SPAIN, TRAVEL

Mallorca, Spain for first-time visitors

mallorca-for-first-time-visitors

Majorca, Spain for First-Time Visitors

My first visit to the Spanish island of Mallorca or Majorca, as it’s also referred, was in 2005, with a friend from London. She found a 3-night stay for $250 with flights and hotel in a brand-new golf resort. The catch was we had to sit through one of their timeshare spiels. They wanted to sell us a room in this new luxury resort. It is truly a lovely resort, and we even fictitiously entertained the idea of each buying a room. In reality, we simply wanted a base to explore Majorca. Since then, I’ve visited a half dozen more times and I’ve come up with a list of things to do in Mallorca for first-time visitors.

What to wear in Mallorca

First off, you are going to want to dress the part, and what better brand to wear than Desigual. If you are not familiar, they are a Barcelona-based clothing brand. I personally love Desigual dresses and Desigual women’s tops. They have some lovely light-weight, multi-patterned items that are easy to pack because they take up no space, and you simply unfold and wear them. Dress them up or down with a pair of Espadrilles or sandals and you are ready for day touring or a night on the town. Drop them in the washer and they dry quickly. I personally own all these items below and highly recommend them. Note: these models are all much taller than I am  – probably 5’10”.  I’m 5’4″ so these dresses are a much more modest length on me.

Where in the world is Majorca?

Majorca or Mallorca, as it is spelled in Catalan and Spanish, is the biggest of the Balearic Islands. It is part of Spain and located off the coast of Barcelona in the Mediterranean. It’s the largest of this island group, which also includes Minorca, Ibiza and Formentera. There are three other smaller islands nearby: Cabrera, Dragonera and S’Espalmador.

Majorca is quite a popular tourist destination for German tourists, attracting more than 3 million a year.  It’s a 55-minute flight to Barcelona, and it’s a stunning island.

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Mallorca, Spain

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Mallorca, Spain 39.569600, 2.650070

Flights to Majorca, Spain

If you fly through Madrid or Barcelona, there are numerous daily flights to Majorca on Iberia Airlines. There are also many European low-cost carriers like Ryanair, Vueling, Easyjet, and Tuifly, with direct flights from most major European cities.

The arrival city in Majorca is Palma, and that is a great place to base yourself for a few days. Luckily, Majorca’s weather is moderate. It benefits from a Mediterranean climate and other than the colder, wetter months of November through February, you will enjoy pleasant temperatures and sunshine. You will get the best deals if you go in spring and fall while still having the ability to sun lounge on the beach or at your hotel.

Boka ditt flyg till Mallorca nu!

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Island of Mallorca, Spain

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Island of Mallorca, Spain 39.569600, 2.650070

Traveling around Majorca – Majorca Airport Transfers

Most hotels offer Palma airport transfers for free or for a fee, but if not, I use Hoppa to take me where I need to go. Hoppa is a transfer service. Once you arrive in Palma, their ‘Reps’ are just outside the arrival’s area. It’s great if you are not in a hurry because they will often lump you in with other hotel drop-offs in the same region as your hotel. If you are in a rush, take a taxi. You can easily navigate in English. I’ve used both transports.

Car Rental on Majorca

Majorca is easy to drive with modern, well-sign-posted, spacious highways, so book a car from the airport. One suggestion – for those who love the word, ‘upgrade,’ this is one upgrade you DO NOT want! If you intend to explore the smaller villages, the roads can be quite narrow. There were numerous times I cussed out that upgrade as I hacked off a bush or two, and nearly clipped the passenger-side mirror on a stone wall to avoid on-coming traffic. Take the smallest car possible. You will thank me later!

Wear the most comfortable sandals while traveling

Whether you are walking, driving or taking public transport, you are going to want to wear the most comfortable sandals. And the best, most comfortable sandals for walking around Mallorca are Espadrilles Made in Spain. Again, Espadrilles have a long, Spanish history and they can be casual or dressy depending on what you put with them.  I personally love those with a little heel as they provide good support and look great at the same time. You absolutely must give these sandals a try?

