MALLORCA ISLAND - TOWNS AND VILLAGES
Palma (de Mallorca)
Palma (pop. 401,270) is the capital of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands and the largest city on the island of Mallorca. It is located on the southern coast of Mallorca, five miles west-northwest from Palma de Mallorca Airport (IATA code PMI). Palma was founded as a Roman settlement in the second century BCE, and was Rome`s connection to the colonies in Northern Africa such as Carthage. By the year 902 CE, the Moors conquered Mallorca and Palma was renamed Medina Mayurqa. The Aragonese captured Mallorca on New Year`s Eve 1229, and soon after Palma became the capital of the Kingdom of Majorca. The second-generation monarch, James II, commissioned the construction of two key tourist attractions: Bellver Castle and the Cathedral of Santa Maria de Palma. In the centuries that followed, Palma flourished as a key trading post on seafaring routes traveling to Venice, Barcelona, Provence, and Northern Africa. By the eighteenth century, the Spanish crown took over formal administration of the Balearic Islands, and Palma was named the capital of the region in 1833. By locals, Palma is referred to simply as the Ciutat (Catalan for `city`).
Palma is surrounded by two ring roads. The outer ring road is the Mallorca-20 motorway, which encloses 35 neighborhoods in an area 3.5 miles from west to east and 2.5 miles from north to south. The inner ring road goes by a number of names: from east to west, these names, among others, include Avinguda de Gabriel Alomar, Avinguda d'Alexandre Rossello, Avinguda de Joan March, Avinguda del Comte de Sallent, Avinguda d`Alemanya, Avinguda de Portugal, Carrer de Ramon y Cajal, Carrer Comte de Barcelona, and Carrer d`Espartero. The main waterfront road is the Mallorca-19 motorway, also called the Avinguda de Gabriel Roca. The Santa Catalina, Paseo Maritimo and La Calatrava neighborhoods are located along the waterfront; further inland, but still inside the inner ring road, you will find the Monti-Sion, La Seu, Cort, Sant Nicolau, Sindicat, Sant Jaume and Mercat neighborhoods. Along the upper edge of the inner ring road, you will find the Estacio Intermodal, on the Placa d`Espanya. This is a transportation hub for the southern coast and also links Palma to the interior and northwest coast.
Points of interest close to the waterfront include the Es Baluard Modern Art Museum, the 15th-century Gothic Llotja de Palma, the Cathedral of Santa Maria de Palma, and the fountain at Parc de la Mar. Out of the numerous plazas (spelled placa in Catalan), perhaps the most noteworthy are Palma Square and Placa Major. Bellver Castle is located 1.6 miles west of central Palma.
For those wishing to enjoy a family-friendly getaway, go to C`an Pastilla, located four miles southeast of Palma. It is the closest resort town to Palma. Tourism arrived in C`an Pastilla in 1918 with the introduction of the Hotel Can Pastilla, owned by the entrepreneur D. Bartolome Riutort. Beginning in the 1960s, the number of resorts grew exponentially with the arrival of British tourists, whose numbers continued to rise as the decades went on.
The main street in C`an Pastilla is the Cami de C`an Pastilla, and eighteen streets (many one-way) link the main road with the two beaches at the waterfront (Cala Estancia, the western beach, and Cala de C`an Pastilla). East of the beach, there is a cluster of hotels sandwiched between the Carrer de la Tramuntana and the Avinguda de Bartolome Riutort (both roads forking from the Cami de C`an Pastilla). At the end of this cluster, on the Carrer de la Tramuntana, you will find the Palma Aquarium, one of C`an Pastilla`s more noteworthy attractions.
Playa de Palma
East of the Palma Aquarium, head toward the waterfront, and then venture east along the Carretera de l`Arenal. The stretch of beach here is called Playa de Palma, and is known for sun and surf in the daytime and rowdy nightlife in the evening. The seafront promenade, which links Playa de Palma with C`an Pastilla and El Arenal, is lined with beautiful palm trees, and a number of restaurants, cafes, bars, nightclubs, and souvenir shops also dot the path. Noteworthy sights in the area include attractions geared toward kids, such as the outdoor adventure park Forestal Park Mallorca. The hotels in Playa de Palma are located in an area two-fifths of a mile wide, stretching from the beach and the Carretera to the Carrer de Samil.
As you travel east from Playa de Palma, you will encounter the resort town of El Arenal. As you cross the canal Torrent des Jueus on the Carrer de la Marineta, you will enter Placa Reina Maria Cristina, the town`s northwestern square. El Arenal is a compact resort town with hotels clustered east of the Club Nautic s`Arenal and south and southeast of the Placa. The hotel district is roughly bounded by Avinguda Miramar to the west, Carrer Dragonera to the east, and the westerly artery Carrer Sant Bartomeu to the south and the easterly artery Carrer de Sant Cristofol to the north. Food and nightlife options are clustered near the waterfront and along Carrer Dragonera. A noteworthy attraction is the waterpark Aqualand El Arenal, located southeast of Carrer Sant Bartomeu.
