Wednesday, 5 July 2017

A Guide to Summer Tourism in ANDORRA.

European microstates have always intrigued me.  The mere existence of these tiny sovereign countries and their unrelenting will to survive is admirable.  Andorra’s remoteness and inaccessibility just compounded my fascination.  I’ll take any excuse for an adventure, so I eventually gave into temptation and decided to visit!  I really enjoyed exploring, but found some aspects of the place quite odd.  As such, I’ll attempt to provide a balanced account of my trip along with some guidelines for budgeting.

Roc del Quer

To give some context, Andorra is the world’s 16th smallest country, perched high in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain.  It’s the world’s only remaining co-principality, with the bishop of the Spanish city of La Seu d’Urgell sharing power with the French Count of Foix (now the French president). 

Much to the distaste of its neighbours, Andorra could be considered as somewhat of a tax haven.  Low duty on most items draws flocks of people over the borders from Spain and France in search of cheap clothes, electricals, alcohol and just about anything else you could wish to buy.  Asides from being morally questionable, this low-tax political strategy has led to the proliferation of unsightly shopping centres which seem to have popped up anywhere and everywhere.

A lot of travel writers seem to give Andorra a tough time (some more so than others).  The main complaint seems to be overdevelopment.  Whilst this is sometimes a little overplayed, I do agree to an extent.  The recent mass construction of modern high-rise apartment blocks, banks, offices and shopping centres has taken much of the character away from towns and villages.  Much of the capital Andorra la Vella is glass, steel and concrete with only small remnants of history remaining.  This is a real shame to say the city has existed since before the Middle Ages.  As for newer towns such as Pas de la Casa, I’d avoid these altogether unless you’re after cheap electricals or booze.

Andorra la Vella

In spite of its negatives, Andorra has a real trump card – the landscape.  It’s utterly amazing.  The entire country is dominated by the jagged high peaks of the Pyrenees, which poke almost 3000 meters into the sky.  There are excellent hiking and mountain biking trails almost everywhere.  My absolute favourite place in all of Andorra is the Roc del Quer view point above the village of Canillo.  This seemingly precarious metal platform juts out from a sheer rock face into mid-air.  At nearly 2000 meters in altitude, it feels like you’re flying like a bird above the valleys below.  The viewpoint can be reached by road, so unfit people like myself needn’t worry!

Andorra's landscape took my breath away!

I’ve previously mentioned Andorra’s lack of historical buildings, but the real exception to this is the abundance of beautiful Romanesque churches.  Most of these are built in local stone and are decorated on the inside by the most incredible artwork.  All churches in the country are worth seeing, but some notable examples are Sant Joan de Caselles, Santa Coloma and the Meritxell Sanctuary.  The first two are historical Romanesque-style churches; the latter is modern but equally captivating.

Sant Joan de Caselles
Modern arches at the Meritxell Sanctuary

The historical centre of Andorra la Vella is small and for the most part anticlimactic.  But the old Andorran Parliament ‘Casa de la Vall’ is a real gem.  Dating back to 1580 AD, it’s one of the oldest parliament buildings in the world.  Tours cost EUR 5 and give a fascinating insight into the past and present of Andorran politics. 

Casa de la Vall - Old Parliament building

The country is tiny and I reckon it’s possible to see the main sights in a couple of days.  For those without a car, the best way to get the most from Andorra is through an organised tour as getting between the sights can be tricky.  The Andorra Tourist Board offer a daily bus tour for EUR 15, which I really enjoyed. 

The overall cost of travel in Andorra is moderate.  Backpackers’ hostels are difficult to come by and can be quite pricey as a result.  Expect to pay between EUR 16-20 per night for a bed in a shared dorm.  Interestingly, hotels are quite cheap here and a budget hotel in Andorra can actually offer better value for money than a hostel; expect to pay between EUR 20-30 per night for a twin room in a 3* hotel.  Food costs are comparable to those in other western European countries; expect to pay EUR 10-14 for a main course in a mid-range restaurant.  Alcohol is very cheap though, due to the low rates of taxation. 

