As a small island in the Mediterranean, Mallorca has some of the most beautiful beaches and clearest water in all of Europe—perfect in the summer when you can go from scuba diving to cave swimming to cliff jumping in a matter of hours. But even Mediterranean islands get cold, and winter here is no exception.
So when I had a Mr. Ronnie Cox coming to visit from San Diego, California in early December, adventuring out at sea was out of the question. So what do you do on an island in the middle of winter? You adventure by land. And lo and behold, you come to find out that Mallorca is one incredible winter destination—especially during the holidays.
Get on island time with a hike. Mallorca has some of the most breathtaking hikes I’ve done (Yosemite, you’ve got some competition here), so this is a *must* if you are visiting. We decided to do the Puig de Maria (blog post on this hike here) since the trailhead is only about a five minute walk from my house. Aka Mission Pack-in-as-Much-as-You-Can-in-a-Short-Amount-of-Time. This hike only takes 1.5-2 hours max, but if you have the time I would recommend doing a longer hike or doing more than one (Check out more hike ideas here).
For my runner/triathlete friends who want a bit of a challenge, change the hike into a run and proceed to get your bum kicked (think Gibralter, but longer). Pain is glory, and all that jazz…you’ll love it.
Next, visit a cala. While it may be too cold to go in the water, you should still visit one of the coves/beaches on the island just to see firsthand how beautiful they are.
We went to Cala San Vincenç, one of my personal faves and only about a 15 minute drive from my house. It has a few coves that you can explore with incredible vistas of cliffs and expanses of clear blue Mediterrannean water.
Bring sandwiches (hint: this is your sandwich spot), hunt for sea glass, and maybe make friends with some wild goats while you’re at it.
Watch the sunset from Formentor. While you’ll need a car to get here (you can rent one or better yet, make friends with someone who has one), the hassle will be worth it—trust me.
Bring some beers, sit on top of the cliff, and enjoy one of the most amazing sunsets of your life.
Do a Ruta de Tapas. You’re in Spain. Tapas is not just food, it’s a way of life. Pollença’s Ruta de Tapas, or Tapas Route, is every Thursday, but you can find them in Palma on Tuesdays or other days depending on the town. You can bounce from restaurant to restaurant where they serve specialty tapas and wine/beer—usually €2.50 for two tapas and a drink. From patatas bravas to pinchos with cheese and sobrasada (both musts), there will be plenty of delicious goodies to choose from.
Get a car and explore the island. Whether you rent one or have a friend willing to adventure all day with you (thanks Annika!), make sure you get out and explore the island a bit. The landscape on Mallorca changes drastically—snow-capped mountains, blue Mediterranean beaches, mossy forests, rocky mountains, stalactite and stalagmite covered caves, shrubbery hillsides…you name it, Mallorca has it all—so make sure you see as much of it as you can. The island is also relatively small, so one day in a car will take you pretty far.
We decided to go from Pollenca (in the north) and work our way down the west coast of the island. The first stop was Sa Calobra which is on the northwest coast of Mallorca, between Lluc and Sóller. It was my first time there, and I couldn’t get enough. There are a couple of beach outlets, one which you walk through a tunnel to get to (cue inner child: AWESOMEEE!). Since it was winter, we had the entire beach to ourselves. Sandwiches, beers, good company, and beautiful views…sometimes it’s the little things in life.
We then drove through Deia and stopped in Valdemossa, both cute towns perfect for a coffee or bite to eat. They are known for their quaint Spanish neighborhoods and are much less crowded with tourists in the winter.
In Valdemossa, all the residents in the town are required to have hanging plants outside of their houses, giving the town a charm unlike any other on the island. Also, if you stop in Valdemossa, you need to get their famous pastry, a coca de patata, a sweet bread made from potatoes.
While we chose to explore the western part of the island, a roadtrip along the eastern edge is also a great option. There are some beautiful beaches to explore (including one of my favorites, Calo Des Moro near Santanyí), great hikes, as well as cute harbors and amazing restaurants. You could also visit the Cuevas Del Drach in Porto Cristo, which for a €15 or so entrance fee, you can explore caves covered from floor to ceiling in stalactites and stalagmites, listen to a live concert on an underground lake, and even take a ride on a boat in the cave (blog post on this here).
Explore Palma. Palma may be a relatively small city, but don’t underestimate the amount of site-seeing there. It’s impossible to miss the huge water-front cathedral, a towering castle-like edifice overlooking the ocean, which is a good place to start. There are nearby museums (the Modern Art Museum has a terrace overlooking the harbor – great for a midday café con leche), an aquarium, and quite a bit of shopping so create a day that suits your fancy. (P.s. Note that a lot of shops close on Sundays, so try to explore Palma Mon-Sat).
Restaurants and bars are in no short supply here and call for a blog post on their own. But in true Spanish fashion, make sure to try paella for lunch (ignore the restaurants that have pictures on their menus – they are tourist traps), and don’t forget to get in a siesta afterwards.
Like any Spanish town, if you go in December, Palma’s Christmas markets are in full effect with little kiosks taking up the main streets from Plaza España to Las Ramblas selling anything from miniature Christmas figurines to handmade pottery to freshly baked bread. Take a stroll through the markets, enjoy the holiday lights strung up across the city, and try some goodies (hot mulled wine and churros con chocolate were a personal favorite).
Afterwards, if you’re looking for a night out, go to Santa Catalina for drinks or Marítimo for dancing. Gin and tonics are popular here, and before your trip ends make sure you try hierbas, a typical drink of Mallorca that has the taste of anise, or black licorice. Personally, I’m not a fan, but when in Rome…
While three days may be a short trip to take on an island as grandiose and beautiful as Mallorca (can you tell I may be starting to really like this place??), it’s a good amount of time to get a taste for what it has to offer.
And on the way back home, you might just be planning another trip in spring/summer when the weather and water is warmer (stay tuned for another blog post).
Mallorca friends: Have any other good ideas/tips? Feel free to write them in the “Comments” section below.