“It is one of those views that completely overwhelm one, for it leaves nothing to be desired and nothing to the imagination. All that a poet or a painter might dream of, Nature has created here.” (George Sand)
How very cliche to begin a post about Mallorca with a George Sand quote, words written to a friend whilst contemplating the view from Valldemossa. It is, however, quite representative of the views from the Tramuntana mountains as one might write about them today. There are indeed unfortunate towns that have become unrecognizable, of which I’d rather not speak as it steers the memory in so disappointing a direction compared to the mountainous beauty, raw nature, and charming villages to be discovered on both the east and west sides.
On an early June trip, I had the great fortune of getting a taste of both sides of the compass, with a stay at the Park Hyatt Mallorca in the northeast, and the utterly enchanting, unforgettable, and dreamlike Belmond La Residencia in charming Deià on the west side. There are fantastic beaches everywhere; do not fret, you will most certainly have your pick, no matter where you are based, and driving around the island is easy enough.
We began our trip in a more rural area, where Park Hyatt Mallorca is located. Imagine passing fields of goats who may or may not meander to the edge of the road to greet you, followed by golden fields of what may or may not be something edible, scattered with an ancient relic of a stone home, one quarter of it in rubbles on the ground. It is in this environment that one finds Park Hyatt Mallorca, up a driveway that suggests arrival at a golf club. It is a little bit of a fake village, and when looking at it online, I must admit I was hestitant. I worried about children and guests looking for god-awful ‘all inclusive’ experiences. In early June, however, it was quite the contrary. There were only a handful of young families, and with separate pools, we never had reason to complain. The service was exceptional from the start, the young Mallorcan concierge was an expert on where the locals go for great Sunday lunches at the fabulous beach clubs or a fantastic eatery overlooking the water in a nearby town. Our room was situated up on the hill, past perfectly chosen flowers that so complimented the terrain of the area, not too much, just enough to blend and soften the architecture. Spaciousness and modernity awaited us on the hill, an oversized bathroom and a sweet little terrace topped it off. The room was most certainly one of the highlights.
The next highlight of the Park Hyatt Mallorca was the extraordinary breakfast, fit for a Mallorcan queen. The buffet was above and beyond; a very classy, very modern approach to the healthy, of-the-minute breakfast trends that upscale travelers undoubtedly expect. The menu offered a taste of local recipes. Put Mallorcan sea salt on your eggs and avocado toast- it will change your world.
We explored as much as we could on the eastern side of the island while at Park Hyatt, all the way down towards Santanyi. Es Trenc, a beach towards the south, was a beautiful long and wide sandy beach. Unfortunately we were having a bit of a cold spell in early June, but it was just warm enough to enjoy an afternoon in a bathing suit and a cover-up.
The hairpin drive up to the famous lighthouse at Cap de Formentor on the very northernmost tip of the island was indeed a white knuckle kind of drive. In early June, it already had quite a bit of traffic (including those friendly goats) and if invited to do it again, I would say no, gracias. The views at the top, albeit a foggy evening, were lovely, sure, but there is more dramatic beauty to behold without risking your life. Or, maybe risk your life for said other beauty, but it will be worth it. All of this to say, meh. I vote, meh, on the lighthouse ordeal. It is also quite a bit out of the way, and this area of the island is shrouded in those aforementioned unpleasant towns overrun by pool floaties, t-shirts, and often inhabited by Germans (no offense to the Germans, it just so happens to be that we heard a lot of German in this area).
Do have dinner at Vibes, a restaurant that lives up to its name. Sit on the terrace overlooking Porto Cristo, a small seaside town that was as low-key as it gets in early June. Appreciate the funky decor with the multi-hued, multi-patterned pillows and tiles, and the super friendly service. The octopus tacos were outstanding. Portions are large, colorful, fresh, and memorable. Also, there is Mallorcan sea salt of various colors. So, all in all, A+ meal.
Next piece of advice for popular beach club restaurants like Ponderosa, make a reservation. These places are casual, sand under your toes beachclub restaurants, but they are busy and in-demand. We drove quite a ways to arrive at x, thinking we would be able to stroll in without a reservation in early June and take our pick of tables. Not the case at all. We sweet talked our way into a table that we waited about 35 minutes for, and while the paella was good, I would say the meal was the most expensive and not hugely inspiring. To give you an idea, I have no idea what the beach club is called as I write this; it was that memorable. I have to look it up later and replace the x’s I’ve made above. (Ponderosa)
So we departed Park Hyatt Mallorca with nostalgia for our beautiful room and the property’s beautiful spa. We packed up our little audi convertible (get a fab little convertible to traverse the island, it’s so much more fun that way), and we cut across the island to our next destination: Belmond La Residencia in the stone town of Deià. Wow, does this place sweep you off your feet.
