View from the Pelicano, an affordable lodge situated along Cala Major on the Spanish island of Mallorca.

View from the Pelicano, an affordable lodge situated along Cala Major on the Spanish island of Mallorca. Photo by Nathan Van Schaik.

 

Mallorca, about the size of Rhode Island, is the largest island in the Balearic archipelago situated off the east coast of Spain, graced with warm Mediterranean sunshine and tempered by cool ocean breezes. Its landscape — ranging from limestone caves to gnarled moonscape all the way back to white sand beaches — is as diverse as its shopping, nightlife, cuisine and historical sight-seeing. The island appeals to all tastes and offers something for everyone year-round.

 

Travel to Mallorca is easy, especially from Germany. Because the island has been one of the most popular destinations for British and particularly among German tourists, flights from Germany tend to be cheap. In fact, the Sato office on-post regularly provides cheap packages there. Flights to Mallorca from most of the major airports out of Germany take no more than two hours and tickets and deals are offered year-round at most travel agencies.

 

Arrive in the southern portion of the island in Palma, the island’s largest city, and be sure to have rooms booked in advance. Cheap lodging can easily be found within city limits, but stay outside the area to avoid crummy hotels and tightly packed buildings too far from the beach. Travel too far outside Palma to bed down and you risk isolating yourself from the island’s capital — a virtual nerve center offering public transportation all around the island. Park it in Cala Major, Palma Nova or Sant Agustí, all great beach resorts within a 10-kilometer radius of Palma, but just close enough to the cheap bus routes both outbound and inbound to the city’s center. Clothing seems to be optional at most beaches.


 

To escape beach mayhem and your modern surrounding, head north to Soller. Beaches are more infrequent but the scenery is easier on the eye. Here, you’ll be teleported back in time to 18th century houses, cobblestone streets, outdoor cafes and assorted shops. Be sure to pick up cheap knickknacks like jarred Mallorcan olives, garlic and spices to mail back home as gifts. Buses from Palma to Soller depart frequently and travel through Valldemossa, another quaint village great for afternoon aperitifs or bottles of red wine, Spain’s pride and glory. From Soller, take the 15-minute San Francisco-style tram to Port de Soller and enjoy the fresh seafood and a bowl of gazpacho, a cold tomato-cucumber soup.

 

Water sports are common along the perimeter of the island as the warm climate lends itself to ideal conditions for sailing or riding jet skis. Dive shops tend to be concentrated in the southwest corner of the island, but, although most convenient to get to, by no means does the area necessarily provide the best sea life and shipwrecks.

 

While Mallorca has become a haven for European tourists taking advantage of their six-week, paid vacations, much of the island remains untouched. You’ll most likely want to take advantage of the cheap rental cars or scooters offered near some of the touristy sections in or around Palma. Don’t hesitate to haggle prices with rental dealers.

 

From Palma, head north until you hit the coast line and continue northeast driving toward Sa Calobra, one of the island’s best kept secrets. Sa Colobra, about an hour drive from Palma, is often identified an overcrowded tourist haven. And for the most part, it is. But park the car, avoid the obvious tourists traps, explore the canyons and you’ll easily discover secluded breathtaking hamlets ideal for romance.

 

Cuisine in Mallorca is varied. But the island is not the place to venture out on international flavors like Chinese, Mexican or Indian. Stick with the regional food, which is by far the best the island has to offer. Most restaurants serve tapas, which are small portions of just about anything the chef can concoct. For many, this may come across as a paradise of options to include meats, fish, veggies, cheeses, olives and sauces. Anything with goat cheese is sure to please while padron peppers — mild green chilies salted and fried over an open flame — are seasonal favorites during the summer months. If you’re uncertain what to order, opt for the calamari or paella (without squid’s ink). To narrow down the selection of tapas bars (not to be confused with topless bars), choose a place that looks old, woody and perhaps uninviting. Don’t expect five-star service at restaurants in Mallorca. Chill out and tap into the collective mood of nonchalance.

 

The Mallorcan red wines, along with those imported from the Spanish mainland, are cheap and arguably hold up to the best French wines. The reds go well with most foods, though many prefer the Estrella Galacia, the island’s cheap and refreshing beer, to cope with the dry heat.

 

If you’re more in the mood for boozy nights at wall-shaking clubs, coupled with perhaps some of the most beautiful people on the planet, Ibiza — the club mecca of the Mediterranean — is only a ferry ride away. Ferries depart for Ibiza from Palma every day. However, you don’t have to leave Mallorca to enjoy spectacular nightlife. Explore the road Av de Gabriel Roca west of Palma, which is a long strip of clubs and bars along the ocean front and the epicenter of yuppie nightlife. If you prefer something less upbeat, hit up Old Town in Palma where you’re likely to meet grizzled one-eyed Danish sailors telling stories to tipsy senoritas. People watching is one of the island’s greatest appeals.

 

Finally, one last note: The Spanish spoken language is different from what you may use in the United States, or what you learned in high school. Rather, the Castilian dialect is lispy, loose and a bit lazy with the tongue — fitting for the island’s lazy summers, long siestas, noontime sangrias, disregard for clothes and sleepy afternoons on the beach. Speak only English? Don’t worry. No one cares.


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