Mallorca has a bit of everything you could want on a tropical island; historic port cities, sandy beaches with wild nightlife, and small villages tucked into mountains so lovely they are a world heritage site.
Day 1 – Friday, July 3, 2015
Our plane touched down on the island of Mallorca at 2:45pm. From the airport we were able to take a bus into the center of Palma. We ditched our luggage at a storage facility and set off to explore Palma. The historical center had the windy cobblestone streets of other Spanish cities, lined with the boutiques and crowds of a tropical vacation destination. Every few blocks we would pass a beautiful building that would make us stop for a moment. The restaurants in the historical center were shockingly expensive to us, compared to the restaurants in Seville and Madrid, then again at least one menu we read said it was a Michelin Guide restaurant.
Plaza Mayor wasn’t as impressive as its counterpart in Madrid, but had some more reasonably priced restaurants and we sat down for a meal. When we were refreshed we walked to Palma’s most famous landmark, the Cathedral. The Cathedral was another beautiful example of Gothic architecture, but might be more impressive for its location overlooking blue Mediterranean waters. Flanking the Cathedral are Palau de la Almudaina and the Palma Diocesan building which houses an exhibit about Antoni Gaudi. It was late in the day when we were there, and the church was closing in 30 minutes, leaving us without ample time for a visit.
That night we were staying in Soller. Soller is a small town in the mountains 30km north of Palma. The two cities are connected by the Ferrocarril de Soller, a historic train line more than 100 years old. Trains still run daily through the orange groves and olive farms between the two cities. We boarded the 7:30pm train (€15 one way) which was surprisingly empty, and had a car to ourselves. The views were very lovely; first through tree groves, then mountains approach. The best view might be that of Soller which the train overlooks several times as it winds down the mountains.
Our host was waiting to let us into the apartment. The first thing we did was enjoy the amazing balcony which is just off of the center square of Soller. The Soller church was so close that it felt as though I could lean over the balcony and touch it. We could have spent much longer on the balcony, but we could see that there was something happening in the square which we wanted a closer look at.
In the Soller Square, known as Placa de sa Constitucio, tables were set up and a band was playing. The tables seemed to be part of a church dinner function, but anyone in the square could enjoy the live music. We listened for a while and then picked a restaurant on the square to eat dinner at. Cafe Soller had amazing gnocchi with ham and asparagus cream sauce, although our other meal was less exciting. We also tried Xoriguer which is local Spanish Mediterranean gin.
Day 2 – Saturday, July 4, 2015 – American Independence Day
When we woke up, the Soller Square was already busy. A market was set up, and hoards of tourists from the Ferrocarril de Soller were browsing stands and sipping drinks at cafes. We enjoyed the bowl of fresh fruit our host left us in the apartment and then went to find a more substantial breakfast. We sat outdoors at Bar Central right on the square. Before going too far, we decided to peak our heads into Iglesia de Sant Bartomeu. Although the smallest and least famous of the churches we’d visited in the past month, San Bartomeu was still a beautiful town church and it took us 10 minutes to walk through looking at all of the chapels. One of the most unique areas was a small carved out nook at the back of the church displaying a nativity scene.
The Saturday market extended much further than the square. Stalls sold flowing linen clothes, hand made jewelry, and cured meats. Near the train station, we caught the tram to Soller Port. The tram (€5.50) is the second phase of the historic journey on the Ferrocarril. The tram passed through narrow streets barely missing the market stands and then countryside with more orange groves until it reached the island cove known as the Soller Port.
Mallorca has a surprisingly reputation for great hiking and we had set out that morning to do a hike. It was already pushing 100 degrees F, but we hadn’t hiked in months and really wanted to stretch our legs. We picked a 2 hour hike starting near the tram stop we had disembarked at. The hike began in the port town, but soon we were going up a steep hill towards the countryside. Most of the hike was along roads lined with stone walls, olive trees, and old mills. Near the top of the hill, more trees provided shade and eventually the breeze from the ocean 450 feet below found us. The hike ended at an old stone lookout tower. We couldn’t enter the tower, but the views were nice and with a bit of off-trail hiking over stones we could also see the port.
When we reached the port again we knew only one thing could cool us down, ice cream. We wanted to try Sa Fabrica de Gelats (which is well known in Soller) but were more intrigued by the flavors at Io Gelats Artesans. We sampled mango champagne and cafe al congac, but decided to order lemon pie ice cream (complete with burnt meringue on top) and passion fruit. Many people were enjoying the beach, swimming, or renting boats in Soller Port, but we had only been prepared to hike. Exhausted from the heat, we caught the tram back into Soller where we relaxed and cleaned up.
When the sun was lower in the sky, we took advantage of the amazing roof deck at the apartment we had rented. The views were stunning and we enjoyed some local beers and delicious local curado (manchego) cheese. It was our own little Independence Day celebration.
