Day 1. Arriving in Palma, Mallorca

We decided to exchange the chilly Easter weather of northern England for a week on the Mediterranean, staying on the largest of the Balearic Islands, Mallorca.  My husband hasn’t  visited Mallorca since he was 13 and following a weekend visit to the island last year with my younger son,  I’m hoping to convince him that it’s now an upscale destination and there is more to the island than just Magaluf and round the clock partying!

We booked flights from Leeds/Bradford airport (LBA) with the low cost airline Jet2 and drove to the airport by car.  LBA is my least favourite of UK regional airports, it lacks airside facilities and is cramped but it’s an easy drive from home and an 11.00 am departure time persuaded us to choose Leeds for this trip.

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Seafront, Palma
Our flight arrived into Palma on time and after a lengthy wait for our luggage we caught the airport bus (No.1) into the city centre.  The journey cost €3 each and took us very near to our hotel along the seafront, taking approximately 25 minutes.  Our hotel for the week was the Melia Palas Atenea overlooking Palma’s large marina.  I’d stayed in a Melia hotel on an earlier visit to Madrid and was impressed so I thought we’d try them again.  The hotel looked unpretentious from the roadside but stepping indoors we were impressed with the large open plan lounge.  Checking in was prompt and efficient and we soon had access to our comfortable and newly refurbished 7th floor room.  A quick look around the hotel and we found the main restaurant and bar on the second floor with panoramic views across the harbour.  Outdoors on the terrace we viewed the outdoor pool but I’m certain I won’t be using it in early April,  but it all looked very attractive.

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Palma Marina
By now it was 4.00 pm so we took a walk across the road alongside the large yacht harbour which stretched as far as the eye could see.  Husband was impressed and beng fond of sailing spent quite some time looking at yachts and daydreaming of owning one of them!  As there are around 3,000 boats moored here, he will have plenty of scope for more daydreaming as the week progresses.  Unfortunately it then started to rain so we couldn’t enjoy drinks out on a terrace today,  but hopefully we’ll make up for this later in the week.

Returning to our hotel we unpacked and freshened up before dinner which we had arranged to have in the hotel restaurant.  Husband had suggested booking half board which we finally opted for, but I was a little concerned in case dinner wasn’t up to our expectations having arranged it for 7 nights!

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Goats Cheese and Pine Nut Starter
After some pre dinner drinks we headed to the large restaurant and managed to secure the last window table.  The a la carte menu was extensive and so we had lots of options to select from. The food arrived beautifully plated and each course was delicious and so I was pleased that I had agreed to eating dinner in the hotel.   The restaurant wasn’t busy yet there were enough tables occupied to create a pleasant,  fine dining atmosphere.  After coffee in the lounge listening to a pianist playing a grand piano we retired to bed after a successful first day of our Easter break.

 

Day 2. Visiting Port D’Andratx

We woke to bright sunshine and there was no sign of yesterday’s late afternoon rain showers.   Although some tables had been set out on the terrace for breakfast everyone seemed to think it a little chilly and guests were all dining indoors.  Breakfast consisted of a large buffet along with show cooking for hot dishes and was all very good.

After a leisurely meal, we caught a bus from the hotel to Port D’Andratx, 20 miles away located in the south west corner of the island.  The journey took one hour but it didn’t seem to feel so long as the drive was very scenic, passing through orange and lemon groves as well as several small coastal resorts along the route.

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Port D’Andratx harbour
Port D’Andratx is a charming small town overlooking a large sheltered natural harbour with a back drop of mountains.  There are no large hotels here but instead you will find some very attractive pastel coloured buildings containing an assortment of smart shops, cafes and restaurants.  Leading up from the harbour are some narrow cobbled streets with some more shops and cafes.

The harbour moorings are home to some very expensive yachts and tucked into the hillside above,  some stylish villas can be found with enviable views from their patios and terraces.  Being much warmer today we sat outdoors and enjoyed drinks in the spring sunshine.

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Coffee overlooking g the pretty harbour
On returning into Palma we took a look around the impressive Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral, La Seu which dominates the waterfront.  This part of the old town contains some other beautiful sandstone buildings including the museum.

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La Seu, Palma Cathedral
The mid afternoon sunshine seemed to make these sandstone buildings glow in the bright light and we spent some time wandering the labyrinth of narrow alleyways in the old town and enjoying drinks in the main square.  We returned to the hotel to find that our balcony was bathed in sunshine so we relaxed before dinner catching the last of the early evening sun.

