The Balearic Islands (los Baleares in Spanish) were named after the crack-shot sling-throwers the Greeks tried to dodge when they first visited. You can't blame the locals for being tooled up: the islands have been invaded by just about every sea-faring nation in history, from the Carthaginians to the Moors, from the Romans to the British, from the Vikings to the Catalans, who left their language as the local dialect.
The latest set of intruders are the millions of (largely German and British) holiday-makers who arrive every summer to party by night and sleep on the beach during the day in Ibiza or Mallorca, or to chill out in Menorca or Formentera. Most ignore the islands' football team, but some intrepid fans do travel to see the Balearics' sole Primera representatives, Real Mallorca, in action.
The islands have been home to a number of celebrities over the years, from the sublime (Robert Graves, Chopin, George Sand, Anias Nin and Joan Míro) to the conspicuous (Michael Douglas, Claudia Schiffer, James Blunt).
The more discerning guests stay far from the madding tourists, away from the sandy strands: each island has remote, mountainous, pine-tree-lined nature spots which make the area ideal for hiking or musing on the nature of life. There are also plenty of facilities for golfers and sub-aqua enthusiasts.
The easily-accessible capital of the islands is Palma, on the west coast of Mallorca. For most package tourists Palma is just a stopping-off point before getting a bus or a taxi to their accommodation – typically, the Brit hotspot S'Arenal to the east, or German-crammed Magaluf to the west.
But the city (with 300,000 inhabitants, easily the biggest in the Balearics) is actually a rather sophisticated place, with a huge medieval cathedral, an ever-increasing number of interesting art galleries and a night-life that doesn't involve frequent trips to the dentist's chair. There's even a jazz club in the warren of streets next to the cathedral, as well as a handful of British pubs which keep you informed of the proceedings in the Bolton-Arsenal game.
With apologies to the English teams who regularly tour Ibiza pre-season, the most celebrated visitors to the Balearics are the footballers who arrive every fortnight to play Mallorca, currently enjoying their golden age with eight consecutive seasons in the top flight under their belts and a replica of the Copa del Rey (won in 2002) in the trophy cabinet.
Mallorca don't have any significant local rivals, although - as in most places - the visits of Barça and Real Madrid are particularly eagerly-awaited. "Barça, f**k yourselves" is a favourite chant, if not the most imaginative ever.
With the football season starting right at the end of August, most package tourists will miss the chance to watch Mallorca. However, with the temperatures staying into the 20's into November and budget flights heading to Palma airport all year round, it's a great location for weekend tourists who want to include a Primera game in their itinerary – especially as match tickets are usually readily available from the Son Moix taquillas in the days before the match.
Mallorca, the largest of the Balearic Islands, is first and foremost a
party island. Sun, sea, sand and booze are all here in plentiful
supply, but dig a little deeper and you'll discover Mallorca has much
more to offer.
Most of the development hugs the east coast, leaving the rest of the
island relatively untouched. Palma, home of Real Mallorca and the
Balearics' only true city, is historic and often astounds tourists with
its Gothic architecture.
The north-west coast is rugged and bare, with unkempt cove beaches in
stark contrast to those on the east coast teeming with more than eight
million tourists a year.
The airport is 11km east of Palma, the capital of the newly-established
Balearic Islands' autonomous region. The airport is connected to the
surrounding coast by a motorway – and there is a shuttle bus to the
coast costing 1,80 (if you're feeling particularly flush, it's 15 for a
taxi). Ferries from Mallorca call at Valencia, Barcelona, Ibiza and
Menorca: (0034) 971 323 007.
At the ferry port in La Savina: (0034) 971 322 057.
Tito's, Placa Gomila 3, (0034) 971 730 017. This ultramodern nightclub
is unmissable for house and garage fans. In summer, Tito's is rammed
with tourists from the world over.
SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT
At the town of Porto Cristo you'll find two sets of caves: Coves des
Hams and Coves del Drac. Should you take the guided tour, you will be able to enjoy listening to the classical musicians on the
Festa de Nostra Senyora de la Victoria, in mid-May. Centres around the
re-enactment of historic battles between Christians and infidels
(Turkish Pirates) in 1561. After the battle people fire rifles in air,
before getting nicely drunk.
Check your Balearics with our interactive map. Click the club badge for a club guide.
For regular updates on the crazy world of Spanish football, see our blog La Liga Loca
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