The mood in Soller on Saturday was very different than the busy square the night before. A few people were out, mostly sitting in restaurants and sipping drinks but there were no crowds, events, or noise. We ate dinner at Casa Alvaro after our first choice restaurant (which wasn’t overly crowded) told us the wait for food would be 50 minutes because they had just seated a table of 10 people. Casa Alvaro was okay, but for the price of the tapas the portion size left us wanting. We split oxtail, a salad of sliced and marinated vegetables, and sirloin steak.
Day 3 – Sunday, July 5, 2015
We had to pack up our bags and leave the condo by 11am. The train conductor on the Ferrocarlli had recommend we take the bus to return as the more economical method. The bus ride was very nice, the countryside just as pretty as on the train but it took only half the time of the train ride. We were let out at the Estacio Intermodal (the Palma bus station) and caught another bus to Magaful.
We checked into the Sol Guadalupe, which would be our only real hotel stay in Europe. The hotel lobby was nice, and our room was decent. Looking far to the side, you could see the ocean and a sliver of beach from our balcony. The Sol Guadalupe felt more like a hotel. The pool was large with open lounge chairs and we spent the rest of the afternoon there.
That evening we explored Magaful. From the hotel, it was only a 3 minute walk to the beach which was almost empty in the early evening. Just off of the beach, is the main road through town. Magaful was a spring breakers paradise and we weren’t expecting it to be filled with beach bars, loud music, and flashing lights. We at at Finnegan’s Irish Pub, which we can’t recommend for the mediocre food. However it was slightly off of the main road and therefore a bit quieter and calmer.
Day 4 – Monday, July 6, 2015
The hotel had a free breakfast buffet, which was actually quite large. Monday was a beach day for us. We walked 5 minutes from the hotel to the Magaluf Beach where we planned to spend the majority of the day. People who know me, known that I’m not a beach person. However, in rented lounge chairs under an umbrella (€13.50) the hot temperatures were very tolerable. The beach was crowded, but not overly so. The sand was clean and wasn’t rocky, and the water was calm with very little debris in it. Occasionally, you could see a small fish. We mostly relaxed in the chairs, and dunked ourselves into the clear water when we needed to cold down. Other people paid to ride inflatable bananas, chairs, and other rafts through the bay. There was also a large inflatable playground floating out in the water for those willing to pay for it.
For dinner that night we tried Pirate Beach, which not only looks popular but is highly ranked on Trip Advisor. We both had their house specialty, the ribs. The meals were just alright and, despite the menu’s claim of heaping portions of coleslaw, fries, and salad, we finished every bite.
Day 5 – Tuesday, July 7, 2015
It was time for us to scuba dive again (€198). Once you start, the itch to dive seems to stay with you, so we were excited. Like all new dive shops, we were a bit overwhelmed for a while trying to figure out gear. We were given BCDs, regs, fins, masks, wet suits, and booties. Missing from the gear kits were dive computers and snorkels, which Jon and I found very odd. Once we had our gear in hand, we walked to the boat. The boat was actually an inflatable raft. We were surprised, but understood why we were advised not to bring any of our personal items beyond on the boat. Sitting on the side of the boat, like navy seals, we jetted out to the dive sites. Both dive sites were in El Toro National Park with protected waters. The dive shop assured us this was the best diving in the area because of the abundance of marine life.
Again, like navy seals, we entered the water by sitting on the raft and falling backwards into the ocean. Big Blue Diving does all of their dives guided, so we were in a group with two other open water divers and our guide. Another group of advanced divers was also in our boat. The water was clear and gave us great visibility for which we were grateful. The dive site was along a small island which had a rocky shelf before the water and then dropped deeper forming a wall. This wasn’t a coral reef, but it was interesting enough. Right away there were lots of small black fish, and a few really big lipped fish. We also saw plenty of barracudas. The highlight of the dive, besides the amazing weightless feeling, was seeing at least three moray eels. At the end of the dive, we had some miscommunication with the guide about shallowing up for a safety stop before the rest of the group was ready.
The second dive was also in El Toro National Park. This time there was a large wall without any shelf and both groups were going to dive together. Very soon into the water the guide moved a rock and pointed out an octopus hiding in a hole. He tried to lure it out, but the most we saw was a tentacle. There were also some barracudas, but no lobsters which normally are found around the site. The visibility was still good, but I don’t think the fish were as plentiful or interesting at the second dive site. This time the safety stop was no problem and we returned to the raft.
On our walk back to the hotel we stopped to eat at Ibizza. We split a pitcher of lemonade, a caprice salad, and pizza. It was very good, although that might be the post-scuba hunger talking. I might even venture to say it was the best pizza we had since leaving America.
Exhausted, we cleaned up and relaxed at the hotel. We didn’t go back out again until dinner time. For dinner we ate at Restaurante Pardos Sl which was an excellent find for us. Not only was Pardo’s a real restaurant instead of another of the British pubs found throughout Magaluf, but it also had a great price fix menu. For €15 we each had a wonderful 3 course meal with a drink included. For dessert we got to try some Spanish specialties, creame de carmel and Natillas (Custard Cream).
