After spending a week in Mallorca with a bunch of our friends, I came back struggling to answer the question “How were your holidays?!”. A lot of fun was had, but I have to say that despite all the regular research I usually do, Mallorca was not at all what I had expected. There were parts I loved, of course, but there were also parts I well … hated. So I thought that instead of writing an article with a week´s itinerary for the island, I´d write an honest review of what I loved, hated and I didn´t expect of Mallorca.
A Selection of Seven Things I Loved about Mallorca
- Driving Through the Tramuntana Mountain Range
One of the things I ended up loving most about Mallorca was something that came totally unexpected – and that is driving through its mountains. The Tramuntana mountain range is part of UNESCO Heritage and presented itself as an utter surprise to us, who did not really expect this type of landscape from Mallorca. Located in the North-West of the island, crossing these mountains can take you as far as Port Andratx if you cross them all the way, or to the marvellous towns of Deià, Valldemossa or Fornalutx if you want to visit settlements in the valley itself. After stopping every couple of kilometres to take pictures, we ended up visiting Valldemossa and Deià, two absolutely magical little cities. To cross the Tramuntana I recommend a car, but we´ve seen plenty of cyclists along the way too (I warn you it gets steep and hot though, I would not venture out unless you´re an excellent cyclist and have a great bike). Crossing the whole range from East to West will take you anytime between an hour to two.
- Visiting Valldemossa and Deia
We took about a day to visit these two charming towns and it was seriously one of the highlights of the trip. I did not think that on such a touristy island I´d find such magical little settlements, but by God, Valldemossa and Deià are just picture perfect. Valldemossa is perhaps even a bit too picture perfect. The composer Chopin had spent a winter here with his beloved George Sand and this has brought some fame to an already popular city that has narrow streets, beautiful cafés, an impressive monastery/cathedral and great shops. You can visit the Chopin museum if you like, or just wander around the streets. You do however absolutely need to stop for breakfast or a snack at at Pastisseria C´an Molinas. Ask for the mallorcan speciality – coca de batata and a cold horchata. Secret tip when you´re done with Valldemossa: head to the Port de Valldemossa for a refreshing dip in the sea, it´s fairly empty usually and albeit the only restaurant in the port is not the fastest to cater to your hungry belly, the food is pretty good.
A little bit smaller, and even cozier, Deià reigns over the Tramuntana not far off. With plenty of lovely restaurants, narrow streets and passageways, and a beautiful church and small cemetery up the hill, you´ll love spending some time in Deià. Other than just walking around, you can visit the house of poet Robert Graves. Go on a cloudy day or wear a hat, it can get crazy hot in there and there´s little shade along the streets. If you go super early, you might want to check out Cala Deià, a nice beach that you´ll need to walk a bit to, with two super pretty restaurants hanging over it (book a table at Ca´s Patro March in advance if you want a spot!). Unfortunately we want rather late and it was so full we decided not to stay.
- Having Dinner at Belmond La Residencia´s Olivo
On our last day, we had a taste(ing menu) at the best restaurant we found on the island – Belmond La Residencia´s Olivo. The restaurant located at the entry of Deià, overlooks the town and is one of those idyllic locations you see in beautiful Pinterest pictures. The service is top notch (something we haven´t seen much of in Mallorca), the food exquisite (but more on that in a future article about food I loved in Mallorca) and the whole experience absolutely worth the money (a tasting menu without drinks is already a staggering 110€). Utterly recommended for a romantic dinner, or a dinner for one to treat yourself.
- Sipping on Aperitivos in Port Soller
We visited Port Soller the day after having a rather disappointing glance at Port Pollença and it genuinely felt like Monaco by comparison. Port Soller surrounds a really nice lagoon framed by hills, hosts a rather nice beach (especially comparing to most of the other beaches we´ve seen), and has plenty of fantastic restaurants and bars around (we had dinner at Es Trenc and it was great, and we wanted to have aperitivos at Hotel Esplendido but messed up our booking). We ended up having an aperitivo at a beach bar, admiring the sunset from some sun beds at the beach and it was genuinely one of my favourite moments there.
