Mallorca Road Trip – Driving the Dramatic West Coast and Tramuntana
Mallorca road trip? But isn’t Mediterranean travel all about the beach? This Spanish island does boast some brilliant stretches of sand, but, for us, one of the best things to do on Mallorca is a road trip. The driving is dramatic and our road trip route is rewarding.
Mallorca Road Trip – Driving the Dramatic West Coast and Tramuntana
Dramatic craggy coasts, shimmering salt pans, dry plains dotted with windmills – the landscapes of the Catalan island of Mallorca (or Majorca as the British call it) are as varied as those of Spain itself offering countless possibilities for road trips.
We spent the most part of one European summer on the Catalan island of Mallorca, updating a guide book, which Terence also had to re-shoot, writing hotel reviews for an accommodation site, and doing a road trip story for a magazine.
Despite the impossibly tight deadlines, sizzling summer temperatures and lack of air-conditioning, the sweaty write-up – in an atmospheric apartment owned by the sweetest of people in the heart of Palma’s old town – was one of the most enjoyable of all the guidebooks we’ve done.
The best bit was our Mallorca road trip – or rather, road trips – around the island. We did a few – the first to meet Terence’s photography deadline, the second for him to shoot pick-ups because the first deadline was too tight so we had to miss some bits, and the third for me to focus on my research and hotel reviews. These are the crazy kinds of things we used to have to do in guidebook publishing!
The most spectacular scenery on the Mediterranean island is on its western side – from the southwest of Mallorca all the way along the jaw-dropping west coast, through the magic Tramuntana Mountains, to the northernmost point of the island, the breathtaking Formentor Peninsular.
Mallorca is a compact island, so while you could do our 200km Mallorca road trip in 8–10 hours with speedy pit stops and fast photo ops, it’s much more fun to take your time and extend the drive over five days (or longer), staying a night (or two) each at Deia, Port de Sóller, Pollença and Alcúdia, and kicking back in picturesque Palma at the end.
While distances appear short on maps, the roads often wind tightly around the hills, barely more than a lane wide in places. What looks like a ten-minute drive down to a beach could take two hours there and back. Seriously. But you’ll always be rewarded for your patience with stupendous vistas.
Our Mallorca Road Trip Route
Our Mallorca road trip route starts in Palma, the island’s capital, and for the most part follows the MA-10 along the west coast through the Tramuntana Mountain range.
Reserve a rental car – something small and powerful – so you can pick it up on arrival at Palma de Mallorca airport. Book in advance if visiting during summer, the busiest time of year, naturally. (Note that autumn is also gorgeous, when the light is clear and the leaves on the trees are changing colour.)
Palma to Valldemossa
From the airport follow the signs for Palma on the MA-19, then zip along the ring road, Circunvalación de Palma (MA-20), in the direction of Andratx or Port d’Alcúdia. Take exit 5B for Valldemossa then follow Carrera de Valldemossa (MA-1130). The 23km drive takes about 30mins.
When you spot the pretty village of Valldemossa perched on the hilltop, with its sandstone houses spilling down the side, pull up to take some snaps. Park in one of the car parks on the main road near the tourist office then spend an hour exploring.
Valldemossa has had some famous residents, from the pianist Chopin and his writer lover George Sand who checked into the chilly monastery one winter (as you’d expect, they didn’t have a good time), to actors Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones who had a holiday house just outside town.
An alternative route to Valldemossa if you have time is via Esporles on the MA-1040 and MA-1100. The narrow road is slow going, but it’s good fun to drive.
Valldemossa to Deia
From Valldemossa, follow the signs to Deia, another cute stone village surrounded by colossal mountains. It’s only a 10km drive along the MA-10, but it can take 30 minutes if you stop at some of the lookouts (miradors) to soak up the ocean vistas on the way.
Make sure to visit Son Marroig, a historic cliff-top mansion once owned by an Austrian Archduke who became besotted with the island in the late 19th century. The views of the turquoise sea from the balconies will take your breath away.
Once at delightful Deia, try to pull up at the first small car park you see on your right before town – a challenge but the reward is a postcard view of the village sprawled across the hilltop. No luck here? There’s a larger car park on the other side of village, a few hundred metres past British author Robert Grave’s house, now a museum.
Deia is tiny but very pretty with its charming houses with window shutters and flower boxes. And it doesn’t take long to explore: hike up to the church on the hill, check out Graves’ house and garden, and have a bite to eat at one of the restaurants on the main street and you’re done. But having said that, if you’re looking for somewhere to relax for a few days with a good book, Deia does the trick.
Deia to Port de Sóller
Continue along the MA-10 to Sóller. The 10km drive takes you through olive and almond groves clinging to the steep hillsides. The last five minutes of the drive down into the fertile valley of Sóller is stunning, with fantastic views of the town and citrus orchards.
Once there, follow the signs to the centre and park in one of the town’s many public car parks. There’s a leafy main square where you can quench your thirst at a shady café before taking a stroll. Sóller is a lovely little city with an impressive church and some exquisite Art Nouveau architecture, known as modernismo in Spanish. But more on that in another post.
From here, it’s an easy 5-minute drive to Port de Sóller, where there’s plenty of parking and a scenic bay. Take a stroll along the seaside promenade, see what the local fishermen are catching, savour the sunset, then tuck into some fresh seafood with sea views.
Port de Sóller to Pollença
Take the often-tortuous MA-10 to Pollença. It’s only 54km away but can take a couple of hours if you stop at the beautiful reservoirs of Embalse de Cuber and Embalse de Gorg Blau (seriously stunning spots) and wander the grounds of the Lluc Monastery.
Down an espresso at the café there so you’re ready to tackle the hairpin turns on the drive down to the striking gorge, beach and bay of Sa Colabra. It’s worth visiting just for the hairy edge-of-your-seat-drive! After that, it’s an easy cruise into Pollença.
Pollença to Formentor Peninsula
Spend a few hours exploring lively Pollença, which has a historic old centre with plenty of cafés, bars and restaurants. Hike up the tree-lined stairs of the Calvary for sweeping views of the old town and surrounding countryside.
It’s just a 10-minute (7km) drive to Port de Pollençia where you can wander the shady waterfront Pine Walk before pushing on to Formentor Peninsula. Take care driving the winding 15km route (25 minutes) up to the cape.
Stop at the miradors for superb views of the rocky coastal cliffs along the way. Save the drive for as late in the afternoon as possible when the light is at its best. The lighthouse on the cape is a popular spot for sunset and you’ll often find groups here enjoying wine and cheese while they wait.
Formentor Peninsula via Alcúdia
From the Peninsula, it’s a half hour (24km) drive to Alcúdia on the MA-2210 to Port de Pollenca, then along the MA-2220 around the bay to the historic walled town.
Stretch your legs on a walk around Alcúdia’s ramparts before exploring the old centre. Have a drink and something to eat in the main square, where the action is focused after dark.
Alcúdia to Palma
From Alcúdia follow the signs back to Palma. It’s a direct 57-km trip back along the MA-13 motorway, which takes no more than 45 minutes. You can count the windmills on the way. Or count the minutes till you’re rewarding yourself for completing our Mallorca road trip with a cold glass of something.
We’ll be posting a guide to accommodation and restaurants on this route soon.
Have you been to the Catalan island? Do you have a favourite Mallorca road trip route?