Exactly one year ago I was ripping around the winding roads of Mallorca in a rental car with my London-town friend Kalpna, who I had met just five months earlier on a G Adventures trip through Bhutan.
I never got around to documenting our journey around the Spanish island, and as a travel junkie, the pre-pandemic freedom of international travel has me feeling nostalgic to relive the memories. We also had a trip booked to Morocco in April that was cancelled due to COVID – and I am longing for an adventure with my travel buddy.
I’ve done my best during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep my feet from itching too much by exploring my home province of Alberta, but as time goes by, I am more and more grateful of the time I have spent traveling abroad and the people I have met around the world.
Kalpna and I got along so well in Bhutan, but organised group travel is different. I wasn’t sure how we would travel together on our own, but my fears were alleviated when I asked Kalpna to join me in Mallorca with less than two weeks notice and she said “sure, but i’m not much of a beach person.”
“Me too!” I screamed back at her.
I am embarrassed/proud to say that with five days in Mallorca – we did not step foot on sand. We did try. One late afternoon we walked to catch the sunset at Cala Deià, but when we arrived at the cove we found the tide high and Spaniards lazing about on piles of wet, stinky seaweed. No sand in sight. I stepped into the water only for the photo to prove to my boyfriend I touched the sea and then we got out of there.
We planned on diving into the sea in Palma when we tried to impromptu walk onto a catamaran trip one afternoon, but that day the boat was inconveniently booked for a private party. There was space the next morning, but we didn’t have enough time to get to the airport to fly out. I think we were just not meant to frolic in the water, but we kept ourselves busy, proving there is more to Mallorca than just package holiday resorts.
10 THINGS TO DO IN MALLORCA THAT
DOESN’T INVOLVE THE BEACH
1. Enjoy a multi-hour lunch like a Spaniard
Lunch is the largest and most important meal of the day in Spain, and we centered much of our daily planning around where we would eat each day. As a bargain hunter, I am a huge fan of the menu del dia, a generously-sized multi-course meal that often includes wine and coffee/tea for one price point. You’d think a Celiac (gluten-free) and a lactose-free diner would have challenges eating off a fixed menu, but somehow, we managed to order the menu del dia at some very memorable restaurants including:
Ca’n BoQueta Restaurant in Sóller
This was hands down my favourite meal in Mallorca. Located in a traditional townhouse along a cobblestone street, we enjoyed a fantastic meal in the garden which included the most delectable Iberico pork skewers and a bizcocho dessert that was naturally gluten free.
Restaurant Toque in Palma
A close second to our meal in Sóller, the menu del dia at Restaurant Toque in Palma de Mallorca was delightful. Our last meal in Palma was a bust, so I wish we had gone two days in a row as they had no issues with our allergies, the service was impeccable, and the food was plated so beautifully.
Restaurant Can Cuarassa near the Port de Pollenca
Sadly, in looking up the link to this restaurant I see that they are not reopening post-COVID. I do hope that someone buys the restaurant, as this lovely spot near the Port de Pollenca with a view of the Mediterranean was a delight to stop at during our drive around Mallorca. (The beach here looked lovely, but we had a lighthouse to see and a monastery to get to… so the beach lost out).
2. Drive to the Lighthouse of Cap de Formentor
I’m sure if I hadn’t been the one driving, I would have gotten car sick on the way to the Lighthouse of Cap de Formentor. The winding road to the north eastern tip of the island was filled with hair pin turns and the odd cyclist hazard. Parking was a challenge at the viewpoint but the goat that was coming down the stairs from the lighthouse restaurant to greet us made the journey worth it.
3. Sleep in a monastery
After our visit to the lighthouse, we did our best to beat the sunset to our abode for the evening – the Santuari de la Mare de Déu des Puig, which we booked on Airbnb. After braving a terrifying road with even tighter hairpin turns and potholes that looked like they would eat our rental, we parked and hiked the remainder of the way up to the 14th-century former nunnery. Darkness set in just as we arrived, so we spent the night in our private dorm room, and we explored the nunnery and enjoyed the views in the morning.
* There appear to be a couple of monastery/church hospitality options on Mallorca. We also visited the Santuari de Lluc, which guests can stay the night at with more amenities and no hiking involved.
4. Visit a free museum
Located in Sóller’s train station is the Sala Picasso & Sala Miró, a free permanent exhibition of ceramics by Picasso along with a myriad of prints from Miró. While most tourists were lining up to take the heritage tram to the Port de Sóller, we had this free art exhibit basically to ourselves.
In Palma, we visited the beautiful Museu Fundación Juan March, which has a permanent collection of seventy works by the most important Spanish vanguard artists of the twentieth century including Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Juan Gris and Salvador Dalí. Still surprised this one was free – I thought it was a beautiful collection.
5. Explore the Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma
Designed in the Catalan Gothic style but with Northern European influences, construction on the Cathedral began in 1229 but did not finish until 1601. Gaudi was invited to take part in a restoration of the cathedral in 1901 but abandoned his work in 1914 after an argument with the contractor. His idea for an enormous crown of thorns canopy that hangs over the altar was completed by one of his students.
I was intrigued by a modern installation by Miquel Barcelo representing the miracle of Jesus multiplying the loaves and the fish for his followers; it is certainly a conversation piece.
6. Pick up some retro styles at a vintage store
While I don’t feel that Spain has the thrift/vintage store culture I have experienced in other European countries, I was pleasantly surprised to find a handful of vintage stores in Palma including Flamingos Vintage, UNICO Vintage and Seattle Vintage Store. Isn’t a Mediterranean island the perfect place to pick up a fur?
7. Get your steps in as you hunt for street art
After a very educational graffiti tour I did in Berlin years ago, I have a greater appreciation and desire to spot street art along my travels. Looking for graffiti is a great reason to step out and explore the city streets, and Palma did not disappoint.
8. Get your Instagram photo shoot on
As we were visiting the Royal Palace of La Almudaina (which was conveniently free for Kalpna on Wednesdays as a EU citizen), we stumbled upon a few Instagram photo shoots like the one above. The backgrounds and backdrops are lovely – and we did our best to replicate shots among the winding streets of Palma.
But it was the décor at Hostal Pons where we stayed in Palma that made for the best photo shoot. As Kalpna described, if Miss Havisham from Great Expectations had retired in Mallorca, this is where you would find her.
9. Cheer for the home team at a Real Mallorca match
Had I realized there was a home game the night we arrived in Palma, I would have made Kalpna go to a Real Mallorca game with me. Instead, we got to enjoy the locals watching the game at televisions lining the streets at every bar and restaurant in the capital city.
10. Indulge in a locally baked specialty – the ensaïmada
Ok, so this one is not for gluten-free/lactose free travelers like Kalpna and I, but the local baked good famous to Mallorca should enjoyed by those who can. Since I was flying from Palma to Santander to stay with my boyfriend’s family, I didn’t want to come empty handed, and I picked up an assortment before getting on the plane. This delicate cream-filled spiral pastry graced the windows of bakeries in a variety of sizes. When in Mallorca – indulge in the ensaïmada.
So, there you have it, a full itinerary of activities that doesn’t involve the water. I guess when the pandemic is over and I can travel freely again, I have a reason to go back to Mallorca. You can catch me going from sand to sea and into those gorgeous Mediterranean waters. A special thanks to Kalpna for making my mini break in Mallorca a memorable one.