Getting to Andorra can be tricky as there are no airports or train stations in the country – road is the only option.  Daily buses run from Barcelona and Toulouse airports with a journey time of around 3 hours from each.  Andorra is not part of the EU or Schengen area and border patrols are in place.  Immigration is generally hassle-free, but customs checks can be thorough – particularly upon leaving the country.

I’ve given Andorra a ‘backpackability’ score of 3/5, meaning it’s somewhat suitable for backpackers and budget travellers.

Concrete jungle or natural paradise?  I’d say Andorra is an odd mix of the two.  Love it or hate it, there’s no denying this place is unique.

Have you been to Andorra or thinking of going?  Let me know in the comments section below!

Elis Griffiths. x

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

MALTA: A Story of 'Love at First Sight'

I fell in love with Malta as soon as I stepped off the plane.  It’s difficult to find a bad word to say about this tiny nation; there’s history by the bucket load, the people are great, it’s affordable and to top it all off it’s almost always sunny!

With over 7000 years of history under its belt, Malta has developed a rich and unique culture.  The islands sit in a strategic position at the crossroads of Europe and North Africa, with countless historic invasions and colonisations each adding their own ‘layer’ to the cultural fabric.  The romans left the Catholic faith, the Italians left the laid-back way of life and the Arab legacy lives on through the fascinating Maltese language.  But perhaps the most obvious influence comes from the British.  Malta was under British rule between 1813 and 1964 and this period has undeniably left its stamp upon Maltese life.  Iconic red phone boxes and Royal Mail post boxes can be seen on every corner; vintage English buses are a common sight on the streets and the English language retains co-official status alongside Maltese. 

The thing I love the most about Malta is the abundance of history.  The islands are like an open, living history museum – history is everywhere!  Every street, every building and every harbour has its own story to tell.  If you only visit two places whilst in Malta, my best recommendations are Valletta and Mdina.

Valletta is Malta’s bustling capital and the hub of island life.  The UNESCO-listed old town of is surrounded by huge walls, bastions and ditches making it one of the most heavily fortified cities in all of Europe.  It’s a small city which can be easily explored by foot in a day.  The place has a great energy - it feels so full of life.  I became fixated on the brightly coloured enclosed wooden balconies which every building seems to have – I’m not really sure where or when they originated, but they are beautiful to look at.  Whilst in Valletta, don’t miss the view of the old harbour from the Barrakka gardens – it’s stunning. 

Alongside Valletta, Mdina (pronounced ‘im-deenah’) is the second jewell in Malta’s crown.  This small hilltop city is ancient – the area has been occupied since the 8th century BC, but the city’s current name was given by Arab invaders in 870 AD (‘medina’ is an Arabic word meaning ‘city’).  Like Valletta, the fortifications of Mdina are very impressive.  I really enjoyed getting lost in the charming maze-like streets and alleyways.  The golden colour of the buildings almost glistens against the cobalt-blue summer sky.  Mdina occupies the highest point in Malta which gives some fantastic views over the countryside.

To say Malta is an island nation, there is a surprising lack of beaches (the most notable exception being the village of Mellieħa - don't ask how this is pronounced!).  Which is a shame as the water is warm and crystal clear.  Malta’s real coastal charm comes from the scattering of small fishing villages, where the peaceful way of life has gone seemingly unchanged for years.  My favourite of these is Marsaxlokk (pronounced ‘marsa-shlock’).  Asides from the outdoor market and hordes of seafood restaurants, there’s not a great deal to do in the village, but it’s very picturesque and a lovely place to relax.

Malta is small and getting around is cheap and very easy.  There is an excellent government-owned bus network, which uses Valletta as a hub.  Just about everywhere has a bus stop and buses on most routes are frequent.  Single fares cost EUR 1.50, but for those staying longer than a few days a travel card costs EUR 15 and allows 12 journeys.  Allow plenty of time for bus journeys as the roads in and out of Valletta are often congested.  The three islands (Malta, Gozo and Comino) are well-connected with boat services.  Budget airlines Ryanair, EasyJet and WizzAir offer cheap flights to Malta from many UK and European airports.