Cala Major is located just outside Palma`s ring road on the western side of Palma, less than a mile south of Bellver Castle. The main road which passes through Cala Major is Avinguda de Joan Miro, and links Cala Major with three nearby beaches (Cala Fornaris to the east and Cala Nova / Cala Guix to the west). As you enter Cala Major, you will pass Porto Pi, Palma`s ferry port, which connects Palma and Cala Major with Valencia, Barcelona, Denia, Mahon (Minorca) and Ibiza. You will also pass the historic botanical gardens called the Jardins de Marivent. Restaurants and nightclubs are packed along the Avinguda de Joan Miro just north of Cala Major, while water sports and yachting is centered around Cala Nova.
A mile and a half down the road from Cala Major sits Illetes, a purpose-built resort town which dates from the 1960s. Upmarket hotels and upscale restaurants and nightclubs greet the visitor in Illetes, where they have the choice of sunning themselves at any of the three beaches: Playa de Illetes, Cala Oli, or Cala Comtessa. The main beach is large and sandy, while the other two are more secluded and surrounded by tall pines. While Playa de Illetes and Cala Comtessa`s days as jet-set destinations for Europe`s elite are behind them, the area still commands a decent price for the hotels and villas within walking distance from these beaches. A children`s amusement park, the Jungle Parc, is located 0.4 miles inland along Carrer de l`Arquitecte Francesc Cases.
Just off the Mallorca-1 motorway, Palmanova, like many of the towns along the southern Mallorca coast, was developed for tourism in the 1960s for the throngs of British tourists wanting to experience some fun in the sun. To this day, a large percentage of the tourists who visit Palmanova are British, and there is also a large British expatriate community as well. Needless to say, you will not struggle here if you cannot speak Spanish or Catalan. There are three beaches in Palmanova: Es Carregador, the northernmost beach; Na Nadala, the central beach and the largest one; and Son Maties, which sits south of the Punta Nadala resort. The main streets in Palmanova are, from north to south, the Passeig Mar, Carrer Duc Estremela, and Avinguda de Son Maties.
Out of all the resort towns on the southern coast of Mallorca, perhaps the best-developed one, and the one that is most well-known, is Magaluf, located nine miles southwest of Palma and a mile and a half south of Palmanova. Magaluf is particularly popular with the package tour crowds from the British Isles as well as crowds from Germany, Eastern Europe, and Russia.
Magaluf is famous (and according to some, notorious) for its nightlife, comparable to the `spring break` crowds in the U.S. in places like Fort Lauderdale and South Padre Island. There are dozens of bars and nightclubs in Magaluf, and they can get rowdy in the summer months. While other towns are more family-friendly, Magaluf tends to be geared toward younger travelers who do not have children. Unlike Palmanova, Magaluf enters a slow season in the winter and many resorts and businesses close down during this low season.
Many of the hottest nightclubs and bars are located along Carrer Punta Ballena. Some of the newest hotel and resort complexes are owned by the Melia chain and are located south of the strip along Avinguda Notari Alemany.
Santa Ponsa is located twelve miles southwest of Palma. In the year 1229, it was the landing site of King James of Aragon, who invaded Mallorca with the intent of `liberating` it from the Moors. By the end of the year, Mallorca was claimed for the Aragonese. Today, Santa Ponsa is well-known for its luxury resorts which are marketed to families and also for golf enthusiasts. Two world-renowned golf courses, Golf Santa Ponsa and T-Golf and Country Club, are situated just east and southeast of town, respectively. Just off the Placa Santa Ponsa is the `big beach`, the Platja de Santa Ponsa. The `small beach`, a half-mile to the southwest, past a string of restaurants, is located in a cove called Calo d`en Pellicer. Many of the resorts are located within walking distance of the Placa Santa Ponsa. Many are east of the `big beach`, and the rest are south of the `big beach` and east of the `small beach`.
The westernmost of the resort towns on the southern coast of Mallorca is called Peguera, and it is located 13.5 miles southwest of Palma, on the Mallorca-1 motorway. Peguera is well-known for being a resort town which caters very heavily to German tourists -- so much so that it is nicknamed `Little Germany`. Peguera is home to three beaches: Romana, Tora and Palmira, which offer varied accommodation options, many of which are in the luxury category. Peguera is also a good jumping-off point for exploring the foothills of the Serra de Tramuntana, with the closest hills located just a mile out of town. The main west-east road is Bulevar de Peguera, and the main north-south road is Carrer des Capdella. For a relaxing, secluded beach experience, head about three-quarters of a mile southwest to a cove called Cala Fornells, where there are many top-dollar condominiums and villas.
