“My eyes are filled with wonders, my heart is filled with spirit, like coffee for the soul, gelato for the brain, travel makes me sing, Mallorca and Spain.” – Samantha Richardson
Palma de Mallorca is to Germans what Cancun is to Americans. Miles and miles of beach party on Ballerman 6, beers are to be had at Bierkönig all day and all night and sangria is only served in gallon buckets and extra long straws.
I can assure you that for too many people, Mallorca, equals only Party, alcohol and soccer clubs on relegation win trips. And there is SO much more to this Mediterranean island than the described above. There is Palma, an old Spanish city, with rich history, fabulous shopping and amazing food! There is caves and quiet. Beaches and traditions. And the weather, let’s not forget that either.
On week of summer on the Balearic Island of Mallorca. Let’s go!
We arrived over Duesseldorf from San Francisco choosing Air Berlin as our air carrier, and as so many of our Europe trips we went in June. Due to the time difference, most of those flights arriving to Europe leaving the west coast as red eye but also get to Europe later in the day.
(Air carrier tip if you are arriving from the US: Carriers like Air Berlin are fab as you can choose the X-tra seats and the extra space on those seats makes for a very comfortable experience. Unless you get to travel upper class/business class it’s worth it to spend the extra $ on reserving those seats. Full disclosure: Over the years I’ve become a picky flyer, I’ve been on too many national and international flights that were just plain awful considering service standards. You’ll never hear me making a low cost carrier suggestion, which does not mean that there is anything wrong with those, it’s just not for me. From the US, I fly Lufthansa, Swiss, Air Berlin, Virgin Atlantic and Emirates only. )
During this trip we will travel around the island and stay two nights each, beginning and ending our journey in Palma.
Stop 1: Palma de Mallorca
Where to stay:
I love staying in old town Palma, and I like small luxury hospitality with distinctive service. We picked the boutique Hotel Can Cera on Carrer de Sant Francesc. Can Cera equals what I like about hospitality: perfection and class. It is inside the ancient city walls and located between Plaza de Santa Eulalia and the Plaza de San Francisco. It only has 14 rooms, and they all have a different character. What I love most about Can Cera is that they understood to mix modern with truly Majorcan and combine it with exquisite customer service. I have a big heart for pre-arrival communication, and I was very excited receiving an email from the Can Cera team after I booked as they wanted to make sure that they can match us with the perfect room – and they did! We stayed in room 4.
*Literally having worked in hotels for this long I could not remember when I used an actual key to open the room doors. Not a key card but an actual key. I was thrilled – it’s the little things!
It brings me so much joy to get up early that first morning after arriving to Europe, head out into town, the heat is still bearable, you take a deep breath and you just know that you are on vacation. Grab that first cup of European coffee. Una taza de Café con leche por favor, or if I want to be extra indulgent and drink my sweets, I will have a Café Bombon. It is a traditional Spanish style coffee, mixed in exact parts of espresso and condensed milk. Not for everyone, but definitely for me. Yumm.
Daniel likes Café Solo (Small cup of strong, black espresso. He orders this when he knows he will need some energy for lots of sightseeing. I can walk for miles in the mid-day heat.) Or Café Americano (if the intensity of a café solo is a bit much. This coffee contains the same amount of caffeine as a café solo but with more water, resulting in a milder flavor.)
Coffee tip: Try Café con Hielo (summertime favorite, simply coffee with ice. You will pour it over ice yourself, as you get two glasses from your Barista. Starbucks who?!) Or if you want to splurge, and also great as aperitif after dinner, Carajillo (espresso served with rum, whisky or brandy). So good!
What to do:
Palma is literally a stunner. You can wander in any direction from the awe-inspiring Gothic Catedral (Catedral de Mallorca) at its geographic and historical heart and you’ll find bent medieval streets lined with aristocratic townhouses, looming baroque churches, teeming public squares, vibrant bohemian neighborhoods and markets overflowing with all the bounty of the island. It’s rich in history and beauty.