Budget accommodation is easy to find in Malta – there’s a good scattering of backpackers’ hostels mainly in Sliema and St. Julian.  Expect to pay around EUR 10 per night for a bed in a hostel dorm and between EUR 8-10 for a main course in a mid-range restaurant.

I absolutely loved my time in Malta and would rate the nation very highly as a travel destination.  There’s absolutely loads to see and do, it’s affordable and it has an excellent public transport network so I’ve given Malta the maximum ‘backpackability’ score of 5. 

For such a small country, Malta has made a big impression on me.

Have you been to Malta or thinking of visiting?  Let me know in the comments below!  Thanks for reading,

Elis Griffiths. x

Thursday, 11 May 2017

A Guide to MARRAKECH, Morocco.

There are few places which polarise opinions quite like the Moroccan city of Marrakech.  People either love it or hate it; I’ve never heard anyone describe Marrakech as ‘just okay’.  I had an incredible experience in the city but found it a challenging place to visit.  As such, I’ll attempt to give a balanced report of my time in the city along with some budget guidelines.

To give a background, Marrakech is a historic city nestled at the northern foot of the Atlas Mountains.  It is the most-visited city in Morocco, and for good reason.  The entire medina (the city’s ancient fortified core) is listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site and remains one of the best preserved historic cities in north Africa.  It’s often called the ‘Pink City’ because its distinctive ochre-tinted buildings.

Morocco is an extremely exciting country to visit.  It’s hectic, lively and colourful; a real hair-raising roller-coaster for the senses.  From the fragrant aromas of incense and spices of the souks to the foul-smelling stench of the tanneries, there really is a surprise around every corner. 

A stroll through the medina really is a stroll back in time.  There’s so much history here and the city has done so well to cling on to its old-world character.  Walking through the city walls is like stepping into another world – the culture shock is very real and at first a little overwhelming.

Upon entering the medina, the first sight you’re likely to be met with is the spectacular Koutoubia mosque.  This impressive landmark is a very fine example of the style of Islamic architecture typical to Morocco.  Unfortunately, non-Muslim tourists aren’t allowed to enter the mosque, but it’s certainly worth seeing from the outside.  The richly-decorated minaret towers above the rooftops and can be seen over most of Marrakech – a useful tool for navigation in the maze-like streets of the medina!

Opposite the Koutoubia mosque is Jamaa el Fna.  This huge city square (one of the biggest in all of Africa) is the life and soul of Marrakech.  And it’s absolutely crazy. Traditional music echoes around all corners whilst hordes of street performers, story-tellers and snake charmers scuffle for space amongst street-food stalls and market traders.  The hustle and bustle is like nothing I’ve ever witnessed - the atmosphere is electric.  It’s so full of life - so vibrant.  Each time you visit this square you’ll see different things, but each time it’ll take your breath away

Keep walking through Jamaa el Fna and you’ll come to the souks.  These are the centuries-old markets which fill the narrow streets adjacent to square.  For me, the souks are the best thing about Marrakech.  This is typical Moroccan culture in full force.  You can buy anything you could ever want for in the souks; spices, belts, shoes, incense, fruit, lanterns, carpets, meat, teapots and traditional remedies just to name a few.  It’s hectic and chaotic, but it’s a wonderful experience.  The golden rule in the souks is to bargain for EVERYTHING!  As a Brit, haggling doesn’t come naturally but in Morocco it’s expected and embraced.  It can be a lot of fun for both the customer and the stall holder.  

The medina is a dense tangle of narrow, cobbled alleyways.  It’s huge – you could fill days wandering around the ancient streets and never become bored.  Some interesting landmarks include the El Badii Palace, the Bahia Palace, the Saadian tombs and the Medersa Ben Youssef Islamic college.

