Lay of the Land
Mallorca, the largest of Spain’s Balearic Islands, is spread out over 1,405 square miles. Thanks to an average of 300 days of sun a year, its semitropical climate is a major draw for northern Europeans. At the same time, the weather and abundant water supply create a fertile environment within Mallorca’s interior for almond trees, olive groves (some with trees close to a thousand years old), vineyards, fruit farms and vegetable fields.
The quiet stretch of the northwestern coast, with its ancient villages and picturesque coastline, is where many wealthy English and Germans have long spent their summers. The beautiful, picturesque village of Deià, like a bird’s nest of stone cradled by the Tramuntana Mountains, has been an insider celebrity hideaway ever since writer Robert Graves moved there in the 1930s and invited famous friends such as Alec Guinness, Ava Gardner and Kingsley Amis to visit. (He died in 1985 and his house was turned into a museum.)
Artists have flocked to the quaint village of Pollença on the north coast since the beginning of the 20th century. These days you’ll still find them here, along with an interesting crowd of wealthy bohemian expats and several small galleries and craft ateliers. Cap de Formentor has a sprawling coastal resort that’s a favorite stopping point for the yachting crowd, and spectacular views.
The highlight of Palma, the island’s capital in the south, is the Old Town, a magical labyrinth of ancient cobbled streets, stone palaces with glassed-in terraces and intimate plazas dominated by the city’s vast Gothic cathedral, which rises above a picturesque harbor.
Several major highways cross the island, but most of the island’s roads are still narrow and rustic thoroughfares that require some time and attention to pass. A rented car is essential for getting around the island. Note that the native language of the island is Mallorquin, a dialect of Catalan specific to the Balearics, but Spanish is widely spoken as well. GPS can be in Mallorquin or even Catalan, so get the address for your destination in all possible languages before setting out.