While the west coast of Mallorca gets the most attention and you’ll surely have to jump off the rocks of Deià for a seafood lunch at least once in your life, the southeast of the island is arguably more beautiful. Avoid the resort towns of Cala d’Or and stay inland in Santanyí, a 13th-century golden stone town. It’s almost too perfect; every narrow alleyway looks like a meticulous film set, especially when the golden hour casts the sharp shadow of palm trees on the walls of the church of Sant Andreu. The city is as peaceful as it is pretty. About 3,000 people live here, but sometimes you hardly see a soul walking across the town square.
It’s this calm and visual patina that has brought people here to open chic little home improvement stores, art galleries and restaurants with walled gardens and citrus trees. There are relatively few places to stay so it doesn’t stay crowded — there’s the mid-range Hotel Santanyí (hoteletsantanyi.com) on Plaça de la Constitució, and a few cute Air BnBs, including the ornate two-bedroom Can Ponç Parra ( airbnb.co.uk/can-ponc-parra). Last year, however, the hoteliers behind Sant Francesc – one of Palma’s most luxurious, modern hotels – opened the doors to Can Ferrereta (see below).
They transformed a 17th-century mansion into arguably the most perfect vacation spot in Europe, from the monochrome interiors and Joan Miró artwork to the wine list, seafood croquettes and suckling pig. Though it only has 32 rooms, it’s received more attention than anything else in the Balearic Islands for years. You would hardly know the hotel was there; it blends in perfectly with the rest of Santanyí. There’s no late-night bar scene, and it seems unlikely that the town is on the same island as Magaluf.
The success of Can Ferrereta will likely be the first quake in seismic changes – the 16th-century city walls, built to keep Ottoman invaders out, are now more than ever an invitation to newcomers. Go now while no need to book tapas a month in advance.
10 reasons to go to Santanyí this summer
1. It’s really tiny
You can walk from one side of the city to the other in 10 minutes, and you’ll understand the lay of the land in an afternoon. It’s nine minutes from the city center to one of the main tourist attractions – the stone horse sculptures by the late artist Rolf Schaffner. Santanyí is the kind of place where everyone knows each other and people stop to chat while walking their dogs. The landscape is completely flat and the narrow lanes provide plenty of shade so navigating even in the harshest heat wave is never tedious.
2. It’s close to Palma, but not too close
You don’t have to drive through town to get to Santanyí when you fly in, so avoid traffic jams. But you’re also just an hour from Palma, the Mallorcan capital, when you go shopping, enjoy a paella with octopus at one of the city’s beach clubs, or dine at El Camino (elcaminopalma.es), Palma’s sibling want to go to the London Barrafina restaurants. Parking in Palma can be a nightmare, so you might as well just take a taxi back and forth – especially as car rental prices have skyrocketed in recent years. But if you have a car you have the opportunity to explore more beaches and there is free and plentiful parking in Santanyí.
3. It has the most perfect beach
One of the most incredible beaches in the Balearic Islands is Cala Llombards, six minutes away by car or 10 minutes by bike down a tiny winding road. There are always plenty of lounge chairs and umbrellas to hire for the day and a beach bar that serves great fries, bocadillos with jamon and sangria. The beach is nestled in a rocky cove with steps carved into each side that lead to stone ledges perfect for diving into bright blue waters. If you were able to design the perfect sandy beach, you couldn’t do better. Swim to deeper water with the tropical fish, to the mural of a single eye carved into the cliff face, and then back to shore for a piña colada.
