Spain is one of the world’s most visited countries. Millions of people come here every year to enjoy their time under the Mediterranean sun. Apart from the fabulous cities like Barcelona, Madrid, Seville or Granada, it is the Spanish coast that attracts the most visitors. Ibiza and Mallorca in the Balearic Islands are some of the most popular tourist destinations in Spain. Great beaches, fabulous weather, and the variety of things to do make them an ideal holiday destination. However, most of us don’t have enough free days to visit both islands. Thus, the question remains: Ibiza vs Mallorca, how to choose? We’ll try our best to help you solve this dilemma.
Ibiza vs Mallorca
- 1 Ibiza vs Mallorca
- 2 Ibiza Island
- 3 Mallorca Island
- 4 How to Get to Mallorca and Ibiza
Let’s make a quick comparison of the two islands. Ibiza is just 150km (93 mi) from Valencia. Mallorca is further away, some 260 km (161 mi) from Valencia and some 207 km from Barcelona (128 mi). Ibiza has an area of roughly 572 km2 (221 sq mi). Mallorca is six times bigger, with 3640 km2 (1405 sq mi). Mallorca is much more populated. Some 900000 people live in Mallorca, versus 150000 in Ibiza. Both islands are quite popular and incredibly crowded in summer. However, thanks to the pandemic, today there aren’t nearly as many tourists as before. The capitals of both islands are beautiful cities full of heritage, and there are wonderful sandy beaches on both Ibiza and Mallorca.
If You Have to Choose
Without a doubt, visit both islands if you can. Even better, add Menorca and Formentera to the list. Menorca combines well with Mallorca, while Formentera makes an ideal pair with Ibiza. If you have less than a week, perhaps it’s better to focus on just one island. Rushing through both islands makes no sense. To us, Mallorca is slightly more attractive, so we would suggest going there if it’s your first time in the Balearic Islands. It is much bigger and its nature more varied. There are no mountains in Ibiza, while Mallorca’s Sierra de la Tramuntana stands out as one of Spain’s most beautiful. Choose Mallorca if culture and hiking are your things. If you are a party animal, then Ibiza is your place!
Eivissa, as Ibiza is known in Catalan, is Spain’s most popular party destination. While the rest of Spain was under Franco’s tight control Ibiza welcomed Europeans eager for some fun. The first clubs opened here in the 60s. However, the island became world-famous in the 80s with clubs like Pacha, Amnesia, and Ku. Truth be told, Ibiza is so much more than a party island. There are wonderful beaches all around, several interesting national parks, and the capital Ibiza Town is a splendid city, full of heritage. We have visited in summer and winter and can guarantee you there were always loads of things to do.
Cities and Towns of Ibiza
Ibiza Town is the capital and the largest city on the island. The city goes back to the Phoenicians, who founded it in the 7th century BC. It was later Roman, Byzantine, and Arab. Today, the city can be divided into two: the old town on the hill, called Dalt Vila, and the modern area called Eixample. The 16th-century fortification done by Philip II of Spain contains some of the world’s most remarkably preserved medieval bastions. UNESCO included the whole area inside the fortress and the island’s diverse nature in its World Heritage Site List. Two large sandy beaches surround the city on the north and the south.
Other Important Cities and Towns in Ibiza
There aren’t many cities in Ibiza with more than 20000 inhabitants. These are Ibiza Town, Santa Eulària des Riu, and Sant Antoni de Portmany. The former is a large resort town north of the capital popular among families. It is known for the small historical quarter Puig de Missa that hosts the beautiful 16th century Church of Santa Eulària. The latter is a popular party town, known for its two major clubs: Es Paradís and Eden. It’s a fairly modern town without much heritage and historic charm. The other two settlements worth mentioning are Sant Josep de sa Talaia and Sant Joan de Labritja.
Best Beaches in Ibiza
Beaches in and near Ibiza Town
If you wish to spend most of your time in the capital, you’d be delighted to know that there are two splendid beaches in Ibiza Town. Talamanca is within walking distance from Dalt Vila and has a chill vibe. This long sandy beach is right next to the Talamanca neighborhood, north of the old town. Figueretes, south of the old town, is more urban. Numerous hotels and apartment condos surround this busy sandy beach. A bit further from Ibiza Town, you’ll find several beaches. Our favorite is D’en Bossa, the longest and nicest. During summer it becomes party central!
