The entrance to Palma de Mallorca from the west of the island is an inherently thrilling experience. First, you pass the elegant grand cruise liners which have come to call on the gem of the Balearics; next, you take in line after line of grand, gleaming white yachts lined up like a photocall of elegant fashion models; and then beyond this, row after row of fishing boats and pleasure boats and dinghies and speed boats of every shape and size line Palma’s vast harbor like the pearlescent interior of an oyster shell, while through the forest of masts and flagpoles which pop up from the boats aplenty, Palma’s stunning neo-gothic cathedral La Seu glimmers like a desert mirage.
But while Palma’s port makes for a grand semi-circular spectacle lining the waterfront of this magnificent Mallorcan city, all around the island, small, authentic, and utterly atmospheric ports sparkle like gems around the island, and a short stroll around them or a coffee or lunch on their quietly lapping waterfronts make for the most pleasant of Mallorcan past-times, whatever the time of the year. It is these ports that I find so utterly alluring, and my time spent within them makes for some of the most magical moments on the island. Who can resist the tranquil sound of water gently lapping against the shiny sides of white boats, or deny the mesmeric beauty of sun sparkling across the still waters, while orange, yellow, and white buoys bob up and down upon the sea?
It’s perhaps largely because of the geographical landscape of the island that Mallorca boasts so many stunning, naturally formed harbors in which little charming fishing ports have grown up so naturally. Take the stunning port of Andratx for example, a little fisherman’s port, still very much in use as the panoply of nets and ropes and fisherman’s boats along the harbor side demonstrates. This scenic paradise is perfectly located within a naturally protected harbor, set within the embrace of the rounded mountainsides which encircle the bay.
The same convenient natural protection is afforded by the craggy rocky mountains which are wrapped around the delightful port of Pollença on the north of the island, allowing this still tranquil Eden to benefit from crystal clear waters and reflective water-side passages, dappled as they are with the sunlight that streams through a line of bounteous pine trees.
But perhaps my favorite of all ports is the truly hidden gem which can be found deeply embedded within the embrace of the vast mountainous valley encircling the town of Sóller and the port beyond. The journey to Sóller in itself seems like a voyage of discovery, whether you drive through the hairpin bends of mountain passes, or take the incredibly atmospheric little train – the Ferrocarrill de Sóller – from Palma’s Plaza de España, which traverses mountains and rumbles through deep dark sub-mountain tunnels before emerging atop the Sóller valley, affording passengers what are perhaps the most stunning views on the island. But once down in the valley, rich as it is with citrus trees, a further tram journey out to the coast will enable you to visit what has to be the most charming of ports, set against a backdrop of those same vast mountains, and filled with its own cluster of boats and yachts and vessels, lined with cafes and restaurants aplenty, and with views to make even the hardest of hearts melt like oozing camembert in the island’s ample sunlight.
There is nothing extravagant about these ports – they need no pumping disco music or entertainment venues to captivate visitors. For their seduction is the purity of their simplicity: grace, charm, and utmost tranquillity.