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Mallorca’s Beaches Named Among the World’s Best

beaches in Palma, Mallorca, in Spain's Balearic Islands
After an analysis of thousands of different data points, MONEY magazine has identified the 14 best beaches in the world. It narrowed down a list of more than 250 popular destinations. The beaches of the island of Mallorca, Spain, came out to be among the world's very best, according to MONEY's analysis.

Mallorca: A Holiday Destination

Mallorca, also spelled Mallorca, is the largest of Spain's Balearic Islands, a destination for anyone who loves clear, blue water and golden sand. In 2016, more than 26 million visitors flew into and out of Palma de Mallorca Airport. Other islands in the area are Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera, all of them about 200 kilometers off the coast of Valencia. There are 24 ferry crossings every day from the mainland of the Iberian Peninsula leaving from Barcelona, Valencia, and Dénia in Alicante. This makes Mallorca a magnificent getaway for anyone visiting Spain. Best of all, though, is that Mallorca offers not just beautiful beaches but fabulous cuisine and a long, rich cultural history. And while this is a highly popular destination, don't let the crowds deter you. According to TIME:
Famed largely for its beach clubs and nightlife, this Spanish island also offers sheltered beach coves and peaceful hill towns. “Even among the tourist swarms of mid-August you can find pockets of silence,” says Tom Stainer, a Lonely Planet destination editor.

Beaches for Rest and Relaxation

Bahía de Alcudia: This is the longest beach in Mallorca and is perfect for families because of the variety of available activities. The nearby town of Alcúdia offers up shopping and great eateries, and is considered by many to be the island's most beautiful village. Cala Mondragó: This environmentally protected area features a bright green double bay and white sand. Shelter from the waves makes the area safe for children and families, who will also have easy access to beachside snacks. Formentor: This beach is located near Cap de Formentor at the northern end of the island's Serra de Tramuntana mountain range. The Serra de Tamuntana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Formentor beach is lined with pine trees and features clear blue waters on a quiet peninsula. Stay at the Barceló Hotel Formentor. You can reach this area by boat. Playa de Palma: Located in the capital of Palma de Mallorca, this beach is ideal for those who'd prefer not to rent a car but are looking for a bright, sloping beach to relax and take a dip.

Beaches for Water Sports and Activities

Cala Estellencs: This beach is ideal for those who like diving and snorkelling. It's a rocky spot flanked by caves, and offers up a great sunset. Cala Llamp: There's no sand here but there's a wealth of snorkeling. Relax at the seaside bar after a dip. Cala Mesquida: This is one of the only beaches that's optimal for surfing on the island. It's also ideal for long walks and a relaxing picnic. Booking.com

Historical and Cultural Sites

The entrance to the Ses Païsses talaiotic settlement on Mallorca island in Spain. The first settlements on Mallorca date from as early as 6000–4000 BCE. The Talaiotic Culture thrived here during prehistoric times and ruins can still be seen in Puig de sa Morisca, an archaeological park. Tumuli structures, built for funerary purposes, date from the second millennium BCE while talaiots date from the first millennium BCE. There are at least 274 talaiots on the island, but their purpose is not yet clearly understood. Some argue they were defensive in nature, and perhaps served as lookout points. Various tombs also date from this period.
The entrance to the Ses Païsses talaiotic settlement on Mallorca island in Spain.
The entrance to the Ses Païsses talaiotic settlement on Mallorca island in Spain.
Perhaps one of the best-known archaeological sites on Mallorca is the Taula, a table-shaped arrangement of stones. Visit the Taula of Talatí de Dalt near the town of Mahón. The Phoenicians arrived around the eighth century BCE (when they were also active in the area around modern-day Cádiz). Carthage had control over the island for a time before the Romans took hold. Alcúdia, considered the oldest town on the island, was founded during the Roman period. Roman remains are still visible in this charming town in the northern region. In more recent history, the Polish composer Frederic Chopin loved to visit the island with French writer Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, known by the pseudonym George Sand. Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío was so inspired by his visit that he wrote several poems and began a novel called El oro de Mallorca. Artist Joan Miró settled in Mallorca in 1954, and you can see a collection of his work at the Fundació Pilar i Joan Miró in Palma. For fans of Agatha Christie, stay at the Hotel Illa d'Or in Puerto Pollensa, a small fishing village in Mallorca's fertile northern region. The site was a favorite of Christie's and inspired her novel, Problems at Pollensa Bay—which, incidentally, makes for fabulous beach reading. There are at least 2,400 restaurants on the island, including Michelin-starred Marc Fosh. Even a three-course meal here shouldn't cost more than about $40.
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The Castell Tradition: Why Catalans Build Human Towers, & Where to See One

