stop at Bodegas Ribas (Carrer de Muntanya, 2; 00 34 971 62 26 73) – the island’s oldest winery. With a 300-year history and 100 acres of vineyards, this family-owned business is a must-visit for wine aficionados. Look out for the velvety and complex ruby Sió and well-balanced and powerful Ribas Negre. Tours last an hour or more, depending on the package, and should be booked in advance. Do take a peek at the beautiful old country house with its internal courtyard and traditional Majorcan kitchen.
From Consell, take the road to Alcúdia, following signs for Mal Pas-Bon Aire and finally Sa Bassa Blanca (Camino del Collbaix; 00 34 900 777 001). Surrounded by lush woodland, this Hispanic-Moorish estate – curated by the Yannick and Ben Jakober Foundation – includes a gallery of modern art installations, 150 portraits of European aristocratic children from the 16th to 19th centuries, and an observatory. Make a point of visiting the beautiful rose garden and sculpture park.
Park in Port Alcúdia and treat yourself to a tasting menu at renowned Maca de Castro (Carrer dels Tritons; 00 34 971 89 23 91) – but remember that reservations are essential. The first female chef in Majorca to be awarded a Michelin star, Macarena de Castro prepares dishes with local produce – much of it from her own garden – such as chilled cherry soup with lobster, and octopus with crunchy sea anemone. Housed in a historic townhouse once belonging to Macarena’s grandmother, the restaurant has a terrace and a cosy ambience.
For an informal nightcap, head downstairs to Danny’s Gastrobar (Carrer dels Tritons, 2; 00 34 971893126): a lively cocktail and tapas hangout, with a terrace owned by Macarena’s family.
With its beguiling setting between mountains and sea, deluxe five-star Belmond La Residencia in Deià offers unrivalled facilities and impeccable service. With an acclaimed restaurant, spa, and two tennis courts and swimming pools, this is one of Majorca’s most desirable and relaxing retreats.
Doubles from €375 (£332). Son Canals; 00 34 971 63 90 11
Luxurious and arresting Cap Rocat, formerly a 19th-century military fortress, has been imaginatively transformed into an exceptional boutique hotel with a sumptuous spa, two pools and two restaurants. Close to rugged coastline and woodlands overlooking Palma Bay, it offers complete privacy.
Doubles from €350 (£310). Carretera d’Enderrocat; 00 34 971 747878
Four-star Can Ribera by Zafiro, a superbly refurbished 19th-century mansion, is located in delightfully unpretentious Muro. With its sophisticated décor, home comforts and authentic charm, the hotel offers complete rest and relaxation. It is also an excellent base for exploring nearby resorts and Majorca’s lush countryside.
Doubles from €80 (£70). Carrer Comtat, 1; 00 34 971 537 110
Majorcans are renowned for their handicrafts, in particular clay siurells: small white figurines with green and red stripes, which also serve as whistles. The most enduring siurell-making family business is Siurelleria Ca Madó Bet (C/Jaume 1, Sa Caboneta; 00 34 610 42 77 94).
Majorca’s roba de llengues, a cotton fabric with distinctive flame design, is fashioned into many products. Teixits Vicens (Rotonda Can Berenguer; 00 34 971 53 04 50) in Pollença offers factory visits and products.
Fortunately Majorca enjoys mild temperatures all year round, but micro-climates exist in different areas of the island. For example, it can be raining in the North West while it’s sunny in Palma. For outdoor pursuits, the ideal time to visit is in the spring or late autumn when the feverish summer heat has abated.
During July and August Majorca is extremely hot and crowded. The island’s festivals include Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christians) – a fun re-enactment of a famous battle between locals and Turkish pirates – which takes place in Sóller in May. A different version is performed in Pollença in August. Sóller’s popular Fira de la Taronja (orange festival) falls in April, bringing citrus-inspired menus to many restaurants and fruit displays to the town square. In late August, the Nit de Foc – night of fire – sees locals dressed as devils drum and dance amid firework displays in Sóller, Palma and beyond.
Tourist board information: 00 34 971 17 39 90; infomallorca.net
Emergency fire and ambulance: 112
Emergency police: 092
British Consulate: Carrer dels Caputxins, 4, Palma, 0034 933 66 62 00; gov.uk
Local laws and etiquette
Majorcans are very laid back but frown on anti-social behaviour – such as drinking alcohol in public, or wearing skimpy attire away from beach resorts.
Although Majorcans speak Castilian Spanish, they are proud of their own language, Mallorquin, a dialect of Catalan. Road signs and public notices will often be written in Mallorquin.
Tipping is at a client’s discretion, but 10 per cent is considered acceptable.
Mainly due to the warm weather, Majorcans tend to dine late: around 2pm for lunch, and 9pm (or later) for evening dinner.
There is a reasonable bus and train network which connects most parts of the island, but during the summer buses are often very busy – so get in the queue as early as possible. For timetables, contact TIB 00 34 971 17 77 77; tib.org.
Normally Majorcans – male and female – will shake hands at a first meeting but some might offer women kisses on both cheeks. Men often hug male friends in public.
Flight time: Two hours
Currency: Euros (€)
Internationals dialling code: 00 34
Time difference: GMT 1
Since settling in Sóller 17 years ago, Anna has written six Mallorca titles, offering a brilliant excuse to explore the island. You’ll most likely find her climbing a Tramuntana peak or running on the beach.
Telegraph Travel’s best hotels and holidays in Majorca, tried, tested and recommended by our Majorca experts.