I have only booked tickets to Mallorca because they were very cheap and because I was in desperate need for some warmth, sick of the grey skies and rain of the English winter. All I knew about the tiny island in the Mediterranean was that is a party destination for stags and hen-dos, from where a lot of embarrassing photos emerge on the web. I am not a person who likes to spend the night in a club, I don’t like the loud techno music and I am not a heavy drinker. Of course, that’s what I thought when I was stereotyping the island from the lack of other information.
Where to stay in Mallorca?
The North of the island is said to be quiet while the South is the area where the party cities are (think of Magaluf). At the advise of a work colleague I booked an apart-hotel (as 3 other friends joined me) in the North of the island, in Port Pollenca. I chose Apart-hotel Flora because of the really good price deal (£275 for 5 nights) and the location, very close to the sea. I couldn’t have chosen better: the apartment was big enough for the 4 of us, it had a nice balcony with a view towards the pool and the daily housekeeping was included in the price.
I booked the airport transfer from Mallorca airport to Port Pollenca online through Shuttle Direct for £18 return. Taking in consideration that it was door to door and that the distance between the airport and Port Pollenca is approximately 60km, this was a great deal. What I liked about the transfer is that they took care of everything and they confirmed the return directly with the reception of the hotel, which meant that I didn’t have to worry about it. The reception informed me what time the shuttle would pick me up, one day before my departure.
What to do in Mallorca if you don’t want to party?
I visited Mallorca in April and going to Magaluf or any place similar was out of the question. April can be a tricky month if you are planning to go to Mallorca because there are high chances of rain. I couldn’t believe when I landed on the airport of Palma and realised how heavy the rain was. That was what I was trying to run away from and, the irony, when I left my home town in England the sky was clear. Needless to say that I got drenched from the door of the airport until jumping inside the bus. My hopes and dreams of nice weather were slowly dissipating. It rained heavily until I reached the hotel, then it stopped and lucky for me, I didn’t see a cloud in the sky afterwards for the rest of my vacation.
Hike to Cala San Vicente
After I met with my friends at the hotel, as we arrived with different flights, at the suggestion of the receptionist, we decided to do a small hike to the nearby town of Cala San Vicente which is the smallest resort on the entire island. We walked to the end of the town and at the roundabout, we continued on a back road leading towards the mountains. At some point there is a tiny road to the right that seems to go towards a private property closed with a gate. That is the correct way, the gate is opened enough for people to pass and the road is actually public, despite the big padlock and the chain. The road continues towards the mountain and soon transforms into a path. However, it is still well marked on Google Maps so there is no way you can get lost.
Because it was raining we found the path to be very muddy and slippery. The first part of the path is more difficult because you have to go through uneven landscape covered with big rocks. At this point in time, a small river was actually making its way down the hill due to the heavy morning rain. We kept going, even if we saw a couple in front of us giving up. The hike was fairy easy and we kept climbing for about 20 minutes, turning around from time to time to see the panorama of Port Pollenca behind us. Once we got to the top we continued to walk on a flat path and when we reached a crossroads, we turned right. From here the path started to descent steeply and soon enough we were able to see on the other side of the mountain.
The rain had stopped by now and the clouds made space for the sun. It was the perfect timing, about two hours before sunset, and we could explore Cala San Vicente in the beautiful light of the golden hour.
The first moment I saw the blue of the sea I couldn’t believe it was real. Even if the sea was a bit rough and the waves were smashing into the shore, the shade of azure blue was unspoiled and made the scene look magical.
We walked around Cala San Vicente for a bit, enjoying the quietness of nobody being around, listening to the sea and enjoying the scenery.
Cycle your way up the mountain to Lluc
I have to admit that I did not cycle to Lluc but there were a lot of people on bikes on this route. I don’t think I would ever be able to cycle all the way up, as it’s a continuous climb of 525 meters on a sinuous road with very few straight lines. If you don’t feel brave you can always take the bus from Port Pollenca. In out of season, when I visited, there were two buses a day towards Lluc, one of them continuing towards Sa Calobra (but waiting for 30 minutes at the monastery, giving you time to get a glimpse of it). The Monastery from Lluc is a pilgrimage site and it is the first Sanctuary on the island of Mallorca.
