The Magic of Mallorca

by Jared
 * This article first appeared here in ASPIRE LIFESTYLE

When you realise that the usual impressions of the Balearic Islands as a cheap-and-cheerful party destination couldn’t be further from the truth, an enticing invitation to fall in love with these dreamy Spanish Islands awaits. On a recent visit to Barcelona, Mallorca was a short 50-minute flight away, so I had no excuse not to take the flip over to discover the island’s Mediterranean magic.  

My love affair with Palma began with winding strolls through the cobblestoned streets and classy gabled courtyards of the island’s biggest city. With  all the feel of Barcelona, but on a more intimate level and at a slower pace,  the mix of Gothic, Modern, and Nouveau architecture is an enchanting affair.. Some of Gaudi and his younger apprentices’ influence are still to be found, and the impressive Can Casasayas & Pensión Menorquina buildings, along with the Gran Hotel (Fundacio la Caixa) proudly holds their place in any Goggle favorites list.

The Palace and Cathedral are impressive 12th-century buildings worth admiring – and as a treat after all the walking, indulge in a little decadence at Cappuccino – the swanky (and oh-so-Instagrammable) café adjacent to the Palace. 

Hearing about a  century old train running daily between Palma and the town of Soller (tucked in the Tramuntana Mountains and a World Heritage Site), I quickly added the railway experience to our itinerary. A return trip, which can be taken in either direction, affords enough time to explore your chosen destination. Journeys last around an hour and cost €27 return. A little insider tip: the front carriage has an open section with wooden benches and a closed carriage with leather recliners – these are available on a first-come-first-serve basis on the same ticket fare. Simply wait at the very front of the train and try to board first to claim  one of these coveted spots.

Moving North,  nestled in the northern foothills of the Tramuntana Mountains, the town of Pollenca feels deliciously removed from the rest of the island. In the  village itself, I began exploring at the church of Sainta Maria where in Gaudi-esque styling, the sun threw a kaleidoscope display of colours over the sanctuary. Next was the ‘365 Calvari steps’ up to the elevated chapel which proudly looks out over the landscape (do also enjoy the viewpoint just off to the right of the chapel entrance). 

Once you’ve walked back down, the affordable €3.50 ham and cheese croissants from the unassuming Ca’n Moixet, are tasty rewards for any calories spent. While in town, the local textile producer Teixits Vicens makes for some tempting shopping (think of it the Mallorcan version of South Africa’s Mungo). 

Pollenca has an eponymous coastal enclave (Puerto Pollenca) which serves as the gateway to Mallorca’s Northern Formentor Peninsula. The drive to Formentor Beach is an experience in itself, winding along dramatic passes that give glimpses of hidden coves and the azure waters below. Adjacent to the beach you can’t help but notice the large hotel; preface your visit by watching Netflix’s “Formentor, the Sea of Words” – a fascinating look at the history of both hotel and region.  You’ll likely be impressed by the lineage of legendary guests who’ve frequented the hotel, which has recently been purchased by Four Seasons and has a much-anticipated 2024 launch. 

To revel in some of Mallorca’s luxury hospitality offerings, a staycation at the five-star Son Brull was in order. Mere minutes outside Pollenca, with its renovated 18th-century monastery home, this rural retreat has been a luxury hotel for just over twenty years. Now a proud member of Relais Chateaux, it is passionately run by the devoted Suau family whose ethos that is proudly Mallorcan.

Their hyper-local focus on the region was beautifully evident throughout. From  the items on offer in their store to thedécor and styling.   With an emphasis on local ingredients, the breakfast menu’s enticing ‘Full Mallorcan’ included more than one local sausage, and even the French toast had its local stamp with ensaïmada (the island’s famous sweet pastry), replacing the usual bread component. Honey and fruit from the garden were in abundant supply, and since this is Spain, yes, oranges aplenty. For a fine dining affair, Restaurant 365 is open every evening (incidentally named after the fact that at the time of renovation, the monastery building had exactly 365 doors and windows). 

The small collection of stylish rooms are arranged around a central courtyard – all connected to the restaurant, café, spa and pool. Four secluded family villas with splash pools are tucked away in the property gardens, designed by celebrated Catalan architect – Carme Pinós – winner of the Essentially Mallorca Prize 2022, and the Spanish National Prize of Architecture 2021 – the country’s most respected architectural accolade.

Miquel Suau shared some insights with me about the growth of luxury tourism on the island, along with Mallorca’s changing global perceptions: “In recent years there have been several changes in the sector, including a noticeable shift to luxury tourism; evidenced by the increase of luxury tourists and growth in the number of high-end hotels and restaurants. There is also a growing awareness of the environmental impact of tourism, and Mallorca is taking steps to become more sustainable. The sector is constantly evolving, and we’re indeed interested to see how it continues to change in the years to come.’’ 

This shift was indeed tangible, and while parts of the island may still be host to party culture, a smart emphasis on luxury offerings is quickly showing that the island has much more to offer to the discerning traveller.

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