Each week, Yahoo Travel pits rival destinations against each other to determine once and for all which one is the best. Up this week are two of the Mediterranean’s most famous islands: Ibiza and Mallorca.
The islands of Ibiza (Photo: Xosé Castro Roig/Flickr)
The Case for Ibiza
Sure, it’s made international headlines for its serious party scene — where else in the world can you find an after-hours club that opens at 2 p.m.? — but Ibiza’s traditional Mediterranean charm, UNESCO-protected Old Town, and innumerable accessible-only-by-boat calas (cays) are the island’s real draw. Add a picturesque mountainous interior landscape and a seemingly endless selection of breezy seafood restaurants, and you’ve got the perfect island for a summer retreat.
Kate Moss is just one of the famous faces you’ll see in Ibiza. (Photo: Getty Images)
Famous faces: In high season, it’s impossible not to spy a celeb or two or 5,000. Jade Jagger is a permanent resident. Model Kate Moss and her husband, Jamie Hince, hit the beach every summer, with equally bold-faced friends such as fashion designer Marc Jacobs and photog Mario Testino. Spain’s national soccer team kicks around with their families, most notably singer Shakira, who is married to Gerard Piqué. And did we mention Kate Middleton’s uncle owns a place tucked away in the picturesque hillside?
Popular way to get around: While yachts are de rigueur for the jet set, boats of all types and sizes are the transport of choice. In season, most boats require a week charter, however travelers can book daytrips to hidden beaches and the outlaying Formentera island with Charteralia at San Antonio, a pretty port on the west coast.
Want to make a fashion statement on Ibiza? Wear a caftan — and little else. (Photo: Getty Images)
Fashion statement: During the day on Ibiza, the skimpier the better. Nude beaches are the norm, so don’t be surprised to see not only topless sunbathers, but also sometimes the full banana. Don flowing caftans and leather sandals when not sunbathing.
Typical local dish: You may call it fish stew, but here, the soupy blend of fish (John Dory, ray fish, swordfish, grouper) and seafood (lobster, shrimp) is known as guisat de peix. And it’s cooked in a traditional clay pot called greixonera.
Nightlife: Ibiza is where white parties and foam nights were conceived. Pacha is one of the most (in)famous discos on the island, and it’s still very popular among locals. Entrance fees can run as high as $120 per person at the door, so ask at your hotel front desk or a ticket outpost in town for early entrance tariffs. Note: You may be dancing by yourself if you go too early. Spaniards never show up before 2 a.m.
A day party at the Ushuaia Beach Hotel (Photo: radio1interactive/Flickr)
Daylife: Ushuaia Beach Hotel is the absolute must-see event during the day. The pool party atmosphere features world-renowned DJs, Bali beds, swaying palms, and an endless dance floor.
The best sunset in Ibiza is from the Café del Mar (Photo: Carlos de Paz/Flickr)
Best sunset: Watching the sun go down is so popular, there’s a designated Sunset Strip of DJ-resident watering holes in San Antonio. A favorite, Café del Mar, creates an exclusive viewing album each season.
Playa d’en Bossa, one of Ibiza’s best beaches (Photo: Getty Images)
Best beaches: Las Salinas, which fronts Roman-era salt flats that are still in use, is lined with celeb-approved restaurants. In August, the water out front is jammed with visiting yachts. Es Canar is popular for the hippie crowd, Playa d’en Bossa boasts the most activities, and Cala Codolar is a tucked away spot with a single beach bar that serves the island’s best mojitos.
La Galeria Elefante is one of Ibiza’s eclectic have-everything shops. (Photo: Courtesy of La Galeria Elefante)
Local shops: La Galeria Elefante stocks everything from local artwork and handcrafted jewelry to woven beach bags and kids clothes, and even some furniture in a white-washed, community-minded space that also houses a yoga studio.
Plan a cultural excursion to Eivissa Town. (Photo: Trey Ratcliff/Flickr)
Cultural excursions: Get lost in the winding cobblestone streets of the picturesque Eivissa Town (also known as Ibiza Town), a walled-in UNESCO World Heritage City. Notable sights include the 14th century Gothic cathedral and a looming statue of Christ.
Take a day trip to Espalmador on Formentera island to soak in natural mud baths (Photo: guille78/Flickr)
Daytrips: Espalmador, an outlying area of Formentera, Ibiza’s pristine sister island, is home to natural mud baths. The sulfuric, salty mud is said to have healing properties. Follow the path to the salt plain, slather the mud on your body, and wash it off in the crystalline sea.
Related: Photo Essay: Seville
Points for gorgeousness. Is it Mallorca for the win? (Photo: Flickr)
The Case for Mallorca
Long a retreat for summer visitors — seriously, even the Romans sojourned on these golden shores — sun-kissed Mallorca (aka Majorca) is quieter, calmer, and larger, boasting a whopping 306 beaches in comparison to its much-talked about sister island. Visitors here enjoy active pursuits across a fruit- and olive-tree-dotted mountainous interior, including hiking, golf, and tennis. The cuisine here is farm-fresh and celebrated, and the popular sites are historic (ruins), cultural (museums), and as sunny as the rest of the island.
