A few days ago I came back from Spain. From the Balearics to be exact –
Mallorca and Ibiza. Mallorca was our first destination, we spent 6 days there. So far my feeling about the island are mixed.
The island has a typical Mediterranean landscape. If you were to Greece, Turkey, Italy, Albania, than you won’t see anything new on Mallorca. The same hilly, barren views. Very hot and very dry, with hardly any greenery. It wasn’t love at first sight. It is not Asia, that smacks you in the face with its lush beauty. It took a lot of effort and driving around to unveil Mallorcan elusive charm. Well, I suppose it’s just my taste, but when on holiday, I like being impressed straight away.
Mallorca is quite a big island, with plenty of resorts to choose from. It was a bit of a headache for me, as I couldn’t decide on a perfect location. The first three days we decided to spend in Palma de Mallorca. The city is the capital of the island, and has a great historical significance.
It is also very beautiful, it was an enormous pleasure to wander its streets, once the sun had gone down and a beautiful warm evening set in. It is a bit of a hell during the day. Even in the middle of September the temperature stayed at around 35 degrees. Because of that we went for a very touristy City bus tour as roaming the streets it that weather was more than we could bear. It lasted 45 min, and the ticket was valid for 24 hours. The price was €17.
Also we noticed that Palma was a city of dogs, domesticated ones, not stray. The number of dogs per capita was probably the highest I’ve seen so far, it was particularly apparent in the evening, when their owners took them out for a walk.
We stayed in a local residential area at Isla Mallorca hotel. We chose it as it was a little out of the way, and had a swimming pool, unlike some other city hotels. It was really, really good. Very modern, with huge buffet breakfast, with modestly sized rooms, but massive balconies to compensate for. The price was around €120 per night.
It was a perfect location – within a walking distance to the centre and bus stops, and also close to all local restaurants, where staff didn’t speak any English, and in the evening all tables were full with mallorcans. The eateries, by no means, were glamorous, but I couldn’t have asked for more, as I got tired of touristy junk food offered in the centre. Needless to say, the prices put a smile to our faces as well. €3.50 for a jug of sangria anyone?….
Once in Palma, we made a plan to move around the neighbouring towns by bus and rent a car only for the last two days. The bus system is very efficient, easy to navigate and cheap. Our first destination was Magaluf, with its Western water park. There are three parks there, but we somehow decided on that one, with the help of Trip adviser, of course. There are a few buses from Palma that drop you off at the centre of Magaluf in 30min. They are very frequent and cost €2. I have to say that it’s not a cheap day out if you go for everything, they expect you to go for. First of all the entry is €26. Which is a standard price, I suppose. But on top of that you need to pay €5 for the locker, €8-12 for the hire of slides rings, and, wait for it – €3 for the sun lounger. What is included in the price then? Honestly, it’s the first time i saw something like that. I haven’t seen anyone on the loungers, instead everyone was sunbathing on their towels on the grass. The free rings were very few, we were lucky to be there in quiet period, that’s why we didn’t pay for any. But even then there was a bit of a competition for them. In the high season one can probably wait for hours for one to become available. It’s easier to hire one. The food in cafés is bad quality and also very overpriced. You might want to take water and even packed lunch, if you prefer.
The slides were good, with some really high and scary ones, as well as the ones for kids.
Magaluf to me looked like a little British colony, with pubs and bars showing British football games( which is crazy, as Spaniards are such avid supporters of Barca and Real Madrid) and all restaurant signs being in English. I had to look really hard to find a place serving traditional tapas, as the rest were serving pasta, pizza, steaks, burgers, fish and chips, Chinese food – everything a British tourist might miss, while on a vacation.
The next day we took a trip to Soller, a little town and a valley, where they grow oranges and lemons. There are two ways to get there – cheap and fast by bus. Or expensive, long and scenic – by 100 years old train. We settled on a compromise, which turned out to be a perfect decision. A bus to Port de Soller takes 30min and costs €3. It’s a pretty, scenic place, with a nice beach and restaurants next to the water to have lunch at.
From there you can take a bus, an old tram or a taxi to Soller village.
We were short of time and took a taxi, which cost €8. Keep in mind, that the last train to Palma from Soller station leaves quite early – around 6.30. Soller village was situated only 10 min away. It was a charming little place, with twisted streets and loads of shops, where you could buy delicious, local produce.
On the way back we took the old train, as it wasn’t hot anymore and it was very nice to sit next to the open window. The price was €12.50 and it took 1 hour.
