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A Winter Escape to Mallorca: What It’s Like to Move to The Island

By Andrea Champredonde

I usually spend about 10 days to two weeks in Mallorca, twice a year; once in the spring, and a second go in the fall. Over a million cyclists visit the island every year, just to ride their bikes. But what’s it like to live there? To answer that question, we planned a winter escape to Mallorca. If all goes well, the move may become permanent in the fall.

A test run

Moving anywhere is a big decision. We wanted to give Mallorca a test run to see what it’s like to live there; on an island. Some say it is too restrictive. But Mallorca is big. I’ve never felt stuck, but that’s me. And spending time on holiday differs from everyday living.

Mallorca is a popular tourist destination, particularly in summer. Cyclists flock here in the spring and fall. To get a feel for life out of season, we choose to visit Mallorca in winter. We are in a small coastal town on the other side of the island from the massive city of Palma, and many of the local shops are closed for the off-season. However, grocery stores, pharmacies and a handful of cafes and restaurants remain open.

On the ferry

Most travel to Mallorca on a plane. But we booked transport on the ferry from Barcelona since you can bring your car along. We filled it up with our bikes and everything we needed from home to make our stay comfortable. A car is handy for grocery shopping, general transport in bad weather and to discover the island too.

The ferry to Mallorca leaves Barcelona a few hours before midnight. You drive the car right into the vessel, park in neat rows, and then head upstairs for the journey. You can rent a cabin to sleep comfortably, but it’s an added expense. There is an option for a reclining chair, but they are more like an airline seat. Skip it. Voyagers find a place to stretch out and sleep. Next time, I’m bringing a sleeping bag and crashing on the floor. The trip lasts about 8 hours.

The return trip is all daytime hours, so sleeping won’t be an issue. The ferry has restaurants, bars, and some even an outdoor pool for the warmer months. What is fabulous about travelling with your car is loading and unloading your luggage once. Pack up the car at home, drive off the ferry and unload at your destination on the other side of the Mediterranean. Amazing.

Mild temperatures and sunshine

The weather has been amazing so far. Most of southern Europe is experiencing a mild winter. I brought heavy winter clothing, but haven’t needed it so far. Some days have reached a perfect 18° to 19°degrees. I’ve gotten away with shorts most days and a warm long-sleeve jersey. Incredible.

It’s a selfish pleasure to know we are being spoiled by such brilliant weather. A cold snap is scheduled for later this week, but who really knows with the weather? Will I have the courage to get out there if the thermometer drops to normal winter conditions? I may wait for it to pass. I’ve got three months, no rush.

The beautiful scenic roads of the Cap de Formentor, Mallorca. © Profimedia

The Tramuntana

We are staying on a part of the island we don’t really know for this dry run. The idea is to discover new areas while we are here. It may not be related to where we are, but one thing we noticed is an extra powerful wind from time to time. We’ve never ridden here in winter, so perhaps it’s just the time of the year. When it blows, it’s cold and strong. You don’t want to be out, much less on a bike.

After a bit of research, I learned it’s called the Tramuntana. It’s a regular feature on the island except for summer. Call it a distant cousin to the French Mistral wind. It blows NE to SE across the island from one to three or more days at a time. The frigid gusts travel from the Pyrenees on the mainland, making them bitterly cold if mountains are covered in ice and snow.

We’ve only experienced it for two days so far, but the strength of that wind is no exaggeration. It’s said to have the power of driving people crazy. Windows and doors rattle under its force and people shelter inside. Other than the Tramuntana, I noticed the everyday wind picks up around 13h30 in the afternoon. Get out earlier in the day to avoid it.

Goats and sheep

With fewer people on the island, nature regains the terrain. This is particularly the case on the very desirable and small paved “camis” (short for camino). Cyclists that find them are treated to some of the most beautiful and preserved landscapes on the island lined by ancient stone walls that separate green agricultural pastures.

But watch out for goats and sheep! They are everywhere. Wild or escaped, they graze on the side of the road and sometimes right in the middle of it as you round a corner or take a turn. If there’s a handful of them, the bike can spook them and cause them to scatter unpredictably. They are a reminder that we are sharing this magnificent cycling paradise with Mother Nature.

Peace and tranquillity

My favourite thing so far on this Mallorcan adventure is the peace and tranquillity in the winter months. Cyclists are present on the island, but fewer. And what a change from the multitude of summer holidaymakers. Even then, it’s easy to avoid them if you move inland. But that isn’t a factor in winter. Everywhere we go is free of people, tourist buses and rental cars scurrying about the island.

Riding our bikes has been as exceptional as always. Not having to share it with crowds is a bonus. There is less street noise and the windows are closed, so we even sleep better here than at home. As I rode in the late afternoon sun today, I was thinking how hard it is going to be to return to bustling city life. Our dry run has just started, but I already have a feeling we’ll be back to stay in the fall.