I had an incredible time in Marrakech and fell in love with the fantastic city and the rich Moroccan culture.  But I found it quite a challenging place to visit.  I came to develop somewhat of a love-hate relationship with the city.  It’s an extremely exciting place to visit and the atmosphere is so full of life, but the hassle from pushy and occasionally aggressive touts is relentless.  And it starts as soon as you leave the airport. Taxi drivers will try to rip you off, stall holders will try to rip you off, faux-guides will try to rip you off – you must have your wits about you all the time.  It can become exhausting after a while.  Have in mind an acceptable price and stay firm.  Always agree a price beforehand and don’t feel obligated to pay over the odds for anything or to buy anything you don’t want.  ‘No, merci’ is perhaps the most useful phrase you will use whilst in Morocco.

Morocco is a very budget-friendly place to visit.  Expect to pay around 60 Dh for a hostel dorm and 100-150 Dh for a main course in a mid-range restaurant.  Whilst taxi drivers will often try to push their luck, a taxi ride from the airport to the centre of town should cost no more than 100 Dh, or alternatively take the airport bus for just 30 Dh.  When I visited, 100 Dh was worth 7.81 GBP.

The rich and exciting culture, fascinating history and exotic landscape coupled with reliably sunny skies, good food and cheap cost of travel make Marrakech an ideal place for backpackers and budget travellers.  Although deeply rewarding, travel here can be tricky at times, particularly for solo travellers.  As a result, I’ve given Marrakech an overall ‘backpackability’ score of 4/5.

Have you been to Marrakech or thinking of going? Let me know your experiences of this fascinating city in the comments section below!  As always, thanks for reading.
Elis Griffiths. x

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Backpacking BELGIUM

Chocolate, waffles, beer, fries and history all come to mind when Belgium is mentioned.  I usually try to avoid travel stereotypes, but the Belgian delicacies were just too difficult to resist. I thought I’d share some thoughts based on my recent trip to Brussels and Bruges (Brugge).

To give a quick background, Belgium is a small and very diverse country sandwiched between France, Germany and Holland. French is spoken in the south and Dutch in the north with the capital Brussels being bilingual.  The linguistic and cultural divide soon becomes clear when traveling here; neighbouring cities can vary so drastically making Belgium a fascinating place to visit.

I took a while to warm to Brussels – it wasn’t love at first sight.  The weather was grey, the roads congested and I’ve never seen so many office blocks.  Brussels is not as uniformly elegant or pretty as Paris or Amsterdam and it’s not packed full of star attractions.  But the more time I spent in the city, I came to realise that these ‘downfalls’ actually make the city quite a charming place to visit.  It’s a real, working city and not a tourist trap.  There’s a good foodie scene and lively nightlife and there are some pretty cool things to see.  Even if you come to Brussels and only see the dazzling old town square - Le Grand Place - it’d be worth the trip!

It’s worth a trip to the edge of the city to see the futuristic Atomium tower, which looks as if it’s fallen from outer Space.  Built as a plus-sized replica of an iron molecule, the structure has become symbolic of the city and of Belgium as a country.  Entry fees are a bit pricey (12 EUR when I visited) but the views from the top are stunning and the exhibition is interesting.  Take Metro line 6 to Heysel.

My next stop was Bruges.  I can’t express how much I love Bruges – the medieval centre feels like an open-air history museum and the backpacking scene is thriving here.  The city is idyllic and charming.  There is such a positive energy - just walking around the old cobbled streets is so uplifting.  A stroll through Bruges is a stroll back in time.  An extensive network of canals and rivers is the lifeblood of the city and a wonderful way to see Bruges is by boat. 

Bruges is a chocoholic’s dream - there’s a chocolatier around every corner.  The temptation is constant when walking anywhere in the city.  For me, the Belgian chocolate definitely lived up to its reputation - I must have come back half a stone heavier!  And because there are is so much competition, the chocolate is priced quite reasonably.  I really enjoyed the chocolate museum, which delves deeper into the history of chocolate and how it became synonymous with Belgium.

Unsurprisingly, Bruges is a tourist magnet.  In fact, the city’s population more than doubles in the summer months as hordes of tourists flood in from around the world.  For those who wish to get a more authentic experience of the Flanders region, Ghent and Antwerp are good alternatives to Bruges.  Whilst not as idyllic as Bruges, both cities have interesting historic centres without the mass tourism.  Trains in Belgium are excellent and relatively inexpensive, so it’s easy to see multiple cities in one trip.