4. It has surprisingly good restaurants
For such a small town, there’s a solid week’s worth of dining rooms and their gardens to eat in, more offbeat than you might expect. Most places around the town square are fairly predictable and good for a snack and a splash, but Laudat (restaurantlaudat.com) and Es Cantonet (es-cantonet.net) both do imaginative things using traditional local ingredients. While the parking lot and facade of Henry Like’s Pizza (henrylikespizzasantanyi.com) might suggest a little lackluster, inside the gates it’s actually a really pretty, leafy al fresco space, with a terrace and a bright orange Aperol-branded bar for an aperitif. For some of the island’s best traditional tapas, head to Es Molí (00 34 971 65 36 29). Wherever you are, work your way through the local Mallorcan reds – 12 Volt is a particularly good fruity blend of Callet, Fogon, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
5. Possibly the best hotel in the Balearic Islands
The pool at Can Ferrereta (hotelcanferrereta.com), surrounded by olive trees, is the stuff of dreams. Under-14s are banned from the hotel, so it’s a couples’ spot, with people whispering to each other on plush sun loungers. All is tranquil and perfect, with attentive service and fantastic food from Chef Alvar Albaladejo at Ocre, the hotel’s restaurant. Superb locally caught seafood, grilled meats and sumptuous salted chocolate desserts are served in the courtyard or in the elegant indoor dining room. Mixing rustic, understated minimalism with sleek modern art and furniture, Can Ferrereta’s predominantly black, white, and natural wood interior design will have you wanting to redecorate your entire home the moment you get home. Even the smallest “Nest” rooms (from €276/£235 per night including breakfast) are wonderful. Read the full Telegraph Travel review here.
6. It comes with a pinch of salt
There are good wineries a short drive away, but the most famous local product is the artisan fleur de sal from Es Trenc, a beautiful beach town (popular with nudists and families) a 20-minute drive away. It’s definitely worth a visit, but you can also buy all the colorfully wrapped chic sea salt you could want at Flor de Sal d’Es Trenc at Plaça Major 15, right here. That’s great gift shopping: There’s a myriad of flavors, from smoked to saffron, beetroot to orange and chili, and the round boxes are as pretty as anything you’d find at a high-end chocolatier. flordesal.com
7. It is a market town
While Santanyí can seem deserted at times, it transforms on Saturdays and Wednesdays when crowds of German and British tourists descend on the town for the market. Every table in every café is occupied, and the Plaça Major and adjacent streets are teeming with people haggling over the price of dubious Gucci accessories. Ignore the inconspicuous tat and head to the stalls near the church for artisan gourmet offerings like olive oil, cheese, sobrasada, and Priapian-looking salami.
8. There are festivals galore
Mallorquins love celebrations, and Santanyí has its fair share of quirky annual events, including the celebrations of Santo Domingo de Guzmán in Es Llombards on August 8th, with huge al fresco dinners, dancing and all manner of games and oddities to celebrate Santanyí’s patron saint celebrate astronomers. Before Domingo has his day, the town is occupied for the last two weeks of July by the Saint Jaume Festival with live music and fireworks and the “Parade of the Giants” on July 24th. On January 17, Santanyí joins the island. broad feast of Saint Anthony with animal blessings, bonfires and devil hunts.
9. You always know what time it is
The bells of the Església de Sant Andreu ring on the hour and half hour and echo through the streets. The clock tower is also the best way to find your way around the city. The church dates from the 18th century and has been remodeled to house the organ, one of the most impressive and elaborate in Europe, built in 1762 by the famous instrument maker Jordi Botsch for Santo Domingo in Palma. When the church in town was demolished in 1835, the organ was moved east to Santanyí. It was restored to its original glory in 1999 and is regularly used for concerts by visiting artists. Even if nothing is planned, go check it out – it’s an amazing item straight out of a Disney movie.
10. It’s a great place for a retreat
Cal Reiet (calreiet.com) is one of Mallorca’s finest accommodations, a holistic retreat with 15 bedrooms, yoga programs, spa treatments, raw food and vegan workshops, and a 20-metre pool in the gardens. Rooms start at €300 (£256) a night and it’s worth booking even if you have no intention of eating healthy or meditating while you’re in town (calreiet.com).
Visitors over the age of 12 must provide valid proof of one of the following: be fully vaccinated; a negative Covid-19 test (either a PCR performed within 72 hours of departure or an antigen test performed within 24 hours of departure); or evidence of recovery from Covid-19 within the last six months.
This article will be updated with the latest information.