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For today’s Destination of the Week, we are visiting a Mediterranean island off the coast of Spain that has drawn vacationers from all over the world with its dramatic beaches, beautiful historic hotels, and sunny climate from Roman times to the present day. We’re heading to the largest of the Balearic islands: Mallorca.
WHAT TO DO
Also known as Majorca, this almost 1,500-square-mile island has been populated since the Paleolithic era, with artifacts ranging from prehistoric times to the Bronze Age having been discovered on its rocky and mountainous landscapes. Mallorca flourished under Roman rule, during which time what is now the city of Palma was established and the local economy was boosted by olive cultivation and salt mining. The Romans used Mallorca as a base for their troops to plunder the Mediterranean.
With a population of around 400,000, Palma de Mallorca is the biggest city and major port on the island, along with being the capital of the autonomous community of the Balearic Islands of Spain. During the 17th century, the city was split by two gangs called the Canamunts and Canavalls (meaning “the ones from the upper/lower side”) causing severe social repercussions, but the conflicts are long over and since the 1950s capital has been the face of tourism for Mallorca. The harbor is bordered by rocky inlets and a marina on to the south, so most of the hotels are on the east of the city and along the waterfront promenade.
One of Palma’s most famous structures is Cathedral La Seu, a large cathedral that was previously a mosque that began construction in 1229 but wasn’t completed until 1601. The Gothic landmark lies in the oldest part of the city overlooking the harbor and is dedicated to San Sebastian, Palma’s patron saint. The rest of the old city is a complex web of narrow streets and walkways that weave through the impressive architecture and colorful houses. It is easiest to check out on foot and be sure to take a wander down Paseo de Born, a tree-shaded avenue running through the city that is perfect for a romantic stroll.
Many remnants of Mallorca’s rich history still remain, along with the Arab Bathhouse that is located in the only Moorish-built building still standing in Palma. Guests enter through a horseshoe-arched and domed chamber that is supported by 12 columns. Opening hours from April to November are from 9:30 am to 8:00 pm and from December to March from 9:30 am to 7:00 pm.
The El Pueblo Español is like a historical theme park or open air architectural museum made up of reproductions of Spain’s most famous monuments. Constructed between 1965 and 1967 by architect Fernando Chueca Goitia, it lets you see the whole of Spain in one convenient place, along with the opportunity to taste different cuisines from around the country.
One of the other most-visited places on the island is Valldemossa, a picturesque old village nestled upon a hilltop with photo opportunities from every angle and breathtaking views of Palma and the Mediterranean Sea below. Be sure to visit the town early in the morning as everything closes after 2:00 pm. One of the most popular things to do is a visit to Royal Carthusian Monastery, where Frederic Chopin and George Sand famously spent a season, and you can sit and listen to the melodic tunes of a piano concert drifting through the walls while you soak in the sense of history that dates back to 1399.
Along with its rich heritage, Mallorca, like much of the Mediterranean, is famous for its over 100 pristine beaches and clear blue sea. Among them is Cala Agulla, which is surrounded by pine trees and mountains as the white sand pours into the glass flat water. Es Trenc in the south of the island has a broad mass of sand dunes and rocky outcrops that extend out into the salt pans. In the summer it is a popular tourist spot, while in the winter months it is a haven for feathered visitors and filled with migrating birds. To the west, the beaches turn from sand to pebbles, while less hospitable, the stoney landscape of spots such Sa Calobra are both impressive and dramatic.
If you want to stay away from the tourist hordes, avoid the busy beaches around Palma and party destinations like Magaluf.
Destination of the Week pieces are not meant to be comprehensive guides to destinations since we don’t have the time or funds to visit all these places in person and report back to you. Nor are they endorsements of all the hotels we mention. They are simply roundups of top destinations that we have specifically pinpointed for the opportunity they present to use your miles and points to get to and stay there. As always, we welcome your comments to help enrich the content here, provide opinions and first-hand experiences of these destinations.