Ibiza hosts a variety of beaches from small secluded coves to long organized ones. Our favorite one is Ses Salines on the island’s southern tip overlooking Formentera. It’s a long sandy beach lined with bars and restaurants popular among party-goers. Ibiza’s most spectacular natural park, Ses Salines (salt ponds), is right next to the beach. If you are into smaller, more intimate beaches, there are quite a few. Cala Saladeta might require a small hike above the rocks but is well worth it. For unforgettable sunsets head directly to Benirrás on the north of the island.
Where to Stay in Ibiza
In Ibiza, you should stay in a hotel on the beach unless you want to isolate yourself completely. There are several hotels along the endless beautiful beaches. In Ibiza Town, we recommend Hotel THB Los Molinos. The fabulous 4-star hotel has a lavish garden with a pool overlooking the sea and direct access to the Figueretes Beach. Their rooms are chic and offer memorable views from the balconies. If you want to stay in the town, but in a more quiet setting, Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay is a superb luxury hotel directly on Talamanca beach. If you are into history and arts, stay in Mirador de Dalt Vila, an early 20th-century palace, right in Ibiza’s old town. Finally, if you prefer staying at a remote location, Ibiza hosts several wonderful rural retreats. To us, Agroturismo Sa Talaia is the best option.
Ibiza Hiking Routes
Ibiza is mostly flat, with only a handful of hills above 400 meters. The most spectacular natural spot to visit is the Es Vedrà Island across Ibiza’s southwestern tip. You should drive to Mirador de Es Vedrà and hike along the surrounding area. Go in the afternoons for picture-perfect sunsets. Of all Ibiza’s hiking trails, the one you should not miss is going around the Ses Salines salt ponds. The scenery is breathtaking, you’ll probably spot hundreds of colorful flamingos, and there are even historical watchtowers. Of course, you should also hike over Ibiza’s medieval fortifications. Whether in the morning, afternoon or at night, unique architecture and stunning views will always greet you.
Majorca, as Mallorca is known in Catalan, is the largest and second most populated island in Spain. It is also the largest and geographically most diverse Balearic Island. Mallorca has been continuously inhabited since the Neolithic Period. Traces of these early human settlements can be found around the island. Additionally, Roman, Arab, Medieval, and Modern heritage dot the island. As if that was not enough, Mallorca boasts incredible nature, full of flora and fauna. There are two mountain ranges, Serra de Tramuntana in the west, and Serres de Llevant on the east. The former is Mallorca’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. An array of nice historic towns and golden sandy beaches complete the feast.
Cities and Towns of Mallorca
Palma de Mallorca
Palma de Mallorca is the island’s capital and the administrative seat of the Balearic Islands Autonomous Community. The city of over half a million people is the largest in the Balearic Archipelago. Today, Palma is a cosmopolitan city that attracts people from all over the world. Among the numerous architectural landmarks that dot Palma, three stand out: The Palma Cathedral, the Royal Palace of la Almudaina, and the Bellver Castle. That’s not all. Don’t miss the wonderful old town, the quirky colorful fisherman’s neighborhood, and the world-class parks and museums. Shopping and entertainment lovers won’t be disappointed either.
Other Important Cities and Towns in Mallorca
Palma is the largest city on the island, but it’s certainly not the only one. The three largest cities in Mallorca are Manacor, Llucmajor, and Inca. None of these cities is an important tourist center. Far more interesting are the historic cities of Alcúdia, Sóller, and Pollença. All three are close to the sea and connected to their port city with the same name. The nicest small towns and villages are located on top of Serra de Tramuntana. Valldemossa, Deià, Banyalbufar and Fornalutx are the most picturesque ones. Other interesting cities close to the eastern coast are Artà, Capdepera, and Santanyí.
