Think charming villages that look like cubist paintings and a sophisticated capital city with palm-lined avenues. Think wonderful shopping, lovely beaches (both sandy and pebbly), roast suckling pig and ultrafresh seafood, and wine, wine, and more wine. Think festivals, Joan Miró, national parks, and tiered vineyards. Think sheep and goats and yummy local cheeses that come from them. That – and more – is Majorca.
It’s also a very popular tourist destination. So if you can avoid summer, traveling in spring or fall, you’ll hit wonderful weather, smaller crowds, and a more Balearic experience.
Majorca is located off the southeast coast of Spain, and it’s the largest of the Balearic Islands. If you’re a partier and under 30 (or just act that age) then you’ve probably gone to, or have heard the tales of, Majorca’s glitzy sister island, Ibiza. The more sedate among us might prefer the other sisters, Menorca and Formentera. All these islands are easy to reach, only a few hours or so from England — but worlds away.
We spent three weeks roaming Menorca (a tale for another time) and Majorca and fell in love immediately. I had been on a business trip and met Jim and Yao Yao in Madrid before heading to Menorca first, and later taking a boat Majorca. Jim looked very well rested (not how he typically looks getting off any flight) and I came to find out he had been upgraded to First Class, along with our little cherub! Why is it that a man traveling solo with a small child is adorable, and everyone wants to help out, but a women traveling with a toddler is a horror show and everyone hopes against hope to be spared being their seatmate? (Sorry, I digress.)
Anyway, on the boat from Menorca, Yao Yao wept the entire way, blubbering, “I miss my Menorca!” We got glares from local Menorcans, as if we have ripped her from the motherland. To this day, we don’t know why the connection and reaction. Once on Majorca, we rented a car, which I strongly suggest, especially if your husband is doing the majority of the driving. A car also gives you a space to be together, dump your spoils of the shopping wars, and get to hard-to-reach tourist destinations.
We stayed in a wonderful hotel, Ca’n Roses, in the hill town of Soller for a few days before heading even higher into the hills to Fornalutx for several nights. Soller is beautiful and makes a great base to explore the surrounding area. Yao Yao even made a few friends and was able to play soccer in the local square. We visited the Picasso and Miro museum in the old train station, took the Ferrocarril de Soller (the Soller heritage train) into Palma, and generally ate our way through Soller and most of Deia. If memory serves, Ca’n Costa, a little roadside restaurant in Valldemossa that opened in the mid-1970s, is where Yao Yao had her first roast suckling pig. What a way to start an adventure! Unfortunately, about four days later she passed by the same restaurant and saw the little piggies on a spit and wept for about 10 minutes. She finally put two and two together. Ah, lessons from the road! I don’t eat any meat but had a wonderful dinner of grilled octopus and prawns. If you have read any of my previous posts, you know what Jim had!
Deia is a spectacular mountain town and is very popular with locals and tourists alike. It’s chic, yet accessible, and whether you don your best wrinkled linens or tennis shoes and a fanny pack, you’re welcomed warmly. There are wonderful places to stay (like La Residencia) and great tapas bars, casual cafes, and restaurants. We also managed to do some shopping between visits to the postage-stamp-size beach below. Though I profess to have a bit of a real estate addiction, trust me, two days on this island and you too will be shopping for a vacation home.
Majorca is a perfect island for kids, because you can really live outdoors. Climbing up stone stairs in the villages, walking among the vineyards, playing in plazas and parks, and taking advantage of some of the children’s art programs are just a few of the things this island has to offer. And don’t dismiss Palma — it’s a big city, but it’s full of beautiful historic buildings, good museums, and excellent restaurants and shopping.
There are tons of “kid activities” on the island as well — an aquarium, a marine park, and so on — but there are so many fabulous things for everyone to do that are specific to Majorca that we didn’t do any of those made-for-kids activities. When you can watch cheese or sausage being made, wander around vineyards, almond and olive groves, and old windmills, go on a picnic, hike the national parks, bird-watch, horseback ride, and see some of Miro’s best works, why go to a water park? There truly is something for everyone on this magical Spanish Island.