According to Wikipedia, in the first weekend of August there is a night pilgrimage walk from Palma de Mallorca to the Lluc monastery, a distance of about 44km.
Discover Sa Calobra
As I mentioned above, we only had 20 minutes to look around and admire Lluc monastery, as we continued towards Sa Calobra, a very small bay at the bottom of Sierra de Tramuntana mountain range. You should know that there is only one bus that goes to Sa Calobra from Port Pollenca (bus number 355) and it only runs from Monday to Saturday, at 10:30AM, returning at 3:00PM. This bus only runs from April to October and the price of the return journey is 13.10 euros (as of 2017).
After we departed from Lluc we have noticed that the bus before full was now almost empty. Besides us there were 4 other people sitting in the front of the bus, taking to the driver. The atmosphere in the bus was very jolly until the driver mentioned in Spanish that the road to Lluc was just the appetiser.
Soon enough I got to learn what that meant… all of a sudden, when we reached the top of the mountain, the road curved into a loop without any safety barriers around it. This is actually one of the most famous curves in the world, turning 270 degrees and going under itself, creating an angle of 360 degrees. When I looked on the window all I could see was the bendy road down, full of curves cutting through the breathtaking scenery (and drop). My heart stood still. A sign outside was reading “Sa Calobra – 13 km, 7″ gradient”. There are more than 50 curves down, most of them hairpins. How the hell are we going to go down by bus?
The driver was still taking with the passengers in the front seat while I was imagining how the bus is going to fall of one of the cliffs. Some curves were so narrow that the bus had to go back and fort in order to fit. Imagine not seeing the tarmac underneath… no guard rails, no anything to protect us. “Trust the driver, trust the driver”, I kept telling to myself.
It took about an hour and a half to reach Sa Calobra and I don’t think I have ever been happier to be off a vehicle. The driver saluted us and told us to be back in the same place at 3PM so that he can pick us up and take us back to Port Pollenca.
Sa Calobra is a tiny village with an exceptional beauty. Everywhere you look towards the sea you can admire the azure blue color of the water and the waves breaking into the cliffs. A tunnel through the mountain leads to a peaceful lagoon where a mountain lake and the sea blend in together. It’s a wonderful place to have a picnic or simply sunbathe.
Was it worth the scary bus trip? Definitely!
Watch the sunset in Port Pollenca while enjoying the local cuisine
Do you agree that one can never get bored of watching sunsets? And the ones in Port Pollenca did not disappoint, coloring the sky in shades of red, orange and pink. The long promenade of the resort is perfect if you like strolling around undisturbed.
For dinner we consulted TripAdvisor and decided to go to La Cabana tapas restaurant and sample the local cuisine of the island. Although it’s a Spanish island, a lot of the restaurants here will offer British or German menus. We avoided these places and went for local restaurants. La Cabana is a small but cosy restaurant on the promenade of Port Pollenca, with a pretty garden in the back. We started our meal with warm bread and aioli accompanied by a bowl of olives. If there is one thing I can’t get enough of when I visit Spain that is aioli, a garlic and mayo based dip. And when it’s made by hand and not squeezed from a bottle is so much more delicious.
For the main course I chose pimentos con pescado (sweet red peppers filled with white fish and cooked in tomato sauce) with patatas bravas. For drinks we kept it local and ordered a bottle of Rioja wine.
At the end of the dinner, the bill was very reasonable, less than 20 euros each.
Visit Pollenca and enjoy the Sunday Market
Pollenca is a small beautiful stone town situated 6 km away from its port, Port Pollenca, and it’s best visited on a Sunday morning because of its local market. There are a few daily buses from Port Pollenca (you can see the schedule here). The number of the bus is 340 and the ticket price is 1.5 euro for each way.
We arrived quite early in Pollenca, when the town was just waking up. After wondering around for a bit, waiting for the local shops to open, we sat down at a cafe in Placa Seglars for a coffee and the local mallorcan breakfast: the ensaimada, a spiral yeast bun dusted with icing sugar.
