Wednesday, May 2, 2018

10 Things to Know About Visiting Mallorca

Palma Nova Coast

I recently visited Mallorca for the first time and found that it was such a wonderful place, but nothing like I expected. I suppose I expected something similar to what I had heard about mainland Spain, but being one of the Balearic Islands, Mallorca's identity is entirely its own. I loved the island, the people, the culture and the landscape so much that I will definitely visit again, but I thought I would share a few of the things that might have been helpful to know in advance... 

1. Languages
Don't worry if you don't speak Spanish. Although having some understanding of basic Spanish is super helpful while you're visiting Mallorca, I found that most people speak English quite well. German is also a very prevalent language in Mallorca since it's a popular tourist destination for people travelling from Germany. There may very well be more people speaking German in some places than those speaking Spanish, but the point is, you can probably get by with not much more than hola and adios. If you do get stuck though, get out that Google translator on your phone and you should have no problem sorting it out.

2. Versatility
Though Mallorca is a relatively small island, it's bigger than you might think after looking at a map and it shouldn't all be painted with the same brush. There are multiple little towns and villages, each one with its own personality and charm. While some villages like Magaluf may be known for their nightlife and cheap accommodation that attracts young, partying visitors, others are the complete opposite. There are quiet, almost retirement-like areas, family friendly areas with more activities, places where luxury is the name of the game, the city of Palma which is the most metropolitan part of the island and everything in between. Before visiting Mallorca, I would suggest researching areas you're interested in visiting or where you might like to stay so that you find exactly the vibe you're looking for.

3. Getting Around
Getting around Mallorca is super easy. Many people choose to rent a car while on the island and you can do so for a very affordable price compared to other destinations. That said, when I visited, I decided not to rent a car for a number of reasons. Other options include scooter rentals and there are busses available if you're travelling on a budget. If you have a little more to spend, it's a bit easier to take a taxi and I personally didn't find them too expensive, particularly for short trips. I would say we probably spent an average of about €20 per day on taxis, though we didn't leave our resort every single day. In addition to public transportation options, biking is very popular on the island with many hotels offering bicycle rentals and some areas have great pedestrian paths for walking. If you love a long walk in the sun, Mallorca is a great place to visit and being willing to walk will cut down on the amount of money you spend on taxi fares.

Puerto Portals Marina

4. Terrain
When we first arrived, our taxi driver informed us that Mallorca is special because it's mountainous on one side of the island and has beautiful, sandy beaches on the other. Before you plan your trip, you might want to have a look at a map with terrain to decide what you're looking for in your holiday before choosing a destination. Do you want to spend your time hiking or are you more of a bar on the beach kind of traveller? Either way, you're going to have some beautiful scenery and if you want the best of both worlds, try staying in Andraxt or Calvià.

5. Shopping
I didn't get to spend any time in Palma which is the major city on the island of Mallorca, but it's my understanding that all the good shopping is there. Outside of Palma, shopping is a little tricky in most areas with many of the shops being touristy spots selling things like beach towels, t-shirts and random souvenirs. I did find some lovely shopping in Puerto Portals, though it was quite high-end and expensive. Additionally you will occasionally find a decent store, recognisable brand or a cute boutique here and there. Like other European destinations, pharmacies are lush and full of high-end beauty products & fragrances, European skincare brands and lots of lovely finds. Otherwise, if you want to shop for clothing, perhaps a day in Palma is what's needed.

Mallorca Sunset

6. Quiet vs. Crazy
I sort of touched on this above, but I think this point is worth mentioning again. You may be familiar with Magaluf and its reputation for being a party beach town, which I personally found fun and quirky, but it may not be ideal if you're travelling with a family or looking for a romantic getaway. It's important to understand that the whole island is not the same. Again, it's important to do your research because you don't want to stay somewhere that's so loud you can't sleep if you're looking for a relaxing holiday, but you don't want to be bored to death in a sleepier town if you're going for a fun adventure. Research is key here and if you do your homework, I'm sure you can find exactly what you're looking for.

7. Food Culture
Food in Mallorca is a funny thing. I went hoping for chorizo, croquettes and Rioja. I hardly saw anything Spanish on a menu the entire time I was there. Depending on where you are, you are more likely to find German food than Spanish food in Mallorca. There are a ton of Italian restaurants everywhere and pretty much every restaurant serves some sort of spaghetti or lasagna. For the duration of my stay in Mallorca, I think I pretty much ate pizza, pasta and steak the whole time. I never did get that chorizo & rioja I was after, but I did see Sangria on pretty much every menu if that's something you like. I'm sure this is a bit different if you're visiting Palma which I understand offers lots more in the way of Spanish food. One final point... It's super affordable to eat in Mallorca, so indulge, enjoy and go ahead... Order the dessert too!

8. Nightlife
Nightlife varies depending on where you are on the island, but I'm confident that there's something to suit everyone's tastes if you do a little research. You'll find everything from low-key Irish pubs to the more extravagant & upbeat Nikki Beach in Magaluf and everything in between. From low-lit townie bars to full-on nightclubs, there's no shortage of places to spend a night out, but if you have particular taste in evening entertainment, you might want to do some research before you go. While our hotel had a lovely bar offering live music every evening, it closed at 10pm most nights, which is a bit early in my opinion. Magaluf of course is known for its late night clubs and wild scene, but that might be a bit too full-on for some people. We found plenty of places we loved hanging out in during our week in Mallorca, but if you're staying outside of Palma, I suggest doing a bit of research and lining up a few night spots you'd be interested in going to before you jet off, so you're prepared.

The beach at Magaluf

9. Seasonal 
Like many sunny tourist destinations, Mallorca is a seasonal island. From May until the end of September or October, high season is in full swing and while everything will be open, it could be quite busy. The other months of the year there will be some closures, but I wouldn't let this detract you from visiting. I went to Mallorca at the very tail end of the off season, so some things were just starting to open while some others were closed. I didn't find this problematic in the least since many restaurants, bars and attractions are open all year long, but I will admit that it was very quiet. In fact, we didn't have to queue for anything, we were seated right away in any restaurant and we never waited more than 5 minutes for a taxi. Going during the high season might mean a lot more patience and planning will be required. It may be of interest to make some reservations just to be on the safe side.

10. Sports Culture
Mallorca is very popular with sports enthusiasts. Golf, tennis and sailing are all extremely popular on the island attracting lots of sports tourism. Golf courses are found all over the island, tennis courts are a dime a dozen and there are also camps for both sailing and tennis training. Cycling is also a big deal in Mallorca and I imagine the hilly terrain and good weather have something to do with that. There are lovely cycling tracks and lanes all over and even if you're not a cycling enthusiast traveling with your own bike, you can rent a bicycle at many of the hotels on the island.

Mallorca is a wonderful place and absolutely perfect for a holiday whether you're traveling with a group of friends, on a romantic getaway or taking the family on summer vacation. With these little tips in your back pocket, I'm confident that you'll have everything you need to plan the perfect trip and get the most out of your visit to the island!
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