Gina Baksa heads to Mallorca for a stay at Hotel Formentor on the island’s idyllic north west coast
Mallorca’s reputation as a tourist package nightmare of epic proportions is unwarranted. Sure, you’ll find Dante’s Inferno at Magaluf and Arenal, but elsewhere this enchanting haven ‘twixt Ibiza and Menorca has much to attract the more discerning and sophisticated visitor.
The largest of Spain’s Balearic Islands, Mallorca is largely unspoilt and offers stunning coves, superb beaches, great biking and cycling roads – and beautiful luxury hotels. Head to the picturesque UNESCO protected north-east of Mallorca to Cap Formentor and you’ll find yourself – as I did – among scented pine forests atop limestone cliffs that drop majestically into the azure blue waters below. A yachting haven, there are plenty of hideaway inlets to explore far from the madding crowd.
The Serra de Tramuntana mountains meet the Med here on this 20km peninsula just northeast of Pollenca, the local fishing port. Its main beach, Playa Formentor, is a stunning cove on the peninsula, with a gorgeous mountain backdrop.
We’ve arrived by car from Palma – just an hour’s drive (46 miles) via a mix of zigzag mountain roads and a motorway – at the award-winning Barceló Hotel Formentor – A Royal Hideaway Resort. Winner of the Best Leading Boutique Hotel (World Travel Awards) 2016, the Formentor boasts an extraordinary elevated setting, with breath-taking Mediterranean gardens and stunning views out across the Bay of Pollença and the mountains.
Attracting celebrities and the cognoscenti since 1930, this idyllic hideaway has hosted luminaries such as Charlie Chaplin, Churchill, Princess Grace and Audrey Hepburn. Now owned by the Barcelo Resorts Group, the Formentor has retained its understated elegance and feels like a luxury holiday villa – albeit on a super grand scale. All the hotel’s 121 double and double superior rooms and suites have mountain or garden views that overlook the well-stocked terraced gardens and pergolas, leading to the two large swimming pools and then down to the pine-fringed sandy beach.
My suite on the third floor has stunning 180-degree vistas of the Bay and Illa de Formentor , the backdrop to the resplendent gardens and swimming pools. There’s no balcony here due to the hotel’s design, but the windows open (heaven!) allowing a cooling sea breeze even though the air con is sufficient. I notice generous balconies on the second floor below me.
My suite has a dressing room area with his and hers wardrobe, two TVs and a lounge with sofa bed. The suites are homely – no super bling here – and are in keeping with the vintage feel of the hotel. To be honest they could do with a little refresh, but the superb grounds and amenities – and proximity to the sea – means you will rarely be in your room.
Fridge, Nespresso, kettle, ironing board and iron – all check. And a selection of different sized pillows atop the most comfortable bed. There’s a lovely turndown service with chocolates. And some of the best towels I’ve ever used, along with White Company amenities. After a taste of the very welcome local cake thoughtfully placed in our room, we walk through the beautiful grounds (imagine lofty pine and palm trees) down to one of Formentor’s four restaurants – the smart beachside Bar Platjamar. Open air and inside dining here is just steps from the sandy, pine-fringed beach – pure bliss.
The menu is an eclectic selection of local favourites with a sophisticated twist – my Yellowfin Tuna Tartare followed by vegetable and fish paella (we shared two massive portions) was delicious and well accompanied by a Baron de Ley Rioja Rosé. Followed by a financier of red fruits with sorbet and English cream. We lingered long here… taking in the spectacular view and the relaxing atmosphere. Rarely have I felt so at home so immediately at a resort: The Formentor really is something special. Excellent attentive service and fresh local provenance make for a seductive dining experience.
We had a chance to view the hotel and coastline on a boat trip during a fabulous sail around Pollensa Bay. Wearing our Hotel Formentor straw trilbies, we looked like extras from an Agatha Christie movie. It was so exciting to be this close to the water. As the pine-clad beach retreated we could see the Formentor – white and stately atop the hillside – a commanding presence.
Damian, the boat’s charming owner and skipper gave up his desk job a few years ago to run this family business – and he loves it. Being so close to the water in this stunning landscape was so relaxing and energising.. Trailing my hand in the white foam I breathed in the sun and air deeply. What a joy! We dropped anchor in a quiet cove and Damian produced masks and fins for snorkelling. Bobbing fish ebbed and flowed in the current as we luxuriated in the feeling of being held buoyant by the deep blue seas.
