Discovering the real Mallorca: 8 incredible places to explore

Mallorca is the largest of Spain’s Balearic Islands, sitting in the sunny Mediterranean and enjoying all the crystal blue water that comes with the territory. The whole island is hardly more than 100km, but it is surprisingly full of adorable hillside towns, dramatic cliffs that plunge into the sea below, spectacular sandy beaches, and even tiny mountain ranges.

Still, mention Mallorca to anyone and it’s almost guaranteed that the image they conjure up will be of the notoriously trashy party scene thumping away in Magaluf— not too dissimilar from the neon and vomit themed Full Moon Party on Koh Pha Ngan, just conveniently located in Europe. Just like you’ll find in Thailand, though, there is so much more to this popular island than drunk teenagers and alcohol poisoning. If you’re willing to spend a little time and petrol exploring beyond the city centre, you may just find that Mallorca and it’s incredible beaches will steal your heart. This guide contains heaps of amazing things to do in Mallorca, plus all the practical information you need to get around and explore off the beaten path.

1 | Cap de Formentor

The Formentor Peninsula, its adorable lighthouse, and a number of incredible viewpoints lay little more than an hour’s drive from Palma at the northern tip of the Mallorca and should be the one thing you visit if you don’t have time for anything else. Even the drive itself is quite fun, as it offers views onto the Serra de Tramuntana, the island’s western mountain range (which seems even tinier when you’ve just come from hiking in the alps), and peeks frequently out onto the lush coastline.

One of the best viewpoints along the drive is Mirador del Mal Pas, which has a network of short paths that take you over the rocks and offer expansive views of the nearing Formentor Peninsula. When we finally reached Cap de Formentor, there were cars banked up in a long queue waiting to park and my friend Katy had to do some swift manoeuvring to get us up to the lighthouse (everyone should be very relieved that I was not behind the wheel), but the view was worth any amount of trouble. If you want to hang out for a while, there’s a café here selling food and drink, and absolutely no shortage of panoramic views to enjoy.

2 | Deià

This amazing little town in the Serra de Tramuntana is exactly how I pictured the Spanish countryside. All the houses are built on terraces up the hillside and the result is so incredibly Mediterranean that it almost hurts. Visit the cemetery for panoramic views, and then walk back down the cobbled streets to Sa Fonda or one of the other little bars to enjoy some of the locally made Gin Eva.

3 | Es Trenc

Mallorca’s “best” beach, even according to a Mallorcan friend I met in Chamonix, is about 40 minutes southeast of Palma and certainly not a well-kept secret. We had to pay 7€ for parking, and I really wasn’t thrilled about the number of people there, but the water was absolutely gorgeous, with infinite shades of blue and green over white sand. There were a couple of vendors wheeling huge carts of fresh fruit and cold drinks around, so it’d be easy to spend the entire day at the beach.

4 | Port d’Andratx

Despite not really cracking any of the popular lists of best beaches in Mallorca, I absolutely fell in love with Port d’Andratx from the moment I saw the ocean from our Airbnb balcony. The little beach below us was protected from any heavy waves by the natural rock cliffs that also shelter the port, and the result was glass-like, crystal-clear water that seemed hardly there because you could just see all the way to the ocean floor. Coupled with the lack of crowds at the beach, I honestly loved Andratx and would recommend paying this cute little port town a visit on your way through— that is, if you don’t stay there (more info below).

5 | Valldemossa

Driving about 40 minutes from Andratx to reach this beautiful and very Spanish-looking town in the hills, visit a local cafe to indulge in the Mallorca delicacy coca de patata, which is a sweet bun topped with powdered sugar. For the best view in town, head to Mirador de Miranda dels Lledoners that looks out over the ochre rooftops and rocky mountains of Valldemossa.

I’d also recommend spending some time walking through the town, whose main claim to fame is that the famous Polish composer, Chopin, stayed in the Carthusian Monastery for one winter (and literally no one has ever forgotten about it). The Monastery, Real Cartuja de Valldemossa, now stands as a museum to Chopin and is surrounded by colourful, overflowing gardens that are worth wandering through. Not to be missed!

6 | Sa Foradada

From Valldemossa, you can drive for a few minutes to reach a “secret viewpoint” and then a few more minutes to a more well-known spot, Mirador de Na Foradada, both with incredible views over the ocean and the little rock peninsula, sa Foradada. To reach the “secret” spot, travel just a few kilometres south on the Ma-10 and park on the side of the road before following a short, somewhat dilapidated path for a few minutes towards the edge of the cliffs. (Apparently the fancy house below, slightly to your left, belongs to Michael Douglas. In the movie version of my life, I’m invited to spend the afternoon at his pool.)

If you’re having way too much fun and just don’t want to go home, take in the incredible views from either the Mirador de Na Foradada restaurant or the bar overlooking the ocean, or journey out onto the little rock peninsula for a fancy experience at the tiny Sa Foradada restaurant.

7 | Colónia de Sant Jordi

After our afternoon at Es Trenc, we made a quick 10 minute detour to this tiny town, where we enjoyed views onto the little lighthouse and the scraggly coastline. In better weather, this is a great spot for a coastal walk past the lighthouse and even offers nice little stretches of sandy beach that could totally be enjoyed for the better part of an afternoon.

8 | Alcúdia

On our drive back from Formentor, we decided to pass through nearby Alcúdia rather than going via Pollença again, and we were not disappointed! This medieval town is incredibly cute, full of wonderful shops that are not at all crowded and restaurants serving tapas and sangria at a real bargain. We ended up shopping and sitting down for dinner, and even hanging around for a live concert in the main square, spending far longer in Alcúdia than we had intended because it was so lovely. I would recommend it to anyone as a great spot to spend a day— or even stay a few nights.

Alcúdia is actually an incredibly old city, settled several thousand years BC. By comparison, the castle walls encircling Old Town only date back to the 14th century, so they are practically brand new. Like most ancient towns in Mallorca, Alcúdia is set a few kilometres off the coast, which our Mallorcan friend explained was to prevent pirates from pillaging the town and raping all the women. He reckons many of the women did get raped, though, and it explains the darker-than-normal features of Mallorcans compared to mainland Spaniards. Who knows if this is true, but let’s stop talking about rape and just focus on what a lovely township Alcúdia is and how everyone really ought to visit.

*Practical information

Getting around Mallorca

To really explore Mallorca beyond the pumping party scene, you’ll absolutely need your own car. The airport (Palma de Mallorca) has a number of car hire places, just be warned that it can be a bit pricey— we paid 60€ a day for our car, which included comprehensive insurance. I promise it will be worth it, though!

It’s also a good idea to pick up a local SIM card or pay for data roaming during your time in Mallorca. Access to Google Maps is essential for navigating around the island and looking up exciting new places to visit. Alternatively, you can download offline maps of the island on Google.

My friend Katy was in charge of driving, I was on map-duty

Where to stay on Mallorca

We stayed in an amazing AirBnb in Port d’Andratx that had sprawling ocean views from the balcony, and we absolutely loved it. Not terribly far from the main city of Palma and the airport, yet a world away from the partying, this is a somewhat upscale area that has fantastic food and lovely beaches. We stocked up at the supermarket to save on eating every meal out, but we still splurged on dinner one night at a waterfront restaurant that had incredible seafood (ceviche!) and routinely indulged in ice cream, because we were on holiday and we deserved it.

The view from our balcony in Port d’Andratx

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