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City Walls, Palma

 

Day 3. Castell de Bellver, Palma

From our hotel room we could see Bellver Castle on the hilltop  so after breakfast we decided to walk up and take a look.  It’s quite a steep climb, first along a road and then up very many stone steps to the castle entrance.  It was another sunny morning but the cooler days of April made it ideal for hill walking in the Mediterranean.   Arriving at the castle gates there were several events taking place and small stalls selling drinks and locally made produce.  We soon discovered that it was the ‘Fiesta of the Guardian Angel of Palma’ which takes place on the first Sunday after Easter and is held at Bellver Castle each year.

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Giant sized figures outside the castle gates
Although the event was taking place we were still able to go inside the Gothic sandstone castle which was built in the 14th century.  Walking across the drawbridge we found tables set out with chess sets and families taking part in a competition.  The centrepiece  of the castle consists of an ornate circular room and this morning a large choir were performing so we stopped awhile to listen which was a delight.   Small exhibition rooms lead off this central area which can be visited and information boards were also printed in English which helped us understand a little about the castle’s history.   Steep stone steps lead up to the balcony and  a further flight lead out onto the roof.   From the roof there were far reaching views over the harbour and across the mountain range in the distance.  We could also see down into the auditorium where the choir were performing.

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Choir performing inside the castle
Leaving the castle, lots more people were arriving for the festival.  A band were performing on a stage in the castle grounds and a children’s cycle race was underway.  An organiser told us that upwards of 20,000 people were likely to attend during the course of the day so we were very fortunate to have been able to have seen a small part of the festival for ourselves.  As I have mentioned previously one of the joys of independent travelling is discovering the unexpected and that is exactly what happened to us this morning.

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Main Square (Placa Major) Palma
Instead of walking down the stone steps we took the longer forest path to obtain a different view on the way back.   We spent the afternoon in Palma town centre strolling along the narrow alleyways of the old town, browsing in small shops and stopping for drinks in the main square Placa Major which was extremely quiet, presumably everyone had decided to spend their Sunday afternoon enjoying the festivities at the castle.

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Gardens alongside the city walls
We had dinner once again in the hotel restaurant, my main course of sea bass being cooked to perfection.

 

 

Day 4. Vintage Train to Soller

After watching a BBC television series entitled ‘Great Continental Railway Journeys’ which featured a delightful old wooden train that runs between Palma and Soller we wanted to take a ride on it ourselves.

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Inside the front carriage
The train line was established in 1929 to link Palma with the north west coast of the island.  Trains depart from its own attractive heritage station which is just across the road from the city’s main line station in Placa D’Espana.   A return ticket including a ride on the old wooden tram between Soller and Puerto Soller costs €30 per person but do remember to bring along sufficient cash as the booking office does not accept card payments.  Details of the Soller railway can be found here.

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Beautiful scenery along the vintage rail route
The electric trains run on a narrow gauge track (914mm).  We boarded the first train of the day at 10.10 am as we were staying nearby at a hotel in Palma.  The vintage trains have several carriages and as we arrived early we managed to get seats in the front one as this was the original first class coach which had superior seats and light fittings.  The other carriages also have wooden panelling and are attractive but not quite as comfortable as the front one.

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Main Square, Soller
The journey to Soller takes around an hour and makes a couple of brief stops at viewpoints for passengers to alight and take photographs in addition to scheduled stops at a few stations along the way.   As the train travels at quite a slow pace I also managed to take some photos from the open window.   The journey starts along a road out of the city centre passing outer suburbs and industrial zones but on leaving the city the scenery dramatically improves.   The small train travels through the Tramuntana Mountains twisting and turning on its uphill journey, passing through several tunnels hewn out of rock, one of which is quite long.  On arrival in the pretty village of Soller we decided to firstly take the little old tram along to Puerto Soller and then look around Soller before boarding the train back to Palma.

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Tram from Sollet to Puerto Soller
The old wooden tram is also delightful,  there’s a tram stop just outside the station and the journey along the 4.6 km track to Puerto Soller takes a further 20 minutes.  The tram rattles along through Soller’s main square almost touching tables and chairs as it winds its way through the village and out through fields of orange and lemon groves before arriving along Puerto Soller’s seafront where it continues around the bay, terminating by the marina.  This tram service has operated between Soller and Puerto Soller since 1913 and as well as carrying passengers it was also used to bring freshly caught fish back from the port   The tram is scheduled to make 14 stops along its route but I only noticed passengers getting on and off at each end of the line.

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Puerto Soller
Puerto Soller is a charming small coastal town with a wide sweeping bay,  has an attractive marina and the promenade is lined with stylish cafes and restaurants.  We strolled through the town and along the seafront where we spotted two brave people taking a swim and a few others sitting on the beach .  After enjoying coffee and churros dipped in chocolate sauce we caught the tram back to Soller.

