The Balearic island of Mallorca has earned a reputation as one of the destinations for cyclists keen to escape the northern European winter. Its capital, Palma, offers plenty for the long-weekender, providing easy access to the island’s two-wheeled delights and enough off-the-bike entertainment for all.
Riding, roads & road rage 4.5/5
You don’t need us to teach you about the roads of Mallorca, just follow a couple of pro cyclists on Instagram between December and March and you’ll learn everything you need to know. The Tramuntana mountain range, running across the northern edge of the island, is the biggest single reason for Mallorca’s popularity with cyclists.
Sa Calobra is not just the most famous climb on the island; it’s among the most feted cycling roads on the planet. Featuring a super-photogenic ‘loop-de-loop’ at the top, followed by six kilometres of savage hairpins and a stunning view of the once-quiet fishing cove that gives the climb its name, it’s a cyclists dream. From Palma, Sa Calobra can be tackled as part of a 120km out-and-back route that also includes the Coll de Sa Batalla. Be prepared for a long day in the saddle – as well as the 120km of riding there’s also 2,400 metres of elevation. If that’s not enough climbing, the alternative route home via the pretty town of Sóller and the island’s highest peak, the Puig Major, takes you closer to 3,000m for your day out.
In the northwest of the island you’ll find smaller, quieter roads that are a little less epic than the main Tramuntana beasts – but no less charming. The Ma-1041 takes you up to Galilea where you can take a coffee at Cafe Sa Plaça De Galilea and enjoy the stunning panorama from their precariously perched sun deck.
Make sure to go up from the east and descend towards the west – the views are far better that way. If you fancy going further, the coastal road that links Valldemossa and Andratx is another absolute jaw-dropper.
The most beautiful climb of all, though, lies not in the famous mountain range of the north, but rather stands alone in the southeast of the island. It’s out of the way, sure, but there’s nothing else on the island that matches the ascent to the Santuari De Sant Salvador, near to the town of Felanitx, for peaceful solitude, beauty or climbing bliss.
Bike Hire 5/5
Mallorcans realised a long time ago that cyclotourism was going to be really, really big for the island and, as a result, you can barely throw a stone on the island without breaking the window a bike rental shop. The quality of the bikes and the level of expertise exercised in their maintenance does vary – and there are fewer shops in the city of Palma itself.
If you fancy treating yourself to something extra fancy, the Cervélo Experience operates out of the Café du Cycliste store in the Sant Nicolau district – allowing you to spend your weekend riding a piece of top-grade carbon fibre and feeling (if not actually performing) like one of the many pros who come to the island to train. Ciclos Quintana are a reliable and well established bike shop with two locations and a rental fleet.
Costs range from around €18 a day up to €40, depending on what, where and when you want to hire.
As a lively, small city with a gorgeous old town and lovely beaches just a bus ride away from the centre, Palma is well supplied with accommodation options to suit every budget. Many hotels court the business of cyclists with dedicated facilities, like secure lockers, airport shuttles offering additional luggage space for hefty bike boxes and even their own in-house bike shops for either rental or running maintenance. You can take your pick. There are also lots of listings on Airbnb, from no-fuss flats to this rather opulent pad.
Mallorca is so enduringly popular because it offers the chance for year-round training. It’s a sunny little island in the Mediterranean – what more could you want? Mallorcans will tell you that February has the worst weather, but even then it’s a far cry from the unrelenting rainy onslaught you’d experience on British shores.
Getting there 5/5
Flights to Palma Airport are abundant and cheap, with all the major budget carriers offering multiple flights daily. The low season for the hordes of sun and sangria tourists is December to February, and flights are less frequent then.
Food and drink 4/5
There’s no shortage of cafés on Mallorca, the locals long ago realising the cyclist’s penchant for coffee and a slice of cake. Take note however – if you’re aiming for a big ride bring along supplies as you’ll find them few and far between once you’re on the quieter parts of the island. Cycling Planet in Alaró is a popular hangout for pro cyclists, as well as boasting the best flapjack we’ve had outside of the UK – ask for it ‘para llevar’ (“to go”) and they’ll even wrap it so you can stuff it in a jersey pocket for halfway up your next coll.
Palma itself has everything from cheap carb-heavy pasta places right through to award-winning gastronomic experiences. Set within the halls of a 17th century convent, Michelin-starred Marc Fosh offers exquisitely crafted Mediterranean dishes, with the lunch menu starting at a reasonable €30. If you like your dining a little more down-to-earth, head over to the Santa Catalina market and have a mooch about – the gelato at BoBom is da bomb.
Seafood is, unsurprisingly, superb here. The terrace at Caballito de Mar, the ‘Little Seahorse’, is a great place to take in some people watching along with your monkfish medallions or red shrimp, freshly delivered from Port de Sóller.
Family friendly 5/5
There’s absolutely loads to do in Palma, from shopping to museums to a day at the beach. For those not of the pedalling persuasion, there are still ways to enjoy the stunning beauty of the Tramuntana mountains and the coastal scenery. The Island Tour, offered by a number of tour operators, takes in a superb exploration of the island. Travelling by coach, boat, train and tram, it packs in a lot of highlights in one very busy day.
10km east of Palma in El Pilarí you’ll find the Forestal Park Mallorca, complete with zip-lines, rope-bridges and all manner of vertigo-inducing excitement. A few kilometres further east you’ll find the Aquapark El Arenal, a waterpark with splashy fun for everyone.
We’ve spoken before about the (quite low) standard of coffee generally in Spain, but you’ll be pleased to hear Palma bucks that trend. You can find speciality coffee in cafés all over town, although you can expect to pay more in the fancy coffee shops than you might in the regular bars and cafeterias that you’ll find all over the place. If you want a guarantee of other cyclists to chat to over a pre-ride coffee, head to Plaça del Rosari, which is home to both the Cafe du Cycliste and Rapha stores, each with their own espresso machine.
If you take just one tip from this article, you owe it to yourself to swing by La Molienda at least once for a coffee and cinnamon roll, ‘roll de canela’. It’s a heavenly combo.
With an average score of 4.5/5, you won’t be surprised to hear us sing the praises of this city. With enough variation for everyone, from rolling café rides up to serious mountain challenges, a long weekend here will keep you grinning for the whole time. Good food, plenty to keep the non-cyclists happy and even (for Spain) decent coffee, Palma should definitely be on your to-do list.
You can take your bike to Mallorca for no extra charge if you have an annual Yellow Jersey Performance or Ultimate insurance policy or you can always take out a short term bicycle insurance policy to cover the trip, or cover a hire bike when you are out there. Annual or short term cycle travel insurance will ensure you are covered for medical expenses should you have an accident while pedalling abroad.