Mallorca Beyond the Beach

Once you've seen one Balearic island, you've seen them all, right? Wrong. Our guide sets out to confound expectations, and prove that there’s much more to Mallorca than sunbathing.

The island of Mallorca has long been stereotyped and plagued by unkind caricatures, to the point that often a mere mention conjures up imagery of drunken tourists passing out in pools of their own vomit. That is, if they're not stabbing each other with shards of broken bottles, before being handcuffed and dragged to a cell, as if acting out a parodic episode of Brits Abroad.

Lurid, designed-to-provoke news headlines have led many to dismiss Mallorca as a morally bankrupt cultural desert - a viable destination only for the most raucous of stag parties. Yet horror stories are hugely exaggerated, bearing almost no resemblance to the "real" Mallorca.

Here are a few ideas for discovering the island away from the clichés, before so much as setting foot on the beach.

Trek With Donkeys in Deià

By morning, spa manager Melanie is dispensing caviar collagen treatments to pampered human guests at Belmond's La Residencia but, come afternoon, it's the hotel's resident donkeys that are receiving the five-star treatment. Beauty expert and donkey whisperer in seemingly equal parts, Melanie feeds, grooms and cuddles her four-legged charges daily.

The five VIP residents were originally brought to the hotel as living, breathing lawnmowers and, with endless pastures on the estate, they must have felt as if they were in an edible palace.

Visitors can book to explore a hiking trail across the Belmond estate with the loveable beasts every Thursday. In the summer months, if the heat is too intense, meet-and-greet sessions are laid on instead. Armed with grooming brushes, guests are invited to muck in and can expect a dense tangle of fur to fly off each donkey as toasty winter coats are shed.

However, it's the trail that represents the best adventure. Strolling through the Unesco-designated hilltops, you'll find few views more breathtaking than your first of Deià. The village's gardens are a whirlwind of colour, while the skyline more closely resembles a watercolour painting than real life. At the end of a trek through mountain olive groves, taste buds will be tempted by a picnic lunch in a traditional stone shepherd's hut, before you'll follow in the trusty donkeys' footsteps back to the hotel.

Animal lovers need not fear - hikes take place only once per week to avoid overtiring the donkeys, while the rest of their working week entails little more than grazing. That seems much easier - and, in the donkey world, more delicious - than the work of the on-site gardening team.

Embrace The Simple Life On A Farm

If your brand of reality show is more The Simple Life than Love Island and you were one of the many laughing along with hapless Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie in the era when they took on the farm lifestyle without a single credit card or creature comfort in sight, then finca tourism might just be for you. However, unlike heiress Paris's fate on the show, there are no TV cameras rolling and guests can retreat to the shade of an air-conditioned hotel room after a hike to enjoy a chilled sangria.

Farms - or, in Spanish, "fincas" - are dotted around the many fertile parts of the island, producing olives, oranges, lemons and many more delights besides. Farm stays are offered for a variety of budgets, although one of the top options for overnighters is Ca's Xorc. At the summit of a bumpy rural track are a handful of friendly sheep from neighbouring fields, who will trot over and surround your car in welcome, the bells around their necks jangling wildly as they do. Nature is constantly audible here, even if just the chirping of cicadas, although it's the visual panoramas that impress the most, presenting nature in the raw.

For those preferring a day trip, Artestruz is a working farm deep in the Campos countryside that offers guests the opportunity to feed and cuddle ostriches. The on-site café serves up the birds' eggs - typically so huge that just one of them is equivalent to two dozen chicken eggs.

Follow In The Footsteps of Literary Greats

The show-stopping views of Deià have inspired many creatives. For example, erotic novelist Anaïs Nin wrote a story based here - no doubt the literary equivalent of a Love Island tryst, albeit more poetic. Travellers can also visit the former house of poet Robert Graves. However, perhaps the best literary connection of all can be found in the sleepy but scenic village of Valldemossa, home to the monastery where novelist George Sand stayed with her pianist lover, Frédéric Chopin. According to legend, her daughter, Solange - enraged that Chopin had replaced her father - disguised herself as the ghost of a monk and sinisterly appeared when he was alone in bed one morning. Terrified that his desires had angered the souls of the dead, the superstitious Chopin begged monastery staff for absolution, but was told he could only achieve it if he abstained from sex. While in Mallorca at least, Solange, the manipulative mistress of cunning, had succeeded in tearing her mother's relationship apart. The Carthusian monastery where they lived in 1838-9 is open to visitors.

Visit An Ancient Walled Fortress and Nearby Caves

Other pleasures that await include the remote town of Artà and its preserved 14th-century walled fortress, Santuari de Sant Salvador. Offering astonishing views, its summit could be described as "beauty for all budgets". Plus, as the location where locals would climb to escape pirate attacks, it's rich in history, too. The sweeping vistas arguably put Nice's Castle Hill and Barcelona's Montjuïc to shame, but minus the crowds - here, even in mid-summer, it's possible to find yourself totally alone.

The nearby Caves d'Artà, once a hiding place for Arabs during Christian conquests, offer a sound-and-light display with depictions of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory. Jules Verne - an author whose work has been translated more times than William Shakespeare's - once visited, and was inspired to write his 1864 novel Journey To The Centre of The Earth.

This image is on holiday

Enjoy Mallorca's Most Picturesque Clifftop Resort

The ascent up the cliff road to the luxurious Jumeirah Port Soller hotel is an attraction in its own right. Once you've dispensed with your luggage, walk this steep stretch by foot at least once - it's an exhilarating experience. Your efforts will be rewarded with perhaps the best views of the island that it's possible to get outside of Deià. Ensconced in this hilltop paradise, guests can choose from an array of activities, both offbeat and conventional. It's possible to visit an 18,000sq m orange orchard and taste some organic juice, or to indulge in some wine-tasting at a family-run vineyard. Capitalising on the island's Rafa Nadal connection, the hotel will also be happy to book guests onto training sessions at the tennis legend's prestigious academy. After all the exercise, relax in one of the hotel restaurants and linger over a meal while enjoying panoramic views of the island. We recommend the mouth-watering Soller prawns with black rice.

Elsewhere, continuing the theme of dramatic coastal roads, Sa Calobra - one filled with so many suspenseful hairpin bends that it has been described as "Trollsteigen on steroids" - is also sure to satisfy.

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