Adventure, parties and sun in Spain’s Balearic IslandsEntertainment Feature, Entertainment News, Section 4A Thursday, February 19th, 2015
The Balearic Islands of Spain, located in the western Mediterranean Sea, have been in the crosshairs of many rulers, from The Vandals of A.D. 461, to the Byzantine Empire, to the Kingdom of Aragon. Many landmarks, like the imposing Gothic Cathedral in Mallorca and the salt marshes in Ibiza are reminders of their ancient history and architectural wonders built on the beautiful islands. In addition to exploring the relics of past centuries, Mallorca and Ibiza both offer a plethora of excursions for outdoor enthusiasts. From boat rides through caves, to tanning on gay-friendly beaches, the Balearic Islands are a destination for every type of traveler.
Start your journey by visiting the largest island of the archipelago, Mallorca. Perhaps the most recognizable landmark in the capital of Palma de Mallorca is the magnificent La Seu Gothic cathedral. Built from sandstone walls and lined with flying buttresses that seem to rise out of the sea, La Seu was created during the rule of King James I of Aragon in 1229, with construction finishing four centuries later in 1601. It sits within the old city of Palma atop the former citadel of the Roman city, between the Royal Palace of La Almudaina and the episcopal palace. It also overlooks the Parc de la Mar, where couples stop for a romantic bite and teenage locals host rap battles in Spanish.
In Palma, shopping along the 100-year old tree-lined Passeig de Born promenade is a must for experiencing the heart of city life. The Passeig de Born is the hub of fiestas, demonstrations and a place where families enjoy an evening stroll. The promenade is lined with a selection of mid and high range shops, like Zara, Boss and Louis Vuitton. Born is also the home to Ca’n Solleric, a modern art gallery which opened in 1995 in a converted mansion. Leaving the city, one should pay a visit to the east coast of the island, which is best known for its caves and stunning beaches. The eerie-looking Caves of Drach are one of the island’s most unique attractions, extending for over 3,900 feet with craggy stalactite formations that hang from the ceiling and jutting stalagmites that rise from the ground.
Spend a day in the isolated, rugged west coast of Mallorca. Valldemossa is one of the island’s best kept secrets being a small town with quaint homes and family bakeries. Many doorways of houses feature a religious symbol of Mallorca’s patron saint, Saint Catalina Thomàs to protect them from harm. The Royal Carthusian monastery of Valldemossa is the main draw to the area, where the Carthusian monks were based for several centuries.
Heading back to Palma, a walk through the Poble Espanyol village gives you a glimpse of Spanish architecture, showing its development through Muslim and then Christian influences. You can eat Spanish food in the Plaza Mayor, or sit outside a cafe watching passers-by browse for souvenirs at the village shops. Artists give displays of handicrafts in workshops scattered throughout the village. Palma City is also the place where gay travelers seek LGBT events like Saturday night parties at the gay club, La Demence, and the girls flock to the Ella Lesbian Festival, which combine beach events and night parties into a long weekend.
After a few days in Mallorca, take Air Berlin’s short, one-hour flight over to Ibiza. Air Berlin is an IGLTA member and also has an LGBT information site to promote travel within the gay community (airberlin.com/lgbt). Ibiza is not just for the party crowd – the island experience is replete with adventure, gourmet cuisine and ancient landmarks for exploring.
Start with your check-in to the Ushuaïa Tower Hotel located in the lively area of Playa d’en Bossa. Before you even approach the lobby, music pumping by the resident Brit DJ Paul Reynolds can be heard spilling from the pool area. This is a sign that the party has already started, and it’s not even 1 p.m. Before stripping off your airplane attire and throwing on some trunks to groove by the pool, start with a couple of hours spent exploring the island’s natural beauty.
Relax for a couple hours at Ses Salines public beach located 10 minutes from the hotel. When hunger has started to set in, visit the neighboring gay-owned restaurant, Chiringay. The restaurant offers meat, fish, seafood and pasta specialties on a beachfront location.
Upon arriving back at the hotel, the sun has begun to set so you decide to head over to the Ushuaïa Club. Dancers dressed in slinky outfits have started moving to the DJ’s house music and a crowd has begun to form around the massive 50-foot stage. Ushuaïa was the first property to create a combination of a hotel and open air club on the island, and is the premier destination in Ibiza for an adults-only playground experience. This is good news because the wristband received at check-in will give you free access to all of the Ushuaïa parties. Even the breakfast buffet offers premier grown-up food like lump black roe caviar and air dried beef from the Alps. If this doesn’t sell you, according to Guille Rodriguez, social media marketing manager for Palladium Group, “there is no such thing as gay-friendly here because everyone is treated the same”.
You decide to head out for your first night in Ibiza, and many club options are presented to you, like Pacha, Space and Privilege, each having different days where weekly parties will take place. Gay travelers usually attend mainstream parties and events, but at times there are also gay-specific events. Since Playa d’en Bossa is located near the airport, the airplanes fly close to the rooftops and seem to suck you in for a magical experience. Ibiza’s blowout gay event, the WE party, takes place at the Ushuaïa Club in July and August. Additionally, the Velvet Ibiza party (www.velvetibiza.com) is described as “The Wildest Women’s Only Weekend” for lesbian women. This weekend takes place from May 28-31 and includes pool parties, concerts, yoga and beach events.
On Tuesday and Saturday nights, the Hard Rock Hotel located across the street from Ushuaïa has a dinner and show experience on the 9th floor rooftop. At the Heaven restaurant, guests can enjoy a four course tapas menu while watching a series of performances, including ballet dancers, sexy sailor dances and contortionists in a setting that is very a la Las Vegas and Miami wrapped together.
Take the rental car out for a drive to the western side of the island where another beautiful beach is waiting to be discovered. Enter Cala Salada. This tucked away paradise is mainly on the radar of the locals. Warm sand flanked crystal clear blue waters beckon you for a swim or to rent one of the paddle boats for an up-close perspective of the coast.
Mallorca and Ibiza both sparkle with centuries old history and offer adventurous activities along the Mediterranean Sea. With world-class hotels, year round mild weather, and parties and outdoor activities to please all tastes, these Balearic Islands should be on your to-vacation list.
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