Seven places you must see-
- Catedral de Mallorca – It’s vast, absolutely breathtaking and designed by Antoni Gaudí and renowned contemporary artist Miquel Barceló. You just must see it. Map it here .
- Banys Arab – Achient bath house from the time the Moores were in charge. From the 10th-century, the baths are virtually all that remains of the Arab city of Medina Mayurqa, that now is Palma de Mallorca. Its a fun site to see and also has a beautiful garden that has some very nice spots to sit and just be. Map it here.
- Sant Francesc – This church and covenant founded in 1281 is absolutely stunning, you must go in. If there is a wait, you must wait and you must go in. Map it here. Also there is a hotel right nearby and I actually had my birthday dinner there on the rooftop sushi bar. Stunning-unforgettable-amazing food-kind of venue. A must! And the hotel is gorgeous as well! You can learn more here.
- Placa Major – Medieval square, markets, cafe’s and shopping. About centrally located. Map it here.
- La Rambla – Oh La Rambla. Shopping left and right. La Rambla is one of those traditional European streets where you can buy what your heart desires. And when I say what your heart desires, I mean European and International luxury goods. Obviously. Welcome to La Rambla!
- Mercat de l’Olivar – Amazing fresh food market, you must have tapas there. Super good! I also always buy my olive oil here and bring it home. Map it here.
Museu dels Molins – It’s the windmill museum and yes you must go, it’s close to the port and if you go in the afternoon you can walk along the port and watch the sun setting. At that time you’re back to where the Cathedral is and believe me, this is Instagram worthy and then some. Map it here.
Stop 2: Cuevas del Drach
We are leaving Palma, back to the airport to pick up the rental car (ain’t no-one wants to drive in downtown Palma, not even Daniel) and are headed east onto MAR-15 (think Interstate-ish) towards our next adventure: Cuevas del Drach in Porto Cristo.
I love the Drach caves, and I always have. I remember being younger and going there. It’s touristy but it’s worth it. It an under-earth-labyrinth-water-cave-kind of place. The caves are 25 miles underneath the surface and they literally hide an underwater lake. It’s fascinating.
You’ll go in a group of about 20 people and you walk down stairs for about a mile. The difference in temperature is unbelievable. Bring a sweatshirt. You’ll continue to walk through the cave, by the lake and then you sit down to watch an underwater concert. The acoustics are phenomenal. You’re in the cave for about an hour and a half.
I don’t particularly love Porto Cristo otherwise, so we went straight through to our destination, Formentor where we stayed at the Hotel Formentor– a royal hideaway.
Stop 3: Formentor
The Majorcans call Formentor the ‘Meeting point’s of the winds’ . We are all the way on the tip of the east side of the island. The streets from Port de Pollenca (which is considered the closest touristy-ish beach town) are windy and tiny. You definitely want to take your time driving, or just drive fast like the locals do – that is up to you and the fact if you can stomach that.
P.S: This is not the kind of blog where I suggest 2000+ bed hotels, build on the beach, one-next-to-the-other. But if you care to check it out, be welcome at Can Picafort and Alcudia. I’ve spent plenty of summer vacations there as a teenager. It’s on the way to Formentor.
We spend two nights here and arrived from the caves in the afternoon. We had a fab dinner in the hotels restaurant, El Pi, that night and enjoyed being by the beach for the first time this trip. I love the beach and I love the sound of the Mediterranean sea, so the next day after a way too indulgent breakky we went to the beach. Now, this is not the kind of water temperature that you’d call warm. It’s refreshing. Actually, it’s so cold I was worried my soul is going to frost over. I like my ocean bathwater temperature, so unless it’s 70 degrees, you ain’t going to see me in that water. That’s just who I am.
The Formentor peninsula is pretty true to a true Mallorca experience. Leaving the hotel you see locals enjoying the beach with their families and you’re making you way up towards what I call my personal “Majorca Fab Three” Port de Soller, Deia and Valldemossa. If this can be more than a day trip then it should, it wasn’t for us (we wanted to stay two nights in a new hotel called Pure Salt in the El Toro/Port Adriano area) but I absolutely want to return to Deia.
