The Balearic Islands made up of Ibiza, Menorca, Formentera and Mallorca and a few other titchy ones, have established themselves as the go-to destination for travellers looking for a vacation that offers a myriad of activities and pleasures. Whereas Ibiza is seen as ‘party central’, with Menorca the quieter island and Formentera the small shy sister, Mallorca is a bewitching combination of natural beauty, sublime beaches and a wonderful eclectic nightlife. Little surprise to hear that there as so many things to do in Mallorca that can deliver a truly delightful holiday experience.
To break it all down into bite-sized pieces, I am going to discuss this incredibly diverse island based on who you are and what your requirements might be.
1. Things to do in Mallorca …. If you are Royalty
At 47 miles, north to south and 63 miles east to west, with a mountainous region and 350 miles of unadulterated coastline, this is a spectacular island. Lots of undeveloped spaces made up of olive and almond groves and farmland ensure a natural wildness to the hinterland.
With over 10 million tourists touching down each year, the island has managed to retain its unique identity. There are key pockets of high-density tourism in Magaluf, Santa Ponsa and Playa de Palma. These are a world away from the picturesque and refined holiday experiences to be found elsewhere on the island.
In fact, the Spanish Royal Family have for generations taken their summer vacation at the famous Marivent Palace near to Palma. King Felipe and Queen Letizia enjoy private and relaxed holidays with their children at this beautiful property. While the royal family are in residence visits to the gardens of the Palace are off-limits. If you are looking for things to do in Palma de Mallorca do check out access though, as the gardens are spectacular and the views memorable.
In fact, any decent Mallorca travel guide will insist that you make the capital city Palma a key component of any trip to this beautiful island. As one of the richest cities in the whole of Spain, Palma is a seductive combination of history and sophisticated modernity.
The city has the commanding cathedral and castle dominating its coastal skyline. The history that wraps together the mysticism of the Knights Templar and the rich history of Moorish dominion, offers captivating walking tours through some of the greatest urban architectural gems of the Mediterranean.
Once you’ve sated your curiosity with all of this amazing history, walk over to Palma’s old town and enjoy the quaint narrow cobbled streets with great tapas and bars. Throw in some retail therapy and you have a full day of fun with something for everyone.
2. Things to do in Mallorca…. If you are a Sport Star
The uber-talented Rafa Nadal is Mallorca’s most famous tennis export. Rafa still lives on the island and has recently opened a highly successful tennis academy to help develop the talents of future Wimbledon greats.
If you are a keen sports star, Mallorca will appeal to you on many levels. Golf is probably one of the most popular sports across the whole of Spain, the weather certainly playing a helping hand.
When it comes to golf, there isn’t the best time to visit Mallorca as all of the courses are playable year-round. In addition to golf, there is tennis, horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking through the hills and mountains, any number of water-based sports too.
All of these activities can be easily accessed and enjoyed from your perfect villa base. Simply allow Exceptional Villas’ talented concierge staff to unlock all of the fun activities that you and your family can enjoy while you vacation on the island.
3. Things to do in Mallorca….If you are a Movie Star
Without fail each Summer you will be sure to catch sight of more than one Hollywood VIP. The island has become one of those amazing destinations for stars who want to soak up the pleasures of the Mediterranean but without the hullabaloo of, say, the South of France.
Hollywood royalty like Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Pierce Brosnan have owned private homes in Mallorca for a very long time. They get to unwind and simply ‘be’ on an island that doesn’t invade their space yet welcomes them sincerely each year.
In interviews, these stars frequently refer to the pleasure they take in their Mallorcan homes, like the stunning Sa Punta de S’Aguila in the photo below, and the lazy lifestyle that accompanies it.
I think that’s the great secret of Mallorca’s success as a wonderful Mediterranean destination, namely, the warm welcome extended to everyone coupled with the dignity and pride of the locals.
4. Things to do in Mallorca … If you are a Writer
The municipality of Deia also gives its name to the very salubrious coastal village. This picture-postcard village, perched on cliffs overlook the Mediterranean, is a short drive from the equally lovely artists’ enclave that is Valldemossa.
In 1929, Deia became the permanent home of the renowned writer Robert Graves. Famous for I, Claudius, the historic novel charting the shenanigans of ancient Rome and many other works of fiction and poetry, the island became the happy safe haven where Robert Graves lived out his life, whilst writing prolifically.
One of the Mallorca things to do is absolutely to visit Deia. It is as beautiful today as it must surely have been almost 100 years ago to Mr Graves. Walking through the pretty streets, take a short stroll to Casa de Robert Graves that’s now a museum.