- Spending Half a Day on a Catamaran
What do you do when 99% of the beaches you end up on, end up disappointing you? You get yourself a 5h catamaran cruise for 50€ here (bbq and two drinks included) and have a great time sailing the coast, exploring beaches you´d never reach by foot, getting a tan and having a great time. Renting a boat and getting a villa with a pool are serious must haves if you head out to Mallorca, so do not miss out!
- Strolling Through Palma
I truly want to believe that I didn´t just love Palma because my expectations of it were super low. but because it´s a truly amazing city. From the biggest cathedral I have ever seen, to the Barcelona vibes downtown, the Andalusian touches on the narrow streets to the the Madridian plazas, Palma has everything you´d want and more. Find here great restaurants downtown, fun bars, all the shops you need and the biggest Zara ever. As the sun sets, grab a pizza or a snack and eat it by the cathedral, as the locals do, breathing it all in.
- Tapas, Tapas and Tapas Everywhere
Despite the underwhelming Mallrocan cuisine, I have to say that I did enjoy adopting (even if just for a few days) the habit of eating tapas instead of full dishes, for every meal. From chipirones to pimientos padron and bread with alioli (all day every day), I loved how available tapas are everywhere and how I could just choose all the tapas from the menu to share with my friends instead of picking just one proper dish I might not enjoy. Salud to the tapas way of life!
And a Selection of Seven Things I Hated about Mallorca
- The Crowds
Definitely on the top of my black list. I don´t quite know what I was thinking visiting Mallorca in August, but I had definitely forgotten how touristy some places can be. Mallorca was a painful reminder. People were just everywhere and the fact that 99% of them felt like tourists just made it all the more unpleasant. I´m not sure if I would ever go back to Mallorca, but if I would, it would definitely not be in August, only so I could avoid the crowds.
- The Beaches (that were full and mostly didn´t look like Pinterest. *shocker*, I know)
Oh Pinterest, how you have failed and screwed me over with this one. Having looked into Mallorca via Pinterest before deciding upon the destination, I found countless beautiful beaches with green water and soft sand, that seemed to be just waiting for us. The reality was a bit different. The water might have been green when photographed from a drone, but when there´s literally hundreds of people inside of it, you fail to see the green (please refer to pain point number 1 – the crowds). On top of this, most beaches we ended up on, were actual calas – smaller beaches accessible mostly through a rocky ground. So not only was your towel often glued to another tourists´ but it was often also on a rocky beach that hurt your feet greatly before you got to the water where you struggled even more to get to the point where you can start swimming. I honestly thought I´d find some beaches for my top 10 in Mallorca but I don´t think I have.
- Having to Book Tables at Every Single Restaurant Beforehand
This again was most probably an issue we had because of the month we chose to visit Mallorca, but in our experience 99% of the restaurants we ended up at, had to be booked beforehand. Even the most unpopular and unknown ones seemed to be full all the time and this meant that as the foodies that we are, we had a major stress factor on our table every single day – where can we find a restaurant to book with only a day´s notice?
- The (mostly) Underwhelming Local Cuisine
It is with a very heavy heart that I write this, because I really do love Spanish cuisine and as I said above I am a big supporter of tapas culture. But the Mallorcan local cuisine really did strike me as underwhelming. We tried a lot of dishes while we were there but I have to acknowledge that we missed on some local classics like pica pica or tumbet. The most traditional things we tried must have been the sobrasada (of which we brough two back as well) – a very thick cured pork sausage and the coca de batata – a dough made with flour, olive oil, yeast, salt and water that we had for breakfast one day and didn´t really taste like much despite being coated in sugar. We tried all their tapas and had some really nice ones, we had paella on two counts and plenty of fish and meat but nothing inherently local that left us speechless (the exception from this rule was our dinner at El Olivo where we had some dishes that albeit not too local, used local ingredients and were top notch).
