From Port de Pollença, it’s half an hour’s drive (21 kilometres/13 miles) up and round the switchbacks of the steep, narrow road to Mallorca’s most northerly cape, Cap de Formentor, celebrated by poets and artists for its pine forests, its peace and its superlative, dizzying panoramas. It’s an essential trip if you’re in the area, but make it early or late in the day if you don’t want to be part of a tourist convoy. The main stops are at the Mirador des Colomer, a short pathway on the edge of a 232 metre- (760 foot-) high sheer vertical cliff, and the lighthouse. Further fine views can be had from side journeys up the Atalaya d’Alberutx and at Can es Faro, but you’ll need good nerves and suspension to take on the old, beaten-up roads here.
Like the rest of the Tramuntana, the unwieldy topography of this slender promontory was of little interest to Mallorca’s earliest conquerors, though its name (forment means wheat) suggests that it was valued at some stage in history by farmers. The first record of a proprietor dates from 1231, two years after the conquest of Jaume I, and from then until the 20th century the whole of the peninsula changed hands only a few times and development was scant – a few houses, barns, a lighthouse, a single road.
In 1928 Adam Diehl, an Argentine art-loving dandy who’d made his fortune in the meat trade, bought the whole of the peninsula for a half a million pesetas and built a stylish, modernist hotel here for artists and aristocrats. Non-residents can visit the Hotel Formentor as they drive through and stroll along the lovely public beach, the Platja de Formentor.
But there is a more public heritage that the hotel has bequeathed. Neither Diehl nor subsequent owners were keen to downgrade the hotel by allowing large-scale tourist development to take place on their exclusive strip of wilderness. The happy consequence of this has been the preservation of Formentor’s ecologies, particularly the seabirds – twitchers report sightings of honey buzzards, black kites and booted eagles as well as Mallorca’s star bird of prey, the Eleanora’s falcon. The rocky outcrops also provide homes for lizards and smaller birds like martins and swifts, especially at the northern tip.