Off season Mallorca will steal your heart. Discover unique things to do in Mallorca and decide which of the best places to stay in Mallorca is a fit.
Don’t you love it when you arrive at a destination you’ve never visited and right away you can’t believe your luck? Off season Mallorca was like that for us. We discovered unique things to do in Mallorca which were much more fun in the off season when we didn’t have to share them with crowds of tourists.
And, we developed our own ideas about the best places to stay in Mallorca which counter the objections many people have about the small island, a popular tourist destination which attracts tons of Northern European visitors in the high season.
“I live where I would like to live. I live in Mallorca, Spain, and I am not sure there are better places.” Rafael Nadal
Redeeming timeshare exchanges can be somewhat of a crapshoot. When a place in off season Mallorca popped up, budget plane fare sealed the deal. Our hearts were stolen by this this largest of the Balearic islands in the Mediterranean, as others have been. But we realize we were lucky enough to get an experience in a peaceful place many (and there are very many in high season!) visitors never have.
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To commemorate, we’ve recently published this handsome calendar with our favorite images of some of the best spots on the Spanish island of Mallorca. Click here for for details and purchase information.
We spent two weeks on Mallorca and found it a great place to find our way around to the best areas. It was easy and cheap to rent a car. Driving on the right cancelled out the language issues and helped us avoid public transportation.
(Hint: even though native Mallorcans speak a Catalán dialect as their first language, your high school Spanish will do just fine.)
We tried to get to opposite sides of the island during our stay and succeeded. Mallorca is divided into regional districts called camarques, with each camarca having a town or village seat, much like counties do in the U.S.
Unique Things to Do in Mallorca
During our off season Mallorca stay, we chose smaller towns and villages, quieter roads, and leisurely outings to beautiful beaches. These turned out to be what we think is a more authentic experience. Even so, there is a great variety of unique things to do in Mallorca. Some of the best tours in Mallorca will incorporate many of our recommendations, so where appropriate, we’ll insert links for your perusal.
Wander virtually alone in off season Mallorca down backroads and byways leading to Roman ruins and prehistoric megaliths.
Mallorca is an island built with stone. Stone walls line narrow country roads. They divide fields, orchards, and olive groves, and they terrace mountainsides. You’ll be humbled, as we were, by the realization that everything you see was gathered, cut and placed by hand.
“With the time the stone, specially the part exposed on the sea side, has acquired a pretty shining golden-yellow colour which gives a delightful glow to the whole building; particularly when it is illuminated by the sun a charming hot and light shadow is lit that can only be given to the stone by the weather and the south.” Arxiduc Lluís Salvador
Remnants of previous civilizations are wondrously accessible as modern life goes on around them. The taliots of Capocorb Vell, dating from the Iron Age, were steps away from our favorite little roadside restaurant in rural Llucmajor camarca.
Pollentia is the most significant archaeological site on Mallorca from Roman times. The site, while still under partial excavation, is ideal for visitors, with a looping path to the various parts of the former city. When we visited, there were less than half a dozen others on the site.
Founded in the first century B.C., Pollentia was the island capital until the 5th century Vandal invasion. You’ll see the remains of housing, public buildings including a temple, and a small amphitheater which was later used as a cemetery.
Imagine Barbary pirates, invaders and smugglers. Strategically located, Mallorca has been invaded over the centuries by Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Moors, Normans, and Bourbons, to name just a few. Built for protection and communication, Mallorca’s medieval watch towers remain scattered all over the island.
Mallorcans could defend and broadcast warnings using smoke or fire from coastal towers. These were strategically placed using sophisticated calculations designed by mathematician Joan Baptista Binimelis in the 16th century.
Tip: Arrange a Boat Tour. Boat trips can be booked from various parts of the island, including beach resorts. Enjoy an exciting day at sea in a stylish sports boat or catamaran, past private, picturesque bays in which you can swim and snorkel in shallow waters off white sandy beaches. Most include Mediterranean lunch with local wines and beer. Click here for more info and pricing.
Individual landholders also built towers which are now mimicked as elements in modern architecture.
Pirates and smugglers throughout the centuries have used Mallorca’s calas (coves) along the coastline as places to cache their loot and evade capture. It’s hard to imagine prettier hideouts. Famous artists, writers and composers often escaped to the warmer Mediterranean climate, which made it a popular place in winter. It’s easy to see how inspiring the surroundings might be to a creative, as well as the perfect place to provide the privacy that many craved.
