Got your eye on Mallorca for a holiday this year? Read on for a hassle free guide to planning a Mallorcan holiday from our Balearic travel expert Kerry Christiani.
Since the first Brits touched down in the 1950s, Mallorca has kept its slot in the top ten summer holidays charts. But there’s more to this Balearic Island than meets the eye. Mallorca’s appeal is as obvious as it is enduring: 300 days of sun a year, great beaches and good-value accommodation. Yet there is so much more to this island. Think Mallorca and chances are you’re not thinking Picasso in Sóller, wild limestone mountains or ochre-hued villages perched above the topaz Mediterranean. That’s a shame, because that’s the real Mallorca to those who know and love it.
Beyond popular resorts like Alcúdia and Cala d’Or, the island is starting to shrug off its summer-only image. Mountain cycling, coastal hiking, fincas hidden among almond and olive groves – you’ll find every kind of holiday here, packaged into one enticing and affordable parcel.
When to go
Sun-worshippers and families flock to beach resorts in the peak months of July and August, making room rates sky-rocket. The mercury can hit 35°C in peak months, which are best avoided unless you are tied by school holiday dates. Crowds subside in June and September, when the sea is warm enough to swim in, beaches are less packed and accommodation is cheaper. Spring and autumn can be glorious and these are the best seasons for active holidays with few crowds. Winter has its own appeal. The interior is a mass of white almond blossom January through to early March, and carnival fever embraces the island in February. But temperatures dip to around 15°C and showers are to be expected.
Getting the best deal
July, August and Easter aside, there are bargains to be had in Mallorca. Shop around for early or late deals on accommodation. If you book well ahead with low-cost airlines, you should be able to secure cheap flights.
Mallorca presents no particular health hazards and most travellers’ gripes relate to overindulging on sun, food or alcohol. The free EHIC card entitles EU citizens to emergency health care, but it’s no substitute for health insurance covering routine medical care, repatriation, theft, damage and more.
Packing and Baggage
Resort supermarkets stock essentials from Marmite to mosquito repellent, so leave bulky items at home. You might want to bring an adaptor plug and sun cream (it’s more expensive than in the UK). Airlines charge up to £20 per kilo for excess baggage, so weigh your bags before you travel or go light with hand luggage only (usually 10 kilos).
Getting to airport
Flights serve Palma de Mallorca Airport from UK cities including London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Manchester and East Midlands. The Palma de Mallorca airport website lists destinations and airlines fully. Flights are often daily from April to October, once or twice weekly from November to March. Ryanair, bmibaby, EasyJet and Jet2 are among the low-cost airlines operating frequent flights to Palma.
Surviving the airport
Public transport can ease the journey to the airport – National Express run cost-effective coaches to most major UK airports – or consider pre-booking airport parking. Check luggage restrictions online beforehand and carry liquids in 100ml containers in a re-sealable plastic bag.
Palma de Mallorca Airport sits 8km east of town. EMT operates bus 1 (single €2.50/£2.10) to central Palma every 15 minutes; stops include Plaça d’Espanya and the ferry terminal. A taxi for the same 15-minute ride will set you back around €20 (£16.60). The cheapest and easiest way to reach the island’s resorts is by shared transfer, such as ResortHoppa, Shuttle Direct and Skyblue. These cost as little as €7 (£5.80) per person and prepayment is required. You’ll find all the big-name car hire agents (Hertz, Avis etc.) at the airport and along Passeig Marítim, alongside cheaper, lesser-known companies like Goldcar and Pepecar.
Mallorca Hassle Free – the map
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Once you are there
Overlooked for too long, Mallorca’s medieval meets modernist capital Palma is finally being feted as a short-break destination. Perched on the sea and crowned by Gothic La Seu cathedral – strikingly illuminated by night – the city is a great introduction to the island. Take the lead of locals with a paseo (evening stroll) around the laid-back old quarter of Santa Catalina and tree-fringed boulevard Passeig d’es Born, pausing for drinks on a people-watching cafe terrace.
Mallorcans eat late. Do likewise at a sleek restaurant like Tast, where tapas are elevated to an art form. Signature flavours include cuttlefish stuffed with tangy sobrasada sausage. Mediterranean cooking is given a creative twist at ever-popular Las Olas bistro and 17th-century convent refectory turned restaurant Simply Fosh.
Practical considerations for planning an itinerary
Mallorca is an island but it’s a big one and pre-planning helps. CTM runs an efficient public transport network, but services slow to a trickle – and dry up entirely in coastal resorts – from November to March. To explore the island at your own speed and discover off-the-radar places, hiring a car is probably the way to go. Driving is generally hassle-free, but bear in mind that roads can get congested with traffic in summer, cyclists in spring and autumn.
Eating out is still affordable by European standards, with most restaurants offering a good-value menú del día (set menu).
Choosing the right resort is crucial. In the northeast sits low-key, family-friendly Port de Pollença, with gorgeous mountain views. From here there are boats to the pine-fringed bay of Formentor, one of Mallorca’s best, with crystalline turquoise water. Its neighbour is Alcúdia, comprising a medieval walled old town with a five-mile stretch of white sand beach, backed by reasonably priced accommodation.
Swinging further south along the east coast, Cala d’Or is a popular purpose-built resort with a laid-back vibe. Its major asset is its string of beautiful bays, flanked by pine trees and lapped by aquamarine water.
Exploring the island
The hinterland and north coast is where you’ll find a taste of Mallorca beyond what the brochures promise. Tortuous roads lick the peaks and gullies of the Serra de Tramuntana, a spine of limestone mountains running along the island’s north. The olive groves and pine forests here are perfect hiking terrain. For more adventure, take the serpentine road down to smuggler’s cove of Sa Calobra at the mouth of the boulder-strewn Torrent de Pareis gorge. If you’ve got the hang of the switchbacks by now, head east and take the dizzying road that swings along the clifftops to Cap de Formentor, its lonely lighthouse providing captivating views along the coast.
Find out more about the attractions of the island in the Best of the Best of Mallorca feature.
Mallorca may be a small(ish) island but its airport is big and one of Europe’s busiest – it handled 22.7 million passengers in 2011. Come with time and patience. Most UK flights depart from zone A. Dropping off a car might involve a shuttle ride to the terminal, so don’t cut it too fine.
Make your Mallorca holiday last that bit longer by uploading your holiday snaps and creating albums for your friends to view on Facebook, TwitPic and Photobox. Trade tips with fellow photographers by adding your favourite shots to the Mallorca Flickr group. You can share your experiences or glean some advice for your next trip on the Mallorca TripAdvisor forum.
- Balearic Islands Tourist Board: http://www.illesbalears.es
- Diario de Mallorca: http://www.diariodemallorca.es
- Dígame Mallorca: http://www.digamemallorca.com
- Holiday Weather: http://www.holiday-weather.com/majorca
- See Mallorca: http://www.seemallorca.com
- Palma de Mallorca airport website: http://www.aena-aeropuertos.es/csee/Satellite/Aeropuerto-Palma-Mallorca/en/Page/1056530002847/Airport-destinations.html
- EMT – the local bus service between the airport and town: http://www.emtpalma.es/EMTPalma/Front/index.en.jsp
- CTM – Mallorca’s public transport website: http://www.consorcidetransports.org/en/web/ctm/inici
Other useful sources of information
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office Spain advice page: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/europe/spain
- Simonseeks has some inspiring content on the Mallorca: http://www.simonseeks.com/destinations/europe/spain/balearic-islands/majorca__8441
Browse these Mallorca forums for tips from locals, expats and fellow travellers: