When to go to Majorca
The best time to visit Majorca
These days Palma is a year-round destination. The sights and museums are open, as are the majority of the hotels and restaurants, and it's always good for shopping particularly if you're into interiors and clothes. Elsewhere on the island things are scaled right back through the winter months, especially in resorts like Cala d’Or, which pretty much shuts up shop.
Deià, Sóller and Puerto Pollensa are pleasantly quiet from the start of November pretty much through until mid-March (or when the weather starts warming up a bit), but if you come for a weekend you’ll often have beautiful blue skies and find just enough open to keep you fed and watered. Many bars and restaurants in these areas however, are shut mid-week.
Spring – season of the pious and the brave
Semana Santa (Easter Week, this year April 15-24) is rather more low key in Majorca than in Seville or Madrid. But it’s an interesting time to visit, with plentiful processions, drama (quite a lot of weeping and wailing goes on) and, in the true spirit of Spain, post 'piousness' partying. It’s also when hotels around the island re-open after winter, and you’d be wise to book well in advance, especially in Pollensa (town not port) and Palma, both of which get particularly busy for Easter festivities.
The Sunday after Easter a crowd of 20,000 or so amasses for the Festa de l’Àngel, which falls this year on May 1, involves a long hike up the Bellver Castle in Palma to bless bread for the needy. On arrival you are greeted by gigantes (giants made of papier mache), music and dancing and midday feasts of empanadas (tuna stuffed pies), and rubiols (sweet pastries) filled with pumpkin jam.
Come May, the Port de Sóller is the proud host to the festival of ‘Brave Women’ or Les Valentes Dones. So the story goes, back in the 16th century Sóller was besieged by pirates, raids were endless, fearsome and nearly always bloody. Until, that is, May 11 1561, when these freebooters made the mistake of knocking down the door of sisters Catalina and Francisca Casesnoves, who clubbed their attackers to death with the iron baton that barricaded that same door. By all accounts the town was never bothered again. The celebration of their victory starts this year on May 9, and includes a spectacular re-enaction of the battles waged back then involving 1,200 participants, cannons and gun fire. Kids love it.
Summer – sailing regattas and music festivals
The crowds start arriving from June and stay through to September. Largely thanks to ‘la crisis’ (recession), it hasn’t been too bad the last couple of years, but it's still the most expensive time to visit. Resorts like Cala d’Or get extremely busy, to the point that it can be a bit overwhelming. Deià’s high season is more genteel, and though it’s more important than ever that you make your restaurant reservations well in advance, it’s not too intense. I spent last August in a rental villa near Pollensa (town not port) and it was completely idyllic, as was Palma, which had a festival air but was nowhere near so rammed as its bigger sister on the mainland, Barcelona. Now’s the time to make good use of a rental car and get off the beaten track to some of the island’s more secluded beaches (see my Majorca attractions). But make sure you book that car well in advance, or you could well have problems getting one.
Majorca really comes into its own now for outdoor music festivals. Nearly every town has one, though they are largely of the classical and jazz variety. Deià’s thoroughly civilised Classical Music Festival (www.dimf.com) takes place from May to September; the Festival de Pollensa (www.festivalpollenca.org) lasts through July and August; and the Festival Chopin (www.festivalchopin.com) takes place at the monastery in Valldemossa in August.
If you’re into boats, Palma’s Copa del Rey (http://www.prensarcnp.es/copa10/historia/historia_uk.php) is the biggest regatta in the Mediterranean and will keep salty old sea dogs happy throughout July and August.
Autumn – a celebration of art and wine
Like spring, this is a great time for hiking and biking holidays, and also for scuba diving. The water is still warm enough to keep it enjoyable, but you’ll find the sea less crowded and the diving cheaper.
The biggest event of the season is probably the Nit de l’Art in Palma, which takes place the first Thursday of September when art lovers from all over the world take advantage of the city's thirty-odd galleries' open house policy when they all open exhibitions on the same night and entrance is free. It’s also the annual wine harvest festival – the Festa d’es Vermar - in Binissalem. Now in its 39th year it lasts for nine days kicking off with the arrival and blessing of the grapes in the town square, followed by endless tastings, feasts and general revelry. It usually takes place around the third week of the month, but since harvests depend on the weather it is worth checking in with the local town council in advance (971 886 558).
Winter – three wise men and a blizzard of almond blossom
Majorca enters into the Christmas spirit with gusto, and thanks, I suspect, to a large German and Scandinavian expat community, it’s surprisingly big on markets featuring mulled wine, festive treats, arts and crafts and carol singing. The best are: in Andratx on the second Sunday in December; at the Pueblo Español (C/Pueblo Español 55, 971 737 070) over four days across the first weekend of December; and at the Hotel La Residencia in Deià on the last Sunday before Christmas, when they host a ceremonial lighting of the tree.
For the kids, the Cavalcada de Reis (procession of the kings) on 5 January ensures Christmas goes on an extra week or so. The three kings arrive in the port of Palma, and indeed at ports all around the island, at 6pm and parade through the town on floats distributing sweets and treats as they go.
My absolute favourite time of year in Majorca though is when it’s blooming, quite literally. The almond trees come into blossom from late January to early March. Then, the valleys between Palma and Sóller, which can be enjoyed from the comfort of the Ferrocarril de Sóller, bloom white as snowfall. There are said to be four million trees on the island, reportedly planted by an Arab king for his Scandinavian-born love who missed her snowy homeland. If you plan to visit at this time, check with your hotel to see whether they are offering any special events to celebrate it. If you’re into hiking, get out there and prowl around - it is unforgettable.