Majorca, the largest island in the Balearics, may make you think of beach resorts, but there are plenty of other ways to enjoy both its coastline and the interior – particularly in autumn and winter when the crowds have gone and the temperature is more suitable for outdoor activities.
One idea would be to spend a week exploring the Serra de Tramuntana on foot or by bike. This mountain range, running down the west of Majorca, has been made a World Heritage Site in recognition of the extraordinary techniques used to develop agriculture on its steep slopes over the centuries. Or you could visit a few of the wineries in the centre of the island, where local traditions are as strong as ever
Although the beach holiday season gets going in May and winds down in October, the islands are beautiful in early spring when the almond blossom is out. Outside the hottest months of July and August, all the Balearics are good for activity holidays, whether easy or more challenging, with plenty to see if you are interested in plants or birds.
From late January and throughout February, the almond trees - about four million of them – are in flower in the valleys and across the plains of Majorca. This is traditionally low season, when accommodation and flights are cheapest, and while it may not be warm enough to lie on the beach, the temperature is usually just right for exploring the countryside in the sunshine.
Professional cyclists come to train in the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range in the west of the island, which is now a World Heritage Site. If that sounds a bit challenging, base yourself in the foothills of the range in the Es Raigeur area, where there are quite a few gorgeous boutique hotels. Or stick to the reassuringly flat Es Pla in the centre of the island, where rural tourism is also quietly gaining ground.
Although not untouched by tourism, the hitherto unfashionable towns and villages of the interior have hung onto their traditions and are now coming into their own. A day’s cycling or hiking may well also involve visiting a winery, an olive mill or a farm to learn how sobrasada, the Majorcan pork sausage, is made.
Majorcan chefs are reviving traditional recipes and adapting them to suit modern tastes. There are now six Michelin-starred restaurants on the island, serving dishes you are unlikely to find anywhere else. This renewed enthusiasm for the local cuisine is however also evident everywhere from unpretentious restaurants in mountain villages to the chic gastrobars and delis popping up in Palma.
If you can’t get there to see the almond blossom, go in late spring when the cherry trees are flowering, or in the autumn to witness – or take part in – the grape and olive harvests. Then head to a hidden cove and plunge into the turquoise sea.
Although most resorts close down in the winter months, Palma is great for a weekend break all year round and life goes on in the villages. If you want to do more than just lie on a beach, take advantage of the low rates in winter and get a taste of real life in the Balearics.