Port d`Alcúdia (Puerto de Alcúdia in Spanish, pop. 4,850) is one of the northernmost tourist towns in Mallorca; it is the seaside extension of the town of Alcúdia, which is located 1.8 miles to the north. The hotels, apartments and resorts stretch from the marina and cruise port to the east of the city center down approximately three miles down the beach, where Alcúdia Beach meets Platja de Muro. Along the beach, there is a hotel complex that is one of the largest in Europe, built around the Llac Gran, a lake to the east of where Alcúdia Beach ends. The Carretera d`Artà is the main north-south artery which runs between Alcúdia Beach and Llac Gran; it eventually curves right to become an east-west road into the town center. You can find family-friendly restaurants along the Carretera parallel to the beach; for the adults, the bars and restaurants that are geared toward them can be found near the marina along Carrer Gabriel Roca.
Platja de Muro
The Platja de Muro is one of the longest beaches in Mallorca, split into four segments and comprising approximately three miles of coastline along the Bay of Alcúdia. The beach starts just south of Llac Gran and stretches south all the way down to the resort town of Can Picafort. The segments of the beach closest to Port d`Alcúdia and Can Picafort are favored by families due to the abundance of amenities such as resorts, restaurants, and equipment rentals. As you go down the beach, you pass the S`Albufera Natural Park, and before reaching Can Picafort you will encounter nearly a mile of unspoiled coastline that gets fewer tourists. That portion of the beach is called Es Comu. As you reach Can Picafort, the stretch of beach in this area is called Es Capellans.
Six miles south of Port d`Alcúdia, the resort town of Can Picafort is particularly popular with families. The waters offshore are shallow and a beautiful shade of turquoise. The strip behind Can Picafort Beach, the Passeig Garau, is chock-full of restaurants and bars which are primarily geared toward vacationers from Britain and Ireland. Can Picafort is praised for its small-town feel while still offering amenities for families similar to other seaside resorts in Mallorca. While many of the businesses are geared toward families, Can Picafort also has a small nightlife scene, with a few popular bars and discos which can be found along the streets south of Passeig Colón.
As you move up the eastern coast on the Ma-4014 and Ma-4023 motorways from Cales de Mallorca, after 15 miles you will arrive at Cala Millor (pop. 5,500). Cala Millor is perhaps best-known for its beautiful sandy beach, which stretches for over 1.3 miles. From north to south, the entire length of the beach can be walked via the wide promenade to the north (called Polígon de la Mar). Cala Millor was one of the first tourist towns to be developed on Mallorca, beginning in 1933. By the time the 1960s came around, as well as the advent of package holidays geared toward British tourists, Cala Millor was far and away the best-developed resort on the northeastern coast. Today there are dozens of different hotels and resorts, most of which can be accessed from the main north-south road, the Avinguda del Bon Temps. South of Cala Millor Beach, the next two beaches where many resorts are clustered are the Platja de Sant Llorenç and Cala Nau.
With beautiful turquoise waters and beaches tucked away in coves, Cala d`Or is one of the more popular family-friendly resorts in Mallorca. The main beach is Cala Gran, accessible from one of the main squares in town, Plaça Eivissa. The cluster of hotels and resorts are typically to the north and northeast of Cala Gran. On the western side of town is the yacht marina, state-of-the-art and one of the more noteworthy yachting destinations in Mallorca. At the mouth of the marina cove is Cala Llonga, where its white vacation rental houses overlook the harbor.
Less than a half-mile from Cala d`Or sits Cala Ferrera, another set of beaches set inside beautiful coves and flanked by pine trees. The main beach, Platja de Cala Ferrera, sits just south of the epicenter of this resort town, the roundabout called Carrer des Forn. You will find accommodations in this area and fanning out to the southwest, south and southeast of the roundabout. The beach in the cove next to Cala Ferrera is called Cala Serena. To the southwest, next to the headland called Punta Grossa, is a smaller beach called Cala Esmeralda.
Cales de Mallorca
Cales de Mallorca sits on the eastern coast, about 10 miles north-northeast of Cala d`Or and 15 miles southwest of Cala Millor. Another family-friendly resort town which also welcomes single travelers, this area is more perhaps more off-the-beaten-path than some of the other tourist enclaves on Mallorca. The three beaches in town, all located inside coves with rolling dunes just above the coastline, are Caló Antena, Sa Romeguera (the beach closest to the center of town), and Cala Domingos (pictured). The Passeig de Manacor connects the area near Caló Antena with the area next to Cala Domingos.
Cala Ratjada`s first hotel was built in the 1880s, but it wasn`t until the twentieth century when Cala Ratjada was developed as a tourist resort. By the 1930s it was a well-known exile town for German intellectuals and artists who fled Adolf Hitler`s regime. Franco drove most of these Germans out during the Spanish Civil War, but German influence still managed to remain. When the construction boom hit Cala Ratjada in the 1970s, many of the amenities and resorts were built and started catering to German tourists due to the German influence that had long been in the area. A noteworthy point of interest in Cala Ratjada is the 1911-era Villa March, built on a hill overlooking the 15-acre Jardines March, featuring dozens of sculptures from such noted visionaries as Henry Moore and Auguste Rodin.