Exploring Caves, a Live Concert in an Underground Lake, Jellies, and More...

Portals Vells

Last Friday we took an excursion to the southwestern corner of the island, near Magaluf. While Magaluf is more or less known as the Mexico Spring Break equivalent for Brits visiting Mallorca, there is actually quite a bit of awesome nature-y sites to see just outside of town.

The idea was to hike to Cala Figuera and hit Portals Vells on the way. Portal Vells is in the town of Calviá, about 20 minutes outside of Palma by car and has three calas—Sa Caleta (the main beach), El Mago (nudie beach), and Playa del Rei (smaller than the other two). If you continue along the coastline from here, you'll reach Cala Figuera.

Cala Figuera

Cala Figuera

Jellies were in no short supply at Cala Figuera.

Jellies were in no short supply at Cala Figuera.

While it can get touristy (especially now that we’re entering the high season), these calas are beautiful to see. The trails are very easily accessible and the hike (if you can call it that) is very short and easy (only about 2km to Cala Figuera).

The spot is popular for yachts and sailboats as well, and if you decide to make a day of it and sunbathe on the rocks, you’ll see something similar to what you’ve always imagined a day on the Mediterranean to look like—sandy beaches, pine-tree lined cliffs, stunning clear turquoise water, a sailboat or two in the distance.

From Sa Caleta on one side of the beach, you can find a giant cave that has three entrances which look like giant portals (hence the name, translated as “Old Portals”). 

Openings to the caves at Portals Vells.

Openings to the caves at Portals Vells.

Inside, some of the walls are decorated with inscriptions and drawings. Legend has it that Genoese sailors who lost their way swore that they would build a chapel wherever they landed if they made it to safety. Luck (and/or weather) was on their side, and they made it to Portal Vells where they left a statue of the Virgin and over time, an altar and crude “chapel” were carved into the rock.

Later, in the Middle Ages, the “caves” were further developed when rock was excavated for the cathedral built in Palma. Doesn’t get much better than cave exploring on the side of a cliff in the Mediterranean, does it? 

Cuevas del Drach (in Porto Cristo)

…Until you go to the Cuevas del Drach, more awesome caves but which happen to be on the eastern side of the island in Porto Cristo. It was raining, so we figured when life gives you rain, try adventuring underground instead. Unlike Portals Vells (free), the Cuevas del Drach have a €15 entrance fee, and while it’s also a bit touristy here, it’s kind of worth it.

You start the tour by walking into the cave—another world. Stalactites and stalagmites are everywhere, ceiling, walls, shooting off into odd angles, leading to other small caves within the cave, pockets of clear blue water here and there. You wind your way down, further underground as the air gets hotter and more humid.

You end up at a giant underground lake. Here, you take a seat and after a brief thank you for coming, no video-taping, yadda-yadda intro, all of the lights are turned off so that it is pitch black. From one corner of the lake you see three boats slowly floating around a corner and live musicians—a violinist, a cellist, and a pianist—on one of the boats begin to play. The acoustics are incredible inside the cave and all you have is the light from the boat, the hot humid air, and the music filling this giant space. Unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. 

After the live music ends, you get to take a ride on the boat and although it’s only for about 60 seconds, it’s pretty rad, more of a been-there-done-that experience than anything. But let’s face it: you just rode on a boat in a cave surrounded by stalactites and stalagmites after listening to a live concert on a rowboat on an underground lake.

That, my friends, is what I call Doing Cool Shit. Until the next adventure…!