Island Tour of Charming Villages – Begin in Palma to visit the artists’ village of Deia and the scenic roads of the Costa Norte which connect Son Marroig and Sóller. In Sóller, board the tram to the Port. Click here for more information and pricing.
“It is one of those views that completely overwhelm one, for it leaves nothing to be desired and nothing to the imagination. All that a poet or a painter might dream of, Nature has created here.” – George Sand, who spent a winter here with her lover, Frederic Chopin, in the 19th century.
Valldemossa Half-Day Tour from South Mallorca – A five-hour excursion to one of the most beautiful villages in Mallorca, where Frederic Chopin spent the winter of 1838-39 in a former royal residence which had been converted to a monastery in the 14th century. Click here for more information and pricing.
Tip: Choose a Sea and Mountain Full Day Tour (new tour) – Travel along the stunning west coast of Mallorca, visiting charming towns and enjoying the breathtaking vistas. Click here for more information and pricing.
Sample Hierbas de Mallorca. This is a delicious herbal liqueur, unique to the island. At the close of our first meal on Mallorca, the bill was presented on a tray with two snifters containing a bright green liqueur. “What is this?” we wondered. “To your health!” was the reply. Outstanding was our verdict.
Tunel, the most common brand, dates from the 1890’s, but the liqueur has been around since the 13th century when distillation methods were improved. The predominant note is anise, but other aromatic plants such as lemon verbena, rosemary, camomile, and fennel are also used and sometimes appear in the bottle.
Traditional Hierbas Liquor Making Class – A half-day in the Serra de Tramontana hills, shopping and hiking for herbs, with Spanish-style sunset snack and a take-home, personalized bottle of hierbas. Click here for more information and pricing.
Don’t worry about running into lots of tourists. Particularly Americans: they’re few and far between. More than 10 million tourists come to Mallorca each year, the vast majority of them in the summer. Americans don’t even number in the top ten countries from which tourists come.
Germany takes first place with 3.7 million German tourists per year. The UK comes in next with 2.1 million. Most of the tourists we encountered were German and Italian. Don’t get us wrong, we love our countrymen! But sometimes it’s nice to be the only ones, too. Off-season Mallorca is better without having to fight a crowd.
Half-Day Tour to the Caves of Hams – Start from the south of Mallorca to the Caves of Hams, first opened to the public in 1910. See the underground “Sea of Venice” with illuminated stalactites and stalagmites. Includes a stop at the Pearl Exhibition. Includes transportation in air-conditioned bus. Click here for more information and pricing.
Caves of Drach and Mallorca’s East Full-Day Tour – Includes a stop in Manacor at the famous Pearl Shop for browsing. Your visit to the famous Caves of Drach on the east coast includes a leisurely walk underground and a magical concert by the lake. Half or full day options available. Full day includes lunch and leisure in Porto Cristo. Transportation by coach and insurance included. Click here for more information and pricing.
Half-Day Catamaran Tour with Buffet Meal – Sail out of the Bay of Palma to serene Cala Vella for swimming and snorkeling, then enjoy a delicious buffet of local favorites. Click here for more information and pricing.
Best Things to Do in Mallorca for Foodies and Wine Lovers
Indulge in world-class cuisine and fine wines served in very unexpected places. We really didn’t know what to expect when it came to food and wine on Mallorca, but we should have told ourselves, “It’s Spain, the food and wine will be amazing.” And it is.
4-Hour Private Wine Tour with Tasting and Tapas – Visit a Mallorquin vineyard to learn about winemaking and aging, then taste a variety of wines with tapas. Click here for more information and pricing.
On the Trail of the Wine – An 8 hour excursion by air-conditioned mini bus to the La Raixa estate farm in the center of Mallorca to Santa Maria to learn viticulture from a quality producer. Taste regional specialties and try different wines, enjoy a guided cellar tour and a picnic in an idyllic village square. Go on to discover another winery in a beautiful valley for more tasting and gastronomy pairings. Click here for more information and pricing.
From the most out of the way location you might imagine (try literally on the side of a mountain) to restaurants in a former bank, theatre or even almond press, the culinary scene in Mallorca is superb. And inexpensive! Feast your eyes here and check individual restaurant information at the end of this post for details.
Best Things to Do in Mallorca for Foodies
One of of the best things to do in Mallorca in the off season is to enjoy the undivided attention of a good chef and his staff in one of the many outstanding restaurants on the island. Not having to vie for reservations or preferred seatings is one of the great pleasures in life.
But, discovering wonderful restaurants is only part of what draws foodies to Mallorca. There are many guided experiences which will introduce or re-acquaint you with the Spanish, Catalan and Basque influences that comprise the gastronomic scene here.
