One reason I was so excited for my Azamara Club Cruises trip around the Mediterranean was that the ports of call aren’t ones typically visited by much larger ships. Thanks to not just the size of the Azamara Quest, but also the cruise line’s commitment to providing engaging local experiences, destinations like Palma de Mallorca, Spain were on the itinerary and I couldn’t wait to visit. I am working with Azamara to help share the various aspects of the travel experience that make them different from most others, and as such I have been compensated for my time. As always though, all thoughts and opinions – good and otherwise – are entirely my own, and that’s certainly the case when sharing some of my favorite aspects of visiting beautiful Palma de Mallorca in Spain.
Where it is
Mallorca, also spelled Majorca, may be a name that many folks know, but what they may not entirely realize is that it is in fact an island. Located in the languid Mediterranean Sea, the Balearic Islands include several islands, including relaxed Mallorca. Mallorca is the largest though and the capital city, Palma de Mallorca, is a lot larger than I thought. With more than 400,000 residents, it’s the hub of all activity in the islands, but it has still managed to keep that laid back feeling visitors to this gorgeous part of the world have come to expect. It was also a very easy overnight sailing from Barcelona, and the perfect first stop on the cruise. There’s always a certain excitement on the first couple days of a cruise, and to be suddenly transported to this Spanish island full of palm trees, tapas and warm sun was the ideal beginning to what would be an exhilarating journey.
Go to Bellver Castle
I like walking tours and cruise ship excursions, so while in Mallorca I joined an Azamara excursion providing a general overview to Palma. It was my first time there and I really wanted to make sure I saw the most important sites, but also had enough time to explore on my own. This was the perfect mix of both and while the various stops all had their highlights, the bus trip up to Bellver Castle wasn’t just nice from an aesthetics point of view, but because it really put the entire city into better context for me. The Castle itself is well worth the price of admission; one of the few round castles left in Europe, it’s been actively used for one purpose or another since it was first built in the 14th century. But of course, the views are why most people visit – Bellver translates to “Good View,” and is an apt name with panoramic views of the city and harbor area. It provided me with a fantastic understanding of the city layout and a greater appreciation for its raw beauty. It’s a peaceful spot and one that ultimately made me love the city that much more.
Tourism in post-war Spain really got its start on Mallorca. Home to a number of international hotel chains and tour operators well known to most of us, Mallorca offered an inexpensive and warm getaway to Europeans still recovering from the ravages of war. Of course the warmth was the key factor in attracting visitors, and it’s still in large part what drives millions of people to its shores every year. I have long said that it’s impossible to look at a palm tree and not smile, and in Palma that meant a silly smile was plastered to my face for the entire day. Palm trees line the entire historical downtown core, from the ancient cathedral to the little side streets that kept drawing me in to explore and wander. It’s a wonderful feeling, to be warm and happy even at a time of the year when many parts of Europe are still grey and cool.
But it is very much Spain
At the end of day though, Mallorca is still very much Spain and if you love the country like I do, you’ll be thrilled when you feel like you’re on the mainland, but with the perks of an island. Bull fighting, flamenco and the curious mix of Spanish and the Mallorcan language fill the air, the natural perfume of the island is accentuated with saffron and spice. My favorite way to first experience any new destination is through the stomach, so following the Azamara excursion I decided to wander around town to see what I could find. Colorful alleys and side streets create a labyrinth of interest; cityscapes as beautiful as in any top city in the world. Since it is Spain, that meant I was hungry hours before any of the residents, so I may have been alone at the tapas restaurant I eventually decided to try, but it wasn’t because the food was sub par. It’d been years since I had last tasted proper Spanish tapas, and I may have gotten a little carried away ordering, but with small bites it was the ideal re-introduction to the foodie side of Spain, one of the best culinary cultures in the world. Food is such an important part of life, family and community in Spain and if you don’t immerse yourself when visiting, then you’re missing half of the experience.