We’ve heard the destination names in club-thumping anthems. Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull drop Ibiza in “Dance the Night Away” and Mike Posner does the same in his sentimental after-party hit. In the 90s, a song that takes Mallorca’s name by Loft, was blasting through speakers and neon lights. In cruise itineraries and common consciousness, the two islands are closely tied together, despite both having their very own, very distinct personalities.
So what’s the difference? What should people prioritize over another attraction when they plan to hit the Balearic Islands? How do they get from one hot spot to the other? And where even ARE they?
Questions like that are why savvy travelers Plan with a Pro and Ask a Travel Advisor. Travel advisors have access to insider intel, local secrets, and hints on how to navigate these two islands … especially when they work with ALG Vacations®, who has been at the forefront of expanding travel to this region.
The Balearic Islands
Just off the southeastern coast of Spain, near Barcelona, the Balearic Islands are actually an archipelago in the Balearic Sea and an autonomous community that is a province and distinct nationality of Spain. People more often refer to the different Balearic Islands as individual destinations rather than a collective set of islands. It’s not wrong to do either!
The best-known ones are, of course, Ibiza and Mallorca, which is sometimes spelled Majorca but is not to be confused with its neighbor, Menorca. There’s also Formentera, the fourth of the bigger main islands, then smaller islands that include Cabrera, Dragonera, and S’Espalmador.
Across all of them, the climate is warm and balmy, ideal for year-round beach-going. It’s classified as a hot-summer Mediterranean climate for the most part, with average temperatures that dip down to 53 degrees as a winter average and starts warming back up as early as late May. Peak season for sunbathers is in the summer, though, around June through August, when the daily average is 73 – 79, but any time May through October is considered the ideal time to go.
Back in May 2022, TravelBlogue did a deep dive into Cities & Seas: How to Have It All in Europe. Mallorca was such a banner destination that it got its own story, which you can read about here. But we’ll shorthand it for you here!
Mallorca has a lot of Rome and Moorish influences for a historic, distinctly European vibe to the city center in its capital, Palma, giving it a mainland feel despite being 124 miles away from the Iberian Peninsula’s coast. And its waters make it a stunner, with aqua seas so clear, the boats look suspended over their shadows on the ocean floor.
Where to Stay
Traditional hotels are popular in this part of the world, but resorts that include more are becoming more popular. Leading the charge are the Inclusive Collection, part of Hyatt Hotels & Resorts. On this island, look for Secrets Mallorca Villamil Resort & Spa and Dreams Calvia Resort & Spa for familiar features like Preferred Club, and Zoëtry Mallorca Balearic Islands for a boutique feel with a historical and wellness angle. Another great castle accommodation is the Castillo Hotel Son Vida, a Luxury Collection Hotel. For traditional luxury, the St. Regis Mardavall Mallorca Resort is an excellent choice. And Spanish brand RIU offers two properties in Mallorca for even more choice.
The nightlife in Palma is a given, but fight the urge to catch up on sleep during the day, since there’s much you won’t want to miss. Make sure to go to the Royal Palace of Almudaina, a stunning example of Moorish architecture, and 13th century Santa Maria Cathedral (also called Le Seau and the Palma Cathedral), which shows the city’s Roman side. Don’t miss the crown of thorns above the altar – it was sculpted by Antoni Gaudi. Another surrealist artistic attraction in Palma is the Joan Miro Museum, which houses over 6,000 pieces of his art, including unfinished paintings, sculptures, and more. Regardless, while you’re out near the cathedral and palace, wander through the Hort de Rei Park, the Garden of the Royal Palace.
Another fabulous place to wander would be the Mercat de Santa Catalina, the oldest food market in the city, where artisans and farmers have been selling the freshest goods for over a century – since 1920, to be exact.
Don’t miss the circular Bellver Castle just west of Palma for incredible views of the city and bay, and be sure to check out the visual timeline of Mallorca in the ground-floor museum. Wander through the Alcudia Old Town, which has been beautifully restored, and be enchanted by its secret gardens. Active travelers will want to check out Serra de Tramuntana on the northern side of the island. It’s not only great for hiking and biking, but it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hikers also love the Dry Stone Route, a 90-mile trail of stepping stones that connects several villages. Don’t worry – you’ll get the gist by only doing part of it!
