About Mallorca

MallorcaMallorca, one of the best-known holiday destinations in Europe, is the largest of the island group known as the Balearic Islands, situated 180km off the eastern coast of Spain. It is easily accessible by regular and inexpensive flights from major European airports and also by overnight ferry from Barcelona and Valencia.

Mallorca is neither a large island nor a small one, with an area of 3640 km², surrounded by a coastline of 555 km, a distance from north to south of 100 km and from east to west of 70 km.

The principal city is Palma, which also serves as capital of the Balearic Islands. Palma has a population of 325,000 inhabitants, out of a total of 630,000 for the island as a whole. However these bumbers are augmented year round by a significant number of tourists from many parts of the world, particularly the UK, Germany and Scandinavia.

It is on the island of Mallorca that HCI chose to establish its international base.

Mallorca Climate

Mallorca has a tempereate Mediterranean type climate with an annual average temperature of 19ºC and an annual average rainfall of 410 mm. The coldest month is January, with 15º/3.5º and the warmest August, with 31º/18º. There are on average 51 days of rain each year and 2,756 hours of sunshine.

The Serra de Tramuntana mountain range is an area of much higher rainfall. Summers are hot in the central plains and the winters mild to cool, becoming colder in the Tramuntana range. There are even periods of snow on this high ground during the Winter months.

The following chart provides a tabulation of average monthly temperatures and rainfall:

Mallorca sunshine & rainfall

Mallorca Geography

Mallorca has two mountainous regions each about 70km (43 miles) in length. These are the north-western Serra de Tramuntana range and the easter part of the island. The highest peak, at 1445m, is Puig Major in the Serra de Tramuntana. Although this is in a military zone and not accessible to the public. The second, and publicly accessible, peak is the Puig de Massanella which stands at 1364m.

The Cultural Landscape of the Serra de Tramuntana became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011.

Mallorca’s north-east coastline comprises two bays: the Badia de Pollença (Bay of Pollensa) and the larger Badia d’Alcúdia (Bay of Alcudia).

The northern coastline of Mallorca is rugged and has many cliffs. The most remarkable part of this beautiful landscape is the peninsula known as Cap Formentor.

The central geographic region extending from Palma in the south right up to Pollença near the north-west coast is more or less flat and it very fertile and given to agriculture. This is known as Es Pla.

The island also possesses several large and interesting caves both above and below sea level, two of the latter type containing underground lakes which have guided tours. Both of these splendid caves are near the eastern coastal town of Porto Cristo, and are known as the Coves delHams and the Coves del Drach.

There are severall small islands off the coast of Mallorca, the largest and most noteworthy being Cabrera and Dragonera. Both are today uninhabited.

Cabrera is the largest island of a small archipelago that includes (from south to north) the islands of Estells de Fora, L’Imperial, Illa de ses Bledes, Na Redona, Conillera, L’Esponja, Na Plana, Illot Pla, Na Pobra, and Na Foradada.

Cabrera was used to house French prisoners during the Napoleonic Wars. It was declared a National Park in April 1991.

Sa Dragonera is another uninhabited islet located just off Mallorca’s west coast. It obtained its curious name firstly because the silhouette of the island’s mountain range vaguely resembles a dragon, and also due to the large number of lizards living there. The island is a part of the municipality of Andratx.

Sa Dragonera was bought by the Consell Insular de Mallorca in 1987, then in 1995 the Balearic regional Government granted it natural park status along with the nearby islets of Pantaleu and Isla Mediana.

History of Mallorca

Prehistoric times

Little is recorded on the earliest inhabitants of the island. However burial chambers and traces of habitation from the Paleolithic period (6000–4000 BCE) have been discovered, particularly those known as talaiots, which are Bronze Age megaliths belonging to what is now known as the Talaiotic Culture.

Phoenicians & Romans

The first colonisation of the island was by the seafaring Phoenicians who arrived in the 8th century BCE, eventually caming under the control of Carthage in North Africa. After the Second Punic War between the Phoenicians and Rome, Carthage lost all of its overseas possessions and the Romans took control, being occupied by the Romans in 123 BCE under the general Balearicus. And it is from this man that the islands took their modern name, the Balearic Islands.

The island flourished under Roman rule, with the towns od Pollentia (modern day Alcudia), and Palmaria (Palma) being founded. In addition, the northern town of Bocchoris became federated to Rome. This town no longer exists, but was situated close to modern-day Port de Pollença.