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Tram passing close to the tables where we ate lunch in Soller
Soller was bustling with life, people enjoying the early afternoon sun sitting out at pavement cafes (it felt quite warm here, around 20 degrees) to cyclists clad in lycra taking a short break from their hill climbs.  It’s a picture perfect village and although busy it seems to have not lost any of its charm, welcoming visitors without becoming over touristy.  There was time for us to enjoy drinks and tapas sitting outdoors watching the trams clatter along before we returned to Palma for our return journey on the vintage train.

I’d highly recommend taking this train and tram journey if ever you are visiting Mallorca as it has definitely been a highlight so far during our stay,  and as well as riding the vintage train and tram, both Soller and Puerto Soller are certainly attractive small towns to visit, too.

Day 5. Exploring Alcudia

Whilst eating breakfast we watched two large cruise liners come into port but it was a rainy start to the day so the passengers wouldn’t being seeing Palma at its best.  Our plan for today was to visit Alcudia situated in the north east of the island.  We travelled by TIB bus who operate longer distance bus services across the island, buses depart from Palma’s Intermodal Train & Bus station at Playa D’Espana.  Alcudia is 50 km from Palma and the journey by motorway takes one hour,  stopping only once in Inca.  Fares are inexpensive, costing only €5.30 per person for a single journey (return tickets are unavailable).

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The Walled Gates of Alcudia
Alcudia is a medieval walled town on the site of a Roman settlement.  Fortunately the rain stopped as we were wandering around and so we found Alcudia to be a delightful place with its maze of narrow streets enclosed by city walls which have been carefully restored retaining its original charm.  We climbed the old stone steps onto the Roman walls where it’s possible to walk most of the way around the town and take in the views over the labyrinth of narrow stone alleyways as we strolled along (see feature photo).

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Alcudia Market
A large weekly market was taking place today (Tuesday) and another is held each Sunday.  The small town was bustling with activity and the market centred on the main square had more stalls set out along adjoining roads.  I liked browsing the fresh produce and flowers but a large proportion of the market was given over to cheap tourist tat which wasn’t of much interest to us but seemed popular.  There are lots of inviting cafes, bars and restaurants dotted around and we enjoyed a leisurely lunch of tapas in one of them.

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Attractive narrow stone streets of Alcudia
On returning to Palma we wandered around the old town and stopped for drinks along the Paseo Maritimo (seafront) where we could sit and watch the yachts bobbing about in the harbour.  It was certainly much busier in Palma today with the two large cruise ships in port, it was just a pity that none of us saw much Mallorcan sunshine today!

 

Day 6. Valldemossa & Palma

A lovely sunny morning for a visit to the village of Valldemossa in the Tramuntana Mountains, 17 km north west of Palma.  We travelled there by TIB bus from Palma’s central bus station at Playa D’Espanya, the journey taking only 30 minutes and the bus stopping just once at the island’s university UIB.  The campus is located in beautiful countryside yet is only 15 minutes from the centre of Palma.

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Valldemossa, Mallorca
We fell in love with Valldemossa as soon as we stepped off the bus, cobbled streets with delightful light stone buildings and old fashioned wrought iron street lamps give the feeling that time has passed the village by.  It was still only 10.30 am when we arrived and there were few people about apart from a group of cyclists who were sitting outside one of the cafes enjoying a well earned rest after tackling the steep ascent into the village.  Mallorca seems a popular spring  and autumn destination for cycling holidays and what could be nicer than planning routes through charming villages such as Valldemossa.

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Valldemossa
Wandering through the village we came to the Cartuja monastery where Frederick Chopin spent some time with his French lover Aurore Dupin (better known as George Sand) after moving from a palatial villa on the outskirts of Palma.  On the edge of the town there are splendid views of the lush hillside which has been cultivated into terraces so that fruit trees can be grown there.

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Valldemossa church
We boarded a bus back to Palma at 1.00 pm and noticed that the village had become much busier as numerous tour buses had arrived, so if you have the opportunity to arrive by mid morning it would be preferable before the tour groups arrive.

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Palma Cathedral
Back in Palma we took a look in the Olivar market hall which is located quite near Playa d’Espanya  bus station and is open between 7.00 am and 2.30pm and on Fridays from 2.30 pm until 8.00 pm.  In the main hall fresh fruit and vegetables are piled high,  huge earthenware pots filled with olives are very tempting and next door in the fish market there is so much fish on offer with varieties unknown to me which I wouldn’t even know how to cook – but all interesting to observe.

