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In Joan Miró’s old studio, surreal human forms are graffitied on to rough white walls. Far away on a sun-scorched hilltop, a bronze-age stone tower gathers dust. And in a tiny village surrounded by orange groves, a basket weaver lays out her wares on a market stall …
The elements that make up the culture of Majorca are disparate and beguiling, imbued with climatic heat and an exotic history.
Civilisations and their rulers have come and gone, leaving monoliths, ruins, olives and wine. Mystical Moorish architecture added intrigue to an already extravagantly beautiful landscape, 20th-century bohemian artists lent spirit and colour, and every aspect is interwoven with centuries-old artisan and culinary traditions.
So much history and creativity are packed into this zesty little island, full of natural beauty, that there is much to see, and always somewhere sensational to eat and drink close by.
Jet2holidays has an array of holidays that gives the freedom to explore everything Majorca has to offer – here are some unmissable experiences you can find on the diverse island.
Neolithic burial chambers and settlements are the island’s earliest evidence of habitation, and can still be seen at archaeological sites including Capocorb Vell, with 28 homes and five talayots – distinctive stone monuments. Roman occupation followed Phoenician, initially under the rule of Quintus Caecilius Metellus Balearicus, who gave the Balearic islands their name. The Romans left impressive sites, such as a forum, theatre and village at the Pollentia Roman ruins near Alcúdia. Olive farming is another legacy visitors appreciate enthusiastically today.
Sights to visit from the successive Moorish era include the vaulted remains of the tiny Arab Baths, in a garden of cacti, palms and orange trees, and the house and tropical planting of the Jardines de Alfàbia. Cuevas d’Artà, an incredible cave system near the medieval city of Capdepera, was used as a hideout by Arabs during the Christian conquests and is now colourfully illuminated to highlight bizarre rock formations and vast chambers.
Christian-era monasteries and castles are the highlight of several hiking routes, such as the Archduke Way, a dramatic trail in the Serra de Tramuntana mountains – a Unesco world heritage site – connecting the gorgeous village of Deià with the Carthusian Monastery of Valldemossa, home to a collection of manuscripts, paintings and personal objects that belonged to Frédéric Chopin and the writer George Sand, who spent a winter together here. For provisions, pick up sweet coca de patata pastries in Valldemossa’s bakeries, and order tapas in Deià’s outdoor restaurants.
Artà, a pretty town in the east, is home to the walled fortress and chapel of Sant Salvador, and great restaurants serving traditional dishes such as sucking-pig. Palma’s grandly gothic Cathedral of Mallorca is a must-see, and there are eight castles to visit across the island, including the 700-year-old Castell de Bellver, and Castell d’Alaró, with spectacular views and a mountain refuge serving simple snacks such as the Majorcan classic pa amb oli – bread rubbed with tomato, garlic and olive oil.
Art on the island
Though he was from Barcelona and spent most of his life there, the seminal surrealist artist Miró is considered Majorca’s most famous artist, for he made Palma his adoptive home in his 60s. His studios now form the Fundació Miró Mallorca, with galleries and a sculpture garden. Palma has many other wonderful galleries to spend a day or two touring, among them the contemporary Es Baluard Museu, which has pieces by Amedeo Modigliani and Pablo Picasso. For lunch, there are good-value seafood bistros in the fishermen’s district, Ciudad Jardín, or do as the locals do and hail a taxi to the suburb of Portixol, a former fishing village.
East of Palma, the pretty hilltop village of Andratx is another art hub, whose small galleries include the CCA, a contemporary exhibition space with paintings, installations and graphics. West of Palma, pretty Sa Pobla is home to the Can Planes Museum of Contemporary Art, which includes work by artists living in Majorca between 1970-1990.
Another day can be spent in the attractive honey-toned town of Sóller, where you can visit Can Prunera Sóller, a modern art museum in an art nouveau mansion where the original furniture sits alongside work by Miró, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Paul Klee. Sóller has a rich artistic heritage, and some fabulous restaurants – find them in palatial townhouses in the narrow backstreets behind the main square. Then it’s not far to Deià, to nose around the home of the poet Robert Graves, La Casa de Robert Graves, one of many bohemian creatives who’ve flocked to the island since the 1920s.
In normal non-pandemic times, several world-class music festivals erupt in the warmer months: the Deià International Music Festival from May-September, and the Chopin Festival, usually held in the cloister of the Carthusian monastery in Valldemossa in August.
Local culture and crafts
For a taste of island culture that’s alive and thriving today, venture beyond the beat of the city to the enchanting craft-making villages of the agricultural heartland. Santa Maria del Camí, in a rugged landscape dotted with old fincas and windmills, is a traditional town of artisans, farmers and wine-makers that’s famed for its textiles – specifically telas de lenguas, the “fabric of flames’, named for its pattern. As well as buying hand-spun cloth from boutiques, you can visit the Artesania Textil Bujosa factory to see how it’s made. Sunday is market day, when shoppers fill their straw baskets with traditional homewares, clothes, food and crafts, and treasure-hunt at the flea market in the nearby village of Consell.
The town of Inca, where Camper shoes are produced, is home to leather outlets. Nearby Audali is famed for its woven bags, and Caimari, on the way to the beaches of Alcúdia, for its olive oil.
The medieval town Sineu, with pretty yellow and pink buildings, is good for lace, leather and other crafts, with some charming outdoor cafes and excellent cellar restaurants serving authentic Mallorquín dishes such as frito Mallorquín – spiced potatoes – and almond cake. You’ll need to start this tour with empty bags and an empty stomach.
The modern package holiday is a very different beast from those of the past, especially one booked with Jet2holidays, which is renowned for its flexibility and customer service. Travellers can fly to Majorca from nine UK airports: London Stansted, Manchester, Leeds Bradford, Newcastle, East Midlands, Birmingham, Belfast International, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Visit jet2holidays.com/destinations/balearics/majorca for more information.