My Majorca Fab Three:
Port de Soller– Funny thing with Port de Soller is that you feel like you’re on the Italian Riviera. Literally you might as well be in Portofino. On your way to Port de Soller, which is on Mallorca’s west coast, you drive though olive and lemon farms, the streets are pretty tiny, the weather is hot with a light breeze. Be sure to stop frequently to take in views, hashtag Instagrammworthy. Park right downtown, there is lots of public parking and if you are wanting to explore both, the port and actual Soller, you can ride the tram back and forth. Little port Soller has everything one would wish to see in a Mediterranean town, golden beaches, a lighthouse, great restaurants, ice cream parlors and pottery shops. Perfect. The surprising part is that Port Soller has a art gallery that shows Picasso and Micro. The main shopping street is Carrer de la Marina, if you keep walking until you see Cami des Cringle street on your left and turn you get to see those incredible Majorcan stone build houses. If you keep on walking, in about 10 minutes you’re headed uphill, you cross the bridge and follow the narrow path until you see a small hamlet of stone houses built on the hill. The views are incredible from there and its a nice after lunch walk. You can make it a loop and head right back into Port Soller.
Deia– Oh Deia. To me, Deia is the most beautiful place on Mallorca. It’s a gorgeous medieval town in the Serra de Tramuntana mountains which forms the northern ridge near the coast. You can hike down to Cala Deia which is a beautiful cove beach. It’s west enough that you get to see the sun set and everything sets in beautiful red colored hues.
Valldemossa– Hands down my favorite village on Mallorca. Think lush country side, quiet and narrow streets mixed with charming cafes, Spanish traditional galleries and ‘Coca de patata’ – which is translated to potato cake. Basically a sweet cake made with potato that form a small and soft bunt like cake. It’s good, it really is, worth all the calories and carbs. Driving into Valldemossa you pass what seems to be thousands of almond and olive farms. The landmark everyone comes to Valldemossa for though is Frederic Chopin’s Cartuja de Valldemossa, a monastery established in the 13th century. There is a beautiful garden not far off the center that is named after Chopin and it offers some step hillside hiking trails that bring you up to the Valldemossa plateau offering gorgeous sea views. You must pay extra attention to the doorways on each house in the center of Valldemossa, many of the feature a symbol of Saint Catalina Thomas, the Mallorca patron saint, it is set to protect their home from harm. Restaurant tip: Head towards Port Valldemossa, there is the seaside restaurant Es Port. It is absolutely fabulous. Fresh line caught fish and you can sit on the terrace overlooking the sea.
Stop 4: The bull (El Toro) and Port Adriano
Truth be told there is not too much to do in Port Adriano, though we had one of the best dinners of our trip there. We choose Port Adriano as our destination for two reasons: 1) Because I really wanted to stay at the newly opened Pure Salt and 2) because it was super close to the airport and we had a really early flight out.
We arrived in El Toro in the evening hours, and knew immediately why we chose the resort, the views. It was definitely the view and maybe the room with ‘swim-up’ pool. You get to see far over the little port and the ocean. And it truly it is worth the dollars spent. The rooms are new, and incredible (Did I mention Hermes in-bath amenities?), the in-room service you may chose for breakky is lush and why would you not want to have a meal by your own swim-up?!
Now let me tell you about my favorite dinner. It was surely on the last night of the trip, we went out to eat late (like 9pm, we always do), truth be told we did not really know where to go but we went on to the port and Daniel was picking the restaurant, there are plenty of restaurants on the posh port. He chose El faro del Torro and it was definitely rustic from the outside, we went in, and got a table overseeing the marina. Alone that, made my night.We shared a Paella and it was absolutely second to none. Hands down the best Paella I ate on the trip and probably in ever. And the Sangria. Let’s just say that 3am wake-up call the next morning came quick. Perfect night ending a week of summer in the Mediterranean!
A little glimpse of what I brought home. I like pottery.
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