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Hilltop hideaways, best beaches and Palma local life

Castaway beaches and buzzing towns. Private coves and remote hilltop villages. With some of Spain’s best hotels, Mallorca has it all. The trouble is, this is no secret. Which means we’ve looked harder to find you the experiences that’ll make your getaway stand out from the crowd. Starting in the capital, Palma, we’ve tracked down the lesser-known gems and local haunts on the southern side of the island.

PALMA

Far from just a jumping off point for beach seekers, Palma holds its own with Madrid and Barcelona as a captivating city break destination. The monumental cathedral is understandably top of every guidebook’s ‘must visit’ list. So to see it in its element, time your visit for a major religious festival.

Easter brings atmospheric processions of hooded ‘penitents’, while the fiesta of patron saint San Sebastian means live music, dancing and fireworks in the city squares. 

Even when no saints are having their days, the streets of Palma are a hive of activity. There’s everything from medieval palaces to contemporary art galleries for sightseeing. But for a slice of local life – along with paper thin and properly delicious Iberico ham – few places compare to Mercat de L’Olivar.

After sunset

We love La Boveda for authentic tapas and a relaxed atmosphere. Or Simply Fosh for modern Michelin starred dining. If your after-dinner stroll takes you down Calle San Juan, close to the cathedral, look out for the heavy wooden door of Abaco – a candlelit cocktail bar in a converted palace.

HEAD FOR THE HILLS

Rearing up beyond the west of the city, the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range marks the start of a more rugged and remote side of Mallorca – and a favoured getaway for in-the-know islanders. 

Winding roads across high passes lead to tiny villages alive with traditional character. 

Puigpunyent is just 15 minutes from Palma but, surrounded by almond groves and forest-covered hills, feels a world away. Further on there’s Valdemossa, whose terracotta-hued streets once charmed Chopin and George Sand. And, as you dip back down to the sea, keep an eye out for the steep terraces and vineyards of Moorish Banyalbufar.

Valdemossa

Day trips with a difference

The southwest tip of the island rewards those willing to lace up their walking boots. Park up in Sant Elm village and walk along Calle Poppia, which leads to a hiking trail across the cliffs and down to a rocky cove. It may be tiring on the legs, but it’s worth it for glorious views with few other people in sight.

If you have time to venture further north, Es Canyaret beach near Llucalcari village is the place for a DIY spa day. The bay opens out from a ravine where a clear waterfall flows down to the sea – you might see visitors using mud from the pools at its base as an all-natural moisturiser.

TURNING EAST

Head east from Palma to swap mountains for sandy beaches and peaceful nature reserves in Migjorn. The most undeveloped region on the island, here you’ll find the occasional exclusive hotel set into the cliffs rather than miles of neon-lit resort towns. 

The best beaches in Migjorn include Cala Pi, a narrow inlet between dramatic cliffs, where there may be one or two luxury yachts bobbing in the turquoise waters. Further along the coast, Caló des Moro beach – between Santanyi and Cala Llombards – is difficult to find, but well worth the effort. Take a snorkel with you to explore the hollows under the cliffs.

While the north is where you’ll find olive groves and vineyards, Migjorn’s coastal communities have always been big on fishing – which means ultra-fresh seafood is top of the menu. Look out for local variations of caldereta – a fish stew commonly made with lobster or langoustines.  

Where to stay in Mallorca

Gaze across the Palma skyline from a rooftop pool at Sant Francesc Hotel Singular. Enjoy a luxury retreat among the mountains at Gran Hotel Son Net. Or hop between the city and eastern coast from historic Cap Rocat

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