Castells Catalan Tradition Catalonia
May is festival season all over Spain, and there's truly no better time to travel there. You can not only plan your travel to hop from festival to festival, but you can come upon surprise celebrations. This is what happened to me in Catalonia one May when I came upon the Festa Catalana in Barcelona's Plaça Nova, in front of the city's iconic Gothic cathedral.

Suddenly, people dressed in a variety of team colors were gathering in huge groups, climbing on each other's shoulders, and reaching heights that seemed to rival even the cathedral's towers. If you've been lucky enough to witness one of these incredible displays of camaraderie and teamwork—or if you're hoping to see it while you're in Catalonia—it's essential to understand the history behind the rich tradition of building castells (castles).

Catalonia's Tradition of Castells

The tradition of building castells began in the city of Valls, El País reports, probably during the eighteenth century. Valls is today a city of about 24,500 people and is located about 57 miles (92 kilometers) from Barcelona.

However, a similar, even older tradition can be traced to the region of Valencia. The muixeranga is an ancient form of human pyramid-building and street dancing. This tradition has a religious background, whereas the tradition of castells does not. Muixeranga pyramids or towers traditionally seek to create a symbolic scene.

You can still see examples of this in La Mare de Déu de la Salut Festival (the feast of Our Lady of Health) in the village of Algemesí on September 7–8 of every year. The town is just 19 miles (30 kilometers) outside of Valencia. Records of the tradition survive from the eighteenth century, but muixeranga may date from as far back as the thirteenth century.

By the 1700s the tradition of castells was beginning to spread to other cities in Catalonia, including Tarragona and Vilafranca del Penedès. However, the tradition only spread throughout Catalonia in the last 50 years, according to El País. Women became involved for the first time in the 1980s, and have been credited with making the castells both lighter and stronger. Catalunya Radio reports that this ushered in the "golden age" of castells, when heights of nine or 10 levels were first achieved.

Parts of a Castell

Human towers Mare de Déu de la Salut Festival in Algemesí, Valencia
Human towers are built in celebration of la Mare de Déu de la Salut Festival in Algemesí, Valencia. | Photo courtesy Llapissera
Castells Catalan Tradition Catalonia
Building human towers, called castells, is a Catalan tradition.
One of the most stunning aspects of a castell is just how many people are involved in making one. You may see a dozen or so people comprising the tower itself, but step in closer and you'll find that many spokes of at least half a dozen people each are working to support the castell. This base is called the pinya. It's an incredibly moving display of companionship and mutual support.

All the members of a team are called castellers. They work together to determine if the base is powerful enough to proceed, then the music—the Toc de Castells—begins. Those tasked with building the tronc, or the body of the castell, move quickly so as to minimize the work for the pinya and the others below them. 
The anxeta, or the tower's pinnacle, is usually a small child safely wearing a helmet, and may only stay at the top for a few seconds before beginning her descent. Disassembling the castell can often be the most dangerous part of the whole process.

Castellers generally wear a recognizable outfit comprised of a mocador (bandana), white pants, and a faixa (black sash). The latter, which is wrapped around the stomach, is particularly important, as it not only supports the lower back but also serves as a tool for climbers, who can place their hands or feet on this sash to aid in ascent or descent.

