Think Mallorca, and cultural heritage is not the first thing that springs to mind. Three months ago, we examined—in an article here on EuroCheapo—how Mallorca is a favored spot for Z-List celebs to hang out their tired careers to dry. So those in search of fine landscapes and cultural history might be inclined to look to other Mediterranean islands.
UNESCO World Heritage
But think again. For Mallorca, the fourth most populous island in the Med (after Sicily, Sardinia and Cyprus), has a feast of fine mountain country and a remarkable mix of cultural landscapes. So much so that in 2011 UNESCO inscribed the Serra de Tramuntana—the hills that parallel the north-west coast of the island—on the List of World Heritage Sites.
Everything the poet might dream of
The UNESCO-designated area takes in old Moorish gardens, ancient agricultural terraces and water management systems, plus some dramatic mountain scenery around Mallorca’s highest summit at Puig Major. Europe’s literati discovered long ago that the Serra de Tramuntana is Mallorca’s trump card. It was 175 years ago this year, from fall 1838 until spring 1839, that George Sand and Frédéric Chopin overwintered in the hills. In her Un hiver à Majorque, Sand recalls that “Everything the poet or painter might dream of has been created here by nature.”
Another side of Mallorca
Drive the tortuous coast road out to the wild headland at Formentor (at the north-east extremity of the island), and you will surely agree with George Sand’s appraisal of Mallorca. For, yes, there is a redemptive Mallorca, a place apart from the tacky beach communities favored by the sun and sangria set. There are hilltop monasteries, fine country houses and excellent local markets—like the one held at Sineu every Wednesday morning.
The island boasts a vibrant wine industry too. Make for Binissalem to taste wines made of grape types that will probably be totally new to you: manto negro, callet or prensal blanc. And from there, head into the hills.
Slow down in Orient
Places on main roads, like Sóller, inevitably pull the crowds. So our favorite Mallorca hill community is Orient, in a remote valley on the edge of the mountains. There are apple orchards and olive groves, neat stone walls and elaborate tiers of terraces. The village is dedicated fair and square to tourism. The farmers have gone, so too has the priest, and most of the houses are now holiday homes. But it is a fine spot to slow down, relax, breathe in fresh mountain air and remind yourself that, despite the woeful spreads of dreary concrete beachfront hotels, Mallorca is still very much worth a visit.