Exploring Mallorca vs Ibiza- sun, sea and cycling

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Stepping off the plane in Ibiza felt like a reunion with an old flame, a love rekindled after fourteen years of passionate affairs with the island. My heart belonged here, and I secretly harboured dreams of someday making it my permanent home. But this year, an enticing dilemma loomed on the horizon: the seductive charms of Ibiza or the allure of its bigger sister, Mallorca?

Mallorca, I’d heard, held its own unique appeal, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to explore its secrets. Would it capture my heart even more than Ibiza had, leaving me torn between two beautiful islands?

After meticulous research, I decided to nestle into the northern part of Mallorca, much like our preferences for agroturismo hotels in Ibiza—those charming, family-run rural hideaways surrounded by farmland, animals, and an abundance of feline companions to keep our tween entertained.

Arriving in Mallorca

Typically, we’d hop off the plane and pick up a rental car, with Europcar being our trusted choice. However, this time, we were only offered an electric car online, which apparently had become the only option. Other rental companies had tempting rates, but tales of exorbitant deposits and refund woes gave us pause. We took a chance by showing up without a prior reservation, which set us back £200 more than planned. But, in return, we skipped the queues and secured a delightful rental car. Picking up and dropping off the car was a breeze, and the overall experience proved excellent.

Much like Ibiza, when you stay in Mallorca’s north, a car is indispensable. These hotels are nestled far from the beaten path, without amenities within walking distance. Yet, the rewards are plenty: peace and tranquility punctuated only by the sounds of sheep, pigs, and geese, breathtaking vistas, and the intoxicating scents of olive and pine trees, wild herbs, and jasmine.

Our sanctuary for this Mallorcan adventure was the Monnaber Nou EcoHotel, a rustic finca featuring a small spa, two outdoor pools, and a cozy indoor pool for rainy days. Breakfast was included, offering an array of meats, cheeses, breads, pastries, and the occasional cooked breakfast staples.

The hotel boasted one of the island’s finest restaurants, sourcing organic ingredients from their own farm. Regrettably, vegetarian options were scarce, so we ventured out each night in pursuit of diverse dining experiences.

Mallorca boasted an array of dining establishments, but unlike Ibiza, we struggled to find eateries catering to our vegetarian daughter. I yearned for authentic Spanish flavours but, limited by veggie options, we often found ourselves in café bars, sushi joints, and Italian-style restaurants.

Discovering the island

Having our trusty car in tow allowed us to explore the island at our leisure. We stumbled upon the picturesque Port de Sóller, a journey through breathtaking mountain terrain that led to a charming harbour. Locals bemoaned the closure of independent shops in favour of more cafes, restaurants, and generic souvenir stores. Nevertheless, an ice cream parlour near the tram station left an indelible mark on our taste buds. Parking was a challenge, particularly in high season, so I recommend either taking a taxi or parking in the main town of Sóller and riding the tram to the harbour.

Port De Soller

We dined twice in Port de Pollenca, enchanted by the diverse culinary offerings and pleasant atmosphere. Strolling along the harbour and beach, we soaked in the beauty of the waterfront, offering a glimpse into why a friend had chosen to someday make this place home.

Moving along the coast, Port de Alcudia greeted us with lovely beaches and dining establishments, and a bit further, Can Picafort, a bustling resort that didn’t quite match my personal taste. Yet, we unearthed the AOICHI Sushi restaurant, an unassuming gem with excellent food and reasonable prices.

Rainy days are still beautiful

A visit to Palma, the island’s capital, was a must. We reserved a rainy day for this excursion. The road network was superb, taking us from our hotel near Campanet to the city in just half an hour. Parking was effortless, as most parking lots were underground, ensuring our car remained cool in the scorching 30-degree heat.

On a quiet Sunday, many shops were shuttered, but we stumbled upon quirky boutiques and Temple Natura Cafe, a delightful vegan-friendly oasis just a short stroll from the Cathedra-Basilica de Santa de Mallorca. Their fresh food and homemade lemonade, enjoyed in a tree-covered courtyard, provided the perfect respite from the sweltering heat.

Anticipating a rainy day and catering to our tween, we booked a round of Crazy Golf in Palma Nova and an escape room adventure in Magaluf. While these two resorts weren’t initially on my bucket list, no Mallorca trip would be complete without a brief visit.

I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised. Palma Nova exuded a pleasant vibe, and Magaluf boasted some impressive hotels and bars. I suspected that during high season or the influx of stag and hen parties, I might prefer to steer clear, but I could appreciate their appeal, especially if I were 30 years younger!

Our final day graced us with Cala Ratjada in the east—a destination I yearned to explore due to its resemblance to Ibiza. It did not disappoint. The harbour charmed us, beach bars serenaded us with chillout tunes, and the waves invited us for some exhilarating jumps. Though heavily patrolled due to a rip tide further along, it left me yearning for a return visit to this part of the island.

