ISSUE 85  |  Travels with an Editor: Barcelona

Off the Grid at Finca Es Castell, Mallorca

August 13, 2013 10:00 AM

BY Kendra Wilson

If you are traveling to Mallorca, head for the Tramuntana mountains in the north. A 40-minute drive from the clamor of Palma, the higher ground is punctuated with medieval buildings which seem to have grown out of the mountains themselves. You could stay at the Finca Es Castell, a cluster of stone buildings as much a part of the local countryside as the olive, citrus, and almond groves which it surveys.

Above: The hotel buildings are at the center of a 750-acre working estate, with the mountains rising up behind. An old olive press in the yard is testament to the activities which have traditionally taken place at Es Castell and, thanks to the concept of agrotourism, still do. Tourism and agriculture combine and the old estates survive.

Above: Mallorca is the largest of the Balearic Islands in Spain and the only one with a mountain range. The Tramuntana range was awarded World Heritage site status two years ago, giving protection to endangered flora and fauna. Photograph by Boably1 via Flickr.

Above: Finca Es Castell has 11th century origins and has been owned by the same family since the 15th century. It is managed by a British couple, James Hiscock and Paola Cassini, who have restored and renovated, without sweeping away.

They are proud that agrotourismos such as this are a way of sustaining a traditional way of life. They use salvaged materials and try to keep life very local. Their food, for instance, comes from the estate or from within a 6-mile radius.

Above: The swimming pool at Es Castell has a self-service bar. Modern life is here.

Above: Olive trees pressed into service for hammocks.

Above: The northwest coast of Mallorca is typically made up of mountains dipping straight down into the sea. Swimming is a rocky experience, perfect for diving and snorkeling. Sandy beaches are more typical in the south. Photograph by Boably1 via Flickr.

Above: The terrace, perfect for dining while watching the sun set over the mountains. The estate has a reputation for serving good food with an Italian influence, thanks to innkeeper Paola Cassini. Weekly excursions are offered to accompany the chef to S’Olivar, the fish market in Palma. Balearic fish markets are part of the heart and soul of the islands, best enjoyed in the company of a Catalan-speaking cook.

Above: Part of the appeal of an agrotourismo is the quiet, if you don’t count the high-decibel cicadas. This is a genuine rural retreat. Of course there is hiking and cycling nearby, as well as a tennis court on the premises. But the ethos is: Slow down. The innkeepers try to minimize consumption at the hotel and urge guests to stay put instead of tearing around the island. “Don’t travel so much,” says Cassini. “Our dinners and lunches are great; why not just stay here?”

Headed to Spain? Check out our new Travels with an Editor series; this week we’ll be posting stories about our favorite Gardens, Shops, Lodging, and Restaurants in Barcelona and Beyond.