Belgium is a great backpackers’ destination.  There are tonnes of things to do all over the country and travel is very easy.  However, it can be quite pricey, particularly for food and accommodation.    Expect to pay 15-20 EUR for a bed in a hostel dorm and about 18 EUR for a main course in a mid-range restaurant.  Despite the relatively high prices, budget travel is definitely possible in Belgium.  French fries (which actually originate in Belgium, rather than France) are a good cheap meal which is readily available anywhere in the country.  I also made use of supermarkets and cooked a lot of my meals in the hostel which brought the costs down considerably.  And most importantly, beer is cheap and plentiful!

As such, I have given Belgium a ‘backpackability’ score of 4, meaning it’s ‘mostly favourable’ for backpackers and budget travellers.

Have you been to Belgium, or thinking of visiting?  Let me know in the comments section below! Thanks for reading,

Elis Griffiths. x

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

A Backpacker's Guide to LUXEMBOURG.

Luxembourg seems to be one of Europe’s forgotten countries.  Whilst its neighbours receive masses of visitors throughout the year, Luxembourg rarely features in travel itineraries.  In fact, I even struggled to find a guidebook.  But for me, this element of mystery added to the appeal of this tiny nation.

Modern Luxembourg is based on a long and often turbulent history.  It remains the world’s last surviving ‘Grand Duchy’ (a nation ruled by a duke or duchess) and has managed to maintain full sovereignty and a unique culture noticeably different from its larger neighbours.  Never have I heard a more fitting motto than ‘We want to remain what we are’.

Multilingualism is central to Luxembourgish culture.  The country is officially trilingual - French, German and Luxembourgish (a Germanic language with a French twang) all hold equal status.  And fascinatingly, all three languages seem to be used interchangeably – you could go into three shops and be addressed in a different language in each.  A majority of Luxembourgers speak also speak good English.  As a language, Luxembourgish is difficult to perfect, but even the most rusty attempts of saying Moien (hello) are always greeted with a warm smile from locals.

Luxembourgers are very proud of their unique heritage

The capital of the Grand Duchy goes by the same name – Luxembourg – so for this article I’ll refer to it as Luxembourg City.  As with the rest of the country, I was baffled by the lack of tourists as this UNESCO-listed city is unbelievably pretty.  I'd go as far as saying it's one of the prettiest capitals of Europe.  The old town is split between the fortified Upper Town, built strategically on a sheer-sided sandstone outcrop, and the lower town of Grund which straddles a gorge of the Alzette River.  Both are equally beautiful and well worth exploring on foot.

Alzette River, Luxembourg City

Due to the country’s high GDP, Luxembourg can unfortunately be a bit pricey.  Prices are comparable to those found in London.  Expect to pay around EUR 22 per night for a hostel dorm, EUR 12-18 for a main course in a mid-range restaurant and EUR 8 for a fast food meal.  Food was my main expense, but I managed to keep costs low by eating mainly at the hostel – Luxembourg City Hostel offers a free breakfast and good quality, cheap food for lunch and dinner.  If you plan on making lots of journeys and visiting lots of attractions, the Luxembourg Card is a good way of saving money.  For more advice on how to keep travel costs low, see this post.

On the flip side, public transport is cheap to use and widely available throughout the country.  Flights to Luxembourg from the UK are also exceptionally cheap – I only paid EUR 20 for a return ticket!  

Pretty streets of Luxembourg City

History is hard to miss in Luxembourg

Luxembourg City is small - it's possible to get a good overview of the historic centre in a day, but allow two days if you want to see the museums and galleries.  There are lots of great places which can be explored through day trips from the capital:

Vianden – A small town in the north of the Grand Duchy.  Luxembourg’s most impressive medieval castle towers above the very charming streets.  From the capital, take the train to Diekirch and then catch the local bus to Vianden.