Towers can vary greatly in terms of structure and width, varying from just one person per level to five and reaching as many as 10 people high.
Castells Catalan Tradition Catalonia
The anxeta, or topmost person, in a castell climbs toward the top, using the faixa (black sash) of a team member as a foothold. | Photo by Erin L. McCoy

UNESCO Recognition for Catalonia

In 2010, the castells tradition was awarded the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity designation by UNESCO.

Miquel Botella is president of the Coordinadora de Colles Castelleres, an organization of teams of castelleres. In speaking with El País, he attributed the recognition to the sport's "spectacularity," but also to its emphasis on self-improvement.

"To feel like a winner, you can't lose anybody," Botella explained. With the tradition of castells, there are no hierarchies and the good of the team takes precedent over individual concerns. At the time, there were 70,000 castellers comprising more than 60 teams.

Where You Can See a Castell

Among the best places to witness human towers are during festivals in Catalonia. Here are a few that feature castells

  • Festa Catalana
    • When: Every Saturday between May and September
    • Where: Avinguida de la Catedral at the Barcelona Cathedral
  • Festes de Gràcia
    • When: Eight days in August
    • Where: In the Gràcia neighborhood of Barcelona
  • La Mare de Déu de la Salut Festival
    • When: September 7–8
    • Where: Algemesí, Valencia
  • La Mercè Festival
    • When: 5 days in late September
    • Where: Barcelona 

To see teams compete, check out:

  • Concurs de Castells, Torredembarra
    • When: Late September
    • Where: La Plaça del Castell, Torredembarra, Catalonia
  • Concurs de Castells, Tarragona
    • When: Early October
    • Where: La Tarraco Arena Plaça, Tarragona, Catalonia
    • Buy tickets

The city of Valls is building a human tower museum, called the Museu Casteller de Catalunya (watch this site for updates).

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Ronda Hosts International Guitar Festival Every June

flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía

The city of Ronda is known as the "Eagle's Nest" for its precarious-looking perch above the El Tajo canyon in the mountains of Andalusia. Now, it's becoming known for an annual festival celebrating all things guitar. 

The International Guitar Festival

In 2015, Andalusian musician Paco Seco founded the International Guitar Festival alongside his wife, Lucy Stewart. The festival aims to be "a world ambassador of Spanish music," according to its home page

It features concerts every evening across a broad variety of musical styles, from flamenco and classical to jazz and contemporary. The day is punctuated by speakers and guitarists, along with an exhibition from master guitar makers. 

All events take place at the Santo Domingo Cultural Center in the heart of Ronda's old-town area. An all-festival pass is €60 while a day pass runs €15. Children get discounted tickets. Buy tickets to the International Guitar Festival here.

“The festival strives to highlight the versatility of styles that the guitar embraces: classical, romantic, flamenco, jazz and contemporary. Appealing to the musical tastes of a wide audience," Stewart told The Olive Press in 2018.

In 2018, the festival begins June 5 and lasts for five days. It is expected to attract guitarists from all over the world, including Italy, Holland, and Bulgaria. Guitars made by 10 master luthiers from as far as Canada and the United Kingdom will also be on display.

A Visit to Ronda

A visit to the International Guitar Festival offers the perfect opportunity to get to know one of Andalusia's most charming and historic small towns. Before you go, check out our definitive list of essential Spanish words and phrases. It will empower you to engage in a more meaningful way with locals—who will, by the way, be just plain delighted at your passion for Spanish guitar.

Once you get to Ronda, it's time to explore. You can start right out the door of the Santo Domingo Conference Center, where the Mirador de Aldehuela promises a stunning view of the Tajo canyon and the surrounding mountains. 

Ponte Nuevo extends over the Tajo gorge in Ronda, Spain.
The Ponte Nuevo extends over the Tajo gorge in Ronda, Spain. | Courtesy Christopher Down

While you're in Ronda, you can't miss the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge). The 34-year-long construction of this landmark began in 1759. A prison suspended over the central arch was used as a torture chamber during the Spanish Civil War, during which prisoners were tossed from the windows into the Tajo gorge extending 390 feet (120 meters) down. Such a scene was described in Ernest Hemingway's novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls. Also check out the Puente Romano (Roman Bridge) and Puente Viejo (Old Bridge), both of which span the canyon as well.