Follow your stroll with a traditional afternoon tea on the terrace of La Residencia. It might just be the perfect conclusion to a perfect day. Enjoy another perfect day in the stunning Alfonsa Villa, which guarantees a relaxing vacation in Mallorca.
5. Things to do in Mallorca …. If you are a musician
Running away from the damp and dreary winter of France, the delicate Polish composer Frederyk Chopin travelled south to Mallorca. Taking up residence in a small house in Valldemossa he was joined by his lover Amantine Dupin better known as George Sand. Writing under her pen name, she wrote the book A Winter in Mallorca which seems to be a catalogue of misfortune, perhaps the greatest drama being the terrible delay in Chopin’s piano reaching him.
For all of the confusion, this famed composer of the romantic era managed to compose some of his most beautiful work. His Preludes the most famous. As you walk through the streets of Valldemossa, looking out across the mountains, it is easy to understand how anyone would be inspired.
There is a dedicated museum to both Chopin and Sand that contains a lot of interesting memorabilia and detail about their respective careers. A day trip to Valldemossa coupled with a heavenly lunch with a view is certainly what to do in Mallorca during your vacation on the island.
The beauty of this town still draws artists and musicians to it each year. The drive across Mallorca from Palma to Valldemossa shows the pretty rural quality of Mallorca. Farms, vineyards, almond and olive groves inter-weave, dotted here and there by quaint stone farmhouses with sheep and cattle grazing in pastures.
In springtime and early summer, Mallorca is a profusion of colour and scent as these small meadows burst into flower and the scent of orange and almond blossoms fill the air. Poor Chopin left Mallorca with some excellent compositions, but the trip proved a disastrous experience for his romantic relationship. But, of course, out of great suffering comes great art. So, if you are keen to release the muse within, I think why not visit Mallorca and see what inspiration pops up!
6. Things to do in Mallorca …. If you are an artist
The island of Mallorca is blessed with that striking quality of light that encourages everyone to reach for a camera or a paintbrush. Joan Miro the king of surrealism, although born in Barcelona, moved to Mallorca where he lived and ultimately died. The Fundacio Pilar I Joan Miro opened in Palma in 1981 and showcases some 6,000 examples of the fabulous works of this internationally celebrated artist, sculptor and ceramicist.
As part of your exciting visit to Palma, this museum is a must-see regardless of your knowledge of the artist. It’s very unusual to have so much unique work by one artist present in one location. Enjoy it!
7. Things to do in Mallorca … If you are a Reality TV star wannabe.
Look no further than the pretty village of Ses Salines to find the uber impressive Love Island villa. It is famous not just for incubating some of the most forgettable romances the world has known but for having the largest private swimming pool in the Balearics. Sadly, you cannot get into the villa – well, unless you apply to be part of the next Love Island series. I guess it might be one definite way to spend more time under the Mallorcan sky!
For an island that sees so much tourism each year, it’s really reassuring to know that there are great swathes of coastline that remains truly untouched. A boat trip along the western and northern shores, reveals many hidden beaches and hard to reach Calas. Small, idyllic beaches that involve a heart-stopping drive through some very winding mountainous roadways tend to keep the hoards at bay.
Mallorca might not seem like such a big island to drive around but once you get caught up in the twisting network of small roads it soon becomes clear that you will be getting nowhere fast.
But, for me, that is always the charm of a holiday. The island sets her pace and ensures that relaxation is foremost on the agenda. Enjoy the views as you drive along. Stop at lovely little restaurants along the way and finally plunge into the mesmerising Mediterranean at gorgeous beaches like Sa Calobra or Cala Deia.
The equally beautiful Cala Murta is a stop worth making if you are on your way to the beach at Formentor. These smaller coves and beaches are like a private Eden with perhaps only a small beach shack for snacks and treats.
Pack a picnic and spend a day snorkelling in some of the clearest and most beautiful waters anywhere across the Mediterranean. Enjoy a wonderful vacation in Mallorca in a villa in close proximity to the beach like Cosins, making it easier to get to and from!
Our Other Top Favourite Things To Do
The Soller railway stands out for the special, attractive route it runs along, overcoming the natural barrier of the Sierra de Alfabia mountain range, which is 2.8km wide and 496 metres high. In just seven kilometres, the railway rises up 199 metres, runs through thirteen tunnels, crosses over several bridges and the ‘cinc-ponts’ viaduct.
The Sanctuary of Lluc is the religious hub of Mallorca, dating back to 1266. Its choir school is one of the oldest in the entire world. A place where architect Antoni Guadi left his mark. The place where Ramon Llull reportedly achieved enlightenment. A viewpoint from which you can contemplate the entire island of Mallorca. With a wide array of cultural and nature-orientated activities on offer.