What to see in Palma, Mallorca

As a first-time visitor to Majorca, spend a few days visiting the capital, Palma, to get your bearings. The island is steeped in history with Roman, Moorish, Byzantine, Arabic, Muslim, Jewish and Christian influences.  Pirates, power struggles, conquests and reconquests are synonymous with Majorca’s history. Mallorca seemed to be a football passed among warriors throughout its history, which is not surprising considering its geographic location to Spain, Italy and north Africa. But this is also the reason for the island’s unique architecture, culture, cuisine and charm.

Today, Majorca, like most of the Balearic Islands, survives on tourism. Eighty percent of the population is involved in the sector. Palma has around 400,000 people and about 1/2 of the island’s total population live there. It’s very easy to explore the narrow streets and alleys in Old Town on foot. Stay near the tree-lined street of Passeig del Born. This is my personal favourite. Here you can also linger at the many outdoor cafes and historic landmarks.

Pedestrian Passeig Born
Lovely outdoor cafes on Passeig del Born

Book your Excursions and Attractions for Majorca ahead of time

The best way to get a head start is to research the attractions and excursions you’d like to see and book in advance. This will save you time and money, so book your Excursions and Attractions before you go!

What to see and do in Palma

There are so many things to see and do in Palma as a first-time visitor. First up, visit the main Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma or Le Seu as it’s known. It’s a stunning Gothic masterpiece started in 1229 and not finished until 1601! It’s nave is one of the highest of all Gothic cathedrals in Europe – even taller than Notre Dame in Paris! The famous Catalonian architect, Antoni Gaudi (of the famed Sagrada Familia and other unique structures in Barcelona and beyond), was invited to participate in the renovations of the cathedral in the early 1900’s, but abandoned the project after an argument with the contractor.

Mallorca, Spain for first time visitors
Majorca Cathedral
Unique architecture of the Mallorca Cathedral

Next door is La Almudiana, where the King of Spain still hosts summer ceremonies. This royal palace is the result of modifications to a Muslim fortress that started in 1281. You find the King’s Palace, Queen’s Palace, a hall known as Tinell, the Royal Chapel and courtyards. It’s loaded with pieces gathered over history and a great place to spend a few hours.

La Almundiana in Mallorca

Travel around Palma on the Hop-on/Hop-off bus

Also while on Majorca for first-time visitors, take the Hop-on/Hop-Off bus tour of Palma. It’s a great way to see what you should see. There are 18 stops along the route where you can get off, explore and get back on to continue your tour. It’s also a great way to save money on transport. I’m not one for waiting in line at the bus stop with loads of people waiting to buy a ticket, so pick up your Hop-on/Hop-off tickets in advance.

For $18 for 24 hrs, or $25 for 48 hrs, you can explore further afield locations such as Poble Espanyol, which is a lovely little, ancient, walled village containing small-scale replicas of famous historic buildings along with artists’ studios, workshops and various shops.

Poble Espanyol

Another stop on the Hop-on/Hop-off is the uniquely round, Castell de Bellver, which is a curious Gothic structure, now a museum, built in 1309. It was built as the royal residence of King Jaume II, and during its history, it was even a military prison! Really unique history. You can have a guided or audio-guided tour of this museum, and stop at their cafe.

If museum-hopping isn’t your thing, simply get off here and enjoy the vast courtyard, and the amazing views over Palma toward the Cathedral, marina and Serra de Tramuntana.

Castell de Bellver
Views from Castell Bellver Mallorca

Explore the beaches of Majorca

Mallorca Beaches
© Mallorca-beaches.com

When you think of Majorca, you think of beaches, and Majorca has no shortage! There are more than 200 beaches on Majorca to keep your interest.  The waters are crystal clear and the sand is like powder. Along the island you’ll find many sandy coves and harbours dotted with yachts you could only dream of taking a spin on. The quietest beaches can be found on Majorca’s north-east side. Check the map for an idea of where to head.

Beaches of Mallorca
Beach near Sa Coma on the northeast side of Majorca

Beaches of Mallorca, Spain

Take a boat tour on Majorca as a first-time visitor

Another great way to see Majorca for first-time visitors is to take a boat tour of the island. You’ll have a different perspective of the island’s ruggedly charming shores from the water. One boat tour I took was on the Sea Paradise. Admittedly, the day I toured, we all joked it was the ‘Boat tour from Hell’ as the seas were rough! It’s not always like that. There are many options to choose from and if you want, you can even snorkel or just sit back and enjoy the coastline views.

