Sometimes, I think humans are a bit like solar panels. Without enough sun, it’s easy to feel drained and fed up – and in the North of England, suffice to say, summer can be a long time coming.
This half-term, we were invited to top-up our sunshine levels with a weekend break in Pollensa, a small town in the Northern corner of Mallorca.
We stayed in a 3-bedroom villa courtesy of Balearic Villas, which has around 70 villas for hire on the island, with a focus on luxury, family-friendly properties. You can check out our thoughts on the villa we stayed in, on a separate post.
Pollensa is a picturesque spot – think old, winding lanes and sunny squares lined with tapas restaurants, galleries and cafes. Around every corner is another surprise – we loved the 1920s cinema that’s been converted into a restaurant, with the old projector still sitting in the lobby. And the vegan-friendly smoothie and crepes stand just off the main square was another big hit with us – not just because the owner gave Flea a free crepe when he realised she’s a famous blogger…
Life in Pollensa seems to centre on the town’s main square, which is lined with restaurants serving tapas and international cuisine. On Sunday mornings, there’s a thriving (if hectic) market where you can find plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, along with clothes, toys and crafts. Our favourite find was a fruit stall that will mix you a fresh smoothie, perfect for cooling down on a sunny day.
Pollensa comes to life in the evenings, with a gorgeous glow lighting the narrow streets which are filled with people until well after dark. Many of the shops and restaurants are open late, and you can grab a gelato from the stall in the main square to eat while you window shop. We found a gorgeous little Italian restaurant thanks to a recommendation from our guide, and ate fresh pizza in the prettiest courtyard you can imagine.
Many evenings during the summer there are shows and entertainment – on the weekend we visited, we found one of the courtyards had been taken over by a band playing live music, while kids ran riot on two giant, inflatable castles, and the adults sat around eating churros and drinking wine, being sold from a mobile stall.
Through the summer, there are countless festivals and re-enactments in Pollensa. In July, hundreds of residents dress up in costume to re-enact the battle between local moors and a pirate. Arrive during Easter and you’ll see the locals carry a figure of Christ up the 365 Calvari Steps leading from the centre of town to a church at the top of the hill, by torchlight.
Pollensa is ideally located to explore the surrounding hills and coastline, and I think a car is highly recommended for any visitor here – although be warned the streets in Pollensa are wicked narrow, and driving past a parked vehicle is not for the faint-hearted!
Head out of town on the main highway and it’s a short 10-minute drive to Puerto de Pollensa, an old fishing town in a horseshoe-shaped bay, that is now the busiest tourist town in the area. There is ample parking on the port, and plenty of shops and restaurants nearby.
There’s a pretty promenade, which takes you past countless eateries and ice-cream stands, and on the seafront here you’ll even find the hotel that inspired Agatha Christie to create her novel, Problems at Pollensa Bay (this is highly pleasing to a book nerd like me). Flea loved seeing the local artists who create intricate sandcastles, and there are two playgrounds along the seafront, if you get bored of paddling in the sea, which is crystal clear and full of tiny fish.
Compared to Pollensa, the port feels relatively busy and commercialised, but it retains a degree of charm and it felt like a nice place to spend time as a family, without any of the noise or ‘hen party’ element you might find in resorts like Magaluf.
If you’re after a more laid-back beach, then we whole-heartedly recommend Formentor.
From Pollensa, this gem is a good 30-minute drive along a coastal cliff road – the views are spectacular so let yourself have time to enjoy them! There is a parking spot towards the highest point of the road where you can pull over and take photos, before continuing on to Formentor. You can drive right to the end of the peninsular and see the Formentor Lighthouse, or pull off the road a few miles earlier at the beach.
There is free parking just off the main road, or drive a little further down the beach road and you can park on-site for 10 euros a day. The beach is pretty, and sandy and the scenery is nothing short of spectacular. There is a very swish hotel tucked away behind the trees, where you can stay (or eat lunch) and a restaurant on a pier in the middle of the beach – it is expensive but looks great. Our guide tipped us off to a tiny canteen behind the hotel where the locals order snacks and we picked up burgers and fries here for a few Euros to eat on the beach. There’s even a spa just behind the beach to have your stresses pummelled away. Perfection.
Formentor also has a small water sports centre, where you can hire kayaks, pedalos, sailing boats and stand-up paddle boards – we had a go at paddle boarding and had great fun in the late afternoon, as the sun started to cool down after a long, hot day.
Another gorgeous beach can be found at Cala San Vincente, an upscale resort with a beautiful beach tucked at the bottom of a steep, winding cliff. Park your car at the top of the hill, and walk down the path, picking up a picnic along the way. It’s a glorious spot to watch the water on a sunny afternoon.
If the weather is less kind, we also recommend driving to explore the town of Alcudia.
The port town of Alcudia is pretty forgettable (we thought) but the original old town, which is a couple of miles inland, dates back to 1300 and has Roman ruins that date back as far as the second century BC. You enter the old town through gates set into the city walls, and then proceed to get lost in a maze of tiny streets and alleys, lined with shops, restaurants, houses and churches. On Sunday there is a huge market that takes over the old city, and we loved wandering through the alleys, getting lost and picking up bargains along the way.
Pollensa was a huge surprise to me – I went expecting sunshine and not much else, but there’s so much history and beauty here that it deserves far more than a weekend to do it justice. If you’ve headed to Pollensa, then do let me know your favourite places and beaches in the comments. I’ve a funny feeling we’ll be back there before too long.
Details: We travelled to Mallorca as guests of Balearic Villas, specialists in family-friendly, luxury villa rentals in Mallorca. Villa Alba is available for rent during summer 2015, exclusively through Balearic Villas, from 2,200 Euros per week. For full details, check out the Balearic Villas website.