Mallorca doesn’t have the best reputation. Mallorca is cheap sangria served in plastic buckets and beaches crowded with drunk lobster-red all-inclusive tourists. Sure, you do find this kind of tourism. But Mallorca also has the finest bodegas in Spain, which produce great quality wine: Macià Batle in Santa María del Camí is one of the best on the island. (Sangria is exclusive to teenage Northern European tourists.)
But let’s start from the beginning. Let’s start from the heart of the island: Palma de Mallorca is the capital and a very typical Mediterranean town. Winding, narrow streets, laundry hanging from the balconies and a stunning (really stunning) cathedral. Visiting the cathedral is the typical touristy thing to do, but it would be a shame to miss it. The Majorcan artist Miquel Barceló built a contemporary art installation in one of its apses, which is quite revolutionary to see in a Gothic cathedral. However, don’t spend too much time in the very historic center, it’s way too crowded with visitors. Head over to Santa Catalina. It used to be the old fishermen’s neighbourhood and it is now the hip part of the town. There are loads of cool bars and restaurants and artsy boutiques. And if you really want to get the gist of the local vibe, go to the Santa Catalina market at 1pm. There is a lunch place called Bar Joan Frau. It’s an institution among locals. It’s packed, it’s loud, it’s Spain.
Everyone will tell you to take the train to Sóller. Don’t take the train to Sóller. It is crowded, touristy and there are a lot of tunnels. You don’t see that much. Take the bus. Get off in Valldemossa, Banyalbufar, Estellencs, Deià. These are beautiful tiny mountain villages. Or don’t get off and just enjoy passing through them by bus.
If you’re into hiking, you will love the Tramuntana mountains. The trekking paths still have quite a rough touch to them and if you hike on the far West bit, you will have the most beautiful views over the Mediterranean Sea. Priceless.
Mallorca has a lot of little coves and hardly any large sandy beach stretches. The coves tend to be quite crowded and the hidden ones are only accessible by boat or by hiking for an hour in the summer heat. Don’t over-complicate it, you won’t find that virgin, isolated beach in Mallorca. Go to Es Trenc in the early morning. Es Trenc is a gorgeous Caribbean-like sand beach, which is easy to access by car and bus. Gorgeous means popular, so make sure to be gone by noon. No Majorcan in his right mind would stay in the midday sun, anyway.
While you’re in the area, check out beautiful Santanyi. There’s a market every Saturday, which is very much worth a visit. And even more so the Wednesday market in Sineu. It’s one of the oldest in Mallorca and you’ll find everything from local produce to handicraft and even animals!
The famous local foods are Ensaimada (sweet bread) and Sobrassada (raw, cured sausage). Every tourist goes after them. You don’t miss out if you don’t try them. Do try Pa amb oli, however. These are slices of local brown bread, rubbed with garlic and local tomatoes and, of course, Majorcan olive oil (the best!) - with cheese and Serrano ham on top -. And don’t forget that glass of local wine!
The best time to visit Mallorca is May/June or September/October. It is still hot, but not too hot and not too crowded. There is a local festivity on June 23 called Revetlla de Sant Joan (Saint John’s Eve), which is an incredible spectacle: percussion bands dressed as devils set off flares and fireworks in the crowds and everyone dances in the fire. It is wild and loud very much Spain.