In 427, the Vandals captured the island and used it as their base to loot and plunder the Mediterranean, until Roman rule was restored in 465.

The Dark Ages

In 534, Mallorca was conquered by the Byzantime Empire under Apollonarius, and became a province of Sardinia. Christianity started to blossom on the island and churches began to be constructed.
However during the following several centuries, the island was increasingly under attack by Muslim raiders from North Africa, ultimately being conquered by Issam al-Khawlani in 902.

Mallorca under Moorish Rule

Under the Emerite of Cordoba, a new period of prosperity ensued, with the city of Palma being remodeled and expanded, becoming known as Medina Mayurqua, and agriculture and industry were established.

But following the end of the Caliphate of Cordoba in 1015, a new, more decadent era began, with Mallorca coming under the rule o the Taifa of Denia, then becoming and independant Taifa until 1114. when an expedition of Catalans and Pisans led by Ramon Berenguer III, Count of Barcelona overran the island, laying siege to Palma for eight months. However following the fall of the city, the invaders were forced to retreat due to problems in their own territories.

Then followed a period in which the Almoravides from North Africa ruled until 1176, when they were replaced by the Almohad dynasty until 1229.

Medieval Mallorca

Following the end of the Almohad dynasty in Mallorca there was much unrest which led to the invasion by King James I of Aragon, landing at Santa Ponsa with 15000 men and 1500 horses, going on to take the city of Medina Mayurqa (modern-day Palma) and annexing Mallorca to the Crown of Aragon.

From 1479 the Crown of Aragon came into union with that of Castile.

However shortly afterwards the Balearic Islands started to come under attack from the North African Barbary Pirates. It was necessary to significantly strengthen the island’s fortifications and many watch towers were built. Churches were also significantly fortified to resist attack. But such was the ongoing level of attacks that King Philip II of Spain even considered total evacuation of the islands. Fortunately that was not to be and at the end of the 17th century the superior European naval powers, particularly those of England, succeeded in forcing the Barbary states to make peace.

In 1716 the Spanish Nueva Planta decrees made Mallorca a part of the Spanish province of Baleares, an autonomous community which was approximately the same as the Illes Balears (Balearic Islands) of today.

Mallorca in the 20th century

During the 20th century, the fate of Mallorca was very much determined by the Spanish Civil War of July 1936 to April 1939 fought between the Republicans, loyal to the democratically elected Republic of Spain, and the Nationalists, a rebel group led by General Franco.

At the start of the Civil War Mallorca supported the Nationalists and was subject to attack by an amphibious landing of Republican forces aimed at driving out the Nationalists. However by the end of the war, the Republicans were forced to retreat due to the superior Nationalist air power aided by the Italian Fascists. This was to become know in history books as the Battle of Mallorca.

Following the end of WWII, starting in the 1950s with the burgeoning mass tourism industry, the island became transformed into a centre of attraction for foreign visitors from many parts of the world, particularly the United Kingdom. The capital city of Palma was to grow significantly and so were many of the other small towns and fishing ports, with workers being attracted from mainland Spain to work in tourist related activities.

Thus were the beginnings of the Mallorca as we know it today, a major world tourist destination and cultural melting pot.

Languages of Mallorca

The language of Mallorca is Catalan, with the local dialect being known as Mallorqui, of which there are variants from village to village. However the two official languages of the island are Catalan and Spanish.

At school Mallorcan students are obliged to become bilingual in Catalan and Spanish, with some knowledge of English.

However a large percentage of the tourist population speaks English as a native language since most of them are from the United Kingdom and Ireland. Also, another large percentage of the tourist population speak German.
The result is that in many parts of the island, particularly the areas most frequented by tourists, a large percentage of the population (and certainly those involved in the tourist industry), in addition to speaking Catalan and Spanish, will also speak English and German to a greater or lesser extent, many remarkably well.

Mallorca Culture

Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria

The Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria, known in Catalan as Arxiduc Lluís Salvador, second cousin of Emperor Fanz Joseph of the ruling House of Habsburg-Lorraine, might well be regarded as the precursor of tourism in the Balearic Islands. He first arrived in 1867, later settling in Mallorca, buying up wild areas of land in order to preserve and enjoy them.