Boat tours on Mallorca, Spain
Sea Paradise Glass Bottom Catamaran

Visit the smaller, authentic villages of Majorca

While you have that rental car, head out to see the countryside. Majorca is very easy to drive and the views of the soaring mountains and cliff sides are breathtaking. You will come across ancient citadels, olive groves, luxury villas and multi-terraced terrain.

I made a stop for a tour and lunch at the quaint town of Soller with its old-time tram, and Petra, the birthplace of Father Junipero Serra, who set up a number of missions in California. Not that I’m religious, but my niece attended a ‘Father Serra’ school in California her whole life and I wanted to send her photos.

Tram of Soller, Majorca
Small village of Petra, the birthplace of Junipero Serra
Petra, Mallorca, Spain
Small streets in Petra, the home of Father Junipero Serra

Visit the small village of Son Servera and the “Unfinished Church”

Another lovely village to see is Son Servera and their unique structure called, the ‘unfinished church’ or Esglesia Nova. It was designed by Joan Rubió, who worked with Gaudi, but they ran out of money and couldn’t finish it. Today it’s used for religious and cultural events.  I’ve been lucky enough to attend some Smooth Jazz events here.  Son Servera also hosts a weekly market on Fridays with 200 stands. Great place to score some locally-produced items.

The Mallorca Smooth Jazz All Stars Evening at the Unfinished Church in Son Servera

Take a bus tour of Cap de Formentor and the lighthouse

This is something you must visit on Mallorca. Cap de Formentor is a stunning peninsula in the northernmost part of the island. To get there, you take a wickedly, windy road of a bit more than 8 miles that stretches from from Port de Pollença to Cap de Formentor.  The landscape is extremely rugged and the views are breathtaking. Some of the cliffs are 1000 ft high and the winds can be ferocious. There’s a lovely, soft sandy beach (Playa de Formentor on the east side) and a jaw-dropping look out at the far end near the lighthouse. This is one of the most scenic drives in the world, and while you can drive yourself, save yourself the headache and take an organised bus there. It’s much more tranquil and you can really enjoy the views along the way.

Cap de Formentor, Mallorca
Cap de Formentor

Visit a winery on Majorca – Jose L. Ferrer Cellar and Bodega

You cannot head to Majorca as a first-time visitor and not hit a winery! The Jose L. Ferrer winery is located in Benissalem, and is one of the longest running wineries on Majorca! They’ve been in operation since 1931, and operate tours and tastings most days all year long. Check their website for opening hours.

You can choose from Traditional tastings with local accompaniments of cheeses and biscuits, to more elaborate, Premium tastings paired with breads with olive oil, tapas, finger food, savoury, fried, hot and sweet items. The tour guides give a thorough explanation of the winery’s history and the wine-making process. This is a great thing to do on Majorca for first-time visitors!

Jose L Ferrer Winery, Mallorca

Visit the amazing Caves of Drach

You must visit the Caves of Drach while on Majorca. These are some super-cool caves with a horizontal descent of nearly 4000 feet! The Caves of Drach or Cuevas del Drach are in Porto Cristo on the east side of Majorca, and is quite a popular spot. Once you reach the base inside there is a subterranean lake considered one of the largest lakes in the world. It’s hard to describe, but really awe-inspiring. Make sure to take a jacket as it gets cool and book tickets to the Caves of Drach in advance to save time.

Mallorca, Spain for first-time visitors
Subterranean lake at the Caves of Drach
Caves of Drach Mallorca

This is just a sample of things to do on Majorca for first-time visitors. It’s a stunning island where you can easily entertain yourself for quite sometime.

If you happen to be going to Venice, Italy for the first time, you might find Travelletters’, Venice Itinerary 3 Days – Things to do for a First-Timer, a good read. 

Any questions, give me a shout. And if you are the area visiting Madrid, read my recommendations of what to do with a weekend in Madrid. Enjoy!

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Life On The Mediterranean

US expat living the life on the Mediterranean in the South of France. I regularly travel to Spain, Italy, Greece and other intriguing locations around the Mediterranean. Former Hyatt Corp Marketing Manager, student accommodation director and hotel photoshoot art director.

1 Comments

  1. Clare
    May 17, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    Wow, loads of ideas for things to do next time we’re in Mallorca! A super useful article. Thanks!