Even Magaluf's had a makeover...

Once the destination for brash bargain packages, Mallorca – from graceful Palma to the stunning Tramuntana mountains – has it all. And new flights mean it's now even easier to enjoy, says Sarah Gordon

Click to follow
The Independent Travel

What's the attraction?

Holidaymakers first fell in love with Mallorca in the early 19th century thanks to its year-round sunshine, mild climate and plentiful beaches. Artists, celebrities and families followed, making the most of its golden sands and fertile interior – 40 per cent of which is protected. Cyclists love to attack the peaks of the Tramuntana Mountains and a strong rural tourism programme is revamping old farm- houses into luxury accommodation.

Even party town Magaluf is going upmarket with stylish new hotels. BA (0844 493 0787; ba.com) has just launched a new route from Heathrow to the island capital, Palma. Mallorca Farmhouses (0845 800 8080; mallorca.co.uk) offers beautiful and affordable villa rentals, while Mallorca Rocks (020 7952 2919; mallorcarocks.com), a hotel and live music venue in one, is credited with kicking off Magaluf's trendy transformation.

Adventure island

There's a lot more to Mallorca than lazing on the beach. The island is a magnet for amateur and professional cyclists, thanks to its quiet roads. Stephen Roche Cycling Holidays (00 34 971 13 50 54; stephenroche.com) has a package from £576 per person including seven nights' half board at Ponent Mar Hotel in Palma Nova, bike hire, guided rides and airport transfers. Flights extra.

Swap two wheels for two legs with a walking holiday. Inntravel (01653 617 906; inntravel.co.uk) offers three nights at the Ca's Curial hotel in the pretty town of Sóller, at the foot of the Tramuntana Mountains, from £410 per person, breakfast included. Guests receive daily maps and notes for walks. Levels of difficulty vary throughout the week. Flights extra.

Insider information

"Mallorca has moved on and up offering top hotels and restaurants, excellent sports facilities for golfers, cyclists and sailors, and a capital with buzz, shopping and nightlife. The island remains a destination with a traditional rural heart dominated by magnificent mountains. With 300 days of sunshine a year and more than 200 beaches – Mallorca simply has it all." – Dominique Carroll, Mallorca resident for more than 10 years and press officer for Fomento del Turismo de Mallorca.

Boutique break

Forget big resorts, Mallorca has plenty of private boltholes for a romantic escape, including several new openings this year. The five-star Boutique Hotel Calatrava (00 34 971 715 012; boutiquehotelcalatrava.com) opened in Palma last week in a 19th-century building not far from the city's old sea walls. It has 16 suite-style rooms overlooking the Bay of Palma, a spa and sun terrace. Double rooms start at €180, including breakfast.

In the north-east, Alcudia Petit Hotel (00 34 971 549 912; alcudiapetithotel.com) opened last month in the medieval walled town of Alcudia. With just nine rooms, the four-star hotel combines sleek modern décor with exposed limestone walls. Doubles start from €117, including breakfast.

Family fun

It's been a long, cold winter, so pack up the kids for some sun, sea and sand. The four-star Hotel Bon Sol Resort & Spa (00 34 971 402 111; hotelbonsol.es) is just 10 minutes' drive west of Palma, with tropical gardens leading down to the beach. It has a free kids' club and playground and guests can choose between hotel rooms, which start at €171 per person, half board (under-11s sharing pay €83); or four-person villas, which start at €179 per person, half board.

The five-star, beachside Blau Porto Petro (00 34 902 222 070; blauhotels.com/portopetro) sits alongside the sandy beaches of Parque Natural de Mondragó on the south east coast, with a kids' club that has language and yoga classes. There's also a football field, tennis, basketball and volleyball courts and cycle hire. Family rooms start at €225, including breakfast.

Mature Magaluf

In the southern part of Magaluf, a series of new hotels from Spanish brand Meliá has created the Calvià Beach Resort, with a glitzier crowd in its sights. Beach House Hotel (0808 234 1953; melia.com) aims to create "the first lifestyle destination in Mallorca", with modern, minimalist décor and guest DJs at the pool. Doubles start at €113, room only. Nearby, at Nikki Beach (00 34 971 12 39 62; nikkibeach.com/mallorca), the season starts from 25 April; opening party entrance is €50.

The Sol Wave House (0808 234 1953; melia.com) combines its infinity pool and DJ entertainment with surf simulators and instructors, including Europe's first barrel-wave simulator. Doubles start at €96, room only.

Rural bliss

The countryside is dotted with vineyards and ancient farmhouses. The Sa Cabana Rural Hotel & Spa (00 34 971 62 20 60; hotelsacabana.com) in the Es Raiguer wine region dates back to 1578, but has been renovated into a 25-room hotel with spa, terrace restaurant and kitchen garden. Doubles from £170, room only.

In the foothills of Puig de Galatzó mountains, Es Ratxo (00 34 971 147 132; esratxohotel.com) was once an 11th-century farmhouse but is now the most relaxing of spa hotels. Doubles from €365, breakfast included.

Hotel L'Escaleta (00 34 971 671011; hotel escaleta.com) is an old converted schoolhouse near Port D'Antrax offering a pretty garden, vine-covered terrace and rustic rooms from €80 with breakfast.

Es Turó (00 34 971 64 95 31; www.esturo.com) farmhouse has been in the same family for 200 years. It combines a traditional country setting with luxurious Balinese daybeds around the pool. Doubles from €75, room only.

Finca S'Olivar (00 34 629 266 035; finca olivar.org) on the north-western coast, is a working farm which serves its own olives and apricot and fig jams. Accommodation is in little cottages sleeping between two and six, spread among the trees that start at €102 per night, room only.

Splash out

If you don't have your own superyacht to moor in Palma's marina, try a luxury hotel instead. Cap Rocat (00 34 971 74 78 78; caprocat.com) is a converted 19th-century fortress on the Bay of Palma, with a private beach, infinity pool, two restaurants and even a drawbridge. Doubles start at €350, including breakfast.

In the hilltop town of Deia, La Residencia (00 34 971 63 60 46; hotel-laresidencia.com) is an ivy-clad manor house with landscaped gardens. Alongside its pool and tennis courts, it offers art classes and Vespa tours of the area. Doubles start at £393, including breakfast.

The restored 18th-century Castell Son Claret (00 34 971 13 86 29; castellsonclaet.com) opens in May offering a rural retreat on a 325-acre estate with views towards the Tramuntana Mountains, landscaped gardens and a luxury spa. Doubles start at €245, breakfast included.

A home from home

Tap into the local way of life on a villa holiday. Freelance Holidays (01789 297 705; freelance- holidays.co.uk) has a new property, Es Bosquet, on the Bay of Pollensa in the north-east of the island. Set in on an old, 1,000-acre agricultural estate – or granja – it sleeps six people in three bedrooms and has a pool, barbecue area and cleaning service. Seven nights cost from £560 per villa. Flights extra.

Scott Dunn (020 8682 5050; scottdunn.com) offers rental of the contemporary Villa La Font in the hills behind the seaside town of Pollensa. With views across to the coast, the open-plan pad has a pool and barbecue area and sleeps six. Stays are fully catered with a nanny, chef and host included. Seven nights costs from £6,120 for six guests. Flights extra.

What they say

"I found everything I wanted as a background to my work as a writer: sun, sea, mountains, spring water, shady trees and no politics." Robert Graves

"A sky like turquoise, a sea like lapis lazuli, mountains like emerald, air like heaven." Frederic Chopin, describing Mallorca in 1838.