Mallorca: Check out these different ways to enjoy this gem in the Balearics
In 2020 Sarah Drane described her favourite places to go to in Mallorca and offered some excellent recommendations. With travel due to open up later this and Mallorca being a long-established favourite of British travellers, Simon Maurice suggests some alternative goodies that UK visitors’ best-loved Balearic Island has to offer:
Railway to Soller: Take the scenic route and let the train take the strain
Soller is a picturesque town in the hills of North West Mallorca. It is accessible by car, but by far the most fun and relaxed way to get there is to take the little mountain railway train – the Ferrocarril de Soller – that starts in Palma and takes travellers on a beautiful winding, scenic, hour journey through the Sierra de Alfabia mountain range to Soller.
There, you can enjoy the delights of the picturesque town or you can take a second train (more of a tram really and, in fact, the way oranges were originally transported from the local groves to the port) down to Porto de Soller, with its beautiful beach and promenade. The main square in Soller – the Plaza de la Constituicion – is a great place for lunch or simply sampling some “café society” and, if you go on Saturday, there is also a bustling market.
While you are in Soller, do NOT leave without checking out the station itself, because you will find that within the station building is an Art Museum, which has a permanent Picasso exhibition that majors on his ceramics and also, a second exhibit featuring noted Spanish Surrealist artist, Juan Miro. Visiting both exhibits will probably take no more than half an hour, but both are fascinating and are even better because entry is free.
If you’re an art fan, there is, however, some great stuff to buy at the Gift Shop. Also worth a visit, is Soller’s Can Prunera Museum of Modernism which hosts varying exhibitions of art, all displayed in this Art Nouveau residence.
Soller and Porto de Soller are lovely, but it is as much about the journeys themselves. A combined train/tram ticket for around €32 gives you a round trip from Palma to Soller and a return trip from Soller to Port de Soller as well.
Rainy day? Head for Manacor
One of the great things about Mallorca is its weather – usually. However, even during the summer, you can get the odd day when it is cloudy or even rainy. When that happens, a trip to Manacor, close to the Island’s South-Central coast, will deliver you two attractions that aren’t weather dependant.
Caves of Drach:Between Manacor and nearby Porto Cristo, are the caves of Drach. Yes, they are one of the most popular tourist destinations on the Island, but there is a reason for that: they are simply spectacular.
The journey through the imaginatively lit cave system opens up fantastic displays of subterranean nature with various vast galleries of stalactites, stalagmites and water formations that are delivered to you in guided, language-specific groups which last around an hour.
The climax comes with a live classical music mini-concert at the amphitheatre situated in one of Europe’s largest underground lakes before the tour ends with an opportunity to travel across the lake by boat (or you can walk if you prefer).
There are the expected souvenir shops and a pretty fair café that you will probably end up having to patronise, as you need to turn up a reasonable amount of time before your tour starts.
That notwithstanding, if you can get there, go, it is worth the trip. And from the Caves you can do the easy walk to Porto Cristo itself, where, if the weather has brightened up, you can sit out to drink and eat along the waterside on either side of the inlet.
Rafa NadalSports Academy and Museum Sports fans will also want to head for Manacor, which is the birthplace of the Island’s most famous current sporting star, Tennis legend, Rafa Nadal and it is home to the excellent sports complex that bears his name.
The Rafa Nadal Academy, unsurprisingly, majors on Tennis, with courses of various types for all levels – both indoor and outdoor. It also offers football, various gym/athletics training activities, a full spa and its own restaurant. You can even stay there, with a range of accommodation available at the attached Rafa Nadal Sports Centre.
The complex has 26 tennis courts – including a show court – and it regularly hosts Professional ranking tournaments. In 2019, we watched Andy Murray play in a comeback tournament there and admission was free – the tournament being paid for by a local sponsor!
There is also an excellent Museum, (great for rainy days!), which celebrates sport of all types and, of course, has a section dedicated to tennis – and to Rafa Nadal himself. The Museum experience, however, goes much further than this, offering more than a dozen opportunities to try sport virtually. These range from Pro-cycling, through Hockey and Rowing, to trying your hand as a Tennis Umpire or driving a Formula 1 car.
Admission is typically €15 for adults and €10 for children (8-12).
Cocktails at the bizarre bar of Abaco in Palma
If you have the chance to get into Palma and aren’t worried about waking up early in the morning, one of the capital city’s most interesting late-night spots is Abaco, which is located in the Old City of Palma, not far from the city’s imposing cathedral.
From the outside it is pretty much a large door in a wall however, on entering, you are greeted by piles of fruit, and flowers everywhere, in an entrance lobby bar which, amazing as it truly is, still gives little clue about what the place is actually about
Moving through the bar leads you naturally to a courtyard with more tables, which is a good place to base yourself while you sample Abaco’s list of cocktails, desserts and pastries. From time to time people will appear on the balconies that face onto the courtyard (from the beautiful rooms of Abaco’s interior, which you can also visit while at Abaco) singing Opera arias to entertain the clientele. It’s certainly not cheap, and it doesn’t really get going until late, but the atmosphere is always cordial, buoyed by the music and it is certainly unlike any other cocktail bar you will find on the Island – or, for that matter, most anywhere else!.