Travel review: Heaven and hell in Mallorca

A beach in Capdepera.
A beach in Capdepera.
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Miles from the stag and hen parties of Magaluf, Rachael Burnett finds Mallorca is turning over a sophisticated leaf with the opening of Park Hyatt’s first European resort.

Looming ahead of me, like a column in a gothic cathedral, is one of the largest stalagmites in the world. Soaring skyward, it seems to be reaching for the heavens. Evoking numerous religious connotations, the prehistoric Caves of Arta have been attracting curious “worshippers” for years, and the various atmospheric chambers have been given Dante-esque names like Hell, Paradise and Purgatory.

Following a visit, author Jules Verne is said to have found inspiration for his sci-fi classic Journey To the Centre of the Earth, but gazing up at an arched roof of dagger-like stalactites, I easily imagine we’re on a different planet altogether.

The caves lie along the coast of Capdepera, on the less-visited eastern side of Mallorca. With party towns like Magaluf usually grabbing headlines, much of this Spanish island’s sophisticated and cultured side is often overlooked.

But that’s all about to change. This summer, the Hyatt Hotels Corporation chose to open its first European property here – and the company is confident that Park Hyatt Mallorca is unlike anything else on the island.

Built in the style of a traditional Mallorquin village, with beautifully landscaped courtyards, winding stairways, towers and arches, the 142-room resort nestles into the side of the Canyamel Valley.

It’s around an hour’s drive, through rugged fields dotted with windmills and olive groves, from Palma airport.

When I arrive, I’m struck by the stunning views out to the Balearic Sea, cast across a sunken terrace garden. After being served a welcome drink of champagne, I’m whisked off to my new abode in one of the resort’s smart golf buggies.

Thoughtfully laid out, my room has been decorated in a relaxed, homely style, but it’s also thoroughly modern. Clever technology allows me to seamlessly connect my phone to a Bluetooth speaker in the bathroom and TV screen concealed in the mirror. Basking in the morning sun on my private terrace, I enjoy a quiet breakfast, which I order using a tablet that even allows me to book a specific time slot.

One of the property’s star features is the Serenitas Spa, with seven treatment rooms, a Himalayan salt sauna, steam room and outdoor Jacuzzi. I indulge in a Swedish massage in a private treatment room with its own terrace and, when I am able to open my eyes, I’m greeted with superb views of the valley.

For the more energetic, there’s also a well-equipped. A landscaped park, children’s playground and country club – with an indoor pool and tennis courts – are due to be completed by the autumn.

Glazing over at the thought of running, jumping and sweating, I choose to take it easy, relaxing in the sun by one of the hotel’s three pools. Only the call of mealtimes stirs me from a slumber; with so many fine options to choose from, I don’t want to skip a single opportunity to eat.

Majorcan, Catalan, Spanish and Asian dishes are made with ingredients sourced from local farms and fishing ports, and served in three different restaurants. One of my favourite spots is the Tapas Bar, where Michelin-starred chef David Garcia has devised a creative take on Spanish classics.

Spas, sunshine and suppers aside, it would be criminal to come all this way and not see the surrounding area.

An hour’s drive from the hotel, in the picturesque village of Consell, is the Ribas winery. I walk around the vineyards, where the Ribas family has been making wine for more than 300 years, and sample some fine blends at a three-course lunch in their grand 18th century ancestral home.

That afternoon, a little wobbly from my vineyard visit, I decide to stay close to the hotel. The neighbouring national park offers several hiking trails, which can be explored by foot or by bike.

As the sun is setting, I trek through woodland buzzing with cicadas up to an ancient beacon tower on a hilltop. The sky is so clear, I can even see neighbouring isle Menorca on the distant horizon.

Also close by is an idyllic cove with crystal clear water and white sands. After paddling in the calm sea one morning, I head to the tree-lined squares, boutique shops and bustling street cafes of small town Arta.

From here, it’s a short journey to the caves, first discovered by French geologist Edouard Martel in 1876. But their history, I learn on a fascinating guided tour (13 euros), goes back much further.

King Jaume I found 2,000 Arabs hiding here with their cattle during the Christian conquest, and hermits, smugglers and pirates are also reputed to have taken up residence in the past.

Contrary to the images its name might conjure up, the Paradise chamber is not my idea of home. Instead, I amble back to my own temporary little corner of five-star heaven, where I could quite happily be consigned for eternity.

GETTING THERE

Rachael Burnett was a guest of Park Hyatt Mallorca (mallorca.park.hyatt.com). Rooms start from 500 euros B&B.

British Airways has up to 21 flights a week to Palma, with return fares starting at £111 from Heathrow.

Jess Gibson on her travels (copyright: The Travelista)

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