Some baños árabes (Arab baths) from the Al-Andalus period remain, and don't miss the chance to see the oldest bullfighting ring in all of Spain. If you're interested in Renaissance art, check out the Palacio of the Marqués de Salvatierra, but be warned that its hours can be irregular. 

You can get to Ronda by train from Córdoba or Algeciras. 

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It’s Official: Spain Has the World’s Best Beaches

Calella de Palafrugell, Costa Brava
Spain has the best beaches in the world—and that’s official, according to the Association for Environmental Education and the Consumer (ADEAC). The ADEAC awards “Blue Flags” to beaches that meet high-level standards for sanitary conditions, safety (including the presence of lifeguards) and accessibility. In 2018, a grand total of 590 Spanish beaches were awarded blue flags—11 more than in 2017.

Environmental Stewardship

Even though there are more than 70 sustainable-tourism initiatives in the world, the Blue Flag is the only one with the backing of both the United Nations’ environmental and tourism arms, according to Dirk Glaesser, director of the UN’s Sustainable Development of Tourism organization. The president of the ADEAC also cites free and open access, environmental education and protection for sensitive zones, and accessibility for people with special needs as high priorities for the organization. In particular, the ADEAC adheres to standards set by the Foundation for Environmental Education. Thanks to all of these factors, you know that when you’re supporting Spain’s beach-tourism economy, you’re also supporting sustainable environmental practices. And not only are beaches in mainland Spain ranked highly—beaches in the Canary Islands and in a Spanish territory on the northern coast of Africa have also been recognized as fabulous places to relax and recharge.
Highly rated Spanish beaches
Spain has the most high-quality beaches in the world in 2018, according to standards set by the Association for Environmental Education and the Consumer (ADEAC).
Booking.com

Visit Some of These Gorgeous Beaches

Obviously, there are gorgeous beaches throughout Spain. The most famous sites are along Catalonia‘s coastal region, called the Costa Brava, and in the Balearic Islands, including Palma de Mallorca. The Valencia province has the most beautiful beaches of all—but there are some surprises among the rankings, The Local reports: 
The region of Valencia on the east coast of Spain boasts the most number of quality beaches in Spain with 132 winning the rating, (three more than 2017) while Galicia in Spain’s northwestern corner has 109, the Catalonia (northeastern Spain), 101 and Andalusia in the south, 97.
Visitors to Galicia may not be aware of just how gorgeous the coastline there is. Certainly, the northern Spanish coast is known for moodier weather. It’s wetter and rainier, and every day won’t promise beach water. But walkers along certain tracks of the Camino de Santiago—a centuries-old pilgrimage leading to the city of Santiago de Compostela—will encounter pristine beach after pristine beach, the most famous of which is Playa de las Catedrales. That means that if you’re the type of traveler who prefers historical sites to days at the beach, in Spain, you don’t have to choose.

Characterized by dramatically slanted walls of slate and schist, sea arches, and caves, the Playa de las Catedrales (Beach of the Cathedrals) in Galicia may be the most gorgeous beach in the world. ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ #galicia #galiciamagica #galiciarural #beaches #beachday @earthportrayal @earthpix @globaltravelgram @beautifuldestinations @spainiswonderful @spain #spain #visitspain #vacation #earthshoot #earthpix #geology #playadelascatedrales #cathedrals #photography #nofilter #instapicture #bestoftheday #beach #clouds #travel #instatravel #travelgram #tourism #photography #travelphotography #lifeofspain @ericdamier @gracefuldestination #Nature @unlimitedspain @unlimitedtravellers @coolnaturetravelpics @naturetravelcool #unlimitedspain #awesomeearth #thediscoverer

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