Located in the Mediterranean Sea, Mallorca is the largest of the Balearic Islands in Spain. The name, derived from the Latin word ‘insula maior’ meaning ‘larger island’ later turned into ‘Maiorica’ meaning ‘larger one’ as Mallorca is the largest of the Balearic Islands, followed by Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera. The island is 1,405 square miles and features the dramatic Serra Tramuntana Mountain Range which stretches from the Southwest all the way to the Northwest of the island and is described as the ‘back bone of Mallorca’. The mountain range was awarded World Heritage Status by UNESCO in June 2011 due to its great physical and cultural significance. The highest point of Mallorca is in the Tramuntana mountain range and is the mountain of Puig Major at 4,700 feet above sea level, often in winter this is snow-capped.
Mallorca has it’s own language, a dialect of Catalan, known as Mallorquí, which is spoken in most small towns around the island but less so in the city of Palma due to the diversity of the population. For that reason, if you are familiar with Spanish you may notice a few slight differences, eg. Plaza Mayor in Spanish is Plaça Major in Catalan/Mallorquí, a bakery ‘panaderia’ in Spanish is called a ‘forn’ in Catalan/Mallorquí. Everybody who speaks Mallorquí also speaks Castellano (Spanish).
The population of Mallorca is estimated to be 870,000 with more or less half of that living in the city of Palma de Mallorca.
Since the 1950’s, the island has opened up to tourism which has transformed the island into a centre of attraction for foreign visitors. The boom in tourism caused Palma to grow significantly. Around 3.5 million visitors passed through the Palma de Mallorca (PMI) Son Sant Joan airport in August 2013.
Mallorca has had many famous faces grace the island including Rafa Nadal who was born and still lives in the town of Manacor. Michael Douglas, Boris Becker, Claudia Schiffer, Tom Hanks, Aaron Paul, Chopin and his lover Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin aka George Sand are just a few more of the famous names Mallorca has entertained. Particular attention should be paid to the town of Valldemossa as this is where most of the stars spend their vacations – when you visit you’ll see why.
Mallorca enjoys a subtopic climate meaning hot summers and mild winters. Not only that but with a stunning 300 days of sunshine a year it makes Mallorca a fantastic place to enjoy the outdoors.
Usually the sunrise / sunsets are around the following for the summer months: June (6:24 AM / 9:11 PM), July (6:25 AM / 9:21 PM), August (6:49 AM / 9.02 PM), September (7:17 AM / 8:21 PM).
One of the closest towns to your villa will be Pollença, which has a population of around 17,000 which includes neighboring towns of Port de Pollença and Cala Sant Vicenç. Pollença is tucked away in the Northwest of the island. The name Pollença was given due to the Roman settlement of ‘Pollentia’ in Alcudia. The town was founded in the 13th Century and built inland to avoid pirate attacks. One of the first built and most prominent features of Pollença is the Church on the Plaça Major built on a sight owned by the Knights Templar and is called ‘Esglèsia de Nostra Senyora dels Àngels’.
Pollença celebrates two main celebrations, firstly that of Sant Antoni which falls on 16th / 17th January. The townspeople of Pollença head to the private valley of Ternelles and cut down a pine tree standing 75 feet tall, the tree is then stripped of all it’s branches and dragged by ropes through the town – it takes all day! From there, the tree is brought to the old square, Plaça Vell. The tree is then rubbed in soap and lard and hoisted up by ropes from a small window by the side of the Church. It is then a competition for the fittest Pollencins to climb to the top in order to catch a prize of a live chicken and €500. This is by no means an easy feat and is strictly for Pollencins to take part!
The second celebration is a much greater one ‘La Patrona’ - the Patron. One week of celebrations takes place throughout July / August. The main event is on August 2nd with a Mock Battle between Moors and Christians to commemorate the battle by the people of Pollença against 1,500 Moors led by the pirate Dragut that took place on May 30th, 1550.
On that day Pollença received the most important pirate attack they had ever experienced. The battle was won thanks to the help from Joan Mas, who went out into the main street to warn everyone of the danger and ran heroically into battle against his adversaries. The mock battle was incorporated into the fiesta programme in the middle of the 19th Century to recreate a historical fact that is very much in the heart of the people of Pollença. This created a very colourful and lively celebration that counts on the participation of the whole town, the Christians dressed in white and Dragut's followers in multicolours.
Palma comes as a surprise to many people - it is stylish, sophisticated, and intimate yet bursting with life. Half of Mallorca's population lives here, enjoying the island's best restaurants, shops and nightlife as well as a thriving arts scene and a lively cafe culture. Palma's masterpiece is its Gothic Cathedral, La Seu, rising out of the city walls which once marked the edge of the sea. Close to here is the old Arab quarter ‘Ciutat Antigua’, a maze of narrow streets hiding museums, palaces and exquisite courtyards.
Known to the Arabs as Medina Mayurqa and to Mallorcans simply as Ciutat (City), Palma is in fact named after the Roman city of Palmaria. Here you can almost literally uncover the different layers of Mallorcan history. The Roman city still exists, a meter or two beneath the ground; inhabitants of houses near the Cathedral are still discovering Roman remains. The Cathedral was built on the site of a mosque, once a Roman temple; the Royal Palace replaced an Arab alcazar.
The city you see today, however, is a relatively recent creation. The tree lined promenades of Ses Rambles and Passeig des Born, home to florists and newspaper sellers, were built in the l9th Century on a dried-up riverbed. The walls which once surrounded the city were pulled down to create the ring road Las Avingudas, and Passeig Maritim, the waterfront highway and promenade were only reclaimed from the sea in the 1950’s.
Most of the main sights are located within the area bounded by the old walls, especially to the North and East of the Cathedral. Wander along any alley in the ancient Arab quarter, peering through wrought-iron gates and heavy wooden doors and you will be rewarded with glimpses of one magnificent patio after another with their stone staircases, galleries and courtyards.
But you have not truly seen Palma until you have surveyed it from the waterfront, with the Cathedral and Almudaina Palace rising proudly above the defensive walls of the old city, their golden sandstone lit up by the afternoon sun.