The Caves of Campanet (Coves de Campanet )
The caves are situated in the north of the island in an unspoilt valley which captures the unique character and charm of rural Majorca. They cover an area of 3,200 square metres. The tour, of approximately 40 minutes, will take you through beautifully decorated chambers and passageways. Deep in the caves you will see magnificent stalagmites and stalactites sculpted by water throughout millions of years. Their variety, delicacy and colour are outstanding. Of scientific interest are the signs of the existence of Henrotius Jordai, an indigenous, carnivorous, blind beetle and the remains of Myotragus Balearicus, an indigenous mammal believed extinct about 4000 years ago.
The Royal Carthusian Monastery (Real Cartuja) Valldemossa
Visit the monastery at Valldemossa, where Chopin and George Sand spent the winter of 1838-9. The Real Cartuja (Royal Carthusian Monastery) was originally a royal residence, until Carthusian monks occupied the building from 1399 until 1835. The origins of the cartuja date back to the time of king Jaume II, who chose this spot to build a palace for his son Sancho. In 1399, it was donated to Carthusian monks. It has white-arched corridors leading to ‘cells’ containing museums on various themes. Visit the old pharmacy – you can almost smell the herbs – then look into the library, where the monks would meet for half an hour a week, their only human contact. There is a fine modern art museum, with works by Picasso, Miro and Juli Ramis, and of course there is Chopin’s cell…
The Best Markets
Almost every town in Mallorca has a weekly market, each held on a different day of the week. This means there’s more than enough opportunity to visit a market on the island during your stay on the island. Markets thrive in Mallorca and are a great way to experience some true local culture. The larger markets all follow a similar pattern with fresh produce around the main square and, fanning out from there, specialist local produce. Handmade jewellery, arts and crafts, inexpensive clothing and household goods can also usually be found.
In a mere 2 hours or less, you can fly direct from London or any of the main European hubs like Frankfurt, Madrid or Rome. All the major European air carriers offer mostly daily services in and out of Palma International Airport. Make sure you have a window seat as you circle to land as you get the most incredible bird’s eye view of the Cathedral and Castle in Palma. By day, the city of Palma glistens while against the ultra-blue of the Mediterranean. By night, the lights shine like a thousand stars in the sky. Unforgettable.
As you can see there are so many things to do in Mallorca, Spain. You may not slip neatly into one of my categories above being neither artistic nor athletic. Your main skill in life might be the ability to look fetching on a sun lounger whilst imbibing a chilled glass of white wine. The good news is that the sheer perfection of Mallorca travel, the diverse distractions that await, is perfectly designed to attract and appeal to some part of anyone. Simply driving around the island, enjoying the freedom of ‘finding’ somewhere that captures your imagination, is all part of the wonder of Mallorca.
If you are keen on sailing, then the 46 ports dotted around the island with many deep coves that allow you to drop anchor, can allow you to enjoy an aspect of Mallorca that many land-lubbers won’t always see. The dramatic cliffs of the Tramuntana mountains that literally drop vertically into the sea, create dazzling views as you catch the breeze and sail around the northern coastline.
A lot of travellers to the Balearics who first visit Ibiza are always reluctant to try Mallorca. But as someone who first went to Mallorca, I freely admit that it has a special place in my heart. I think it’s the grandeur of it all. It’s a bit grown up in comparison to Ibiza and yet has something very new and unspoiled in its personality.
You may not be King Felipe of Spain luxuriating in your own private palace but a vacation, cocooned in one of the delightful Exceptional Villas, where you will live like proverbial royalty certainly comes close. Come see for yourself what makes Mallorca the great lady of the Balearics.
About Mairead Moriarty
Born and raised in Co Kerry, lived in London, New York, San Francisco, Dublin. Owner of one very battered suitcase, a well-worn passport and a million memories.
It seems very fitting for a travel writer that my surname translates as ‘Skilled Navigator’. Apart from an occasion when, aged 3, I got lost in a Supermarket in Tralee, I have managed to live up to my name!
Curiosity is probably the driver that has sent me on magical mystery tours around the world. I want to ‘feel’ a place. I want all my senses to be engaged: from the history and geography that has influenced a country or city, the arts and achievements of its natives, anything and everything really.
Regardless of whether I am on a local train travelling through Morocco, or poking around in Marconi’s study in Bologna or on a canal boat weaving through the heart of the English countryside, the same rules apply - ask questions, talk to locals, eat what they eat, sit quietly with nature and simply be.
Assimilate as much as is possible so as to understand the soul of a place. That is my passion. That is the compass by which I navigate.