The hotel offered nightly entertainment, and we got back in time to watch the last 20 minutes of the ‘Circus Show’. The last few acts, preformed by a 4 person cast, included aerial silks, acrobatics, and juggling.
Day 6 – Wednesday, July 8, 2015
The day started with breakfast at the hotel buffet. At 9:30 we picked up a rental car to spend the day exploring the mountain towns of the Serra de Tramuntana. The Serra de Tramuntana is a small mountain range on Mallorca and also a UNESCO World Heritage site. The mountains are speckled with tiny villages set on terraces built into the hill sides. The site is a cultural world heritage site and, dispute the mountains, not a natural one.
Ma-100 took us out of Magaluf and passed the towns of Peguera and Andratx. After Andratx the road narrows and starts to wind into the mountains. Soon the road turned and followed the coast with views similar to the other coastal drives. Occasionally we found a view point to pull over at and take some pictures. Our favorite stop was the Torre del Verger, a watch tower perched high on a cliff side. The tower was special because it could be entered and inside, a steel ladder led up to the top level.
The first town we stopped in was Estellencs. We parked the car briefly to walk around. The town has to be seen on foot, the narrow paths were too small for cars. Buildings seemed to be built on top of each other. It was a very neat town to explore, but it was sleepy. We didn’t pass many people, shops, or cafes to bring the town to life.
Banyalbufar was the next town along the road, and we stopped there as well. The streets were similar to those of Estellencs, but there were several restaurants along the main road through town, and a small produce stand which made Banyalbufar seem a bit more lively. We took the advice of an online guide and ordered a glass of local white wine called malvasia at the Restaurant Son Tomas. Our stop for malvasia was a nice break from the heat and malvasia was a wine that we both agreed was very unique to our pallets. It wasn’t nearly as sweet and citrus-y as many other white wines.
Back in the car, we continued on to Valldemossa, where we stopped for lunch. Valldemossa was by far the most crowded town and had many stores and restaurants. The streets were wider and more green than the other towns we had visited that day. We walked into the town far enough to see the main church and to get an idea of the options for lunch. For lunch we sat at a shady table and ate some tapas. Refreshed again, we got back into the car and and doubled back slightly to the road towards Deia.
Deia was a town on a hill in the middle of a valley. It may have been the most dramatic looking town from a distance. We stopped a few times to take pictures. When we got to Deia, we pulled off of the road to look for parking, but since parking was not easily found, we decided to finish our drive rather than brave the sun in another town. Most people driving through the Serra del Tramuntana continue on to Soller, but having already been there we turned around. Our drive back took us through the middle of the island which was much faster than the coast although not as interesting. We did pass through Valldemossa and Palma again.
At the hotel, we spent a few hours enjoying the pool. For dinner we went to Alexandra, a seafood restaurant similar to the one we enjoyed the day before. We split a large paella which came adorned with shrimp, mussels, and clams. When we returned to the hotel, their show, a tribute to the Black Eyed Peas, was finishing up. We watched about 4 songs, including one by LMFAO along with the rest by the Black Eyed Peas.
- Palma Cathedral – Another beautiful example of Gothic architecture which might be more impressive due to its location overlooking blue Mediterranean waters
- Ferrocarril de Soller – This historic train line, which is over 100 years old, connects the cities of Palma and Soller traversing through orange groves and mountains. If you wish to continue, switch to the histroic tram at Soller and complete the journey to the Soller Port. (€15 one way)
- Hiking – There are many mountain and beach hikes on Mallorca. We found our hike using the website Walking Mallorca.
- Palma Aquarium – One of the most popular attractions in Palma.
- Scuba Diving – There are several dive shops offering day trips off of Mallorca.
- Fosh (Palma) – A Michelin-star restaurant in downtown Palma.
- Restaurante Pardos Sl (Magaluf) – For €15 enjoy a wonderful 3 course meal with a drink included.
- Ibizza (Magaluf) – Some of the best pizza we had since leaving America.
- Io Geloat (Soller) – Good gelato with unique flavors.
- Sa Fabric Gelato (Soller and Port Soller) -The most popular gelato manufacture on Mallorca.
- Natillas – A traditional Spanish dessert of custard cream served with a cookie.
- Xoriguer and/or Gin Eva – Spanish gins made on the Mediterranean islands.
- Malvasia – A local white wine made in the Serra de Tramuntana. We found the wine to be very unique, it isn’t as sweet and citrus-y as many other white wines.
- Ferrocarril de Soller – This historic train line, which is over 100 years old, connects the cities of Palma and Soller traversing through orange groves and mountains. If you wish to continue, switch to the historic tram at Soller and complete the journey to the Soller Port. (€15 one way)
- Local bus – Without a doubt, bus was the best and most economical way to travel around Mallorca. Local bus lines run throughout the island and google maps does a good job of finding them. The 40 minute bus from Soller to Palma cost under €3/person as does the ride from Palma to Magaluf.
- Rental cars – Rental cars are readily available in Palma and Magaluf and make exploring the Serra de Tramuntana a breeze.