Mallorca is famous for its beaches and the beautiful turquoise sea that surrounds the island. Palma de Mallorca, the capital of the island has a beautiful historic quarter, deeply marked by history. The magnificent cathedral, the Palace of Almudaina and Plaza Mayor are just some of the most popular destinations in the capital.
The Serra de Tramuntana is the mountain range running southwest–northeast and which forms the northern backbone of the island. In June 2011, the Tramuntana Range was awarded World Heritage Status by UNESCO as an area of great physical and cultural significance. The highest peak is the Puig Mayor which at 1,445 metres, is the highest mountain in the Balearic Islands. It is closely followed by the Puig de Massanella which stands at 1,364 metres.
The climate in the Tramuntana Range is significantly wetter than the rest of the island, recording as much as 1507 mm (59.3 inches) of precipitation per year, in comparison with some other parts of the island where annual rainfall is less than 400mm (15 inch). It is also cooler due to the altitude, and a few days of snow are not unusual during winter.
That’s pretty much the meat and potatoes but what those cold facts don’t convey is just how spectacular and stunningly beautiful the whole mountain range is. Although not as grand as the Alps and certainly not as vast there’s a wonderful charm and intimacy that the Alps can’t match. I’ve spent many hours traversing the roads that snake through the mountains by moped, road bike and car and what I’m always struck by is the solitude. It can get busy, you could possibly be held up by a tourist coach or two, but for the most part it seems like you have the world to yourself. In the hottest summer months the silence is shattered by the cacophony of crickets. They take over from the gentle birdsong to be heard in the spring and early summer months.
The roads are superbly maintained which is a big bonus for cyclists and the ever changing topography is never less than breathtaking. Start in Andratx to the west of the range and treat yourself to a joy ride all the way along to Pollenca. Take a detour down to Sa Colobra on the way, and wonder at how it’s possible to construct a road down the tortuous descent. Until recently you could drive all the way to the end of the finger of land that protrudes beyond Pollenca to Cap Formentor and stop at the light house and gaze over the med from the vertiginous vantage point. But now you have to park up at Formentor and hop on a mini bus that will take you there. The traffic along this narrow and dangerous road got too busy during the peak season and common sense prevailed. Having said that, I’ve cycled along this wonderful stretch of road in the peak season and I didn’t come across much traffic and I never felt in danger or that there was an overcrowding issue.
Dotted throughout the mountains there are beautiful villages of note that are well worth a visit. Valdamossa, Deia, Fornalutx are three delightfully picturesque destination that you must see. All three villages are picture postcard perfect and are surrounded by stunning vistas.
Because the mountains are wetter than the rest of the islands there’s a lushness to the flora that you perhaps wouldn’t expect on a Mediterranean island that bakes in the sun. I expected Mallorca to be more arid and parched but even in the maximum heat of summer the forests in the mountains are still lush.
If you’re a keen walker there are many well marked trails and it’s possible to walk to the top of Puig Mayor, well almost, there’s a military base at the top which is closed off to the public.
I prefer the mountains to the beach but the point of Mallorca is you can have both. It’s not an either or situation. The island is small enough to roam the mountains in the morning, have lunch in one of the pretty villages and spend the late afternoon on the beach.