I swam with a cormorant this morning. As the sun came up over a beautiful cove, I finished the cappuccino I had picked up from the ever-smiling superhost Fenia and started the day with a sea bath – as I have done the past five days. Walking back to our room, I saw room service deliver champagne and balloons for someone’s special breakfast. We are in Porto Petro on Mallorca, an easy flight from Lisbon or Seville, and are staying in a newly opened all-inclusive resort on the southeast coast of the island.
I am of a generation where the words Mallorca and all-inclusive still conjure up an image of pile-em-high-sell-em-cheap mass tourism – but I am so ready to let go of my prejudice! Mallorca has made a concerted effort in the past decade to let go of the tacky Magaluf booze-and-clubs vibe and deliver sophisticated high-end experiences to the middle classes of Europe. The north and south coasts and the Tramuntana mountains have seen an impressive celebrity influx. Richard Branson was, as he so often is, a pioneer with his boutique hotels La Residencia and, more recently, Son Bunyola. Many household names from the world of sports, music and showbiz have made Mallorca their second, third or fourth home. I have a personal philosophy: “if it is good enough for Brad Pitt and Annie Lennox, I will give it a go. This short break is certainly delivering.
Let’s first deal with the all-inclusive stigma: my husband has a strict ‘no buffet’ rule, and there are no such culinary no-go-zones here. Of six restaurants, five are à la carte only, and then there is “The Market’ where individual food stations deliver more informal options – ideal if you are travelling with picky toddlers or teenagers. You are not limited to sad house wine options either – there are more than three hundred wines on the wine list – mostly Spanish, but with a smattering of French, New World and Greek options. An imaginative cocktail menu takes care of pre and post-dinner refreshments – to be sampled at an absurd range of stunning ‘bars with a view’.
Perceptive readers will have noticed the mention of Greek wines, and the Hellenic names of many of the staff: we are indeed staying in the newest Ikos resort, the Greek hotel brand which has done more than any other to reinvent the all-inclusive concept in the past five years. We have stayed at Ikos Andalusia before, its first venture outside Greece which is an easy drive from the Algarve – and just a stone’s throw from Gibraltar. The Greek resorts on Kos, Corfu and the mainland have been a hit with young families, well-preserved kids-at-uni couples and glamorous (pre-)retirees who buy into the ‘unconditional luxury’ concept. Do you want a Tesla for the day? Exquisite gastronomy? World-class entertainment? Everything is included, and the knowledge that a bill will never be presented makes for a relaxing and indulgent getaway. Ikos is also moving closer to home – the Ikos Cortesia Algarve, close to Falésia beach, is due to open in 2025.
We are not really resort-type people if I am honest: just sitting on a beach or at a table does not do it for us – and the Ikos Porto Petro (I kept calling it Porco Preto – blame my Portuguese) is better than many of the other resorts at delivering options for leaving the cosseted hotel environment and exploring the south-east coast of Mallorca. You can walk to the marina and the cute village of Porto Petro next door. We hiked to nearby coves, close to the natural park of Mondrago, and explored nearby towns and villages by car. The inland town of Santanyi and the gorgeous natural harbour at Cala Figueira were particular highlights. On one of our walks, we thought we had walked into a psychedelic day-dream: hundreds of metalheads enjoying a “Full Metal Holiday” – a week of holidaying in the sun with hard rock gigs all day every day. It was gloriously incongruous but great fun! My husband particularly enjoyed the Banjo and Cajon (wooden drumming box) versions of classics like ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ and ‘Basket Case’!
The next day, we picked up our all-inclusive e-bikes from keen cyclist Miltos at the sports centre. Miltos has explored, in his own words, ‘half of the island’ by bike and he pointed us to a route through gorgeous countryside and the natural park. We ended up at the coves of Cala de Mondrago and Cala des Borgit, but forgot our swimmies – so we dived into the equally beautiful Cala de Sa Torre in the resort when we got back.
Life at an Ikos resort gives you very tough choices. Which restaurant? Which starter and main course? Which wine? Portions are smallish and low on carbs – which makes it really easy and tempting to order “maybe an extra starter for the table?” Or maybe not skip dessert for once? Luckily, George pointed us to a few secret superstars on the menu at the fabulous Fresco restaurant. It is really hard to write about the quality of the food without using a bunch of cliches: it is stunning, fresh, full of flavours, local-with-a-twist and just all-round delicious.
We were tempted to extend our stay on Mallorca by staying in Palma for a few days – we have visited before and it is one of our favourite Spanish cities, with amazing architecture, atmosphere and (yet again) food and drink, and plan to visit again soon. Instead, we returned to our own land of beautiful bays and coves, incredible natural beauty and delicious fresh food. As blessed as we are here in the Algarve, it was a total privilege to share some Mallorcan magic for a few days!
Ann is a personal travel planner who can help organise and book the trip of a lifetime, a weekend away and everything in between.