Finally, it was time to leave Palma, and, in all honesty, I was sad to go, as this place had such a special atmosphere.
We set foot to Alcudia, a town and a resort with good tourist infrastructure. It was completely on the opposite side of the island, extreme North( no polar bears there, though). Once again, getting there was easy with local buses for €6 within an hour. We went for a serviced apartment – Siesta I. Finished in Greek(???!!!!) style with a huge swimming pool, own restaurant and live entertainment every evening. It was in the middle range price-wise at €50 per night. There were loads of apartments cheaper and, obviously, much more expensive. The room was very basic, had a balcony and a kitchenette, where u could cook breakfast. I even smelled something being cook for dinner, in the room next to ours,as the cookware was provided.
The was a big supermarket not far away, from where we bought snacks and beverages. They even had cava at €1.5 per bottle. I bought one out of curiosity and have to say it tasted very similar to the ones I payed £7 per glass at London restaurants.
Alcudia old town is worth a visit. Narrow, old streets, scattered with eateries and souvenir shops. There I had one of the best dinners on the island, very traditional and inexpensive. Add to that a glass of sangria and a warm, fragrant evening… I don’t need to say more.
Alcudia beach was listed among the best beaches on Mallorca. It is very long, sandy, with shallow entrance into the sea, perfect for sunbathing and family holidays. I, however, prefer rocky beaches, which get deep straight away. They tend to be very picturesque, dramatic, with crystal clear water. For that purpose, we rented a car for two days.
Be prepared to spend a pretty penny on the car hire at the Balearics. There are so many tourists there that they don’t need to keep the prices down. When we went to Scotland, we paid £17 per day for a brand new Ford. At Europa car branch in Alcudia, however, the cheapest class C Fiat cost €60. Hertz and all other big car rental companies charged about the same. We decided to go around and found a locally owned car rental company, which charged €30 for a similar car.
So we circled the places on the map that we wanted to visit.
For that day our interest spread to traditional, pretty villages. Interestingly enough, they were all concentrated on one side of the island, the west. Even on the map this part of the island was green, as opposed to the yellow colour of the rest of the island.
It was on the 4th day, that my displeasure with the islands natural beauties started to lift, as soon as we rented the car and ventured into the west. It’s a totally different world – dramatic, mountenous, with high cliffs dropping into the blue sea. There was plenty of colour, too. Orange clay of the mountains, mixed with green and brown. I even turned the camera on and made a short video of our drive, so beautiful it was.
I have to note that we didn’t manage to visit all the villages on that day. They seemed to be close enough on the map, but the area was so hilly, that we needed to go up and down on the serpantine roads. We had to watch our speed as well.
The main village I wanted to visit was Valldemossa, a place famous for its beauty and for being a refuge to Gorge Sand and F. Chopin. It was situated very high in the mountains. I will, probably, be a drama queen and say, that there is no point of going to Mallorca, if you don’t visit Valldemossa. This place had definitely made its way into my top 3 most beautiful villages, so far. A labyrinth of narrow streets, every next one more beautiful that the previous one. My finger got tired of taking all those perfect, postcard quality photos.
The streets were so peaceful in the evening, just like they were 200 years ago. I wish I could spend a week there, thinking about the importance of life and death. No wonder, that the winter, Chopin spent there was one of the most prolific ones in his career.
The next village was Deia, the place, where,apparently, loads of celebrities bought their holiday homes. It was also built on the mountain, but a short ride( or a long walk) down we found ourselves on a most fabulous, little rocky beach, where a short swim was more than welcome in that weather.
In Andratx we had lunch at a local cafe, where they spoke almost no English and we had to translate the menu with the help of the iPhone. We went for ‘menu del dia’, or a set menu. Frankly, they didn’t serve anything else for lunch, but we were delighted to have, what everyone around was having. Especially that it was just €9.50 per person. So we had Gaspacho and paella to start, which were lovely, fish in tomato sauce and rabbit with onions to follow, crema Catalana and a pudding for dessert, big bottle of water and a whole bottle of good red wine to wash it down with. The bill came up only to €19.
I really regret, that we didn’t manage to visit any of the natural parks and the Blue gorge on Mallorca – must have been nice- as In a couple of days we needed to catch a flight to Ibiza. We bought the flights very last minute, so it cost us £80 pp with Air Berlin, ferry cost around the same, but it was too early for us to wake up.
In my opinion, to discover the natural charm of Mallorca, it is very important to rent a car and go around. Otherwise I would still be convinced, that there was nothing else to Mallorca, but budget apart hotels and cheap beer.