Nestled right into the village, so hidden you’d walk right past it if you didn’t know any better, is a secret oasis of exceptional beauty and a gem of a hotel experience. As I write this, I am breaking out into a smile in sheer memory of the stupendous property, impeccable service, and dreamlike setting. I have already decided to have my wedding here, even with my attachment to Italy, as it is just so incredible. By day two, we had already begun looking at flights to return just months later.
Photos do not do La Residencia justice. The magnificent stone buildings of the property are built into the hills of the Serra du Tramuntana, the mountains in this area of the island, and as you look left or right, you see the mountains jutting up into the sky, and over beyond the beautiful freeform pool you see the tops of the light-colored stone buildings of the village with their pastel green and blue shutters, and to the other side, you catch the azure of the sea. It is beyond idyllic. It is complete magic.
Rooms and suites at La Residencia are designed with cues from the island; local art, vases filled with lemons, Spanish ceramics and tiles, and hues that can be found in nature are tied together to offer a ménage of the local flavor. The stunning terraces where one has the most peaceful and well-serviced breakfast overlooking the pool, the front terrace overlooking the spilling lawn that faces the town with its rose bushes and climbing geranium, and the side terrace where one can enjoy lunch overlooking the mountain; ah one is more sublime than the next. My favorite, however, is the breakfast terrace of course, and not only because it is the setting for my favorite hour of the day, with stupendous waitstaff who remember your every fanatic wish from the preceding morning. The way you sip coffee overlooking the pool, the village, and the mountains, knowing that that azure sea is just there, beyond, in the distance, is what vacation dreams are made of.
There is more to the property than the dining areas, however, and if you meander up the terraced staircases, you will find more bougainvillea and geranium climbing on suites with stupendous views. The spa is at the very top, and if you like your massage en plein air with a five star view, you are in for a treat. The indoor spa pool is in itself worth a treatment; the architecture is divine and there is even a private side lawn for spa guests if they’d like to take in a little Mallorcan sun between appointments. If creativity sparks, there is a resident sculptor and painter with whom you can enjoy a bit of inspired company, and of course all of the other vacation-like activities Belmond is reputed to offer at each magnificent property.
To be able to wander down the pathway in three minutes and find yourself in the village is quite lovely too, especially for an early morning or after dinner stroll. The best and finest restaurant in the village is Sebastian, run by an ex-pat couple and, you won’t believe it, an Irish chef. He is quite fabulous, and while his British wife nonchalantly runs the show in the front, sitting down to chat with repeat guests and welcoming newbies, he is cooking up beautiful plates of a very high level. He came out to the dining room at the end of the evening and sat down with a bunch of us patrons, laughing and telling stories and chatting for at least an hour. It is a lovely ambience, very classy, and while it is not cheap, it is not overpriced, and we found it to be one of our best meals of the entire week.
Next let’s head down towards the beach, and when I say down, I mean, down, down, down. And don’t forget, what goes down must come up, so if you don’t feel like walking, be lazy and take a car. It is worth it, either way, for Ca’s Patro. This was the setting for just one scene in a popular British TV show, and that one scene made it all the more famous than it already was. Make a reservation as it is always full and people are always waiting. Some plates are better than others. The ambience is everything; it is casual and open, and you dine watching beach goers dive off the cliffs in Deia’s little rocky beach. Unfortunately when we went we actually had a little bit of rain, but everyone just sat right through it, and swimmers down below didn’t slow down. We absolutely loved the setting though, and we even thought about returning for dinner. If you happen to visit Mallorca out of season, you will miss this place and it would be a real shame. So, don’t go out of season.
There are more than a handful of worthwhile towns to visit on this side of the island, both on the sea and inland. Banyalbufar is one of them. The town is nothing to write home about, just one or two super casual eateries (actually one of them I stopped in to use the bathroom, and while I assumed it to be a place one doesn’t eat, the food looked fantastic and it even had a sweet little garden in the back. Never judge a restaurant by it’s cover..) The terraced land is quite a photo. We walked all the way down to the beach (another super steep down/up situation) but couldn’t quite figure out where one actually lays out. From the car however, it was a sublime setting. Vallemossa is painfully touristy, quite sadly, because it is such a beautiful charming stone village. Now it is a stone village covered in tchotchke shops and herds of tourists wearing ponchos when it rains and doors covered in trinkets. I see this and it makes me sad. What a waste of a perfectly historic and idyllic little village. One of the world’s prettiest, surely, and yet….
Since the weather wasn’t quite cooperating enough to be out on a boat, we aimed to soak up as many gorgeous moments as possible on the property at La Residencia. This is the kind of property you feel guilty leaving. Heaven from morning to night, with a kind of low-key atmosphere that is hard to find at such chic and upscale properties, it is a sublime place to return to year after year. It is no wonder that they have so many repeat guests, some who return multiple times a year, soaking up a long weekend here and there at either end of the island’s long season. One wonders what Sand would have wrote about La Residencia… certainly a painter’s paradise, at the very, very least.