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The largest of the Balearic Islands, Mallorca, also known as Majorca, is a wind-swept island in the Mediterranean Sea about 130 miles from Barcelona. Defined by steep jagged cliffs, thousand-year-old olive groves, ancient architecture, a coastline stretching some 350 miles and sunlit beaches, it's not surprising that Mallorca receives about 8 million visitors each year.
Palma de Mallorca is the capital of all of the Balearic Islands as well as Mallorca. The ancient city is dominated by soaring Palma Cathedral, a Gothic marvel located high above the waterfront on the site of a former mosque. The cathedrals, castles and historic sites in Palma are reason enough to visit, though there's no lack of surrounding scenic splendor. Like most cities in Spain, Palma has deeply rooted heritage and culture that remain very much alive today.
In the southern part of the island are many of the popular tourist areas and hotels, bars, restaurants, shopping and dazzling nightlife. To the north are rocky valleys, peaceful villages draped in bougainvillea and majestic views.
The Cathedral of Palma de Mallorca (La Seu) is a magnificent Gothic masterpiece overlooking the city and one of Palma's most recognized landmarks. Construction began in 1230 but didn't finish until 1601. Among the cathedral's impressive features are 65-foot columns, one of the largest stained-glass windows in the world and a vast central vault that soars 144 feet high. The cathedral's collections include works by contemporary Spanish artist Miguel Barceló.
The 18th century Museu del Casal de Cultura (Museum of Soller) houses archeological findings of antiques and artifacts exhibiting the historical culture of the city of Soller, Majorca. Built in 1909, the Can Prunera houses the works of talented artists including Picasso, Matisse and Leger.
The Arab Baths (Banys Àrabs) are located just east of the Catedral and one of the only remaining structures from the period of Moorish rule in the Balearic Islands. The columned, circular room dates back to the 10th century.
Mallorca it is a nature lover's haven. Nearly 200 caves have been discovered on the island, and some are notable for their spectacular stalactites and stalagmites as well as concerts set at the edge of deep, subterranean lakes. Drach Caves are among the largest on the island at 2,400 meters in length and 25 meters beneath the sea. After concerts inside the cave, music lovers can boat on mysterious Martel Lake. Cuevas deis Hams offers 14 different "rooms" with evocative names such as the Fairy Cemetery and Milton's Lost Paradise. There are concerts here, too, at the edge of the lake known as the Sea of Venice. Both cave are located in the coastal village of Porto Cristo.
Mallorca also has a wealth of bird life and natural parks and preserves where birds as well as other native flora and fauna can be experienced. Two parks to consider are Mondrago Natural Park, where 70 species of birds have been recorded, and Natural Park of sa Dragonera, an uninhabited islet off Mallorca's western tip known for its large number of endemic lizards.
Mallorca, and all of the Balearic Islands, are surrounded by unusually clear waters, making these islands popular with divers and snorkelers, as well as those who like to sail.
From downtown Palma, the closest beach is Playa Nova. Ca'n Pastilla is an outstanding beach for swimming and water sports. The sands of El Arenal are a golden yellow, and the beach amenities here are very good. Sant Agusti and Cala Mayor are great but often quite crowded.
C'an Picafort is one of the best places for biking. For bike rentals, contact Belori Bike, which is located at Calle Marbella 22 in Arenal and provides customers with a wide range of bicycles. The trails in and around Palma De Mallorca are great fun. Port de Pollenca and Alcudia are enjoyable places to ride as well.
Golf on Majorca is exceptionally good, and the premier course on the island is Golf Son Vida. It is located right off the Andrade Highway and is an 18-hole paradise. Son Vida the oldest course on Mallorca and a fantastic place to golf. Professionals and tourists alike often visit the island just to get savor the last hole.
Viajes Sidetours is located at Passeig Maritim, 16 (971/283-900). It's a good company to call on for a half- or full-day excursion around Palma and much of Mallorca. This island is so incredibly diverse, that to not take a tour is to cheat yourself of a memorable, eye-opening opportunity.
Diplomatic is located at Carrer Palau Reial 5 (971/726-482) and features some of the best Continental cuisine anywhere in the islands. You can find this great establishment right in the middle of Palma, and some of the favorites include the steak tartare, sole with almonds, and the filet mignon cooked in port wine. Koldo Royo is located at Passeig Maritim 3 (971/732-435) and is the best place to find Basque food in Palma. Typical Basque dishes include lamprey eel, roasted pork, and baked hake. They are all prepared flawlessly, and for an exotic meal, Koldo Royo is a must.
Casa Bonet is located at Placa Federico Chopin 2 (971/722-117) and features some of the best needlework and linens on Mallorca. The shopping in Palma De Mallorca is absolutely fabulous, and if you travel down San Miguel Street in the heart of the city, you will encounter many wonderful stores offering great buys on leather goods, handcrafts, and Majorcan pearls. Loewe (971/715-275) is loaded with women's clothes and accessories and great leather items. Passy, on Avinguda Jaume III 6 (971/713-338), has the best handbags and shoes on the island. All of their merchandise is made locally and is of very high quality, definitely adding to the allure of this store.
The waters are warm, and the air comfortable between June and October. In December and January the weather can be temperate but the seas very cold. Late January is when the island's famous almond trees begin to bloom.
Cruise ships dock at the Port of Palma de Mallorca at Muelle Viejo 3. Typically, there are plenty of taxis waiting for cruise passengers.
Palma de Mallorca has an efficient bus system that will take you all around the island. There are also rental cars available as well as taxis.
Documents: U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport.
Tipping: Tipping in Mallorca, as in much of Europe, is not expected. At a restaurant you can round up the bill slightly with a few coins.
Currency: The euro
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“On advice of a friend, I headed to Patron Lunares for dinner. My negrito a la plancha, a toothsome whitefish, was perfectly grilled.”
“Mallorca seemed to have everything I needed: mountains and beaches and local olive oil that looked good enough to eat.”