An easy mini-break
Like many people I have a fascination with islands. So to have Majorca – nicknamed the pearl of the Mediterranean - on my doorstep is an added bonus to living in Barcelona. Great if you live in Barcelona, you're probably thinking! But, even if you’re based in the UK, flights are quick, cheap and frequent, making it a very realistic weekend destination.
Perfectly sized too
Once you get there, Majorca is like Spain in miniature: a more manageable version of the mainland, meaning there is more than enough to keep you from getting bored, but you can easily explore the whole place in a week or two.
With a cosmopolitan capital
Palma oozes class. You can smell it in the air, see it on the perfectly coiffed ladies and gents on their evening promenades, and by the fact it’s so very safe. This is one place I wholly recommend for girls travelling alone. Founded by the Romans, expanded by the Moors, and eventually given its current identity by the 13th-century Catalan King, Jaume II the Just, the city is still dominated by his imposing cathedral, which seems like it might break off and sail away any moment. There’s plenty to explore historically and culturally, but as a modern destination you’ll find a city neatly split into several distinct neighbourhoods, all of them walkable and spilling over with fabulous boutiques, expressive architecture, impressive art galleries, tasty tapas and stylish clubs.
An island of contrasts
You have idyllic coves on the west coast accessible only by rough dirt tracks or from the sea, but on the north coast vast, sandy beaches for frolicking families. You’ll find dramatic, pointy-topped peaks in the Tramuntana, and eerie, rocky flats in the south. Delightful orange groves and almond blossom scented valleys lie around Sóller, while across the central plains are villages that time forgot stitched together by ancient stonewalls.
It’s beach paradise, baby
Who needs to go island hopping when you can zip around several beaches in a day? Go snorkelling off the cliffs around Deià, or cast off your clothes at the nudie strips west of Palma. Es Trenc has more of a ‘scene’ despite being wild and windy, while the coves of the north-east tip you’ll most likely have to yourself.
Off and on the waves
Many qualified skippers rent their vessel here and take off round the islands for a week or two. But Majorca is also good just for soaking up a yachty atmosphere, with cute little fishing docks like those around Cala d’Or, as well as mega marinas like Philippe Starck’s Port Adriano, due to open in 2011.
Underground, over ground
I’m a reluctant visitor of caves, but couldn’t help falling for the charms of the Harry Potter-esque grottoes of the Coves del Drac. It’s madly crowded, but still magical. I was an equally unenthusiastic birdwatcher until I got my first peek at the prissy Purple Gallinule mincing about on the S’Albufera wetlands. Now I’m hooked. The moral of this story being: try something different, you might just like it.
With eco credentials
Majorca is one of Europe’s top spots for taking to the open road on two wheels. It offers a wide variety of cycling terrain (to please both beginners and pros), quiet roads and a growing number of established routes. Tie up your routes by staying at the agroturismos (farmhouse/rural hotels), and this is one of the most manageable and affordable eco-holidays I know. I keep vowing to make my next visit by bike, so watch this space for more info.
A secret foodie hotspot
On a recent trip to Majorca, I ate my three best meals of 2010 in one weekend at Simply Fosh, Santi Taura and Restaurante Jardín. The uninitiated will tell you Majorca’s food is boring, but don’t believe it for an instant. Palma boasts excellent tapas, but the best restaurants for fine dining are scattered across the furthest reaches of the island. Shacks on the tiniest coves serve the greatest grilled fish, while rural restaurants offer soulful traditional fare. My only rule (more or less) is to keep it local.
And a booming wine region
Think you know Spanish wine? Think again. Majorca now makes some of the country’s most exciting wines: elegant, unusual (made from local varieties like Manto Negro and Callet) and excellent drinking. Although wine tourism isn’t yet formally developed, most of the wineries around Binissalem are more than happy for you to drop in for a sip and swirl. Read more on my forthcoming guide to Majorca wines.
A final word: Majorca gives generously to those who take the time to explore and peel back the layers. Do so and I promise you’ll be rewarded time and time again.