Real Mallorca

We dispel the "Majorca" myth


By Sarah Dranes, September 22, 2011
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 The Spanish have long joked about a legendary fifth Balearic Island to add to Mallorca, Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera. It's called "Majorca"

The Spanish have long joked about a legendary fifth Balearic Island to add to Mallorca, Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera. It's called "Majorca"

I packed my bags for Island life in Mallorca in May 2009 but I am not new to Spain - far from it. Marbella guided me from my 20s through to my 30s but I reached my seven-year itch and I had to move on.

It was either back to the UK (the stuff of expat nightmares) or across to the Island of innocent childhood holidays and unblemished memories (apart from that summer spent working in Magalluf when I was 21, but that blemish can be erased) - Mallorca of course won.

Mallorca is a beacon of calm, sophistication, beauty and A-List celebrity.

It is also an Island of great wealth with its 870,000-strong population enjoying the highest per capita level of disposable income in Spain.

Getting there

Flights: easyjet fly from several UK aiports to Palma de Mallorca. Fares from £78.99 one way
Where to stay: Classic Collection Holidays offers 3 nights at Hotel Bon Sol from £393, 7 nights from £705 per person. Prices based on 2 adults sharing a classic double room on a B&B basis with return flights and private transfers. 0800 008 7288

To those who believe only what they read in the red tops - tales of union jack shorts, binge drinking and abandonment of inhibitions - this classy portrayal may come as some surprise.

The truth is best summed up by a long-standing Spanish joke about a mythical fifth Balearic Island to add to Mallorca, Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera, which goes under the name of 'Majorca'.

This legendary island is visited by over six million tourists a year who care for nothing more than the all-day drinking antics of Blackpool on Sea - AKA Magalluf.

Yet these package holiday enclaves are confined to just a couple of resorts on the fringes of the Bay of Palma and the Island as a whole should not be unfairly maligned with the red top treatment.

Mallorca is in fact breathtakingly stunning. From deserted white sand beaches to craggy pine-clad mountain ranges, the exquisite architecture of historic buildings to flower-filled fields heavy with citrus trees, Mallorca offers every kind of beauty for everyone.

The trick is to get behind the wheel of a car (or indeed the helm of a motoryacht), explore and discover your personal piece of Island paradise.

For me, the best place to start is World Heritage Site, Serra de Tramuntana, the western backbone of the Island that offers steep mountain scenery set against a Mediterranean backdrop.

My favourite beach, Cala Deià, can be found here, one of the most bewitching inlets on Mallorca's entire coastline with the clientele to match.

The littoral outlet for well-heeled Deià, a village that has been home to Mick Jagger, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Richard Branson and poet Robert Graves who is buried there, Cala Deià may be small (200m wide), far from sandy (heaps of shingle) and a bun-fight to find parking (5€ a day), but the water is crystal clear, the rocky outcrops imposing and the atmosphere convivial.

Either lunch at one of the delightfully primitive beach restaurants or, as I prefer, pack a hamper with a chic-nic of smoked salmon, cheeses, baguettes, leafy salad, strawberries, linen napkins, champagne flutes and iced cava and become the envy of the west.

The Serra de Tramuntana mountain range also hides my favourite Mallorquin village, Fornalutx.

Twice elected Spain's most beautiful, Fornalutx is surrounded by fragrant orange and lemon groves set against an imposing mountain backdrop.

The miniature main square is fringed with immaculately presented pavement cafes who'll reward you with a cool beverage after you've tired your legs mounting the never-ending steps to nosy at the patios and flower-decked balconies of the lovingly preserved stone Mallorquin houses.

As you drive back down south, take the coastal road and nip into Son Marroig and Monestir de Miramar on the way. Both are former residences of the Habsburg Archduke Ludwig Salvador (who fell head over heels with Mallorca) and both open to the public for a few euros entry. It's undoubtedly the views that will captivate you more than the houses for they are the stuff of dreams - particularly from the neoclassical marble temple at Son Marroig which is now a popular venue for post-card perfect weddings and acoustic concerts.

From village to city, capital Palma is Mallorca's only real city and deserves your full attention for at least a day.

It shares many characteristics with big sister Barcelona - a Gothic Cathedral that has received the Gaudi touch, refurbished old buildings, mazy shopping streets, gardens with splashing fountains, art museums and an impressive city beach - but without the suffocating tourist numbers and pick pocketing.

The best vantage point for looking down over Palma's rooftops, endless marina front and visiting cruise ships is the Castell de Bellver. In a wooded hilltop just west of the City, this 14th century fortress is immaculately conserved and built in a canny circular design with a central keep.

Climb up to the rooftop for the most attractive and peaceful views and go on a Sunday - it's free.

Whatever your penchant; following the wine route of the Island's 60 plus bodegas, scaling the countryside to a hilltop monastery or swinging a club on one of Mallorca's 22 immaculate golf courses, all of Mallorca is within easy reach.

For example, a drive from Palma in the south to Puerto Pollença in the north takes just 50 minutes on smooth motorway and to reach the beach resort of Cala Millor on the Island's east coast is just one hour 15 minutes from the capital. Nothing requires great logistical planning.

If you really want to explore every possible angle of Mallorca, I'll share three special ways to make your visit to Mallorca particularly memorable. The first is to nip down to Son Bonet, Palma's private aerodrome, and allow Sloane Helicopters (www.sloanemallorca.com) to give you a unique bird's-eye view of the Island in the comfort of one of their fleet of Robinson R44s.

Direct the pilot or allow him to be your guide and pay a little extra to be dropped off in a secret location for a heli-picnic with champagne and a treat-filled hamper.

Staying on dry land, Mallorca is driving dreamland with traffic-free roads and striking grab-the-camera views at every turn.

For a reasonable fee Mallorca Driving (www.mallorcadriving.com) will give you the keys to one of its impressive stable of classic cars -every petrol head's dream.

Choose from a powerful 1966 Austin Healey MKIII or sporty Jaguar MKII, an elegant Mercedes 280 SE Cabrio or a replica Porsche 550 Spyder and plenty of more.

A good trick is to go as a group and swap drivers along the way so you can get behind the wheel of more than one of these timeless beauties.

The last (and by far my favourite) is to flick through Nick Whale Marine's charter portfolio (www.nickwhalemarine.com) and find a yacht to suit your dreams and your budget.

Whether you club together with some mates to take out the sprightly RIB with its water toys or crush the credit card on a gin palace Sunseeker, yacht charter will take you to the bays and caves that landlubbers can but dream of.

Rocking gently at anchor, bubbly in hand, Café del Mar on the iPod, watching the sun dip below the horizon - now that's My Mallorca...

    Last updated: 10:52am, September 22 2011