Finding Winter Sunshine in Mallorca…

*Thanks to the Balearics Tourist Board and Visit Spain for inviting me to Mallorca. I visited the island as part of the #betterinwinter campaign along with some lovely Instagrammers from Igers London….

 

I love the Balearic Islands, found in the Mediterranean off of the eastern coast of Spain, Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera are perfect for a sunny break away.  I enjoyed many summer family holidays in the Balearics when I was younger and have always thought of it as a summer holiday destination.  That is until I visited Mallorca in October, I was really surprised at how gorgeous the temperature was.  Highs of 24 degrees during the day and lows of 12 to 15 degrees in the evening.  Not only is it warm enough to spend time on the beach, being out of season there are less crowds to contend with, especially if you avoid the UK October half-term break.  Mallorca is often known to us Brits as Majorca and is the largest of the Balearics, it’s the perfect destination for some winter sun and what’s more not only are there plenty of beaches for relaxing on, there are also a lot of things to see and do.  Read on for my favourite Mallorca adventures best enjoyed in the winter sun…

 

Santanyí Market
Santanyí is a picture perfect Mallorcan town, rustic buildings, cobbled streets and a market held twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays amongst the winding streets and alleyways.  This bustling market is a must visit and operates until the end of October.  Stroll the streets, people watch and browse stalls full of leather bags, scarves, handmade jewellery, clothes, local produce including fruits, veg, meats and cheeses and some tasty looking cakes.  Try haggling too, stall owners are quite happy to bend their prices a little.

 

Lunch at Laudat
Combine a trip to the market in Santanyí with lunch at Laudat, a lovely restaurant in the heart of the town perfect fo catching your breath away from the hustle and bustle of the market.  Sit and enjoy sangria with your lunch amongst lemon trees and white washed walls in a gorgeous shaded court-yard garden.  The food here is some of the best I tasted while in Mallorca, starters I tried included beef tartar (my first time trying it, big thumbs up) and prawn salad with mango.  For the main I had steak with mashed potato, it was delicious and cooked to perfection.  Dessert was out of this world, a kind of chocolate cake drizzled with ice cream and fruity goodness.

 

Sunset cocktail at Jumeirah Port Soller Hotel and Spa
I don’t think I have ever seen a sunset quite like the one from the Sunset Sushi Lounge at this hotel.  This is definitely a really special thing to do.  What’s more the bars and restaurants at the Jumeirah are open to non-residents so you can spend an evening sipping on cocktails and watching the sunset over the ocean.  There are so many cocktails on the menu here it’s hard to know what to choose!  I went for the Kuler made with a local gin, it was the perfect accompaniment for admiring the ever-changing colours of the sky as the sun sunk below the horizon.

 

Cocktail at Puerto Portals
If you love cocktails with a view head to Baiben found right on the waterfront at Puerto Portals.  Sip away on a refreshing  beverage overlooking fancy yachts and the sparkling waters in the port.  Baiben have an extensive cocktail menu and will even rustle you up something on request if it’s not listed.  Being a lover of gin I chose the Mediterranean Julep, Gin Mare, Mediterranean herbs, bitter and elderflower.  Such a gorgeous cocktail in a lovely location.  Afterwards you can stroll along the waterfront shops and admire the yachts moored up.

 

Flor de Sal d’es Trenc
For a unique day trip visit Flor de Sal and find out how salt is harvested on a tour of the salt flats.  From evaporation to crystallization and drying techniques it is so interesting to see how salt is produced.  Plenty of sunshine, a gentle breeze and low air moisture are all required for the production of this completely natural product.  The salt is harvested by hand and deposited into huge salt mountains which can tower up to 10 metres high.  You could be mistaken for thinking you are in the Swiss Alps rather than next to a salt mountain in Mallorca! It certainly is an extraordinary place to visit.  This is sustainable tourism at its finest, an eco system generated from the salt production is home to over 200 hundred species of birds who live amongst the salt marshes, including flamencos and avocets.  Spot these pretty creatures in the distance amongst the marshes of this protected area.  Try some of the salt, purchase from the on-sight shop and enjoy a coffee right next to the salt flats.  Go on a tour of the salt production from April to October.

 

Es Trenc Beach
Crystal clear turquoise waters, backed by pine forests and sand dunes this beach is a beauty.  Located right by Flor de Sal d’es Trenc, combine a visit to the salt farm with some beach time, you won’t be disappointed.  Perfect for families the water is shallow and calm and busy areas of the beach have lifeguards on duty.  The shoreline stretches for 2km along Mallorca’s south coast.  Apart from paddle boarding there are no watersports on this beach so you can enjoy a tranquil, unspoilt day on the beach.  Snorkel, explore the sand dunes and swim in the turquoise waters.

