Things to Do in Balearic Islands
With its beautiful white-sand beaches framed in picturesque rocky points, Puerto Pollensa (Pollença) has become a magnet for holiday-goers with a taste for the finer things in life. Art museums, galleries, and fine restaurants all offer their pleasures, or simply enjoy the scenery from the seaside pedestrian path, called the "Pine Walk" for the shady evergreens above. Of course the carved sapphire inlets, revealed with a trip in a glass-bottomed boat, and soft sands offer all sorts of maritime fun.
For instance, book a boat or bus to majestic Cap de Formentor, a long and narrow point topped with a truly spectacular rocky peak. Fringed in forest and fine white beaches, it is one of the most impressive sites in the Mediterranean. Adventurous types can climb to the top, or just enjoy the splendid views from the fine bay.
Few castles in Europe – and none in Spain -- can lay claim to the distinctive circular shape of Mallorca’s Bellver Castle. Bordered by four towers, the fortress is enclosed by a moat and sits atop a forest-covered hill. From there, it overlooks the island’s capital city of Palma, which sits under two miles away.
The 14th-century Gothic-style castle was originally constructed over the course of about a decade under the orders of King Juame II of Mallorca. Since then, it has served as a residence for the Kings of Mallorca, a military prison, a mint and now as home to the city’s history museum. Within its round confines, find the equally circular courtyard (which sits atop a dungeon and cistern), learn more about the island’s distant past and take in spectacular views of the landscape and sea beyond.
Also known as the Palau de l’Almudaina, this ancient palace was originally built as a citadel on the hill by the Romans sometime around 123 BC in Palma, the capital city of the island of Majorca, Spain. Later conquered by the Moors, and then again by the Catalans in 1229, the citadel began to fade as a mere fortress, but transformed into a palace and residence for Majorcan Kings. Today, it stands as a great example of rustic architecture that has survived the ages and overlooks beautiful Palma Bay.
International visitors and residents alike routinely flock to the Almudaina Palace in order to see how antiquity lived throughout the centuries and to catch a glimpse of this venerated architecture. Muslim kings living in Roman-built archways lead to a unique blend of culture which has infused the palace, as told by the magnificent tapestries on the wall telling stories long lost to time.
The classic tourist attraction Caves of Drach - or Coves del Drac - is a crowd pleaser for many reasons, not least of which is that these 4 fantastic caves form a truly remarkable hydrogeological formation. An enormous underground expanse of undulating sandstone and semiprecious agates creates an imaginarium of weird formations, against which delicate bouquets of stalactites and stalamites glisten. This exquisite ornamentation frames Europe's largest underground sea, 177m(581 feet)-long Lake Martel.
As if all this weren't enough to tempt the tour buses, expert illuminator Carlos Buigas mounted a multicolored light show spectacular that puts Ibiza's wildest clubs to shame, while boats filled with classical musicians perform Chopin, Martini, and more in an acoustic shell unlike any other in the world. One can only hope that they will not wake the Drac de Mallorca, the Dragon of Majorica, who disappeared sometime during the Dark Ages, though no one is quite sure to where.
Located on the west coast of Ibiza, Cala Compte is one of the must-visit beaches on this Spanish island. It’s perfect for both family beach-goers and those looking to be a little more exhibitionist. For those who prefer to keep their suits on, stick to the west side. Over on the east side, the beach tends to skew a little more nudist thanks to the coves and little enclaves.
During the summer months, visitors flock to this gorgeous beach with crystal clear water. It’s the perfect spot to chill out and get a little exercise – off shore are tiny bits of land jutting from the Mediterranean, a moderate swim for those looking to get their heart rate up. Be sure to stop at one of the few restaurants in town for glass of wine to enjoy as the sun sinks below the horizon, complete with a DJ creating a live soundtrack. Cala Compte is quite possibly the best spot on the island to catch the spectacular and colorful sunsets.r
The Plaza Mayor is Palma’s true epicenter. Others might claim the geographic center of the city to be located elsewhere, but it is from this large plaza that all the excitement of old-town Palma generates. There’s a saying in Palma that “all roads lead to Plaza Mayor” and if you’re taking a stroll through old town, you’ll sure find this to be true.
Enter the plaza and the first thing you’ll notice is its imposing size. The enormous square is surrounded by old Spanish buildings of the 14th century and once housed the offices of the Spanish inquisition. Today, this area is known as the artist’s quarter, so you’re bound to spot a few galleries highlighting some of the local talent. In addition, a weekly market is held in the square, and a variety of notable goods can be purchased from colorful vendors here.
More Things to Do in Balearic Islands
Playa de Muro is a beautiful six-kilometer-long sandy beach with turquoise water in northern Mallorca; it is one of the island’s newest resort destinations. It is a “Blue Flag” beach, meaning that it meets certain criteria in regards to the water quality, safety and services. Although quieter than neighbor beach Alcudia, Playa de Muro is less sheltered and can experience bigger waves during high winds. Playa de Muro is very popular with families thanks to its warm shallow waters; because of this, water-sport enthusiasts abound, be it for water-skiing, jet skiing, scuba diving, pedal boating or paragliding. There is also a wooden jetty for boats, and boat trips around the coast are offered.
The westernmost portion of the beach, near Alcudia, is lined with resort hotels and holiday apartments, which all have premium access to the beach.
Located on the south-west side of the island, es Vedranell and the western inlets are a cluster of protected areas featuring sandy beaches, azure waters, varied terrain (including the infamous and iconic Es Vedra mountain that has become synonymous with images of Ibiza) and wildlife.
