Walking on secluded beaches, dining in an intimate restaurant on a chilly night, and occasional days of clear blue skies and sunshine, are just some of the island’s winter treats. abcMallorca suggests some more ways to maximise your enjoyment of the season.
Under Starter’s Orders
Go to the races: the popular equestrian sport of trotting can be enjoyed in Palma (Son Pardo – which became Europe’s first floodlit race track in 1965) and Manacor. Trotting began in Mallorca in the 18th century, as a pastime for farmers with plenty of land, but it wasn’t until 1915 that the first formal races started. Races – in which each horse pulls a harness, or sulky, on which the jockey perches – are short and surprisingly exciting. Spectating is free, but it’s worth having a flutter while you’re there.
Palma – Hipódromo Son Pardo,
Ctra de Sóller, km 3,5.
Racing on Sundays at 16.00 hrs
Manacor – Hipódromo de Manacor,
Ctra Palma-Arta, km 48.
Racing on Saturdays at 16.00 hrs
Take up Tennis
Not only is Mallorca home to world number one tennis champion Rafael Nadal and the birthplace of Carlos Moya, it’s also the second home of Boris Becker, Charly Steeb and Guillermo Vilas. There are excellent tennis facilities and coaching services available on the island and they’re less busy during the winter, making it a good time to learn or brush up your skills. Tennis professional Steve Williams runs multi-lingual Master Tennis Coaching in Cala Millor (www.mastertenniscoaching.com); in Palma Nova, check out The Guillermo Vilas Tennis Academy (www.vilastennisacademy.com), which held its first international tournament in November. Sadly, Rafa isn’t available for private coaching . ..
Poles at the ready
Nordic Pole Walking is suitable for all ages and states of health, providing an excellent cardiovascular and muscular work-out, using special walking poles designed to propel the body forward while improving stability. It’s said to work 90 per cent of the body’s muscles, burn up to 40 per cent more calories than regular walking, and improve bone density. The Spanish Nordic Walking Association (www.npwea.es) offers courses (usually in Can Picafort or nearby Finca Son Real), group walks and all the information you need to join the growing number of enthusiasts in Mallorca.
The conditions in winter are often perfect for walking and hiking. If you like the social aspect of walking in a group, Mallorca Hiking (www.mallorcahiking.com) offers weekly themed excursions on Tuesday or Wednesday, for groups of up to eight people. Ideal for residents or visitors, the full-day outings include walk with expert guide, transport to/from the start, and lunch in a typical Mallorcan restaurant. The five different excursions are: Palma – art and architecture; Sóller – art and villages; Alaro Castle – Moors and Christians; La Granja – Banyalbufar, and Boquer valley picnic and Campanet caves.
In the west of the island, there are two multi-lingual guides offering a variety of walks in the Sóller area: www.mallorcamuntanya.com
Walk at your own pace with an informative free booklet, produced by the Foment del Turisme, as your guide. ‘Architectural Strolls Around Mallorca’ offers a fascinating introduction to the island’s rich architectural heritage. One booklet covers Palma; another, Alcúdia, Artà, Binissalem, Capdepera and Muro. Published in English, German, Spanish and Catalan, they’re available from tourist offices.
Footwear that’s fit for purpose is essential for serious walking and hiking. Renowned Mallorcan company Bestard (www.bestard.com) has been manufacturing high quality boots since 1940 and even has an advisory team of professional mountaineers who test new design prototypes.
Volunteer for Conservation
The Mediterranean Wildlife Conservation Centre is home to the Vulture Conservation Foundation, which now focuses on the four European species: Black, Griffon, Egyptian and Bearded. The Centre offers an educational film about the impressive conservation of Mallorca’s Black Vultures – the world’s last island population. You can also view magnificent Black and Griffon vultures taken into the VCF’s care, as a result of injuries that would prevent them from surviving in the wild.
The MWCC is also home to ProNature Travel (www.pronaturetravel.com) which offers guided excursions, opportunities for local and visiting conservation volunteers, and eco-holidays, designed to protect Mallorca’s unique biodiversity.
Mediterranean Wildlife Conservation Centre,
Finca Son Pons, Ctra Palma-Alcúdia, km 38.2
To arrange a visit, telephone +34 971 51 66 20.
Explore a Museum
Make this the winter you discover more of Mallorca’s museums. In Palma’s Old Town, the Casa Museu J Torrents Lladó (+34 971 72 98 35) is the atmospheric former home and studio of the 20th century artist, where his distinctive paintings – many of elegant women – are displayed.
In Sóller, visit Can Prunera (+34 971 63 89 73), the restored Art Nouveau property housing an impressive collection of modern art, including works by Kandinsky, Picasso, Warhol, and local artist Francesca Martí.
Petra’s small but fascinating Fray Junípero Serra Museum (+34 971 56 11 49) commemorates the town’s most famous son, the 18th century Franciscan missionary who founded nine Californian missions – from which cities including San Francisco and San Diego grew. Serra’s humble birthplace can also be visited in the same street.
Cook like a Pro
Looking forward to some cosy winter suppers with friends? Expand your culinary repertoire by enrolling on a cookery course led by a top island chef. In December, Fórmula Schwaiger (www.formulaschwaiger.com) offers several four-hour courses: cooking with white Alba truffle (Saturday, 11th and Saturday, 18th), fish (Thursday, 16th), and a Christmas menu (Thursday, 23rd). For non-German speaking participants, instructions and recipes will also be provided in English or Spanish, as appropriate.
Enjoy a special bottle (or several!) of Mallorcan wine for the coming festivities. With 66 bodegas on the island, we’re spoilt for choice, so we asked Daniel Arias – sommelier at Palma wine specialists Isla Catavinos (www.islacatavinos.com) – for some personal recommendations.
Torre de’s Canonge 2008 from Vins Toni Gelabert (DO Pla i Llevant), made from the Mallorcan white grape variety Giró and aged in the barrel for four months. The bodega’s viticulture is ecological and biodynamic, although this wine awaits formal authorisation to be sold as such.
Jaume de Puntiró’s Rosat 2009 (DO Binissalem) – a very fresh ecological wine made from the native Manto Negro grapes.
Sío 2007 – made from Manto Negro and other varieties. A high-scoring and internationally recognised wine from Bodegas Hereus de Ribas (Vi de la Terra).
Som dels Cavallers 2008 (Vi de la Terra) is a blend of Callet, Fogoneu, Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah varieties, barrel-aged for 12 months. Bodega Galmes i Ribot, which produces this wine, has a vineyard of local grape varieties undergoing recuperation in conjunction with the island’s agricultural council.
S’Heretat 2006 (DO Pla i Llevant). One hundred per cent Callet grapes, this wine comes from one of Mallorca’s ecological viticulture pioneers, Bodegas Ca’n Majoral.