Mallorquíns are by nature very proud of their island, and for every reason. Overlooking the mega-resort cash-cows that blight parts of the coast, Mallorca has a staggering number of impressive phenomena, both natural and artificial, squeezed into the one isle. Here’s just a small selection of them.
La Seu Cathedral
An obvious place to start, La Seu Cathedral is an unmissable landmark and an incredible piece of architecture. Started in 1229 and finished in 1601, it is situated on the site of a former Moorish mosque. It is designed in the gothic style but has had many influences over the centuries, including a contribution by Catalan legend Gaudí.
Plaça de la Seu, 07001 Palma, +34 902022445
Another impressive piece of ancient architecture, and notable for being one of very few round castles in existence in Europe, this wonderfully positioned fort was built in the 14th century for King James II of Mallorca. After serving as home to various kings, it was used as a military prison from the 18th to the mid-20th century. It is now a popular attraction for visitors and houses the city’s history museum.
Carrer Camilo José Cela, 07014 Palma, +34 971735065
Botanicactus Botanical Gardens
This wonderfully unusual botanical garden displays an enormous variety of cacti from around the world, some centuries old and reaching several metres tall. Artificial terraces, specifically designed to encourage the growth of the cacti, protect the plants from the wind. There’s a section dedicated to flora native to Mallorca, while tropical plants and fields of bamboo can be explored around an artificial lake. You can even buy a specimen to take home with you.
Foundation of Pilar and Jean Miro
The workshops of Jean Miro were donated to the island so that visitors could experience the original space in which he created his artworks, and view the thousands of drawings, paintings and sculptures that he created. Over the years the Foundation has acquired works by other artists including Chagall, Rueda and Villalba. The Foundation also hosts some wonderful temporary exhibitions.
Carrer Joan de Saridakis, 29, 07015 Palma, +34 971701420
Alfabia Gardens is a particularly peaceful site consisting of a historical house, picturesque grounds and an orchard in the heart of the Tramuntana Mountains. The estate was originally owned by the island’s Moorish viceroy and is mentioned in literature dating back to the 12th century. The best way of getting there is via the Soller train, though don’t forget to let the conductor know in advance if you want to get off, or it won’t stop!
Buñola, Ma-11, 07110 Bunyola, +34 971613123
Mirador Es Colomer
One of the most breathtaking lookout points in Mallorca, Mirador Es Colomer is located in Cap Formenter and looks out towards Minorca in the east, Cala Fiquera in the west and Alcúdia in the south. The cliffs are fairly high and the wind can be vicious, so make sure to choose a calm day for your visit.
Pollentia Roman Ruins
These fascinating remains of an ancient Roman town and theatre in the north of Mallorca are bursting with stories of ancient history. Located just outside of Alcúdia, the site is well preserved and houses a museum of the artefacts that have been excavated at the site. Pollentia was founded by Quintus Caecilius Metellus in 123 BC and was the most important city in the Balearics during the Roman period.
Av. Prínceps d’Espanya, 07400 Alcúdia, +34 971547004
Sa Dragonera is a tiny uninhabited island and nature reserve just off Mallorca’s southwest coast, directly opposite the resort of Sant Elm. Its name comes from its dragon-like shape and the lizards that inhabit it – a subspecies not found anywhere else in the world. Ecologists won an important battle to stop hotel development on the island, and thus it remains totally unspoilt, with a pristine natural park. The boat trip over takes just 20 minutes, but visitors can’t spend the night.
A great family day out, these wetlands can be accessed by car or via an easy cycle on one of the many routes on offer in the area. They are located in between Alcúdia and Can Picafort. Entrance to the wetlands is free and maps and binoculars are available from the visitors’ centre, so you can explore the area and, with luck, catch glimpses of the small animals and various birds that inhabit the site.
Carretera MA-12, Km. 26.3, 07458 Muro, +34 971892250
Es Baluard Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art
The Es Baluard Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, set into the city’s ancient walls, features a superb setting overlooking Palma’s main marina. Impressive city and sea panoramas can also be enjoyed from the top of the 16th-century ramparts, while the architecture cleverly fuses 21st-century glass and concrete with the medieval sandstone walls. Inside, a series of ramps and terraces connect bright and airy exhibition spaces with permanent collections featuring work by the likes of Picasso, Barceló, Miró, Sorolla and Rusiñol.
Plaça de la Porta de Santa Catalina, 10, 07012 Palma, +34 971908201
La Alumundaina Royal Palace
Still used by the king for summer ceremonies, the palace we see today is the result of modifications made to the Muslim fortress constructed in 1281, and still contains the original baths from the Moorish era. With a range of expertly woven tapestries and artefacts from across the eras on display, it’s a great place to dive into the rich history of the island.
Carrer del Palau Reial, 07001 Palma, +34 971214134
Tramuntana Mountain Range
The dramatic mountains skirting the length of Mallorca’s northern coast are known as the Serra de Tramuntana. Running almost 90 kilometres (56 miles) and with numerous peaks over a kilometre (half a mile) high, the whole range has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its historical, cultural and environmental importance. Whether you choose to drive, hike or cycle, there are countless incredible sights to see and places to visit.
One of the most beautiful towns in Mallorca, Valldemossa is tucked away in the hills of the grand Tramuntana range. Surrounded by forested hills and luscious countryside, it is a popular destination for cyclists and hikers. With winding narrow lanes and pretty houses decorated with flowers and the patron saint of Mallorca, Saint Catalina Thomàs, it’s both a relaxing and charming place to visit. The most famous landmark is the 13th-century monastery where the composer Chopin famously spent a famous winter.
Cuevas de Artá
Situated on the crest of a cliff overlooking the bay of Canyamel, the Cuevas de Artá feature one of the more spectacular settings on the island. Inside is certainly no less breathtaking, with the Entrance Room cavern being equal in size to the nave of Palma’s La Seu Cathedral. Also, the 22-metre (72-foot) stalagmite in the Queen’s Room is all the more impressive when you consider that such formations grow at a rate less than half a millimetre a year.
Via de las Cuevas, 07589 Canyamel, Capdepera, Mallorca, +34 971841293
Located off Mallorca’s south coast is Cabrera Island, an almost untouched piece of natural wilderness that has been designated a national park. It’s around a hour’s boat journey, and is a haven for both land- and sea-based wildlife. There is one simple hostel, called the Albergue de Cabrera, where visitors can spent the night on the island, but they are not allowed to stay longer than a day during peak season.
Much of the character of this picture-perfect hilltop village comes from its stone houses and their red tiled roofs appearing to cascade down the mountain. A charming place to wander around, the streets are narrow and often cobbled, and the rustic architecture has been particularly well conserved, especially its picturesque 17th-century church. There’s also a handful of excellent restaurants from which to admire the views, and the village is surrounded by citrus groves that you can walk through into the town of Soller below.
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