The party image of popular Balearic islands Ibiza and Mallorca is no longer the only thing people associate with the sunny Spanish destinations. In recent years there’s been an even greater push for more sustainable tourism to take the place of cheap package holidays. We explore some of the recent efforts to turn the islands green for visitors and locals alike.
The Balearic Islands have a lot to offer to holidaymakers. Sublime beaches, spectacular sunsets and a variety of entertainment offerings have seen Ibiza, Mallorca, Minorca and Formentera top many wish lists for summer getaways as travel returns at pace. The cuisine on the islands is also a huge selling point and with internal flights and ferry services connecting the destinations you can hop between popular areas like Palma de Mallorca, Port Mahon and Ibiza’s Old Town with ease. Factoring in both international and domestic tourism, however, you can’t help but wonder what this uplift in visitor numbers is having on the environment. And you aren’t alone in having those concerns. There has been a concerted effort to clean up the Balearics, with Ibiza and Mallorca in particular leading the way with their own initiatives to put sustainability at the forefront.
One of the main things you can do as a casual visitor is to look beyond the busy beaches and resorts if you’re planning a trip to either destination. The vast hotels and iconic clubs attract huge numbers every year, and with pent up demand off the back of limited travel during the pandemic, there will certainly be a rush to return to well known hotspots. Those in the know, however, have been taking advantage of the quieter conditions on other parts of the islands to explore remarkable hiking routes and take part in other outdoor activities. Local authorities have also moved to encourage smarter ways of seeing the best natural landscapes with a focus on eco-tourism. This holistic approach is also encouraging more sustainable accommodation offerings and the opportunity to visit smaller towns that would otherwise get overlooked.
Palma de Mallorca is the capital of the region and a popular destination in Mallorca that has a large international airport. The southern coast and further to the east, are fantastic holiday spots that see millions of visitors every year. It’s great to see these numbers of tourists return but we are heading to the quieter northern part of the island to explore some of the spectacular hiking routes that take you through tree-covered pathways alongside cliffside walks to some of the most picturesque parts of the Balearics.
Sitting on the edge of the green space is the town of Alaró, which is a typically enchanting small town which has a surprising new addition to the list of available places to stay here. Alaro Natura Rural Suites is a small, family run boutique property that offers an ecological option for nature lovers heading here. Each room is themed around local flora and fauna, and you can even look after a tree as part of your visit to the hotel. You’ll be located at the south of the Sierra de Tramuntana, which is the perfect place to start a cycling getaway or a hiking trip to get back to the wilderness.
You can’t characterise this part of Mallorca as remote, it is where you’ll find the busy town of Sóller afterall, but you can also find a few hidden gems here too. The village of Deià has colourful houses that fill up steep hillside roads to create a series of incredible views. There are a number of cheap options to stay here, particularly if you’re ok with a shared dorm room type experience, otherwise a rental apartment or one of the lavish hotels here will keep you comfortable.
Close by is Valldemossa, a destination famed for its literary and musical past. Again, the pace of life here is slower and you’ll be spreading the burden of tourism across a wider area, helping to maintain the region. You can easily get around on foot and there isn’t a need to have your own car if you set up a base here.
Mallorca is making great strides to achieve a sustainable way staying on the island, but a short ferry ride away, another Balearic hotspot is leading the way.
Contrary to popular belief, Ibiza doesn’t need full scale rehabilitation to turn itself into a green destination. In the literal sense, the sandy beaches that give the island its local nickname La Isla Blanca (The White Island) have always been complimented by impressive green hills and rugged areas of natural forestation, but there are also world class environmental programmes now in place too.
Can Lluc is a luxury hotel that feels like it’s a world away from the Ibiza you might picture when booking a holiday. Surrounded by pine, carob, olive and fig trees, the small property is popular with footballers, celebrities and those who want a relaxing stay on the island. The modern retreat is still a family run endeavor, combining modern rooms with classic Mediterranean flourishes. Traditional ranch style living is an instant differentiator from large hotel lobbies and poolside loungers found elsewhere, with the food all sourced locally and cooked by experienced chefs who know how to work with the raw ingredients to tasty effect.
You get a real sense of where Ibiza can end up here, as more thoughtful places to stay that appeal to a different type of tourist. The hope is that everyone soon starts travelling more responsibly, and it’s good to know that there are properties that are ready for your arrival now.
Maintaining the great natural resources the island has is another long term project as has been underway for a number of years now. Local wine producers are creating some outstanding vintages that are finding their way onto drinks lists around Europe and you can even try your hand at making some local liquor to take home too.
One project that you may have already heard about is the one to maintain the Posidonia, the natural underwater seagrass forest stretching from the sea bed off Formentera to the shores of Ibiza. This organic wonder – officially recognised as a site of World Heritage by UNESCO – acts as a natural filtration system and is the main reason the waters here are so clear throughout the year. Local authorities have put in a number of initiatives to protect the Posidonia oceanica from limiting where boats and yachts can anchor to investing the sustainable tourism tax income into direct cleaning processes.