Whether it’s tapas or their Basque cousins, the pinchos (or pintxos in Catalan), Iberian ham, or regional specialties such as roasted goat or flavorful paella, you’re sure to return home satiated.
The following are our recommendations for the best food tours on Mallorca:
Popular Food and Gourmet Tours in Mallorca – Hands-on foodie adventures with local wines and specialties. Choose from different tapas tours or visit the wine country interior of the island. Click here for more information and pricing.
Evening Culinary Tour in Palma – A four hour tour through historical and culinary Palma with pinchos, tapas, and dessert tastings. Visit the city’s hippest bars and idyllic locations. Includes multiple stops. Click here for more information and pricing.
Palma: Paella Cooking Masterclass with Valencian Chef (new tour) – You are going to want to cook paella after you return home from your trip, so why not learn with the best? Visit the home of your chef and enjoy a welcome starter, cocktail, paella of your choice and dessert. Click here for more information and pricing.
Discover Spectacular Scenery on Mallorca
Go up and down the mountains. Many summer tourists never leave the beachside cities. They may arrive by cruise ship and have a shore excursion in Palma or go north from the airport to Alcúdia’s glamorous hotel strip. Others ensconce in smaller resorts along the many calas (coves) to sunbathe and relax. We recommend you head for the hills.
Full Day Tour of Mallorca – Drive along the magnificent and dramatic cliffs of the coastal Serra de Tramuntana mountain range, exploring the Pareis Gorge and La Calobra, ride the 1912 vintage train and sail along the west coast by boat. Lunch in La Calobra or Puerto Soller. Includes all transport, guide, and insurance. Click here for more information and pricing.
The serpentine road to Sa Calobra in the Escorca camarca is a breathtaking climb with a 270 degree loop under itself (called “the knotted tie”) at its highest point. Then you make your way down again through the Torrent de Pareis gorge, sometimes called Mallorca’s Grand Canyon. Drive it yourself as we did (well, Pete did the driving and I did the gasping), or take a bus tour. We passed many intrepid cyclists on this road and thought they were insane.
Tip: The best tours in Mallorca offer convenient pickup and return, comfortable transportation, English speaking guides and time to soak in the experience.
Make the climb to the Santuari de Sant Salvador on the highest point of the Serra de Llevant in the Felanitx camarca. You can do this on foot if you’re a hardy pilgrim, as there are beautiful tile stations of the cross to mark your way. If you’re a cyclist, you’ll get a different workout and an exhilarating ride back down. Needless to say, we drove. The reward? Beautiful religious monuments, views to forever, a former monastery turned hotel, and a lovely restaurant.
Take the historic train, Ferrocarril de Sóller, from Palma to Sóller. From the train station, you can take a tram to Port de Sóller on the water. Sóller boasts a beautiful church designed by Gaudí in the center of town. On your way back, make time to enjoy the free art exhibitions in the train station. It’s an unexpected way to get a dose of Miró and Picasso. This train has been in operation since 1912.
Tramontana Tour with Historic Railway Ride – Ride the historic railway from Palma to Sóller, and the tram in the historic Port. A picturesque ride through orange groves and almond fields to Bunyola. Includes ice cream sample, 3-course meal, artists’ colony visit, and additional refreshments at La Residencia, which contains a world-renowned art collection featuring works of Miro and Picasso. In Valdemossa, wander through the museum and see the cloister where Chopin lived and worked. Click here for more information and pricing.
Vintage train to Sóller on your own: Ferrocarril de Sóller S.A., Central Offices and Sóller Station, Plaça d’Espanya, 6., 07100 Sóller. Phone: 971-630130. Station Palma de Mallorca, Eusebio Estada, 1., 07004 Palma de Mallorca. Phone: 971-752051 y 971-752028 Trains run daily, except during January. Check website for schedules and fares.
Hang out in a vintage village. Probably the most popular is the Old Town of Alcúdia, a 14th century walled village with towers at each corner. Old Town is literally across the street from the Roman ruins of Pollentia, so it’s a good place to make a wonderful day of it, as we did.
Sleepy little villages like Santanyí on the southeast side of the island don’t get many visitors in the off season.
Our favorite day of the two weeks we spent on Mallorca occurred in the perhaps-overlooked town of Llucmajor, located in the south central island camarca of the same name. Like most villages, life centers around the central plaza here.
On the day we visited Llucmajor, what appeared to be a fundraising event turned into an impromptu street dance. A traditional Mallorquí xeremier band (a xeremia is similar to the bagpipes, and the flabiol they play is like an ocarina or recorder) got things going.