Echternach – Luxembourg’s oldest town.  Echternach is small, but very picturesque.  It works well when combined with a trip to Vianden.  Take local buses from either Luxembourg City or Diekirch.

Trier (Germany) – A small UNESCO-listed city in the German Moselle Valley.  A trip over the border is cheap and easy and Trier is fabulous.  Come here for the beautiful cathedral, the impressive Roman ruins and colourful market square.  A train from Luxembourg costs only EUR 9.80 return and takes just 50 minutes.

Trier market square 

I’ve given Luxembourg a 'backpackability' score of 4, meaning it is mostly suitable for backpackers and budget travelers.  For a more detailed explanation, see this post.

Luxembourg remains largely undiscovered by mass tourism.  This means it lacks the party atmosphere of other European destinations, but gives visitors a ‘real’ insight to an undiscovered and uniquely beautiful nation.  It’s a small country with a very big heart.

Elis Griffiths. x

Monday, 31 October 2016

'Backpackability Index' - An Explanation.

My main intention with this blog is to give fellow backpackers and budget travelers a clear and realistic overview of the destinations I’ve visited.  I hope to inspire more people to pack their bags and go exploring.  In order to present the pros and cons of each place in a more simple way, I’ve developed a ‘backpackability index’.

I’ll score each place on four factors which I feel are the ingredients of a great backpacking destination, then average these scores to get the overall ‘backpackability index’.  This final score will take into account suitability for solo travelers, general cost for travelers, the availability of good attractions and the provisions of public transport in the destination. 

Each factor will receive a score of between 1 and 5 (least to most favourable).  Decimal scores of above .5 will be rounded up to the nearest whole number.

‘Suitability for solo travelers’ takes into account the ease at which solo backpackers are able to meet other travelers.  ‘General cost for travelers’ is an approximate judgment based on the average cost of a hostel bed, food and drink, entry to main attractions and cost of transport.

As this is a new feature to the blog, it may need some tweaking so any suggestions are welcome.  I’ll aim to include this index to all future posts.

Elis Griffiths. x

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

10 Must-See Places in MALLORCA

Sun-kissed beaches, manic nightclubs and mass tourism: just three words which may spring to mind when Mallorca is mentioned.  Whilst I’m not denying that Magalúf parties are the best in the world, I’d like to use this article to cast the island in a different light.  I’ve put together a list of my top 10 favourite places to visit in Mallorca.


I’ll start off with my absolute favourite place on the island – Valldemossa.  This picture-perfect town sprawls down a hillside in the Tramuntana mountains.  Valldemossa is bigger than it looks, you can get lost for a couple of hours exploring the tangle of cute cobbled alleys.  Try ‘coca de patata’ from any Valldemossa bakery; a sweet potato bread traditional to the town, but beware at mealtimes as restaurants in this part of the island are frequently overpriced.

Sa Calobra

The natural setting of Sa Calobra is spectacular.  This is one of the best places to visit to get a feel of the rugged and remote Tramuntana coastline.  The journey to Sa Calobra is part of the fun of coming here – it’s both terrifying and magnificent at the same time as the narrow ribbon of tarmac snakes down a near-vertical mountainside from 682 meters to sea level.  From Sa Calobra, it is well-worth taking the ten minute walk around to Torrent de Pareis; this deep and dramatic gorge really showcases Mallorca’s stunning natural beauty.  


It’s a difficult task to narrow down my favourite Mallorcan beach as there are so many to choose from.  However I instantly fell in love with the white sand and turquoise waters of Mondragó.  The coastline here backed by pine woodlands and protected as a nature reserve, which prevents overdevelopment and retains the rural charm.  This is a lovely place to swim as the waters are crystal-clear.  I much preferred the beach at Mondragó to the well-sought-after, but overhyped beaches of Es Trenc.


Whilst Mallorca is scattered with attractive medieval towns, the one which stood out for me was Santanyí, nestled in the far south-eastern corner of the island.  Santanyí felt authentically Mallorcan – I encountered few tourists whilst exploring the town.  The honey-coloured buildings have withstood all that history has thrown at them; Santanyí has been influenced by both Moorish and Catalan occupations.  It is best to visit on either Wednesday or Saturday which is when a bustling market pops up and the town springs into life. 