Mallorca’s main airport is Palma de Mallorca Airport which is located about 5 miles away from the city. While no US airlines fly into Mallorca, there are a number of alliance partners that do, so using your miles is definitely an option.
Oneworld flyers have their choice of gateways in Spain thanks to Iberia’s major presence here, including Madrid and Barcelona, but they can also connect to one of Air Berlin’s many flights from Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, or Ibiza to name a few destinations they service from here. Aer Lingus also flies seasonal to Belfast-City, Cork, and Dublin. British Airways offers non-stop service from London-Heathrow, so consider flying your preferred carrier there and then book a one-way flight over for 7,500 Avios each way. Finnair also offers seasonal service to Helsinki.
SkyTeam flyers can take advantage of Alitalia’s seasonal service from Rome, or Air Europa’s service from Barcelona, Granada, Madrid, Paris-Orly, Seville, Valencia, or Zaragoza.
Star Alliance flyers can connect through Frankfurt, Berlin, Dusseldorf and Munich on Lufthansa. Austrian Airlines offers seasonal service to Vienna on their connection carrier Tyrolean Airways. SWISS flies to Geneva and Zurich. Scandinavian Airlines offers year-round service to Copenhagen.
Also be sure to check out some of the low-cost carriers such as RyanAir and easyJet which all have a large presence here.
WHERE TO STAY
Hilton Sa Torre Mallorca Resort: Located in Llucmajor, this property offers stylish guest rooms decorated with calm colors that offer LCD TV’s, high-speed internet access, white bedding, and spacious bathrooms. The hotel features two outdoor swimming pools and an indoor heated pool at the Sa Torre Pure Spa. Other amenities include the hotel’s fitness center, steam room, business center, and complimentary parking. Dining options include Arxiduc, the hotel’s Mediterranean restaurant and the hotel’s Sa Clastra bar. Room rates start at 225 EUR ($300) per night in August. This is a Category 8 hotel and requires 70,000 (40,000-70,000 seasonally) HHonors points for a free night.
While there are currently no Hyatt properties in Mallorca, there are plans to open a 142-room Park Hyatt Mallorca in 2015 which will offer two restaurants, a separate beach club, spa and fitness center all featuring views of the Canyamel Valley.
Marriott’s Club Son Antem: A member of Marriott’s Vacation Club, this property offers two- and three-bedroom luxury townhouses. The villas offer fully equipped kitchen with cookware & tableware, separate living & dining areas, and private balconies or terraces. They do feature modern amenities including flatscreen televisions with satellite channels. Dining options include La Vista Verde Restaurant, and the hotel’s Mediterranean El Olivar Restaurant. Onsite amenities include a fitness center, indoor/outdoor swimming pool, whirlpool, sauna, and the Son Antem Spa. This a Marriott Category 6 property requiring 30,000 Marriott Rewards points or 270 EUR ($360) per night in August.
Other Marriott properties include the AC Hotel Ciutat de Palma, which is a Marriott Category 4 property requiring 20,000 Marriott Rewards points per night.
Castillo Hotel Son Vida, Mallorca: Located high above Palma de Majorca in a sprawling estate based around a 13th-century building, the 164 rooms and suites at the Castillo Hotel Son Vida feature WiFi, a flatscreen TV, heated floors and views of the landscaped park. The resort’s amenities include an outdoor swimming pool, kids club, spa, fitness center and limousine service. There are five onsite restaurants ranging from fine dining at Es Castell to casual at the George Sand Lounge. Room rates start at 360 EUR ($478) per night in August and include a complimentary breakfast but there is a fee for WiFi. This is a Category 5 requiring 16,000 Starpoints for a free night.