Ludwig Salvator loved the island of Mallorca, learned its dialect and carried out research into its flora and fauna, history and culture to produce his main work, Die Balearen, an extremely comprehensive collection of books about the Balearic Islands, in 7 volumes, taking him 22 years to complete.

His main home of Son Marroig, between the villages of Deià and ValledeModda, is now a museum. Much of what was his property now belongs to actor Michael Douglas, most notably the Moorish style palace S’Estaca that the Archduke had converted from a ruined manor house.

Chopin and George Sand

Together with French writer George Sand the Polish composer and pianist Frédéric Chopin resided in the small town of Valldemossa during the winter of 1838-39. Being in ill health, his doctor recommended he go to the Balearic Islands, where nevertheless he still spent a somewhat miserable winter. He travelled there with writer George Sand and her family, even having his piano brought there, which had to make the crossing from Barcelona by ferry. The time spent in Mallorca is considered one of the most productive periods in Chopin’s life. Although being there for only a few months, he still had time enough to complete several of his most famous works.

Having travelled from Palma, the family spent most of their time in one of the former cells of the Royal Carthusian Monastery of Valldemossa, which had been converted into something of a tourist hostel. Today the monastery houses a small museum in which Chopin’s piano can still be seen.

The stay of Georges Sand and Frédéric Chopin in Mallorca is described in a somewhat unflattering account in her book A Winter in Majorca, published in 1855.

Literature and painting

Other famous writers used Mallorca as the setting for their works. While in the island, the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Dario began writing the novel El oro de Mallorca, and wrote several poems, such as La isla de oro. Many of the works of the acclaimed Catalan author, Baltasar Porcel, who as born in Andratx, also take place in Mallorca, and have been translated into several languages.

Agatha Christie also visited the island in the early 20th century and stayed in Palma and Port de Pollença. She would later write a collection of short stories known as Problem ar Pollensa Bay and Other Stories.

The famous 20th xentury Spanish artist Joan Miro had close ties to the island of Mallorca throughout his entire life. He settled permanently there in 1954, having already married Pilar Juncosa in Palma, in 1929. Today the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró in Majorca houses an important collection of his works.

Robert Graves

The famous writer, historian, critic and poet Robert Graves (1895-1985) lived in Deià, Mallorca, from 1929 until his death. He is buried in the churchyard on the hill next to the church.

He first moved there with his mistress Laura Riding and returned in 1946 with his second wife. With Riding he published letterpress books under the rubric of the Seizin Press, founded and edited the literary journal, Epilogue, and wrote two successful academic books together with Riding. Inded it was probably due to the influence of Graves that Deià established a reputation as a foreign artists’ colony.

Graves’ house in Deià was acquired by the Fundació Robert Graves and has been refurbished and adapted for visitors.

The Spanish Royal Family in Majorca

Members of the Spanish Royal Family spend their summer holidays in Mallorca at their summer residence, the Marivent Palace in Palma. The whole family regularly meets there and also on the Fortuna yacht, where they take part in sailing competitions.

Mallorcan Cuisine

According to the Mallorca Tourist Board there are somewhere between 2,000 to 3,000 restaurants on the island of Mallorca, ranging from small bars serving food to large-scale restaurants. Olives and almonds are typical of the Mallorcan diet and are found in many of the draditional dishes. The island has over 4 million almond and olive trees.

The Menu del dia is popular with local Mallorcans, consisting of a three course meal with wine, water, bread and olives. It can often be quite inexpensive.

In some Mallorcan homes the Matança is celebrated. This is a family affair in which a fattened pig is slaughtered and the whole day is spent making hams and sausages for the coming year.

Some typical Mallorquin dishes are:

  • Frito Mallorquin – a combination of fried offal, potatoes, onions and herbs.
  • Pa amb oli – bread, garlic, olive oill and tomatoes, which can also be topped withSerrano ham and cheese.
  • Sobrasada – red pork sausage seasoned with herbs and spices.
  • Butifarron – black sausage with herbs and spices. Those wit red strings are spicy; This is traditionally eaten on the festival of San Antoni.
  • Paella – either with seadood, meat and vegetables. Many restaurants offer a take-away paella service.
  • Arroz brut – literally meaning “dirty rice”, a rice based dish with sausage, vegetables, chicken and other meats. There is also a seafood variety, “arroz negro” (black rice), which gets its name from the squid ink used for colouring and flavour. This contains squid, octopus and other seafood.