Monday, October 17, 2016

Majorcan Adventures: Hiking and Driving the Wild Coast

Yesterday I returned home from my all-too brief visit to Majorca, Spain's beautiful and enchanting Mediterranean island paradise. If you've ready my previous two articles about that experience (Part 1 and Part 2 here) was a relaxing one, during which my traveling companions and I enjoyed camping the local food and wine, while soaking up plenty of history and culture as well. But, it wasn't all just about eating and drinking while basking in the Mediterranean sun. We also enjoyed some active escapes as well, including hiking and driving some of the most scenic coastlines I have ever encountered.

For our trip to Majorca we enjoyed a stay in an amazing villa located in the town of Pollença. Our accommodations for the trip were provided by Travelopo, a website that specializes in providing luxury villa rentals not only on the Spanish island, but in other amazing European destinations as well, including France, Italy, Greece, and Portugal too. Our particular villa served as a comfortable base camp for our trip, and it was nicely situated close to town, so we could walk into the village each night for dinner at any number of wonderful restaurants. It was definitely a great place to stay, and one that were reluctant to leave at the end of our trip.

As fantastic as our villa was however, we weren't content to just hang around there for the entire stay. We ventured out regularly, with visits to nearby towns, wineries, and beaches luring us to a variety of locations on the large – but still very drivable – island. In fact, the roads are well maintained, clearly marked, and easy to follow, making it a simple affair to find the various places you are looking for. In the smaller towns, like Pollença, the streets can get quite narrow however, so we often found it better to park and wander on foot whenever possible.

One of the highlights of our trip was exploring some of the local markets, which take place in different villages on different days. For instance, Pollença holds its weekly market on Sunday, offering a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and hand-crafted goods for visitors and locals alike.  It is relatively small however, when compared to the Wednesday market held in the village of Sineau. While walking the streets of this town, you'll not only discover plenty of good food and wine, but also leather goods, clothing, sweet treats, and custom-made art. You'll even see live animals such as chickens, goats, dogs, rabbits, and a variety of colorful birds for sale, right alongside knock-off electronics and more.

These open-air markets are colorful and chaotic, with lots to see and do. Wandering through one, you'll find locals and foreigners alike haggling over the price of goods, while jamming the streets in all directions. For those of us who are use to dropping by a conveniently placed, and well-stocked, grocery store, it is quite an experience, and one that any visitor to Majorca should have on their schedule.

Of course, visitors should also be sure to take in some of the island's natural wonders too. For instance, we spent one morning visiting the Parc Natural die Mondrago, which is a nature preserve located along the south coast. The park has several hiking trails – all of which are relatively easy and well marked – that take visitors along the edge of the water for some stunning views of Majorca's coastline. Here, the water is a turquoise color unlike any you'll find just about anywhere else. It is clear and blue, and incredibly inviting. If you visit the park, be sure to bring your bathing suit, as there several beaches that provide access for a dip in the Mediterranean.

We found the park to be an amazing place to take photos, with high cliffs towering above the azure waters, while the beaches provide access to the sea itself. And while we didn't get the chance to kayak along those rocky walls, I imagine it would be a great way to explore this section of coast, which even had some intriguing looking sea caves to wander in and out of. While hiking the trails, we also stumbled across an old machine gun nest left over from World War II that overlooked the coast. It was a surprising discovery along this idyllic coast, and provided yet another glimpse into Majorca's history.

Mondrago isn't the only place to explore the islands beautiful coastline. Heading to the other side of Majorca you can take a drive up an even more dramatic and awe-inspiring section of the coast. Follow highway Ma-1110 out of the capital of city of Palma until you reach the town of Valldemossa, which is situated on the towering hills and cliffs that overlook the Mediterranean. The village, which is home to about 2000 people, was founded in 123 BC and sits 500 meters (1640 feet) above the water, providing some spectacular views of the area. You'll also find several quaint little coffee shops and bars if you find you want to stop for a beverage and enjoy some tapas. Considering the town's rich history, that would be completely understandable.

Continuing further down the road on Ma-10, you'll find a similar experience in the even smaller village of Deià, which is even more enchanting than Valldermossa, although more difficult to find parking or even a place to stop to take photos. But, the views spotted from the road are utterly spectacular, and well worth the effort.

Driving this wandering highway is a bit of an adventure in and of itself. It is incredibly narrow, and it twists along the side of the mountain, often obscuring on-coming traffic until the very last moment. That isn't so bad since most of the vehicles on Majorca are small cars. But it only takes a chance encounter or two with a tourist bus to have your life flash before your eyes. That said however, the drive is a fantastic one, with all the passengers being treated to some of the most beautiful scenery you'll find anywhere. The drive on the other hand will need to keep his or her eyes on the road at most times, making it a bit more challenging for them to soak it all in. But, since most of the trip occurs within the wonderful Serra de Tramuntana World Heritage site, you know that it must be grand.

As the old saying goes, "all good things must come to an end," so too did our wonderful escape to this Spanish setting. After spending more than a week on Majorca, my friends and I began the long journey home, but not before spending a lovely night in Madrid first. Out flights the following day didn't go exactly as expected – a common occurrence it seems in modern travel – but we made it home at last with some amazing tales to share with our other friends who were not lucky enough to join us. What we discovered on Majorca was a place filled with natural and cultural beauty. It was also a destination that offers plenty of relaxation and comfort to go along with its history and unique charms. I don't think any of us will ever forget our experiences there, and I'm sure we'll be laughing about some of the stories we now share for years to come.

If you haven't been there yourself, and are seeking a magical escape to the Mediterranean, I can't recommend Majorca highly enough.

Big thanks to my friends at Travelopo for providing such a fantastic place to stay while we were there. The experience was simply lovely, and that was in no small part due to the great villa we stayed in. It was a rare treat to say the least, and everyone enjoyed it immensely.

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