Catherine Zeta-Jones, one of the island’s more famous residents (Photo: Stylebistro)
Famous faces: Unlike its neighbor, the bold-faced prefer to stay within the walls of their gated villas, so they’re tough to spot. Seasonal residents include model Claudia Schiffer, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas, the entire Spanish royal family, and the Beckhams. Additional sports figures include former tennis player Boris Becker, former baseball player Curt Flood, and hometown hero tennis superchamp Rafael Nadal.
Palma de Mallorca, the island’s main city and port (Photo: T. Faltings/Flickr)
Popular way to get around: Public transport is a cinch within Palma de Mallorca, the island’s main city and port. If venturing farther afield for more than a daytrip (which can be enjoyed via boat or scenic train rides), a car rental is the way to go. Tip: Reserve an automatic before you arrive on the island. It can be a challenge to navigate the mountain switchbacks and hairpin turns while shifting.
Menorquinas, a fashion statement to go (Photo: ezioman/Flickr)
Fashion statement: Men, women, and children all sport menorquinas — leather, slingback sandals handcrafted on neighboring Menorca. For clothing, discretion is king, with daisy dukes and bikini tops strongly suggested for the beach only.
Ensaïmada bread is a sweet reminder of Mallorca. (Photo: Roger Ferrer Ibáñez/Flickr)
Typical dish: Ensaïmada, a round, powder-sugared bread is so synonymous with the island that Starbucks calls the doughy treat “Majorcan sweet bread.” Join the locals in line at the family-run Forn Fondo in central Palma.
Bar Ábaco is favored for its specialty cocktail menu. (Photo: Chris/Flickr)
Nightlife: Clubs aren’t hard to find, but nightlife here is more of a cocktail and beer garden culture, thanks to the large German influence. Bar Ábaco, housed in a 16th century carriage house, is a favorite with an ornate interior, expansive patio, and specialty cocktail menu.
A winery outside of Palma in the Majorcan countryside (Photo: Mas Mallorca)
Daylife: There’s a small collection of wineries — producing floral whites, fruity reds, and some sparkling — spread across three “countries” on the isle’s interior. For the most historic experience, tour the estates in the east (Pla and Llevant), where traditions date to the Romans.
Sunset Lounge Bar (Photo: Courtesy of Jumeirah Hotels)
Best sunset: Don’t you love it when a name says it all? Sunset Lounge Bar at the seasonal Jumeirah Port Soller Hotel & Spa boasts a wide stone terrace dotted with comfortable seating overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean and Majorcan mountains.
Cala Millor, one of Mallorca’s most popular beaches, is on the east coast. (Photo: Chris Parker/Flickr)
Best beaches: Blue flags at beaches indicate amenities, such as lifeguards and loungers for rent. On the east coast, Cala Millor has a wide boardwalk lined with eateries, shops, and bars. Although not for lounging, Punta de n’Amer nearby is a nature preserve that’s topped with an old castle. The city beach in Palma is large enough to accommodate locals and day-trippers from Mediterranean cruises without feeling too crowded. Like its sister island, Mallorca is rife with hidden cays; many can be accessed by winding mountain passes. A notable route is one to Sa Calobra on the east coast, which leads to two sparkling coves.
A glass-balled bracelet made of Majorcan Pearls (Photo: Courtesy of Majorcan Pearls)
Local Shops: For Majorcan Pearls, the manmade iridescent glass balls, go to the brand’s outlet store in the city of Manacor. Local chainlet Mallorca Shop has a delectable selection of sweets, including handcrafted chocolates and candies, sweet breads, croissants, and cakes that make excellent gifts.
Go to the source at the Miró Museum. (Photo: Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró)
Cultural excursions: Mallorca has a rich tradition of hosting the artistic set from composer Frédéric Chopin and George Sand to popular writer Agatha Christie and artists Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso. Tour the hideaway of Chopin and Sand in Valldemossa, a 17th century stone village tucked into the mountains. Started with donations by the artist himself, the Miró Musuem in Palma houses an impressive collection of his works, including drawings, paintings, and sculptures, along with the artist’s personal effects.
A trekking daytrip near Alcúdia offers some of the isle’s best vistas. (Photo: Jumeirah Hotels)
Daytrips: Trekking near the town of Alcúdia on the northeast side of the island, where trails crisscross a portion land set between two sparkling bays, promises some of the isle’s best vistas. The moderate Puig trail loops through a wooded landscape and offers sweeping views of Palma and the island’s golden shores.
Jenna Mahoney is a Brooklyn-based travel editor, lifestyle writer, and the author of “Small Apartment Hacks.”