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Virtually all roads on the island of Mallorca lead to Palma, home to about half of the entire population of the largest of Spain's Balearic islands. Tourism may have replaced shipping as Palma's biggest industry, but the city's centuries-old port is still the first sight many visitors see as they arrive on the island by ferry. Although both Palma and the rest of Mallorca have adequate bus and rail service, car rental in Palma is still the only way to reach many of the island's rural regions. There is a wealth of beautiful townships and beaches so explore, so don’t stay cooped up in your hotel for your entire holiday!
Who to Book With
The Spanish Goldcar and Record Go chains are two of the seven car hire companies available at Palma de Mallorca Airport, set seven miles southeast of Palma. The other five vehicle rental firms at Mallorca's largest airport are more familiar international establishments, such as National, Avis and Europcar. A number of international and national companies also stand near Palma's seaside Gabriel Roca Avenue. Online advance reservations are typically cheaper than on-the-spot desk prices.
Best Time to Go
The high summer tourism season in Palma and the rest of Mallorca also brings high temperatures, crowds and higher costs for renting hotel rooms and vehicles. However, springtime visitors will encounter fewer crowds and cheaper rates. Autumn is also a not too crowded and cheap season, but Mallorca's rainiest period. Winter weather is usually mild, although perhaps a bit cold for sunbathing.
Need to Know Essentials
These are the documents drivers must display before claiming their vehicles for rent:
- The official hire document
- A driving license issued at least three years ago
- A valid passport photocopy or the actual passport
- The credit card used in the booking process
The scarcity of parking places near the historic city centre and several confusing one-way systems are Palma's biggest driving challenges. Several paid car parks exist throughout the city, but motorists must remember that yellow markings indicate places where parking is strictly prohibited, while blue markings with meters allow motorists to park for limited time periods. The PM-1 road travels west into the city, while the PM-19 is the main road heading east away from the city.
Flights to Palma de Mallorca Airport, Spain's third largest, and voyages aboard ferries or cruise ships are the only ways visitors can enter Palma. Most ferries to Palma depart from Barcelona, Denia, Valencia, Mahon or Ibiza. Once in the city, though, passengers can catch trains or buses across Palma and the rest of Mallorca from the centrally-located underground Placa Espanya station.
Mallorca's main inter-city rail and bus provider is TIB, while Palma's inner-city bus line is run by EMT. Rail tickets must be purchased at the Placa d'Espanya rail station. Bus passengers should pay drivers in exact change, and tickets cannot be bought with notes of more than €10. The Town Hall sells Citizen Cards that both residents and tourists can use instead of cash for bus travel.
Although there is no rail service between Palma and its airport, TIB trains travel to many other destinations throughout Mallorca. However, many tourists may prefer boarding the quaint Ferrocarril de Soller electric train for the scenic three-mile journey from Palma to Puerto Soller. This 'Red Arrow' line has been ranked among Europe's most beautiful since its initial 1912 opening.
The Majorca Taxis Company is just one of many reputable taxi companies that travel not only across Palma, but also throughout the rest of the island. Palma taxis are easily identifiable by their distinctive cream and black colours. Fares from one Mallorca destination to another vary between €53 and €83. Extra fees are added for journeys at night or on Spanish public holidays.
EMT operates Palma's city bus service. Tickets for the number 1 line between Palma de Mallorca Airport, the city centre and the outer dock, where most cruise ships drop off their passengers, cost €2.50 each, while tickets for all other Palma destinations cost around €1.25 each. TIB operates the buses that run around Mallorca. A special night bus service, known as 'bus de nit', travels around Paseo Maritimo, Palma's nightlife district, on weekend nights. Fares for this night bus, introduced to prevent drunk driving, are around €1.
Palma may not have become a popular holiday retreat until the 1950s, but the city's history dates as far back as the Bronze Age. Several historic landmarks like the 14th century Castell de Bellver and a stunning seaside cathedral stand alongside seemingly-endless stretches of beach. Children and adults alike will enjoy getting wet at the Aqualand and Marineland water parks. The Paseo Maritimo, with its numerous nightclubs, is Palma's most popular place to party. Only a handful of Mallorca's more than 200 caves are open to the public, but the ones people can enter often stage concerts and hold guided tours.
Palma to Sóller - Visitors can either drive the 15-minute journey between Palma and Sóller or take the famous electric train that has made the journey since 1912. No matter how you choose to travel between the two communities, you will encounter stunning citrus groves and mountain views along the way. The scenery becomes no less spectacular once you arrive in Soller, a vibrant port filled with shops and restaurants.
Aqualand - None of Mallorca's water parks can match the size of Aqualand, located east of Palma in the community of El Arenal. In addition to a wide array of thrilling waterslides and wave pools, the park also features an antique typewriter museum and a mini zoo. This water park is open from June to September.
Marineland Waterpark - Lies only a 10-minute drive away from Palma. This park's dolphin and sea lion shows may be its most popular attractions, but it is also home to Europe's largest shark collection. Large snakes slither alongside a parrot circus in the reptile zoo, while a pirate galleon stands in the middle of the children's water park.