 

Explore Palma on foot
The beautiful capital city of Mallorca is best discovered on foot.  Stroll the cobbled alleyways taking in the gorgeous architecture, stop for a traditional Mallorcan pastry (Ensaimada) at one of the many bakeries or coffee shops and be sure to visit the cathedral.  Gothic in style this beautiful building can be visited throughout the year.  Admire the beautiful stain glass windows and go on a rooftop tour to gain a completely different perspective on this magnificent building.  The view of the city from the rooftops is wonderful and to see the architecture of the cathedral from the roof is amazing.  The huge stained glass windows are just as beautiful from the outside as they are on the inside, the rose window on the east side of the building is one of the largest in the world.

 

Cala Figuera
This quaint fishing village is a lovely place to visit out of season.  Tranquil and full of rustic Mallorcan charm I loved wandering along the narrow waterfront past boat sheds, white washed buildings with coloured doors touching the water, cats perch on doorsteps and fishermen bringing in their catch.  Pretty boats line the tiny port and the crystal clear waters look beautiful under the Mediterranean sunshine.  A very picturesque spot.

 

Bellver Castle
I’m not normally one for castles but there’s something about Bellver Castle that makes it stand out.  Built in the 14th century it is Gothic in style with imposing towers and circular in shape, the open interior is very impressive.  Climb the castle steps to the rooftops for magnificent views of Palma and look back down towards the centre of the castle, it’s fascinating.

 

Tapas at Belmond La Residencia
Originally owned by Richard Branson La Residencia is stunning.  Perched amongst towering hillsides and looking down onto quaint villages, the views are breathtaking.  Stay a night or two and visit the resident donkeys who live amongst the hotels olive groves or grab a paint brush and paint the surroundings with the resident artist.  Even if you don’t stay here book in for lunch, the tapas is to die for with traditional dishes and cured meats, this is a place to enjoy Mallorca at its finest.

 

Stay in a rural retreat
I spent two night at Hilton Sa Torre, once a stately home, dating back to the 14th century it is unlike an other Hilton I have stayed in before.  The buildings original features have all been lovingly restored and each of the rooms retain old charm and character.  Within the grounds there are two swimming pools, an indoor pool and spa, a running track, a chapel and even a beautiful windmill.  Although only 20 minutes from Palma airport Sa Torre is located in a rural area, making it a very tranquil retreat.  Breakfast included a huge variety from continental to cooked and local pastries.  Evening meals here are divine, if it’s on the menu try the Sa Torre’s Pigeon with marmalade, I loved it.

 

 

This island is definitely better in winter…
 

9 Things to do in Menorca…

Menorca sits in the Mediterranean and can be reached in around two hours flying time from London. One of the Balearic Islands, Menorca is perhaps a little lesser known than its sister islands Ibiza and Majorca but don’t overlook it as this little gem has something for everyone. For adventure seekers there are a whole host of activities from kayaking to horse riding and paragliding. Outdoor enthusiasts will love adventuring along Cami de Cavalls, 180 kms of walking routes that cover the whole of the island. For history buffs there are forts and megalithic monuments and lets not forget the beach lovers, Menorca’s 160km of coastline is covered in white sand beaches with turquoise waters just right for kicking back and relaxing on. Families will also love this idyllic island. A Biosphere Reserve, Menorca proudly preserves its natural environment and I can see why. After being invited on a weeklong press trip with Spain, Menorca and Traverse Events I am now desperate to get back there! The trip consisted of dinner and drinks at some of Menorca’s best bars and restaurants and the days were jam packed with boat trips, exploring pretty towns and historical landmarks, gin tasting, (right up my street!) a visit to a shoe factory and the opportunity to see some of Menorca’s finest beaches. I also managed to squeeze in a bit of pool time in honour of the hashtag #MenorcaSlow! Read on for my 9 must do’s in Menorca…
Explore Mahon
Mahon, the capital of Menorca is full of beautiful architecture, white washed buildings and tiny lanes, which are great for exploring. Steeped in history and home to one of the world’s largest natural harbours there is plenty to see and do in this pretty city. For a different view take a boat tour around the harbour, Yellow Catamarans have glass bottom boats, great for spotting marine life. The one-hour trip cruises around the harbour, past fortifications, the pretty fishing village of Es Castells and hidden beaches. A stop in a gorgeous cove with the opportunity to pop below deck to the glass bottom for a bit of sea life spotting is a fun extra. Back on dry land stroll around the quaint streets, pick up a frozen Pomada (I’ll talk more about this below) and people watch. Mahon is great for shopping; visit the fish market and Mercat del Claustre del Carme which is full of local produce, the famous Mahon cheese, clothes and jewellery. Shoe shopping is a must here, Menorca is famous for its sandals, they come in all sorts of colours and can be found in many shops around the city. I’ve never seen such beautiful leather sandals in so many different colours!
Visit a gin distillery
If like me you love a drop of gin then this place is a must visit! The Xoriguer gin distillery in Mahon is a fun and interesting visit, sample Menorca’s favourite tipple in the tasting room, also try the other flavours, chocolate, peppermint and chamomile to name just a few. The distillery can be viewed through glass windows, I was lucky enough to step foot behind inside and marvel at the gin making process. The gin is distilled using water from the harbour and infused with juniper berries. It can be purchased in glass and ceramic bottles; the latter were supposedly used by pirates and can be kept and refilled. I have added Xoriguer to my own gin collection and now only drink it with lemon…
Drink Pomada in a cave
Still on the gin theme, Pomada is a local creation; gin mixed with cloudy lemonade, or Lemon Fanta, its delicious and is now my new favourite drink! Order it frozen or straight up as it is. The best place to drink this fabulous gin concoction has to be at Cova D‘En Xoroi a bar in a cave on the edge of the ocean. A unique setting to watch the sunset this place was originally used by pirates for smuggling. Today the caves have cosy corners with awesome sea views, a decked area out on a breezy edge and plenty of Pomada! This has to be one of the best bars on the island and an unforgettable place to have a drink.
Jump into the ocean
There are a lot of rocky outcrops dotted along the coast just right for jumping into the crystal clear Mediterranean ocean. The tiny fishing community of Alcaufar was my favourite place to do this. A gorgeous inlet of turquoise water and a good snorkelling spot. Take care to check out where you are jumping, be sure the water is deep enough and there is enough clearance away from rocks. I stayed in S’Algar, a 15-minute walk across the rocks from Alcaufar, although it has no beach there are ladders on the rocks to swim in the sea and some good spots for jumping in. Check out Brendan Van Son’s Menorca Vlog, 3 minutes in I join him and his GoPro for some awesome saltwater jumps!

