Cultural landscapes in Mallorca: Beyond the beaches

Posted in: Spain


Cap de Formentor - Mallorca's wild north-east corner. Photo: © hidden europe
Cap de Formentor - Mallorca's wild north-east corner. Photo: © hidden europe

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.

Mallorca map

The island of Mallorca with places mentioned in the post. Photo: © hidden europe

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.

Orient Mallorca

The village of Orient in the shadow of the Serra de Tramuntana. Photo: © hidden europe

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.

About the author


About the authors: Nicky and Susanne manage a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine.

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2 thoughts on “Cultural landscapes in Mallorca: Beyond the beaches”

  1. Hey, Mallorca. I love this side of the island described in this post. The mountains are popular with walkers from Britain and Scandinavia. Beats just lieing on the beach. There’s a different vibe in the hills than in those endless reorts on the coast where the beach crowd bore the socks of each other.

  2. Pingback: Cultural landscapes in Mallorca: Beyond the beaches | Globe Trotting Winos Guide to Frugal Travel

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