The dance troupe and musicians encouraged all to participate.
I kept thinking of 5th grade in the U.S., when we were forced to square dance. How everyone hated it! But everybody – all ages! – in Llucmajor seemingly loved the traditional dancing. What a sense of community!
Best Places to Stay in Mallorca
Unlike most visitors, we didn’t spend much time in the main city of Palma at all. Nor did we care to visit the popular resort area with luxury hotels and restaurant strip along the North Shore in new Alcúdia. We could see how those areas could easily get crowded and emit a different kind of energy than we prefer, particularly in the high season.
But the best places to stay in Palma de Mallorca will have a different vibe in off season Mallorca, so don’t rule them out. You may want to visit our post, Mallorca Calas: Our Favorites, to see whether a smaller community might resonate.
Things to Do in Palma de Mallorca
Some of the best places to stay in Mallorca, particularly in the off season when the crowds have gone home, are located in the capital city of Palma de Mallorca and surrounding area. This is where you’ll fly in, and some people would just prefer to hang out close by with easy access, particularly if they haven’t rented a car.
Many of the best hotels in Mallorca will arrange shuttles or other transportation for guests who want to sightsee, go to the Playa de Palma beach, or go out for the evening.
Among the best things to do in Palma de Mallorca is a city tour. Worthy of note:
- One of the first things you might notice in Palma is the enormous 13th century Cathedral of Santa Maria which overlooks the bay.
- Right next door is the Almudaina,which was built in the Moorish style by Arab conquerors to serve as a fort, and claimed by the Spanish royal family as their residence in the early 14th century.
- Bellver Castle, also built in the Gothic style was built in the 1300s. Its imposing presence overlooks the city from a western hilltop.
- The Plaza Mayor is the historic city square in Palma. It hosts a pre-eminent craft market and is home to shops and restaurants.
- The 15th century Lonja de Mallorca is a civic building rendered in the Gothic style.
- The 13th century convent and Basilica of Sant Francesc has a cloister built in the Gothic style and baroque embellishments.
- Notable museums: The Museo de Mallorca traces culture and history. Fundacio Miro holds the artist’s workshop and studio. Museu Fundacion Juan Marche holds a 20th century collection of art and sculpture.
- Banos Aribes are the remains of traditional Arabian public baths
- Concerts and the occasional bullfight are held in the Plaza de Toros (built in 1929), which seats 10,000.
Consider the following tours and excursions in Palma for an immersive experience:
Palma: Guided Bicycle Tour of Old Town and Bellver Castle – Short distance biking with an experienced guide to the important buildings, monuments and Beliver Castle. Small group tour includes bike, helmet, and insurance. Click here for more information and pricing.
Palma Walking Tour with Mediterranean Delicacies – Combine history and culinary interests in this three hour insider’s look at the historic Old City, its cathedral and fishing trade, with a visit to the Mercat de L’Olivar to admire and try Mediterranean delicacies and regional products. Click here for more information and pricing.
Son Amar Evening Show & Platinum Dinner – An unforgettable evening with spectacular flamenco, modern ballet, magic and cabaret includes view dinner seats including drinks. Transport in air-conditioned coach, guide, and insurance included. Click here for more information and pricing.
Practicalities, Tips and Information:
We arrived in mid-April, just after the almond trees had finished flowering. Many guides suggest booking your stay during the month of March for the bloom. Others recommend the fall.
We encountered many cyclists on the roads. It’s a popular time for them to come ahead of the tourist traffic and before the summer weather turns hot, so be warned. Swimming pools and sea water are cold (by our standards, at least), although brave European kids of all ages were in the water.
Capocorb Vell Archaeological Site, located off Highway Ma6014, Kilometer 23, Llucmajor. Admission fee: around €5
Museu Monográfic de Pollèntia I Zona Arqueològica, Major, 9 – 07400, Alcúdia. Tel. 971 89 71 02 Downloadable guide. Admission fee: €7
Restaurant Escorca, Ma10 Highway, Escorca. Tel. 971 517 09
Año 1849 Restaurant, Plaça Major, 22, Santanyí, Tel. 971 653 823
Bistro 1909, Facebook Page, two locations on Plaça de Constitution, Old Town, Alcúdia. Tel. 971 54 95 88
Restaurante Ca’s Busso, Carretera Cap Blanc (Ma6014), Km 24, 07609 Llucmajor. Tel. 971 12 30 02
Café Colón, Plaza España No. 17, 07620, Llucmajor. Tel. 971 660 002