Set between the towns of Portopetro and Cala Figuera, this coastal nature reserve in southeastern Mallorca is a beautiful haven of wetlands, cliffs, beaches and sand dunes. You can head to one of the unspoiled beaches here, or explore the hinterland, where there's abundant birdlife and not even a hint of mass tourism to be found.
A bit of context
Mallorca is probably best known as a hub for package holidays, golf and large-scale tourism resorts. Yet, for those with a mind to seek it out, the island has far more to recommend it. Mallorca's natural wealth is probably most surprising, from the towering peaks of the Tramuntana Mountains in the north, to the rugged and remote Cap de Formentor or the craggy hills of the Levant range in the east.
The Mondragó Natural Park, belongs in this company. It's a lovely little enclave of pristine natural beauty that packs a remarkable variety of landscapes into its boundaries. On the coast are sublime beaches, unattached to any resort and backed by sand dunes. Follow the coastal trails and you'll find yourself traversing cliff tops and encircling craggy little bays where there are few signs of civilisation beyond the lone yacht moored in transparent blue waters.
When it comes to wildlife, 70 different native and migratory species have been spotted here, and are joined by reptiles, amphibians, several mammal species and even the Mediterranean tortoise, which was successfully reintroduced in the 20th century.
What you'll find inland
The park is woven with walking trails, bike tracks and narrow country lanes lined by historic farm walls, so it's perfectly easy to navigate the scenery. What you'll find is an environment that is constantly in flux. When it rains the torrents here become swollen with water, which is carried down to the sea, or to form lagoons near the waterfront. The torrents also feed wetlands, which provide a habitat for some of the park's birdlife. Here you'll find a variety of coots and moorhens, as well as the redshank and black-necked grebe.
Visitors with a botanical bent should keep their eyes peeled for the park's orchids - specifically Serapias lingua, Anacamptis piramidalis, Barlia robertiana, Serapias parviflora.
Drier areas tend to be covered either with heather and juniper, interspersed with carob and wild olive trees, or simply made up of cool and fragrant Aleppo pine forest. There are also significant holm oak forests, which tend to be increasingly rare around the Mediterranean.
And by the sea
Cala Mondragó is a small beach that earns Blue Flag status each year. There are a few isolated buildings close to the beach but there is no substantial development, as the park was established in 1989 expressly to prevent the construction of a resort around the bay. The beach does attract plenty of visitors, despite being relatively difficult to reach.
You'll be able to enjoy a gorgeous crescent of white sand sloping gently down to crystalline waters. As the sea is so calm the beach is safe for children, and the clarity of the water makes snorkelling a joy, and glass-bottomed boat trips genuinely worthwhile . The beach is also where several of the walking trails converge, so it serves as a handy base for visiting the park in the summer.
In more remote areas along the coast you'll find yourself practically alone in this lovely natural setting. Tracks here will weave past sand dunes, cliffs and coves, and there will be lots of opportunities for bird spotting if you're patient and quiet. In these spots it's worth keeping an eye out for species including little stints, common sandpipers, common snipes, grey herons and European shags. And then you'll be able to return to your holiday accommodation in Mallorca, knowing you saw a corner of the island that will forever remain distant from the noise, sprawl and bustle of the resorts.
You can get to this location within an hour from the Drivalia car rental depot at Palma de Mallorca Airport (PMI).