Mallorca might have been designed by a team of tourism gurus locked in a tapas bar with a brief to come up with a holiday island that would please as many people as possible. As a well established Mediterranean resort, it has everything you would expect: good sandy beaches, guaranteed summer sunshine, safe water for swimming, and accommodation to suit all pockets. If you like beautiful mountain villages and photogenic harbours, watersports, golf courses and excursions in glass-bottomed boats, and intimate fish restaurants – they are all here. But there is more, a Mallorca that scarcely needs the cooing of the brochures. Palma, the capital, has a dramatic seafront cathedral and old streets with a whiff of history. There are enthralling underground caves and isolated hilltop monasteries to seek out, epic mountains much loved by walkers and cyclists, and marshes and offshore islands that regularly draw birdwatchers.
A Little History
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.
Mallorca has its 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 1950s, 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.
Fame and Visitors
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 – if you visit you’ll see why.