Majorca, Spain Travel Guide
- Dozens of sweeping bays, sandy coves, and buzzing beaches
- Capital city of Palma with quaint medieval old town
- Impressive island gastronomy; around 10 restaurants with Michelin stars
- Averages around 300 days of sunshine per year
- Rich historic heritage from Moorish to medieval
- Picturesque mountain range covered in pine forests
- Annual blossoming of four million almond trees
- Range of resorts; options for honeymooners, families, and partiers
- Perfect environments for cycling and sailing enthusiasts
- Vibrant artistic and cultural scene
- Some early overdevelopment blights coast
- Most beaches are overcrowded in summer months
- Some resorts have a reputation for drunken excess
- Hotels fill up quickly for peak season
What It's Like
Majorca is the largest and most populated of the four main Balearic Islands, the others being Ibiza, Formentera, and -- Majorca's little brother -- Minorca. Majorca's miles of golden beaches, innumerable picturesque coves, and perennial sunshine (around 300 days a year) have been a magnet for tourists for decades. Artists and musicians have also been drawn to the island's natural beauty, which includes the dramatic Tramuntana mountain range that skirts its more rugged northern coast.
The island also boasts a particularly rich historic heritage, much on display in the capital Palma, which has a medieval hilltop castle, 12th-century Moorish architecture, and quaint cobbled lanes that lead to the city's crowning glory -- a majestic Gothic cathedral that was 400 years in the making. Majorca is also no slouch on the culinary front, boasting nine Michelin-star restaurants as of 2017 (Zaranda has two stars, the rest have one). Food quality is helped by the island's wealth of locally produced delicacies including excellent wines, olives, and cured meats. From late January and throughout February, the almond trees -- about 4 million of them -- explode into blossom across Majorca's valleys and plains.
However, as in much of Spain, a combination of rampant development driven by the '70s tourist boom and slack building regulations has blotted its coastline. Nowadays development is strictly controlled, but it's still common to see a high-rise hotel towering over a pristine cove or a majestic sweeping bay overwhelmed by a sprawling and inelegant resort. As of 2017, Majorca is also seeing a continued surge in popularity among vacationers. Hotels are teetering on 100 percent summer capacity and the influx has put a huge strain on the islands resources and led to overcrowding on even its more remote beaches.
While certainly most popular in the summer, the island is an a year-round destination. Its long mountain roads make it a mecca for cyclists during the slightly cooler spring months, and its numerous pine forests are crisscrossed with trails perfect for hiking. Due to a quirk of geography, Majorca is also the only place in the world where the temperature at the sea bed never drops below 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius), meaning swimming is possible (though not necessarily advisable!) throughout the year. Boating is also huge around the island, attracting not just sailing enthusiasts but an abundance of yachts (including billionaire super-yachts) that drop anchor in its numerous ports and marinas.
In a nutshell, the Majorca pretty much has it all. It appeals to everyone from the budget all-inclusive tourist to the millionaire yacht set -- and everything in between. The only question is whether the island can continue to sustain the overwhelming deluge of visitors, or if they'll ultimately be the detriment of this Mediterranean gem.
Where to Stay
Everyone coming to Majorca should spend at least a couple days soaking up the beautiful cobbled streets, medieval architecture, and buzzing nightlife of the island's capital, Palma. Shopaholics will find dozens of high-end boutiques and luxury designer outlets, as well as bustling markets selling local wines, cheeses, and meats. There's even a decent stretch of sandy beach, one of few that is rarely overcrowded, bookended by chic beach clubs.
Those looking for a more traditional beach vacation are spoilt for choice. On the north coast of the island is the laid-back, family-friendly seaside town of Pollenca, with its lovely sweeping bay and beachfront promenade. Nearby is the more bucket-and-spade Port d'Alcudia, where you'll find livelier nightlife and no shortage of budget-friendly, all-inclusive resort hotels.
Another popular corner of the island for sun-seekers is centered around the resort town of Cala D'Or, on the southeastern coast. Although almost completely purpose-built for tourism, there are no high-rise blocks and all buildings are in the pretty Balearic whitewashed style. Although short on long sweeping bays, there are numerous idyllic coves with deep sandy beaches and crystal-clear water -- though expect them to be mostly overrun during peak season.
If booze-fueled partying is your thing, head to the other end of the island and the resort town of Magaluf, notorious for its wild nightlife with a distinctively British flavor. While by day the beach is actually rather picturesque, by the wee hours expect hoards of boisterously inebriated revelers staggering between the resort's many bars and clubs. Petty crime can also be a problem.
A much more civilized and artsy side of the island can be experienced on its more rugged north coast. The picture-postcard mountain village of Deia is particularly peaceful and relaxing with gorgeous views of the surrounding pine-covered peaks, which are also popular with hikers. Just along the coast is the equally pretty though more busting town of Soller, also an electric tram ride away from its port and stunning semi-circular bay.