With our tummies full we proceeded into climbing the 356 stairs to El Calvari, a tiny church on top of a hill. The stairs are wide and flanked by tall cypress trees. These steps are famous for the Easter ceremonies, where a carving of Jesus Christ is removed from the cross and carried down to the main church of Pollenca, in total silence.
Today though the area was covered by the musical notes of “Qui sas” sang by an old Cuban man, on top of the stairs.
Back in the main square, Placa Major, we couldn’t wait exploring the market. We were planning of buying different local products and enjoy a picnic in the park. The selection of food was impressive: olives stuffed with garlic, peppers, anchovies or haloumi, manchego cheese, freshly carved jamon, warm bread just taken out of the oven…
Search for hidden calas
Mallorca has plenty of hidden calas (bays), some of them accessible only by boat or hike. One of these places is Cala Boquer, another recommendation we received from the receptionist of our hotel. The trail starts behind the resort and it is very well signed, you can’t miss the start of it.
The path to Cala Boquer is around 7 km long, mostly flat (ascents of 150 meters only), going through some rocks so you will need a pair of good grip shoes if you plan to hike it. Not many people walk this trail so most of the times it was just us and the goats. The path goes through the mountains so the views are pretty stunning.
There are no trees or any shade on the trail so bring plenty of water and sunscreen with you. Even if it was April, it was still very hot and we hiked it in shorts and tshirts (quite a change from the first day of our trip, when I wouldn’t have imagined taking off my winter coat).
As soon as the sea starts to get visible, the path becomes uneven and rocky, covered with vegetation. It also splits into more trails and it’s a bit tricky to get down to the beach. It’s good to remember well which path you took so you don’t get lost on your way back (as we did).
Cala Boquer is one of the most stunning bays I have ever seen. The sea is turquoise blue and so clear that you can see the pebbles at the bottom and the fish swimming in it. It was amazing to be there alone and enjoy the beauty of this place like it was hours only. I could have spent the entire day on the tiny beach or on the rock close to the shore, suntanning and pretending I’m a mermaid. 🙂
Visit Palma de Mallorca and take a boat tour of the harbor
In the morning of our last day in Mallorca we decided to visit the capital of the island, Palma. Comparing with the North of the island where we barely saw any tourists, Palma was bustling with people. We walked into the town from the bus station and accidentally ended up at a windmill exhibition.
If you didn’t know, windmills were a big part of Mallorca’s life in the past and they are not part of the island’s heritage. Today there are about 2500 still standing, most of them concentrated in the South of the island.
Even if a big city, Palma’s centre maintains the architecture of the island’s smaller towns, with narrow streets and tall buildings. As you walk towards the sea, the alleys open up into a large square, the home of the Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, a Gothic roman catholic establishment which dominates the sight.
We didn’t spend a lot of time in Palma because we didn’t want to miss the last bus towards Alcudia, but when we passed near the harbor and seen and advert for a boat ride, we didn’t think twice. we were very lucky to be the only ones who bought tickets for the 2PM boat so when Marco Polo arrived we jumped in and found comfortable seats on the bow deck.
Palma looks beautiful from the sea, especially on a sunny day. The boat tour lasts about an hour and it includes an audio guide, which for us was the skipper telling us the stories directly. Even if the boat is small, it doesn’t lack a bar from where you can buy refreshments or ask the bartender to make you a cocktail.
Have a sangria in the old town of Alcudia
Alcudia, same as Pollenca, is a historical old town with a port nearby, surrounded by medieval walls circling narrow streets and stone buildings. The houses in Alcudia are very old, some dating from the 13th century. There is not much to do in Alcudia other than walking on its streets, admiring the architecture, and stopping for dinner at one of the small restaurants which offer good home cooked traditional dishes.
We visited the town in the afternoon so instead of dinner we chose to have a jug of Sangria. It was a great way to relax after a day full of sightseeing.
We walked to the Port of Alcudia also, the beach area. Back in the medieval times the towns used to be built mainland so that they are protected by pirates. With the expansion of tourism in Mallorca their ports have been developed and transformed into summer resort areas. There is pretty much nothing authentic here, only hotels, restaurants and shops targeting tourists.