Join me as I seek out Majorca’s authentic side on an off-season escape without the crowds.
Miguel cuts the engine a few meters from Far d’Alcanada, a tiny islet just off the coast of Alcudia. An old lighthouse peaks over a copse of low pines; the surrounding, shallow waters reflect pure turquoise colour in the sunlight; and there’s not another soul around. For a moment, we float in silence.
“Come here in summer and there are boats everywhere” says Miguel, our captain, first mate and cook, as he serves up dinner on a low, wooden table at the centre of the boat.
Everything on the menu is Majorcan, local to an intimate level. The pig for the sobrasada – the island’s signature lobster-red, cured sausage – was slaughtered by Miguel’s father. The olive oil, spicy and thick, is from a neighbour; the wine, from a vineyard in the next village over from Miguel’s; and the dessert, a local ensaimadas pastry topped with fresh fruit, from a bakery in Alcudia.
Even the boat is pure Majorca. A traditional wooden llaut, it was built for fishing in the 1950s. When Miguel decided to set up his own excursion company, Llaut San Francisco, he wanted a vessel that would represent his island. After a year of painstaking renovation, it’s finally seaworthy and business is good. Authenticity has wide appeal, it seems.
“The boat is Majorcan, the food is Majorcan, I am Majorcan”, he says, as we finish the last bottle of wine.
The ideas of Majorca as the simple, classic package holiday destination is just one small part of the largest Balearic islands’ appeal. Majorcan’s wear their traditions with enormous pride, and visitors keen to step away from the pool will find plenty to discover around the island.
Alcudia, Stroll and Shop
Authenticity is not hard to find in Alcudia old town. A labyrinth of cobbled alleys and quiet squares, its medieval sandstone streets are jammed full of typical Mallorcan tapas restaurants, cafes and intimate little shops peddling all manner of traditional wares.
Colourful Balearic pottery, olive oil, Majorcan sea salt, wine, senallas – the traditional wicker bags that are seemingly all over Instagram – and enormous sobrasadas hanging from hooks. If you are after a real souvenir to remember your time on the island, this is probably the place to get it.
For a more local shopping experience. the town’s weekly market, set amid the old town’s narrow streets, takes place on Tuesdays and Sundays.
Parts of the old town date from the 13th-century, and one of the best ways to enjoy it is to simply take a stroll. Alcudias’ 14th-century wall traces a loop around the town, offering spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and the sea.
For some historical context, the Alcudia tourist office runs free guided walking tours on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Palma, Markets and Middle Ages
Palma was made for an aimless wander. Set off in any direction from its historic centre and before long, you’re bound to stumble over some ancient cathedral, improbably crammed into a backstreet, or a tiny bar packed with people gossiping over coffee.
Here, the city itself is an attraction, a chance to appreciate the patchwork of architectural styles – Gothic, baroque, Moorish – created by centuries of power swapping.
Even just a few streets back from Passeig des Born, one of Palma’s main shopping thoroughfares, it can feel as if you have the city to yourself, as paths hemmed in by old, elegant townhouses seem to wind and twist from one quiet alley to another.
For a taste of Palma’s much-lauded culinary credentials, head to Mercat de l’Olivar. An enormous indoor market, it’s a colourful tapestry of cured meats, freshly caught seafood, and kaleidoscopic fruit stalls known for their Majorcan produce. It’s even possible to buy seafood from a stall and have it cooked up at one of the small restaurants upstairs.
Besides filling your belly and ogling wondrous architecture, Palma also has a reputation for its impressive art scene. Highlights include the Museu Fundacion Juan March, which houses a small collection of works by Spanish greats – including Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali – and Caixaforum Palma, where you’ll find an impressive permanent collection by Balearic painter Hermen Anglada-Camarasa.
Central Majorca: Wine Country
A big chunk of Majorca’s 70-plus vineyards are huddled at the island’s centre, amid a setting of steely mountains and sleepy villages. In fact, its two major wine regions – Binissalem and Pia l Llevant, Majorca’s only two Denominacion de Oregon regions – are here.
For a true taste of tradition, Ribas Badegra is hard to beat. Founded in 1711, it’s the oldest winery on the island, and is still run by the same family. With 300 years of experience, if they claimed to have actually written the book on Mallorcan wine, you’d probably believe them.
The badega is set among 40 hectares of sprawling vines in the village of Consell, where grapes native to the island are used to create small-bath wine – only about 100,000 bottles are produced each year. Its enormous 18th-century manor house has been meticulously preserved, along with the original winemaking warehouse and cellar. Tasting tours start at £16 per person.
For a more personal touch, take a private tour of a traditional Mallorcan finca with an expert sommelier. You’ll enjoy being wined and dined in a truly stunning setting: a tremendous, white-washed tumble of a house, draped in fragrant bougainvillea. Everything is produced by hand, in extremely small batches – fewer than 1,500 bottles a year go on sale.
Where to book?
Now that you have read this blog, you are likely to want to get prices for a short, or longer break there. So, please contact Paul, at WOT Travel, with your requirements, so I can arrange a free quotation for you.