He produced a bottle of his fine home-grown red wine along with some local cheese… what a superb trip. His boat is available to charter too, for €250 + VAT a day.
Before dinner at Hotel Formentor’s à la carte El Pi restaurant, I explored the grounds – such a multitude of flowers and shrubs here – the gardens are exquisite. I also discovered the spa, gym, tennis courts and even a mini-golf. The hotel is ideal for families – as well as couples. And the main swimming pool is huge. With plenty of sunbeds and loungers poolside and on the nearby lawns, it’s easy to find a private nook to read or daydream. And such an extraordinarily peaceful vibe in the grounds, with attentive staff who appeared from nowhere to set up the parasol and put out the mattresses for the sunbeds.
El Pi Restaurant is just opposite the pool area under a shady leafy pergola. Comfortable in our wicker chairs we tucked in to a delicious lunch of squid truffles with yellow chilli pepper, followed by a superb monkfish – with an Amazonas rum tiramisu to finish. The wine list is extensive at Hotel Formentor, offering a super selection of Mallorcan and Spanish varieties – I loved the Jean Leon Pinot Noir Rosé.
Time seems to stop at Hotel Formentor… our stay was just 48 hours, but we felt we’d been at the Cap for weeks. Mallorca is renowned for its textiles and we were lucky to see production at Teixits Vicent (Majorcan artisan fabrics) who have been creating their famous cloth of tongues Ikat design since 1854. Using 70% cotton and 30% linen ensures a strong fabric with an identical pattern and the front and back. The production process is still partly carried out by hand using warm and weft and plain weave. On looms. With great patience! Their showroom and factory in Pollença stocks ceramics as well as cushion covers, espadrilles, tablecloths and more.
Olive oil is also big business in Mallorca. One of the island’s specialist producers is Solivellas olive – using only the arbequina and picual olive varieties. We were shown around the olive farm with its scented orange and lemon trees. You can buy larger bottles of the olive oil in Duty Free at Palma airport.
We enjoyed lunch the second day at Las Palmeras, Hotel Formentor’s beachside Italian restaurant that’s also open to the public – and feasted on the largest seafood pizza. Waddling down to the beach later (sunbeds and Balinese beds are available to hire) and working off the pasta with a swim in the shallow clear waters was heaven. As well as water sports, there are plenty of challenging hiking trails around the resort to enjoy. You could stay at the Formentor for the duration of your holiday, but I recommend hiring a car and exploring the area. Drive along to the lighthouse on the farthest tip of the peninsula, via the En Fumat mountain tunnel. Or head into the nearby historic town of Pollença with its charming cafés and markets that still proudly retains its Mallorcan heritage.
A weekend away isn’t complete unless you’ve enjoyed a relaxing spa treatment. We made full use of the luxurious private Balinese cabanas overlooking the gardens. At just €100 for a half day and €150 for a full day they are replete with bed, jacuzzi and showers and loungers. The perfect oasis of calm to relax pre-and post my superb head and shoulder massage from Thai masseuse xxxx her name?. As you’d imagine, it was with some effort I prised myself away from this paradise for the divine buffet dinner at El Colomer restaurant. The hours drifted by as we feasted on the Hotel Formentor’s superb cuisine, exemplary service and very fine wine and Cava. Perfection, really.
The Hotel Formentor – Royal Hideaway Resort – is the only hotel on the Formentor Peninsula lending an air of discreet exclusivity. With 3 grand suites and 18 Junior Suites, the hotel is perfect for families as well as loved-up couples, honeymooners and singletons of any age. The location is the perfect spring, summer and autumn retreat and also boasts six villas in the grounds each with 2 to 5 bedrooms. Classical music buffs with love the Formentor Sunset Classics concert series held each summer at Hotel Formentor with performances from international artists.
I’m already planning my return to the beautiful Formentor peninsula and the haven of peace and relaxation that is the Hotel Formentor. Its stunning location, superb service and relaxing gardens and beach are divine – I can’t remember feeling so relaxed.
How & Where
Where: Platja de Formentor 3, 07460 Port de Pollença, Mallorca, Balearic Islands, Spain.
How: Please phone + 34 971 899 100 or +34 902 101 1001, or visit www.barcelo.com/barcelo-formentor to make a booking.