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Palma Paseo Maritim
Palma was much quieter today as unlike yesterday there are no cruise ships in port.  We enjoyed drinks and pinchos (tapas) in the warm spring sunshine before having a leisurely walk through the old town towards the cathedral before taking the  seafront route back to our hotel.  It takes around 30 minutes gentle walking back to The Melia Palas Atenea allowing for brief stops to admire yachts along the way.

 

Day 7. Santa Ponca Bay

Another warm, sunny morning so our plan was to take a walk along the waterfront at Santa Ponca.  Buses run from the Paseo Maritim (seafront) in Palma just outside our hotel and there are two options, a direct service by motorway taking around 20 minutes or the coastal route which takes one hour.  We opted for the slower, scenic route on our outbound journey which passes along Palma’s waterfront, port and a few pretty little coves before driving through the urban sprawl of the twin resorts of Palma Nova and Magalluf which nowadays merge into one.

We had no wish to spend time in either of these resorts but thought it would be interesting to pass through on the bus and take a quick look for ourselves.  There is still much evidence of the late 60’s early 70’s hotel building boom under General Franco when package holidays first became popular with ‘concrete monstrosity’ hotels crammed close together.  Along the seafront there are the usual seaside gift shops, bars and cafes but the majority of the bars seemed to be either English or Irish serving full English breakfasts and fish and chips rather than tapas and local cuisine.  Obviously it still provides many visitors with a fun filled holiday but it’s  definitely not for us and a few minutes later the bus was heading inland across the peninsula to our destination Santa Ponca.

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Santa Ponca Bay
 It’s a pleasant resort with a wide sweeping bay and we followed the coastal path to the rocky headland where the path came to an end.  On the sandy beach some families were enjoying the warm spring sunshine and we found several attractive beach bars to choose from for our morning cups of coffee.  Before heading back to Palma we took a look around the town but we found the shops quite disappointing, they were a step up from those in Palma Nova and Magalluf but quite touristy compared to other resorts we’d visited earlier in the week.  Still, we were pleased with our visit as Santa Ponca is located in a beautiful setting.  We returned to Palma on the direct service (the same price as the slower bus, only €3.50 each).

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Paseo Maritim,  Palma’s seafront promenade
We spent the next couple of hours shopping in Palma and having a late lunch in one of the many attractive tapas bars in the old town.  On returning to the hotel we both had a short rest on our sunny balcony before taking a pre dinner stroll along the marina as far as the cruise terminal.   We hadn’t walked in this direction before as its the opposite way to the city centre.  There were lots of yachts and motor cruisers to view and dream about owning if only we could perhaps win the lottery!  A huge MSC cruise liner was in port carrying almost 4,000 passengers,  as we approached it was hard to believe how large the ship really was.

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Palma Marina with cruise ship

Our final dinner in the hotel’s restaurant this evening, my confit of duck tasted delicious.  I’ll miss all the lovely cooking when we return home tomorrow!

Day 8. Our Final Day in Palma

As our return flight to the UK wasn’t scheduled to depart until 4.00 pm we had plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast overlooking the harbour.   It was a dull, cloudy morning and for the first time this week I felt a bit chilly going outdoors in just a lightweight dress and cardigan.  Our first stop on our morning stroll was to the Mercat de Santa Catalina mid way between our hotel and the city centre.

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Colourful vegetables in the market
We were expecting this to be quite a basic market compared to the larger one in the city centre, Mercat de Olivar which we’d visited earlier in the week.  We were in for a pleasant surprise as we actually thought the Santa Catalina market was much better and more attractive than the main one.  In addition to food stalls we spotted a smart sushi bar and some inviting coffee bars and delis.  We then wandered along the narrow lanes through the old town for one last glimpse of Palma’s beautiful gothic cathedral  before heading back to the hotel along the seafront.

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Iberian ham in the market
After lunch we checked out of our hotel the Melia Palas Atenea.  Overall our stay was extremely good,  the room being modern and spacious and meals of a high quality.   It’s a very large hotel catering for conference delegates as well as tourists so it could perhaps feel impersonal when busy.  As we were visiting in low season it was fairly quiet, especially in the restaurant, a bonus as we always managed to get a harbour view table for dinner so that we could watch the sun set whilst enjoying our meal.

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Palma
Returning to the airport was easy as we were able to catch a direct bus from just across the road.  We boarded our flight on time but then had to sit on the aircraft  for 90 minutes before departure whilst an electrical fault on the flight deck was attended to, still it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Our week in Mallorca was very enjoyable and my husband who had originally been reluctant to visit agreed that Palma was stylish and sophisticated and the other small towns we visited very pleasant, too!