Isola di San Michele
Ile de Re
Yao Yao – Yao Yao – Really fun because there is so much to do. You can go hiking and swimming and everyone is so friendly.
Samantha – Paradise. Great food, stunning views, and charming villages are just the beginning of what made us fall in love with Majorca.
Secrets only a local would know…
Yao Yao – There are tons of things for kids to do and not just the ocean!
Samantha –Winter, early spring, and late fall are wonderful times to visit Majorca. It’s less crowded and the prices tumble.
Bring from home…
Yao Yao – If you are really young, bring your best toy or stuffed animal because you will likely spend time in cafes. If you are older, bring books or games.
Samantha – Summer dresses and capri pants. The must-have is a great straw hat but I suggest buying it on the island.
Yao Yao – Roast suckling pig!
Samantha – Sea bass baked with potatoes, eggplant, and onions.
Yao Yao – I was really little so I thought climbing up the rickety stairs to the Cala Deia beach restaurant was really cool. They even made me a special meal.
Samantha – Having a picnic dinner on the beach one evening.
What to buy…
Yao Yao – I can’t remember but my mom told me I loved the little treats called ensaimda. They are baked pastries with powdered sugar. I also got a clay whistle called a siurells that they make in Majorca. It’s pretty cool, but I am not sure I can find it now.
Samantha – Espadrilles, ceramics, and perfume.
Yao Yao – Baby lambs that came up to say hi to us. They were just walking around the olive trees when we went hiking. They were so cute.
Samantha – Watching Jim and Yao Yao swimming near our little beach and the Alfabia Gardens in Bunyola. You can feel the Moorish influences, and the ancient irrigation systems is amazing. It’s a great way to spend an afternoon.
Yao Yao – Having my mom always carry my swimsuit because you never know when you want to go into the ocean.
Samantha – Staying three extra days
There are flights from the U.S. to Palma and a variety of options for flights all over Europe to Palma. Iberia Airlines and Spanair have regular flights to Palma.
Where to stay…
Ca’n Roses was really a sweet hotel located in Soller. You might walk right past the door to the place — it’s unmarked and unprepossessing. Once inside, it’s like a lovely pleasure garden, and It was perfect with a toddler. Canroses.com
La Residencia in Deia is wonderful and more upscale, but if you have a fussy child or a big brood, I would look elsewhere. Belmond La-Residencia
What and where to eat…
We tend to eat at a variety of types of places, from the little tapas bars, seaside restaurant, and now and again a really over-the-top eatery. Some fish is actually frozen and by law the restaurant is supposed to note that on the menu. Sea bass is typically plucked from the sea and is often baked in salt. It’s excellent, as is the shrimp and lobster. Though you can get good paella, it is not typical Majorcan. Lechona asada, or roast suckling pig, is a big draw here, and as I mentioned above, the niblet and spouse enjoyed an entire litter over the course of our holiday.
We love tapas bars — they’re a perfect venue for encouraging kids to try new things. If they don’t like the octopus and olives, they’ll love sausage and figs. It’s a great way to spend an evening, watching the sunset and pretending you’re not overindulging!
Ca’n Costa was fun and funky, and the lechona asada was a hit!
Xelini is a good tapas bar in Deia. Xelini
Ca’s Patro on Cala Beach (Deia) was Yao Yao’s favorite. It may have more to do with the journey to get to the restaurant, but the fish was excellent and all local! (+34 971 93 91 37)
Don’t miss seeing…
Author Robert Graves’ House in Deia
Ferrocarril de Soller, the old wooden train that runs between Soller and Palma. Kids love it and it’s a great way to see some of the island.
Palma – Don’t be put off by the hustle and bustle of Palma. Monastaries, musuems, shopping, and great restaurants make it worth spending time.
Other great resources
Good article on eateries on Majorca at
See Majorca is a great resource for everything from rural hotels to staying on a yacht.
Lonely Planet has a good recap on major sights to see.