A visit to Santanyí is easily incorporated into a trip to Mondragó or Cala Figuera.

Palma (Old Town)

It’s hard to fully understand Mallorca without visiting its exciting capital, Palma.  After all, this is where almost half of the Mallorcan population lives!  Whilst I found the newer parts of the city to be rather hectic and over-congested, the historic centre is fabulous.  It would be easy to fill a few days exploring Palma, but an afternoon or so should give a good snapshot of the main sights.  The city’s history is long and varied and this is reflected in the architecture.  If you see nothing else, be sure not to miss the magnificent Palma Cathedral, the colourful and elegant Plaça Major square and the Moorish Almudaina Palace each of which showcase a different era in the city’s development.  If you decide to drive into the city, I’d recommend coming early in the day as parking close to the old town can be a nightmare.

Lluc Monastery

Founded in the 13th century, Lluc monastery is a haven for peace and tranquillity high in the Tramuntana Mountains.  It is one of Mallorca’s best cultural sites and a great place to learn about the island’s catholic heritage.  Owing to its spectacular location, Lluc is also a magnet for walkers.


It is the combination of the magnificent mountain setting and the beautiful historical streets which make the little village of Fornalutx one of the prettiest on the island.  The village sits on a hill overlooking Sóller, tucked beneath some of the highest peaks in Mallorca.  There are no ‘must-see’ sights in Fornalutx, but it’s an absolutely beautiful place to wander around – the place is a photography dream.  Ideal when combined with a trip to Sóller or the mountains.


The rugged natural beauty of Mallorca’s west coast took my breath away.  High mountains drop steeply into the waves of the Mediterranean.  A great place to see this coastline is from Banyalbufar, an old village of Moorish origin roughly half way between Andratx and Sóller.  The village is surrounded by a series of ancient agricultural terraces, some of which have been farmed for well over 1000 years.  Terracing allows shear-sloping mountainsides to flourish with crops; these farming practises have been passed down from generation to generation and have earnt Mallorca’s entire western coastline a place on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Perhaps the best view of the west coast can be seen from Torre del Verger, a former watch tower just outside Banyalbufar (towards Estellencs on the Ma-10).

The main draw of this coastline is the dramatic scenery; beaches tend to be rocky and difficult to access.  Those seeking sandy beaches will have more choice in the south and east of the island.

Cala Figuera

Mallorca is crammed full of pretty fishing villages.  However, my favourite has to be Cala Figuera, a small working fishing port on the east coast.  A deep fjord-like natural harbour is lined with whitewashed buildings.  Cala Figuera is quiet; the village is still untouched by mass-tourism.  It’s not a large place, but it’s extremely photogenic.  It’s also worth mentioning that there’s no beach in the village itself, but it’s just a short drive to the fine sandy beaches of the Mondragó reserve (follow signs to s’Amarador).  Ideal when combined with a visit to Santanyí.


Whilst not as uniformly pretty as some other places on this 
list, and by no means untouched by tourism, the twin citrus-producing towns of Sóller and Port de Sóller have managed to retain a quintessentially Mallorcan feel.  The area is perhaps best known for its iconic wooden trams, dating back to 1913.  The route runs for just over 3 miles and links the historic centre of Sóller with the historic centre of Port de Sóller for a return price of a rather pricey 8 EUR.  Come here for the picturesque sandy beach, the numerous bars and restaurants and relaxed way-of-life.

Mallorca earns a backpackability score of 4, meaning it is mostly favourable for backpackers.  For an explanation of the backpackability index, see this post.

Several budget airlines operate very cheap flights to Palma (particularly from the UK and Germany).  With stunning natural beauty, a wealth of history, friendly and welcoming people and an abundance of sunny weather, it is difficult to find any negatives with Mallorca.  Have you been to Mallorca? Thinking of going?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.  Thank you for reading, I hope you'll find this useful!

Elis Griffiths. x