Outdoor Mallorca

Getting back to nature on Spain's rocky Mediterranean island
  |  Gorp.com
Es Barranc and L'Ofre
The paved footpath of Es Barranc and L'Ofre trail

Peering out the window of the plane from Barcelona, I saw the island suddenly emerge from the deep, turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, its rough, rocky peaks stretching from sea to sky. And between these rugged peaks, alpine lakes lay cradled, their aqua green surface a stark contrast to the sandy, brown mountains of the Tramuntana range.

We flew, then, past the mountains and over the interior of the small island lush, green, sparsely-settled farmland finally landing just outside the coastal city of Palma, the capital of the sun-kissed Spanish isle of Mallorca.

Many come to Mallorca with visions of miles of sandy beaches, dance-until-dawn nightclubs, tapas and sangria. Indeed, you'll find all these things, either in Palma or in the sleepy towns that skirt the island's craggy coastline. Yet, it was the promise of a different kind of adventure that drew me to this jewel of the Balearic isles. The Tramuntana mountain range rises to nearly 5,000 feet at Puig Major, providing plenty of opportunities for hikers seeking stunning views of the rocky coastline. Mallorca is a mecca for cyclists, as well; its mild Mediterranean weather and rolling hills providing excellent opportunities for adventurers on two wheels. Others enjoy the birding, beaches, scuba diving, sailing, and golf that Mallorca has to offer.

Whatever your reason for going to Mallorca, visitors soon discover that this island is rich with history and culture. The most obvious thing you'll notice is the language. Although people who live in Mallorca usually speak Castilian Spanish (and those who cater to tourists speak a dizzying array of languages), the native tongue of the Balearic islands is Catalan, and the local dialect is Mallorqumn. This language, which the Balearic people made official after the death of Franco and the federalization of Spain, looks and sounds something like a mixture of Spanish and French.

In the architecture of the island, too, you'll see a variety of influences. The Romans, recognizing the strategic location of Mallorca, established a military post here. Later, the Moors put their stamp on the island, calling it Medina Mayurka and growing Palma into a major seaport. In 1229, Spain conquered the Moorish stronghold. Until the 16th century, when Spain began concentrating on the New World, Mallorca functioned as a major port of call between Europe and North Africa. More recently, in the 1960's, a boom in tourism and development shaped the island, as towers of steel and concrete sprung up along the coast. Despite the development, much of the island maintains its picturesque beauty. You'll find cozy villages tucked away in valleys all along Mallorca's coastlines, where visitors spend enchanted hours strolling along narrow, winding streets.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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