What’s the first thing that springs to mind when someone mentions Mallorca?
Could it be high-rise hotels and packed beaches teeming with sun burned Brits. Stag and hen week parties? Noisy techno dance music playing in nightclubs, pubs serving Tetley bitter and drunken hoards of youngsters staggering from one to the other?
Certainly Magaluf and some other Mallorcan resorts fit this stereotype. But most of Mallorca is unspoilt, beautiful, quiet and magnificent. You can find deserted beaches at the end of windy roads, hidden restaurants serving real Spanish tapas, and scenery that is breathtaking.
As I travelled to Mallorca this year I saw some of the the Magaluf crowd. Sharing the Jet2 flight with us was a gang of guys all sporting “Fat Grant’s Stag” T-shirts, individualised on the back with their nick names. “Chopper” was the loud one constantly out of his aeroplane seat and tormenting his fellow passengers and crew. “Murdo” was the good-looking one trying unsuccessfully to flirt with the cabin crew. “Fat Grant” himself sat quietly in the back row. Was he already regretting the drunken blur that was about to begin?
Fortunately Fat Grant’s crew were whisked away by bus into the concrete jungles west of Palma whilst we drove north through orange groves towards Pollenca. Here the countryside is quiet save for the sounds of dogs barking, birds singing and donkeys braying. Sometimes the sound of a strimmer or a power saw tries to ruin the peace but rarely succeeds.
The foothills of the stunning Tramontana mountains frame the Pollenca countryside . Villas here all have private pools, outdoor barbecues, palm trees and flowers of all colours. The busy but very pretty Puerto De Pollenca is five minutes drive away. Close enough for when you run out of food and beer or fancy a meal in a restaurant, but far enough away to convince you that you live in your own private paradise.
When night falls there is no light pollution. Lie back and watch the stars light up across the sky. Look for shooting stars. You might miss some of them. Those you do see are like fireworks burning across the blackness.
This is unspoilt Mallorca. And there’s so much of it to see.
We took a trip to Soller, a quaint Spanish village nestling in a hollow valley surrounded by towering mountains studded with green pine trees. The drive to this oasis is both scary and beautiful. Perhaps only the Grand Canyon can beat the slopes around Soller for sheer breathtaking magnificence.
Sit in the main square in Soller and have a glass of fresh orange juice and watch the tram clank by on its way down to the port. Soller is one of the smallest towns in the world with a tram system. They built it in 1913. It’s still a popular form of transport and now a tourist attraction in its own right. Have tea at the five-star Gran Hotel Soller or pop into the cake shop next door and sample one of their multi-coloured macaroons.
Four kilometres at the other end of the tram’s route is the Port De Soller a huge horse shoe bay of sand, yachts, restaurants, bars and hotels. We really are a million miles away from the plastic pubs and pounding base riffs of Magaluf. I wonder whether Fat Grant is enjoying his hangover.
In the centre of Mallorca is Inca, one of the bigger towns. Thursday is market day and every street boasts a line of stalls and tables. Fresh fruit, green vegetables, meat, fish even live chickens and ducks, sit side by side with clothes, leather goods and household utensils. It’s like a department store on the streets. You have to haggle and obviously sift through some tourist tat, but you can find bargains in this maze of narrow streets.
Back to the Pollenca countryside for a few more days of good food and great wine.
When someone mentions Mallorca to me I think of these sun-baked days in the Pollenca countryside, the cafe culture of Soller and the market at Inca rather the concrete sun soaked replica of Blackpool where Fat Grant drunkenly celebrated his last days as a single man.
Your turn: What are your favourite hidden gems in unspoilt Mallorca? Please post your links or comments below and share your experiences.