 

Have dinner with incredible views at Cap Roig
Plan to get to Cap Roig before sunset, high up on a bluff overlooking the town of Sa Mesquida and the ocean the views are stunning, especially if you get to see the sun go down. It’s picture perfect setting with fantastic service, gorgeous food and great wine. I sampled some great seafood here; small starter plates included squid, cuttlefish, cured ham and sea anemone. This was the first time I had tried sea anemone and I’ve got to say I’m not much of a fan, I’m glad I tried it though! For my main I had hake with chips and it did not disappoint, washed down with a crisp white wine and taking in the spectacular sunset was a wonderful way to spend a Friday evening.

 

Visit a winery
For a special evening out Binifadet winery is the one, take a stroll around the vines in the evening light and sample one of the many wines produced here along with tapas dishes or a main meal. The setting is gorgeous with tables outside overlooking the vines.
Relax on a beach
Menorca has 160 km of coastline and over 100 beaches, so relaxing on a beach is not hard to do. Find your own unspoilt bay such as Cala Binidali or Trebalúger, only reached on foot or by boat they are often very quiet. In the north the beaches are quite different with red sand, try Cavalleria, a lovely bay perfect for swimming and snorkelling. The water temperature is an average of 18°c and very inviting in the heat of the day. I know I’ve mentioned it more than once but the sparkling turquoise sea and perfectly white sand is just such a dreamy combination!
Kayak
Kayaking is a must do in Menorca, join an organised trip with an instructor and see the island from a different angle. Hiring a double kayak is a lot of fun and a good way to start off if you’ve not kayaked before. Discover caves and hidden beaches that you wouldn’t get to see from the land. I kayaked with a guide from Cala Galdana and got to explore some incredible caves as well as snorkel in the crystal clear Mediterranean, check out my blog post for more information: Kayaking Adventures in Menorca.  Thanks to Steve from Biggsy Travels for the gorgeous image of me kayaking through the cliffs.
Eat like a local
Menorcans are seafood lovers, I am too so I got to sample a lot of the local seafood. Menorca is all about long lazy lunches with many different courses. Famous for its cheese this is often served up during the starter courses with cured meats. Tomato bread is a favourite of mine too. Be wary though not to fill up too much on the starter plates, as there are always some good main dishes to follow! A lovely place to eat in Mahon on the waterfront is La Minerva, part of the restaurant can be found floating on the ocean and the menu has a fabulous tapas selection.  Thanks to the lovely Nienke Krook from The Travel Tester for the images.
Visit Fort Marlborough
If you are interested in learning a little bit of history while in Menorca then Fort Marlborough is definitely worth a visit. Built by the British during the 1700s to protect the entrance of Mahon Harbour it is an impressive structure. Walk through tunnels carved out of rock and up on to the roof of the fort where there are views of the sea and surrounding countryside. A self-guided, audio tour takes around one hour and brings the fort to life. Park up and walk through the quaint waterside dwelling of Cala de Sant Esteve or walk the 2km from Es Castell.
Thanks to Jet2 for getting me to Menorca and to Visit Spain, Turismo Menorca and Traverse Events for inviting me.