Boutiques in Cala Ratjada have an Ibizian Vibe

Our farewell dinner took place in Inca, the nearest town to our hotel. Inca was brimming with native Mallorcans, renowned as the “city of leather” and home to a bustling Thursday market. As tourists, we felt a tad out of place, dressed up for dinner as we weaved through the streets in search of Pacific Nikkei Sushi Bar. The restaurant did not exude a traditional dining establishment vibe, and we almost passed it by. Yet, with no other plans in sight, we ventured inside. Communication with the staff proved a challenge due to our limited Spanish, but with some basic phrases, we successfully placed our orders. The service and food exceeded our expectations, with everyone savouring their chosen dishes.

Cycling in Mallorca

Now, as much as I enjoyed exploring Mallorca, my husband was smitten with the island, especially for its cycling opportunities. Not that I would dare hop on a bike again after a traumatic incident in Ibiza! But for him, it was a paradise for cycling enthusiasts. The British Cycling team trained here for the Olympics and Tour de France, and it was easy to see why. The majestic mountains and well-maintained roads provided a haven for over 200,000 cyclists each year.

Richard with Paralympian Finlay Graham

Initially, my husband lamented not bringing his Brompton bike, but he soon discovered a bike rental shop in Port de Pollenca, offering £3k bikes for a reasonable daily rate of £28. The only downside, of course, was that he now yearned for a £3k bike of his own!

With two days of cycling for him and two days by the pool for the us, our vacation was a resounding success.

So, how does Mallorca compare to Ibiza? Has it stolen my heart, or does my love for Ibiza remain steadfast?

How does this enchanting island compare to my longtime love, Ibiza?

As I reflect on my Mallorca adventure, the inevitable question arises: How does this enchanting island compare to my longtime love, Ibiza? Has Mallorca managed to steal my heart, or do I remain loyal to the White Isle?

Certainly, there are some striking similarities that bridge the gap between these two Balearic gems—the stunning landscapes, the intoxicating scent of Mediterranean flora, and the alluring coves and beaches that beckon sunseekers. Yet, beneath the surface, there are undeniable differences that set Mallorca apart.

Mallorca’s northern reaches, where I found myself, are noticeably lusher, with towering mountain ranges that dwarf those of Ibiza. The towns here are larger, their vibrancy echoing through the streets. The island’s architecture also diverges; Mallorca’s buildings are crafted from calcite and mares, a unique pink-hued sandstone shaped by the eons of marine sands. In contrast, Ibiza’s structures rely on white limestone-covered stone slabs, which have earned it the moniker “White Island.”

The landscape of the Balearic Islands

Cruising along Ibiza’s winding roads, my gaze often wandered to the hilltops, where luxury villas and boutique-style hotels perched high above the coastline. Their gleaming white facades basked in the Mediterranean sun, creating a postcard-perfect tableau.

In contrast, my initial impression of Mallorca led me through vast stretches of flat farmland and coastal plains that spanned the island’s perimeter. However, as I ventured inland, the landscape transformed into undulating hills and valleys. Each curve of this picturesque terrain revealed charming villages and rustic farmhouses, each one telling its own story and adding to the island’s rich character.

Delving deeper into Mallorca’s heart, I encountered its crowning glory—the awe-inspiring Serra de Tramuntana mountain range. These majestic peaks soared dramatically from the earth, their crowns often cloaked in mist or caressed by the gentle kiss of sunlight, depending on the time of day. The Serra de Tramuntana is a world of rugged terrain, deep gorges, and towering cliffs—a paradise for cyclists, hikers, nature aficionados, and avid photographers. Nestled on the slopes of these mountains, villages like Valldemossa and Deià offer vistas that steal one’s breath away.

For my husband, Mallorca was a revelation. He revelled in the cycling opportunities, revelling in the fact that this island is a training ground for the British Cycling team, with the opportunity to cycle some of the day with a Paralympian. The well-maintained roads and spectacular landscapes were a dream come true for him. 

As for me, my heart remains firmly tethered to Ibiza. There’s an indescribable vibe, a sense of belonging that washes over me the moment I step off the plane on Ibiza’s soil. It’s a feeling of coming home, a connection that’s hard to put into words. Unfortunately, Mallorca didn’t evoke that same sentiment, but it gifted us a remarkable holiday nonetheless.

I’m thrilled to have finally checked Mallorca off my bucket list, and I’m certain there will be more trips in the future. Cala Ratjada beckons, as do other unexplored corners of this diverse island. For now, my love affair with Ibiza endures, but Mallorca has certainly left an indelible mark on my travel memories.


Monnaber Nou Hotel Campanet

Casa Marques, Port de Polenca

Temple Natura Cafe, Palma

AOICHI Sushi restaurant, Passeig Colón, 143, Can Picafort

Nikkei Sushi Bar, Inca

Golf Fantasia Palma Nova

Bike Hire, Port De Pollenca 2GoCycling

Car Hire Europcar

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