- The Service at (most) Restaurants
Before I start my rant on this one, I will admit that I´m a bit of a service snob. My home town has (or used to have) very high standards when it comes to restaurant service and I kind of hold everyone against that standard. And Mallorcan restaurant services fell pretty short of that standard (there were two exceptions where the service was exquisite and those were Es Trenc and El Olivo). From slow service (we waited once for over an hour for our food) to rude waiters, we were quite disappointed to see how bad the service was, especially given the rather high prices for the food.
- The Mosquitoes
I have a hunch that a very large part of the global mosquito population must dwell above the Balearic islands and descend onto the island of Mallorca every evening. I have seriously never experienced so many mosquito bites as I have here and I´ve had my fair share of mosquito bites. You´ll want to bring a mosquito spray with you, stock up with candles, start smoking, burn down the house and leave the island forever behind after one night spent on a terrace by the pool or by the forest.
- The Value You Got for Your Money
This one probably just sums everything up – I genuinely felt that for the money we spent (both on accommodation, rental car, food and everything else) we could have had a much nicer holiday on a Greek or Croatian island, the Italian coastline or even on the Spanish continent. Mallorca has a lot of beauty but when thinking about the things I hated I can narrow them down to the island being overcrowded, overpriced and overhyped.
And with this I bid you fare well and…
Oh my god, I love your review!
I live on the island and have done for four years, are used to live here over 12 years ago and it was far better than it is now. I’m very well travelled and worked in the upper end of the food and hospitality industry. I know how to make judgement fairly depending on the wealth and culture of the country that I’m visiting. I’m so tired of being here I decided to Google I hate Mallorca and see what came up. I found your review! Everything you said resonates with me on every level, it’s good to feel validated because there’s a bunch of expats here that are under some sort of spell about how much they love the place, and you obviously weren’t here long but made many of the same assessments I have. I guess be here for such a short time he also didn’t find out that the local people are extremely insular and rude, nothing like the mainland Spanish. The island is overrun with cheap cruise ship tourism and all inclusive hotels on the best beaches, not to mention Arenal and Magaluf which are the toilet of island with all inclusive drinking parties for the young and tacky German English tourists. If it wasn’t for my partners exceptionally good work contract here I would be out of here in a flash, in fact we are both so sick of it we considering moving somewhere else and I only see each other for half of the year. Living here just emphasises the issues, we never go to the beach and if we do it’s one that’s over an hour drive away on the far east of the island. The island is also full of dogs and is one of the most unfriendly dog places I’ve ever been to in my life, my poor doggos have to go to the shittiest dirtiest beaches full of seaweed and garbage, we just don’t go really. The local food is very poor, disappointing as a kind way of putting it, and the prices that you pay are astronomical for what you’re getting. As somebody that’s worked as a chef I very rarely go out to eat now unless it’s in one of the fine dining restaurants, which I still feel a pretty subpar for what you ate paying. Tapas are also extremely expensive, nothing special especially if you can compare it to mainland Spain like and Andalusia.
I totally agree with you about the beaches, you wouldn’t of got to see much in a week and the northern beaches against the mountains are stony, rough and not sandy, all the beaches close to the city are gross and I don’t swim at any of them, the good beaches are out east but they’ve cover them with ugly 60s high-rises and pack in the Swedish, English and German tourists…. to get to anything that’s even slightly not packed you have to hike through the baking sun to get there which completely defeats the purpose of going to the beach to cool off.
I’m Aussie so compare to what I have in Australia it’s pretty crap haha, but I guess for somebody that lives in central England or Germany I can get the appeal.
Thank you for being real, I’m actually thinking about starting a blog on the island and the realities of living here.
Meg, I am sorry for only replying now! It’s so relieving to have my impressions validated by someone who lived there!