The St. Regis Mardavall Mallorca Resort: Nestled between the Tramuntana mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, the rooms in this St. Regis resort feature WiFi (for a fee of 19 EUR or $25 per day), flatscreen TV’s, goose-down duvets, Remède bathroom products, a private terrace or balcony and services provided by the signature St. Regis Butlers. The property also has a fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools, kids club, the Arabella Spa, with a a Traditional Chinese Medicine center, and five different dining options. Room rates start at 500 EUR ($665) per night in August. This is Category 7 hotel requiring 30,000 to 35,000 Starpoints for a free night.
Other Starwood properties include the Sheraton Mallorca Arabella Golf Hotel which is a Category 5 property ranging from 12,000-16,000 Starpoints per night.
Leading Hotels of the World
Castell Son Claret: This member of The Leading Hotels of the World group (which has its own loyalty program Leaders Club) is nestled in a valley among the peaks of the picturesque Tramuntana range and makes for an idyllic retreat from some of the island’s party destinations. The resort’s motto at this 38-room property is “the luxury of silence,” which why they have heavy, sound-proof wooden doors along with oak-wood flooring and ceiling-high leather-padded headboards on the beds, plus flatscreen TV’s and free high-speed WiFi. Outdoor room areas range from patios to a private gardens or personal pools for the suites, many of which are converted from former stables. Enormous marble bathrooms are stocked with high-end Plantation bath products and feature bespoke towels and terry bathrobes, separate rain showers and free-standing spa tubs. The lush estate is also home to colorful gardens, and includes ample other amenities including an intimate spa with a hamam and a living wall, an outdoor panorama pool, small fitness center, tennis courts, yoga, meditation and Qi Gong classes. Dining options range from multi-course tasting menus at the Michelin-starred Zaranda to light Mediterranean dishes at Olivera, to an onsite bakery or drinks in the former chapel that is now the Castell Bar. Room rates start at 405 EUR ($538) per night in August.
Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts
Fine Hotels & Resorts is a loyalty program for Amex Platinum cardholders who receive special benefits at participating hotels such as early check-in and late check-out, complimentary breakfast, room upgrades, and other perks.
La Residencia: All of the 67 rooms a this Orient Express property are uniquely decorated with local antiques and works of art, they feature large bathrooms with luxury amenities, a flatscreen TV, furnished patio and complimentary WiFi. Luxury suites or a 3-bedroom villa with private pool are also available. Restaurant options range from fine dining at El Olivo to more casual cuisine at Café Miró. The luxurious property boasts two outdoor pools set amidst the the dramatic Tramuntana mountain range, a heated indoor pool, sauna and Jacuzzi, spa, tennis courts with a resident pro, fitness center, and for a art lovers, a gallery and sculpture garden. Room rates start at 665 EUR ($894) per night in August, including buffet breakfast and a glass of Spanish Cava per person and fresh fruit upon arrival.
The St. Regis Mardavall Mallorca Resort is also part of the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts collection.
When cardholders use a Visa Signature credit card to book a room through the Visa Signature Hotels program, they are eligible to receive extra perks such as discounted room rates, room upgrades, free breakfast, early check-in and late check-out, dining and spa credits and more. Visa Signature cards include the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire, British Airways Visa, the Hyatt card, the Marriott Rewards Premier and Marriott Rewards cards, the Southwest Plus card, Bank of America’s Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines cards, Capital One Venture, Citi Hilton HHonors and Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve, US Bank FlexPerks, Citi AAdvantage Visa Signature, and many more, so chances are you’re carrying at least one of them in your wallet.
Cap Rocat: A former military fortress located in a secluded area at the southwest tip of the bay of Palma de Mallorca, this 24-room hotel offers complimentary WiFi, a flatscreen TV, and a balcony. There are a number of luxury suites with living rooms decorated with art, spacious gardens with private terraces and private pool. Cap Rocat has two restaurants with outdoor dining options including the seaside Sea Club, a small beach, a spa, quiet pool, fitness center and recreational facilities. There is also function rooms for meetings, and an events that can seat up to 250 persons. Room rates start at 350 EUR ($465) per night in August.