Finally, don’t be afraid to go beach-hopping. Every part of the island has different styles of shorelines, from Cala Llombard’s warm and gentle waters and pine-tree background to Playa de Muro’s clear, shallow waters and nearby bird-watching paradise, Parc Natural de s’Albufera de Mallorca. Deia’s pebble beach is popular for swimming – it’s part of what makes this tiny village draped on a mountaintop so popular among celebrities, artists, and writers.
People most commonly associate “The White Isle” as a heady nightlife party town, and in this, it doesn’t disappoint. There are beaches where au naturel is de riguer, but also plenty that aren’t. Because what many don’t know is that between Ibiza Town and Sant Anton’s lively scenes lie charmingly quiet villages and beachfront retreats, allowing visitors to march to the beat of their own basslines.
Where to Stay
The W Ibiza is all about modern luxury and offers the glam vibe most people associate with this destination. For something a bit more boutique-y, try the Siau Ibiza Hotel, which offers boho-chic aesthetic and a sustainable focus that fits organically with that feel. For all-inclusive, try the adults-only AluaSoul Ibiza, which is right on Es Canar Beach.
It’s worth your while to emerge from the beach resorts that line the coast to get to the old town of Ibiza, which is on the southeast inverted curve of the island. There, you’ll find the Castle of Ibiza, which is worth the uphill climb for the harbor views. See if you can spot Formentera across the water on a clear day! Plus, this point of view will give you a different point of view of the old Portal de ses Taules near the market square, and on the other side, Puig de Molins, a Phoenician necropolis with artifacts to look at.
Of course, you can always head back to the Eivissa Harbor and Dalt Vila if you feel like doing the conventional tourist thing; there are plenty of restaurants and shops catering to the cruise ships and yachts that dock there. It’s one of the most expensive moorings in the world, so it’s worth the walk to ogle the vessels and potentially some celebs at ease.
Visit the original live music venue in Ibiza … and “Hippy Market” besides, where you can get art, jewelry, clothing, leatherware, ceramics, and souvenirs that are locally made and local in flavor. Specifically, we’re referring to Las Dalias in San Carlos, but there are several throughout, some with night hours. If you’re staying at AluaSoul Ibiza, don’t miss the market in Es Canar, which is actually the oldest and largest on the island.
You’ll also want to check out the famous beaches of Ibiza, such as Cala Comte, Cala Saladeta, and Cala Bassa, while there – preferably as many as possible! Cruises and catamaran tours are commonly available with some foresight. Just Ask a Travel Advisor to make sure you’re getting on a reputable one that fits your vacation style. For instance, you can do a sunset party cruise with a DJ or a snorkel and sail with a more relaxed energy level.
How to Hop
Pair the islands or throw Barcelona or Tenerife into the mix to make the most of your time in this part of the world. Barcelona is only an hour’s flight away from Mallorca, but a much more painful 7 – 8 hours by ferry. Tenerife in the Canary Islands, despite being on the other side of Africa, is only a 2 – 3-hour ferry from Palma in Mallorca. Alternatively, do Barcelona and a jaunt to one of the islands as the more relaxing part of your European expedition. But don’t forget that you can easily do City & Seas in Mallorca!
The best way to get between Mallorca and Ibiza is by air, and a pretty frequent schedule between Palma and Ibiza makes it the most popular and convenient. Air time is under an hour – typically 45 minutes from take-off to touch-down. This saves you hours of transit time as opposed to taking the ferry, which you’d need to ride for 3 – 4 hours, depending on vessel, weather conditions, and scheduling.
If you’re living life name-dropping celebrity style, you can opt to charter either method of transportation. The most glamorous way, though, is by private helicopter.
Want more City & Seas? You can also have it all in the Canary Islands, Spain and the Azores in Portugal. And don’t forget the Greek Isles, also on sale now through travel advisors who book through ALG Vacations® brands, Apple Vacations, Travel Impressions, Funjet Vacations, and United Vacations!