Spain has been one of the most visited countries in the world for many years, but during the summer months there are two islands that receive more tourists than any other place in the country: Mallorca (Majorca in Catalonian) and Tenerife.
Mallorca is the biggest of the Balearic Islands, located in the Mediterranean Sea about 30 minutes by air from Valencia. The island boasts excellent beaches and plenty of attractions that suit all kinds of entertainment needs: from isolated coves with pristine waters to wild night parties that last till well after dawn. Throw in natural attractions and exquisite gastronomy and you have all you need to spend a great time. So where do you start?
Palma de Mallorca is the capital city of the Balearic Islands, and the largest in Mallorca island as well. It is here that your plane or ferry will arrive and you will find the most relevant architecture, like the Palma Cathedral or the Castle of Bellver. Both of them date back to the 1300s and are located in unique locations excellent for walking and taking pictures. Near the cathedral you will also find many restaurants where you can enjoy some of the unique flavors this part of Spain offers: make sure you try bread with sobrasada (a spread originally created in this part of the world that derives from minced pig meat mixed with several spices) and ensaimadas ( a delicious pastry that can have different add-ons and be up to 70 cm wide or more!).
Once you get antsy and feel like exploring the island don’t hold back: rent a car and drive the stunning north west coast from Alcudia to Andratx, visit the quaint towns of Deia and Valldemossa in the mountains or visit the Drach Caves near Porto Cristo which feature and underground river you can navigate along. At the northern tip of the island Cap Formentor offers spectacular views particularly during sunset, and the Monastery at Lluc will set your soul in peace.
But hey, you’re in Mallorca after all, and you have to experience its nightlife! Ibiza might be the capital party island of the world, but Mallorca isn’t too far behind with huge clubs that will keep you dancing all night. There’s plenty of bars too and again a succulent dinner right before will set you in the right mood. Once you have seen most of what Mallorca has to offer it will be the moment to find the beach of your choice (crowded or secluded), sit back and bake in the sun while gazing at the turquoise waters thinking that your holidays to Majorca have everything you expected and more. Many people from Germany and the UK not only spend their holidays here but now call Mallorca their home- there has to be something going on!
Further south the Canary Islands are Spain’s most distant land mass. The two and a half hour flight from Madrid will take you to a group of volcanic islands located about 1500 km off the west coast of Africa, of which Tenerife is the largest and the most visited. Tenerife is a mostly arid island because of its volcanic nature (only the northern tip can be particularly rainy) yet tourists flock en masse here every year. Why? The climate is mild throughout the year (an average of about 25 degrees Celsius), flights are very cheap to airports in Spain, France, Germany and the UK and prices remain cheap to fair most of the time.
Most tourists enjoy all inclusive Tenerife holidays because of comfort, simplicity and value. There are hotels and resorts for every kind of taste though most are situated in the southern part of the island because it tends to be sunnier and it is here that the best beaches are located. Most of them have black sand and the water is cool (coldish?) most time of the year because of the currents that dominate these waters. Surfing is a big sport in the island, as is windsurfing in beaches like El Medano or El Pozo: you will not want to spend your holidays in these two towns unless you are a windsurfer or kitesurfer because gale force winds are persistent throughout the year.
The most popular attraction in Tenerife is El Teide, an extinct volcano that at 3,718 m it is also Spain’s highest mountain. Snow can be seen during most months of the year at the top, reachable by a cable car that has its base at an altitude of 2,365 m. The road that leads to it is quite spectacular, beginning at sea level, then crossing an area with dense forests only to reach an almost-lunar landscape above the clouds shortly after. Again on a clear day pictures can be magnificent! All hotels offer this trip as an option, so no planning is needed.
Tenerife also has an endemic cuisine you must try, including papas con mojo picon (baked potatoes with a spicy local sauce) or conejo al ajillo (roasted rabit with garlic). These delicacies are best enjoyed in Guachinches, family businesses run in private homes scattered all over the island. It can be a way of mingling with the locals and if you pay attention you’ll see that the Spanish spoken here has a distinct accent from that spoken in mainland Spain, it being closer perhaps to that of South America. You will need a car to reach them, but the good news is that the prices are very fair. Again some hotels might be able to organize these trips!
If you’re a night owl don’t worry because most hotels have their own clubs, discos and night shows, so why spend more money if you don’t need to? However if you want to explore other places on your own there is no shortage of night bars either. These will always have plenty of British and German vacationers who discovered that these islands are a short flight from their home a long time ago and have it all wired.
Spain’s cultural heritage is world known and sought after by vacationers, with cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Toledo,or Valencia receiving millions of tourists each year, yet many people are well aware of the islands and make these their holiday destination of choice. The question is: which will you visit first?
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