Must See on Mallorca
One of the secret places on the delightful island of Mallorca are the enchanting gardens of Alfabia. While most visitors to one of the Med’s most popular holiday destination tend to stick to their resorts and beaches, there is much more to Mallorca than just sun and sea. The Gardens of Alfabia should be on your list of must see places when touring the island and can easily be combined with a trip to the picturesque town of Soller, either by the rickety, wooden train that runs from Palma to Soller or by car. The Alfabia Gardens can be found on the route MA 11 near Bunyola, at the roundabout just before the toll tunnel to Soller.
The enchanting house and gardens of Alfabia date back to the 18th century when Mallorca was under Arab influence. Its Andalusian roots, combined with many other styles, surrounded by the magnificent landscape of the Tramuntana Mountains, has always posed its main attraction to us. We have visited the Alfabia gardens and house many times over the years, during different seasons and it still captivates us with its beauty. The fact that it is not on everybody’s agenda makes it even more attractive as the crowds usually tend to head somewhere else on their guided tours.
Walking up the wide entrance avenue, flanked by towering plane trees, already gives you a taster of the grandeur to come. At the end of the avenue is the entrance to the house and with its traditional Mallorcan patio. I always thought the design of the façade looked like a gaping mouth with two curious eyes peeking down on us. The ticket office is just to the right and children under the age of 10 are allowed to enter the estate for free. Please check their opening time before venturing to Bunyola as it is closed during the winter months.
My Favourite Feature
Tickets in hand we walked up the palm lined steps, with water running down either side. At the top of the stairs is a covered water tank, for me this has always been my favourite feature in the gardens, the old stonewalls covered in moss and ferns and the landscape reflecting in the calm water are wonderful. Opposite the water reservoir is a chicken coop and we could see a bird spying at us through the window.
The Alluring Wisteria Pergola
Entering the gardens through a door in the wall we found ourselves underneath the alluring wisteria pergola. During our last visit in the Autumn is was a tunnel of green leaves, while in April it is a canopy of purple rain, a mesmerising sight that truly captivates everyone. Jerome always liked the wisteria walk for its unique water feature. At the centre of the pagoda is a push button, that once pressed activates a water spraying system, that turns the walkway into a fun water feature for kids and adults alike, especially on one of the hotter days. Despite it being only bout 20C, Jerome had fun running up and down the wisteria pergola and getting doused in tiny raindrops. Be careful though, the stones can get slippery!
The Heart of the Garden
Leaving the pergola behind we entered the heart of the Alfabia gardens. Strolling through flowerbeds we reached the café and stairs that access the back of the house. There are ponds and fountains hidden among the leafy bushes and tall, mature trees. A bamboo grove takes us back to our travels through Japan, although its size cannot compare to the forests of the fast growing grass that can be found on the islands in the country of the rising sun.
Fresh Orange Juice and Cake
We stopped at the café for a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice, the juice back home never tastes as sweet as here on Mallorca, with the fruit coming from nearby orange orchards in Soller. A homemade cake made our little treat in these beautiful gardens perfect. Surrounded by flowers and the sun occasionally peeking through the trees we could have sat there for hours to while the time away, even Jerome felt at peace with the serene scenery.
Attraction for Animal Lovers
Further on a fairly new addition to the gardens is a small area for animal lovers. Especially younger kids will enjoy watching the Mallorcan and Ibizan goats, we were lucky to see a goat with its young kids. You can also see the black pigs that are famous for their meat in form of sobrasada, a local sausage speciality.
The House at Alfabia
Climbing the stone staircase we finally reach the house along a balcony, which provided us with a different perspective of the gardens below. The residence is still decorated and furnished as it has been for the last two hundred years. Many styles have influenced the design f the house and are still visible throughout the different rooms.
Queen Isabel I Stayed Here
The walls are covered in tapestry, opulent paintings show portraits of ancestors and the rooms are filled with furniture, busts and music instrument. One of the rooms is entirely different in its design and can only be seen though a rococo glass door, the chamber of Queen Isabel I that paid a short visit to the house on her trip to the island.
The Patio and Oil Mill
Jerome was keen to leave the house, he much rather wanted to be outside in the sun, than spend his time exploring dark and dingy rooms of an old house. Back outside we found ourselves in the patio, paved with stones in Mallorcan tradition and a fountain at its centre. The leaves of the plane trees projected fascinating shapes onto the white walls enclosing the courtyard. We wandered on to briefly explore the old oil mill, an interesting sight with its large millstone still among the artefacts, the industrial heritage more to Jerome’s taste.
Underneath the main house are the dark, airless stables that once provided a home to numerous horses and grooms. Exiting the Alfabia estate towards the plane tree avenue, we passed underneath a coffered wooden, ceiling dating back to 1170, very obviously arabesque and reminiscent of the ceilings we have previously discovered in Morocco and Granada.
Raixa Estate and Gardens
Once again, the gardens of Alfabia had enchanted us completely and I would love to return in Spring to witness the grace of the wisteria in bloom. If you find yourself in the area and have already visited the Gardens of Alfabia, then you should also venture to the Raixa Estate and Gardens which are a short drive in direction of Palma.
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