The western inlets include: Cala d´Hort, Cap Llentrisca i Sa Talaia Natural Park and the Es Vedrà, Es Vedranell and Els Illots de Ponent Nature Reserves. Spend time here exploring the 10 islets in the area, which are packed with birds – including the Audoin gull and Elearnor falcon, lizards and more. Or, grab a seat on the beach and keep a look out for dolphins frolicking off the coast. To get in touch with the past, the area also features the remnants of a Punic-Roman settlement and La Torres des Savinar, an old lighthouse.
The unique cultural landscape of Serra de Tramontana landed it a spot on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. The craggy mountain range covers the northwest side of the island of Mallorca. Standing tall at 1,445 meters, the range’s principle peak Puig Major is the tallest in the Balearic Islands. The limestone mountains receive a higher amount of rainfall than the rest of the island, and often receive snowfall in the winter.
Due to the biodiversity of plant and animal species - and to protect against urbanization - the area has been protected as a natural reserve. Historic villages with structures such as water mills, farms, agricultural and irrigation systems remain in place. Some methods have been in use since the Middle Ages, and demonstrate both Christian and Muslim cultural influence in this area.
With ocean views of turquoise waters and pine-forested hillsides, it is a popular place to enjoy scenic hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities.
Get off the beach and explore the history of Ibiza for a day. Old Ibiza Town or D’Alt Vila (meaning High Town) is the perfect place to get lost on quaint cobble stone streets winding up, up, up and resulting in dramatic views of town and the island.
Begin your visit to this UNESCO World Heritage site through the main entrance, complete with a drawbridge and statues, through to the vibrant main square, Plaza de Vila. In town you will find a well-preserved fortified acropolis that sheds light on the early Phoenician settlers. There are also remnants of Arab, Catalan and Renaissance periods. To experience the gastronomy in town, stick to the main square for some of the best dining on the island. At night, the town becomes even livelier with plenty of bars and hip spots to enjoy a drink or two. Not to be outdone by the food and nightlife, there are also plenty of shopping options.
Along Mallorca’s southeastern coast you’ll find a collection of sweet coastal towns, idyllic beach coves, and one especially photo-beckoning sight, Es Pontàs. This natural rock arch loops high out of the clear, crystalline waters just off shore, where it lures everyone from sunrise seekers to picture takers and rock climbers.
And its location near other ideal island destinations makes it an even more deserving trek. While in the area, claim a plot of sand on the nearby, cove-protected Cala Santanyi beach; explore the sweet, old-world streets of the more inland town of Santanyi; and wander the coastal trails of Mondrago Natural Park.
A popular holiday destination for European vacationers, San Antonio Bay is one of Ibiza’s few areas that cater to families and non-partiers. Visitors should not confuse San Antonio Town and San Antonio Bay; the former is filled with festive superclubs and dubbed the “clubbing capital of the universe” while the latter is mostly enjoyed by epicurean travelers who would much rather visit historic Ibiza and enjoy the city’s fine dining than party all night; two radically distinctive zones! One of the main selling points of San Antonio Bay is its exceptional waterfront: indeed, with numerous little coves, turquoise waters, sandy beaches and plenty of panoramic patios, few other places in Ibiza offer such spectacular, unobstructed sunsets – which locals tend to enjoy with a chilled glass of sangria in one of Cala de Bou’s sunset bars. These coves can be enjoyed in a number of ways, from feeding fishes to snorkeling and various other watersports.
Though now recognized as one of the most beautiful beach areas of Mallorca, Cala Santanyi was not part of the initial tourism boom on the island — in fact it hardly welcomed visitors until the 1960s. That quiet, relaxed atmosphere remains undisturbed, though a variety of outdoor activities both in and out of the beautiful water are offered. The long, white-sand beach here is scenically surrounded by rocky cliffs and forests filled with pine trees. Boat trips, as well as swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving all take place in the calm waters just off of the beach. Hiking in the nearby cliffs, or exploring the adjacent nature reserve are options to explore the Mediterranean landscape. There are also three main restaurants along the beach area with shaded lounge areas and local food and drink if you’d rather take the relaxed approach.
Perched on the coastal cliffs of the island of Mallorca, Cala Figuera was once only a modest fishing village and small harbor. Today it is one of the most picturesque towns that has maintained its whitewashed homes and colorful boat houses, making it popular with visitors. There are no public beaches or easily accessible parts of the coast, so the village maintains its quiet feel.
Views of the clear waters are particularly worth seeking, from coastal paths winding along the cliffs and hillside. Rock and sand formations, beaches, coves, a lighthouse, and of course, the turquoise sea are all visible from relatively flat walking paths. The main cove is dramatically surrounded by steep mountains. Still operating as a fishing town, the seafood is the specialty of the restaurants here. As evening approaches, you may even be able to watch the fishing boats coming into port with their daily catch.
The lovely old town clustered around Sa Seu, the 13th century Cathedral, is a delight to wander through, exploring narrow winding streets, sitting in outdoor cafes and discovering the history of this diverse city poised between Europe and Africa, with traces remaining of its Roman, Christian and Muslim periods of rule. And of course there are the beaches and yacht harbors and lovely clear water for swimming.
Cruise ships dock in the commercial port some way from town and it is not a pleasant walk. Most lines will provide a shuttle service, otherwise taxis are easily found – head to the Cathedral and begin exploring the town from there. Within the town center everything you will want to see is within walking distance.
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