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As summer comes to a close and the tourist hordes subside, the island of Mallorca starts to shift from an overcrowded package-holiday destination to a mellower, milder, and many would say more pleasant place to spend a break. With warmer winters than most of Europe, there’s even a chance to soak up some rays on empty beaches, and perhaps even brave a dip, as well as enjoy a myriad of activities or soak up some of the many cultural events that spring up across the island. You can usually snap up a cheap flight into the bargain.
While you’d be mad to attempt any long walking in the summer, winter provides a much more hike-friendly climate for exploring the countless trails that cut through the Tramuntana mountain range. Less experienced hikers can enjoy the easier trails around the picturesque villages surrounding the pretty town of Soller, while even hardened hikers will find the GR221 Dry Stone Route a challenge – it’s an epic 135 kilometres (84 miles) long, though there are plenty of places to stop and refuel or spend the night.
The almond blossom season happens in late January and early February, and with over five million trees on the island, is quite a sight to behold. The normally green landscape transforms into a blanket of pink and while, and can even resemble snow from afar. Mallorcan almonds are also said to be sweeter than other varieties, due to the climate, and almond cake and almond liqueur are particularly popular on the island. Get yourself to the almond blossom fair in the charming village of Son Servera, where stalls sell all varieties of almond-based produce.
While during peak season the Mallorcan capital can feel overrun by wave upon wave of tourists, when summer crowds ebb away, Palma becomes a different city. This is an ideal time to explore some of its wonderful attractions, including of course the cathedral, but also its numerous churches, museums and monuments. Or you could just enjoy strolling the charming cobbled streets of the Old Town without the incessant Segway tours and throngs of day-tripping cruisers.
It’ll come as no surprise to most that they don’t do things by half when celebrating Christmas on Mallorca. For starters, almost every town and village on the island has its own Christmas market, selling the usual range of sweet treats and Yuletide-themed knick-knacks to get you in the festive mood. But the main event is on January 6, when the Three Wise Men arrive in boats at Palma marina, followed by a huge and colourful procession through the capital’s streets.
The Spanish certainly like a good fiesta, and the Mallorcans are no exception. The island’s largest festival kicks off in January in Palma, with the celebration of the city’s patron saint, San Sebastian. Taking place over several days, the festivities include include a wide range of street theatre, parades, concerts and a lot of fireworks. Don’t miss the Castellers de Mallorca, an acrobatic troupe who form themselves into an human tower. The end of the festival is marked by correfocs (‘fire runs’), a traditional Catalan activity in which people dressed as devils set off fireworks while running through the streets. Be sure to stand back –and don’t wear anything too flammable!
With over 300 days of sunshine a year, it’s often warm enough to enjoy an alfresco beer and tapas (albeit ideally in a patch of sunshine), and there’s a multitude of local bars, eateries and restaurants to choose from in the Mallorca capital. Alternatively, don’t miss the Ruta Martiana (literally ‘the Martian route’) which is basically a Tuesday evening bar crawl around the Old Town with a dozen or so bars offering cut-price tapas and pintxos, and obviously something to wash it down with.
Of course, one of the best reasons to visit Mallorca in the winter is that the price of flights drops significantly. Flight timetables can be restricted from some major hubs, so not all routes run in January and February, but those that do can often be snapped up for peanuts. Also, with the crowds absent, you can avoid long queues at passport control. Just take carry-on luggage and you can land, leave the airport, jump in a cab and be in the island’s capital within half an hour.