Best Beaches in Mallorca
Beaches in and near Palma de Mallorca
There are three beaches in Palma de Mallorca. The most central one is Can Pere de Antoni, which serves as the city beach. A couple of bars and restaurants line this urban sandy beach. Further southeast along the coast, the Ciudad Jardin is another long sandy beach. Numerous hotels and tourist apartments lend it a relatively urban feel. On the other extreme of Palma, we find a much smaller Cala Major beach. It’s another urban beach, albeit more exclusive. Among several beaches near Palma de Mallorca, the most famous one is Platja de Can Pastilla, right after the Airport.
Mallorca has beaches for just about everyone: big, small, crowded, deserted, accessible, and isolated. Apart from the beaches close to Palma, the other popular beaches on Mallorca are mostly on the north. Port de Pollença and Port de Alcúdia are two coastal resort towns with long sandy beaches. Cala Formentor is another fantastic beach in the same area. The island’s western coast features rugged terrain and a few isolated bays and coves. Port de Sóller hosts the largest beach in the area, but Sa Calobra has the most dramatic scenery accessible through an impressive canyon. Other nice small beaches are Cala Mesquida and Cala Torta on the north, and Caló del Moro and S’Amarador on the east.
Where to Stay in Mallorca
Mallorca is a big island with a fairly varied tourist offer. Thus, you should decide on where to stay based on the reason you’re visiting. If you are a sea and sun bunny, stay on some of the best beaches. Playa de Muro, Port de Alcudia’s main beach, hosts some of Mallorca’s best luxury hotels. Grupotel Parc Natural & Spa, next to the Albufera national park, is regarded as the best one. If you prefer staying at a more scenic beach, Hotel Esplendido in Port de Sóller might be your best choice. The elegant hotel from 1954 offers chic comfortable rooms directly on the beach. If you have a thing for private historic villas, we highly recommend Sa Pedrissa near Deià. This historic Villa that once belonged to royals, is all about class, views, and service. We just love it there! In Palma, we recommend Petit Palace Hotel Tres.
Mallorca Hiking Routes
Mallorca offers hiking routes for all tastes and experience levels. Serra de Tramuntana on the western coast is by far Mallorca’s nicest natural habitat, thus it’s no surprise the most scenic hikes are all here. The island’s most famous route, GR221 starts in Port d’Andratx, crosses the mountain, and ends in Pollença. The route follows ancient cobbled paths and passes through Valldemossa, Deià, and Port de Sóller. The adventurous should try the scenic route along the Tossals Verds peak. If you are a beginner, you can hike from downtown Palma to Bellver Castle. Great views guaranteed!
How to Get to Mallorca and Ibiza
Ferries from Barcelona and Valencia
Ferries from Barcelona and Valencia travel to both Ibiza and Mallorca all year round. They connect Barcelona with Ibiza Town in 8 to 9 hours depending on the company. From Valencia, there are direct ferries to Ibiza Town and the journey takes about 6h30min. Ferries connect Barcelona to Mallorca’s two ports: Palma de Mallorca and Alcúdia. The journey takes just over six hours to Alcúdia and some 7h30min to Palma. From Valencia, there are only ferries to Palma and the journey lasts approximately 7h15min. We use Ferryhopper to check prices and book our ferry tickets around the Mediterranean.
Flying to Mallorca or Ibiza
Of course, you can also fly to the islands. The airports in Ibiza and Mallorca are big, with connections to many European destinations. Palma de Mallorca’s airport is Spain’s third busiest, after Madrid and Barcelona. Ibiza’s airport is almost exclusively seasonal with thousands of flights operating from late spring to early fall. In winter, you can fly from Madrid, Barcelona, and Palma de Mallorca to Ibiza. Palma, on the other hand, has year-round flights from several European destinations, including London, Paris, Frankfurt, and Prague. Take note that both airports are close to the city and accessible by public transport.
Traveling between Ibiza and Mallorca
Since Ibiza and Mallorca are big islands, there is a constant traffic flux between them, even in winter. As mentioned above, you can fly from Palma de Mallorca to Ibiza throughout the year. It takes between 40 and 45 minutes. You can also travel between the two islands via a ferry. Ferries link Palma with Ibiza all year round. The journey takes 2 hours. Take note that you can go from Ibiza to Formentera by ferry for a day. Another great day excursion by ferry is from Mallorca (Alcúdia) to Menorca (Ciutadella).