packed my bags for Island life in Mallorca in May 2009 but I was not new to Spain – far from it.
Marbella guided me from my 20s through to my 30s but we reached our seven-year itch and I had to move on. It was either back to the UK (the stuff of expat nightmares) or across to the Island of innocent childhood holidays and unblemished memories (apart from that summer spent working in Magalluf when I was 21, but that blemish can be erased) – Mallorca of course won.
Mallorca is a beacon of calm, sophistication, beauty and A-List celebrity. It is also an Island of great wealth with its 870,000-strong population enjoying the highest per capita level of disposable income in Spain.
To those who believe only what they read in the papers – tales of union jack shorts, binge drinking and abandonment of inhibitions – this classy portrayal may come as some surprise.
Mallorca is in fact breathtakingly stunning. From deserted white sand beaches to craggy pine-clad mountain ranges, the exquisite architecture of historic buildings to flower-filled fields heavy with citrus trees, Mallorca offers every kind of beauty for everyone.
The trick is to get behind the wheel of a car (or indeed the helm of a motoryacht), explore and discover your personal piece of Island paradise.
For me, the best place to start is the World Heritage Site Serra de Tramuntana, the western backbone of the Island that offers steep mountain scenery set against a Mediterranean backdrop.
My favourite beach, Cala Deià, can be found here, one of the most bewitching inlets on Mallorca’s entire coastline with the clientele to match.
The littoral outlet for well-heeled Deià, a village that has been home to Mick Jagger, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Richard Branson and poet Robert Graves who is buried there, Cala Deià may be small (200m wide), far from sandybeaches but the water is crystal clear, the rocky outcrops imposing and the atmosphere convivial.
Either lunch at one of the delightfully primitive beach restaurants or, as I prefer, pack a hamper with a chic-nic of smoked salmon, cheeses, baguettes, leafy salad, strawberries, linen napkins, champagne flutes and iced cava and become the envy of the west.
The Serra de Tramuntana also hides my favourite Mallorcan village, Fornalutx. Twice elected Spain’s most beautiful, Fornalutx is surrounded by fragrant orange and lemon groves set against an imposing mountain backdrop.
The miniature main square is fringed with immaculately presented pavement cafes who’ll reward you with a cool beverage after you’ve tired your legs mounting the never-ending steps to nosy at the patios and flower-decked balconies of the lovingly preserved stone Mallorcan houses.
As you drive back down south, take the coastal road and nip into Son Marroig and Monestir de Miramar on the way. Both former residences of the Habsburg Archduke Ludwig Salvador (who fell head over heels with Mallorca) and both open to the public for a few euros entry, it’s undoubtedly the views that will captivate you more than the houses for they are the stuff of dreams – particularly from the neoclassical marble temple at Son Marroig which is now a popular venue for post-card perfect weddings and acoustic concerts.
From village to city, capital Palma is Mallorca’s only real city and deserves your full attention for at least a day. It shares many characteristics with big sister Barça – a Gothic Cathedral that has received the Gaudi touch, refurbished old buildings, mazy shopping streets, gardens with splashing fountains, art museums and an impressive city beach.
The best vantage point for looking down over Palma’s rooftops, endless marina front and visiting cruise ships is the Castell de Bellver. In a wooded hilltop just west of the City, this 14th century fortress is immaculately conserved and built in a canny circular design with a central keep. Climb up to the rooftop for the most attractive and peaceful views and go on a Sunday – it’s free.
Whatever your penchant; following the wine route of the Island’s 60 plus bodegas, scaling the countryside to a hilltop monastery or swinging a club on one of Mallorca’s 22 immaculate golf courses, all of Mallorca is within easy reach.
A drive from Palma in the south to Puerto Pollença in the north takes just 50 minutes on smooth motorway and to reach the beach resort of Cala Millor on the Island’s east coast is just one hour 15 minutes from the capital. Nothing requires great logistical planning.
If you really want to explore every possible angle of Mallorca, here’s a top tip to make your visit to Mallorca particularly memorable.
Avoid the package holiday resorts and opt for renting a villa instead. Villa holidays give you the freedom and flexibility to discover the island’s treasures at your leisure with the advantage of relaxing by your own private pool after a day of sight-seeing.