February 2004: Majorca

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Into the mouth of the Dragon: The spectacularly lit Caves of Drac.

If you have been to Majorca and want to try somewhere different the Majorcans say they have the answer. Another part of the Majorca.

To the northwest it might be a different planet from the Majorca we know. In the villages of Deia, Soller and Valldemossa you could be in rural Spain, where the tourist boom never happened.

The Majorca experience has yet to be fully defined but one thing is clear, the overbooked eighties are long over. Majorcan holidays are no longer confined to the beach-towel experience of Santa Ponsa, and the endless round of pools, nightclubs and karaoke bars of Magaluf.

The popular resorts were reinvented. Santa Ponsa’s three beaches are examples of how much work has been done; the biggest has been extended with imported sand in recent years adding considerable depth of white sand to its already quite impressive width. Another beach needs its sand renewed each spring.

They put back their tourism earnings into infrastructure, repaved promenades, and repaved pavements. On the roads they have erected cycle paths, numbered the roundabouts to help driving and put up multi purpose speed bumps, serving as crossing areas for pedestrians as well

The summer of 2003 was when the island got its most dramatic wake-up call yet. Damaged by an ill-advised ecotax and the German recession, the tourist season was the worst in many years.  Hoteliers say the spring was poor. In  July and August Santa Ponsa recuperated the fastest of all the areas. Full in August and bookings for October looking satisfactory. But the winter product is not looking good although the summer figures have kept up for next year.

“It’s a pity,” Juan Carlos Alia, director of Balearic Isles Tourism, says. “We have discovered a lot about our own island in recent years. Instead of turning our back on our culture we have learned to show it off to tourists.”

“We want to spread our tourists out more. A lot of the tourists don’t know how far we stretch along the coastline. We want to extend our product without extending the vast amount of building that took place in the eighties.”

Aquapark

They say they have a variety of untouched areas they want to maintain, and they want to offer it as an attraction to their visitors. They have devised exercises and sports on the beach, organized walks in the countryside, visits to the local markets. They have designated all day routes around the municipality featuring the historical monuments

Mass tourism has some advantages, it means better facilities. The airport was extended, so the terrible queues  are now forgotten.

Shows like So Anmar, Pirates, the glitzy cabaret at the Casino-Palladium, and attractions like Marineland at Portals Nous draw huge crowds every night.

Walking, diving, horse riding and any other activity is well catered for.

The island has hundreds of these small beachside getaways, an efficient public transport system to get you there. A one euro bus fare will get you through each of the resorts on the coastline, it is “very easy, very direct and very accessible.” The Calador beach on the south east is a small but idyllic treasure. The nearby Porto Petro is the ideal quiet Mediterranean retreat, not too remote, for those who want to leave Magaluf and Santa Ponsa behind.

 

TOURISM’S HUMBLE ORIGINS

When Pepe Roses was a child his hotelier mother used to send a man down to the port every day to recruit tourists getting off one of the many ships passing through.

Signor Roses, whose Jutlandia apartments are among the most popular on the Falcon brochure, has seen the island change beyond recognition. Majorca had a small and exclusive tourism clientele. There were a few small fishing villages on the coast, everybody else farmed. Now there are just 20 farmers left in the region.

Twenty years ago the population was 8,000, nowadays it is 46,000 and the economy is completely tourist related.

The main expansion came in the late 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. By 1991-92 there were 55,800 hotel beds. Ten years later there are about the same number of beds, aparthotels and hotels have decreased fractionally but there has been a tremendous increase in residential tourism with the growth of seat-only flights. . “There is no going back now. Tourists are our life blood,” Sr Roses says. “And the Irish are the most popular of all.”

 

10 THINGS TO DO IN  MAJORCA

  • 1 Train from Palma to Soller.  An atmospheric old wooden train that clatters through the olive and lemon groves from the capital to a small historic village.
  • 2 Natural Attractions.   For Majorcans the Caves of Drac are the eighth wonder of the world. They take you down hundreds of steps, literally into the mouth of the dragon, and there you can see the largest underground lake in Europe.
  • 3 Palma’s Old Town.  Historic buildings from the 10th century Arab baths to the Renaissance mansions. The cathedral took 400 years to build, and Antonio Gaudi was among the craftsmen.
  • 4 Beaches.  More than 70 of them, from the wide sandy bays packed with tourists to the tiny rocky coves accessible only by boat or foot.
  • 5 Mountain Villages.  Charming stone built hamlets like Deia, Soller and Orient nestle on the green hillsides. Finest is Valdemoosa with its 14th century monastery and the tranquil 13th century town of Pollenca. The nearby village of Deia is home to artists, musicians and writers.
  • 6 Explore. The island is criss-crossed by roads which lead to quiet countryside. Some of the roads are impossible for coaches to get around. Designated hiking and cycle paths snake across the countryside.  The Serra de Tramuntana mountain ranges and the  rocky northwest coast are Majorca’s secret.
  • 7 Inca market. In the centre of the island is Inca, a sleepy town “except on a Thursday morning, when it hosts the biggest market on the Balearic Islands. Stores are set up at six and finish at midday. Lace and leather goods are specialties. You barter for your bargains.”
  • 8 Nightlife.  Take your pick from the nightclubs, or more classical entertainment in Palma’s grand 18th century Teatro principal.
  • 9 Shopping.  Camper is the name to watch, trendy shoes made in Inca and a retail outlet sells them at discount prices.
  • 10 Food   Don’t miss the confectionary shops or the tapas.

 

Falcon Holidays fly direct to Palma Airport from Dublin Airport, Cork Airport, Shannon Airport and Knock Airport.  March & April: Weekly Saturday and Tuesday flights from Dublin.  May – October: Weekly Saturday and Tuesday flights from Dublin, Cork & Shannon .  June – August: Weekly flight from Knock  commencing summer 2004.  Flight duration: 2 hours, 30 minutes. Falcon’s brochure offers 34 accommodations in 10 Majorcan resorts. Contact your local travel agent or www.falconholidays.ie.

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