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VALLDEMOSSA (Mallorca, Balearic Island, Spain)

VALLDEMOSSA (Mallorca, Balearic Island, Spain)

A village steeped in old-world charm, Valldemossa lies in an idyllic valley in the midst of the Tramuntana mountains. Its ancient blonde stone houses contrast vividly against the surrounding green forests of olive, oak and almond trees, and the blue sky above.

With a population of around 2,000 people, Valldemossa’s quiet and picturesque streets are sprinkled with shops, art galleries, cafes and restaurants. Doorways are lined with beautiful plants and flowers, and many houses feature a portrait of Saint Catalina Thomàs, the first saint to be born in Mallorca.

The natural beauty of the countryside makes Valldemossa a popular place for hikers and nature lovers to base themselves. There is a myriad of trails that wind their way up through the wooded hillsides before reaching the summits where hikers are rewarded with panoramic views over Mallorca and the Mediterranean. It’s also a favourite destination for those looking to escape the more touristy beach resorts on the island in favour of a tranquil holiday. There are a couple of charming hotels within the village, with several more boutique-styled fincas and old manor house hotels in the surrounding countryside. It’s the kind of place you want to sit back and soak up the scenery with a warm drink and pastry in the winter and a cold glass of wine and nibbles in the summer.

Most tourists come to Valldemossa on day trips to see the Real Cartuja, the Carthusian Monastery where Chopin and George Sand once spent a winter. Visitors tend to stay for a few hours before continuing on towards Deia, another mountain village on the west coast that overlooks the sea and the setting sun.

The name Valldemossa comes from the Moorish name for the town: Musa Valley. The Arabs were rulers of Mallorca for 300 years from the 10th century and introduced irrigated terracing to the island, allowing for the cultivation of the hilly landscape.

A few decades after the Arabs were driven out of Mallorca by Jaume I in 1229, the local philosopher Ramon Llull founded a monastery just outside Valldemossa on the current site of the Miramar Estate in 1276. The monastery became a centre of learning for Franciscan monks and led to the first printing press on Mallorca being introduced here in 1485.

Tourism began in this small village in the mountains thanks to one cold, damp winter in 1838. When composer Frederic Chopin arrived in Valldemossa with his lover, George Sand, they rented a former monk’s cell planning to carry on their affair away from the gossip of Paris and hoping that the climate would benefit Chopin’s health (he had tuberculosis). Nothing worked out as planned. The weather was wet and windy, the couple were shunned by the locals and Chopin’s piano was late to arrive. Sand took out her anger on Valldemossa in a spiteful book, ‘Winter in Mallorca’, which the locals, labelled as thieves and savages, still gleefully sell to visitors. It is said however that Chopin worked on some of his finest pieces during this very winter in Mallorca.

Valldemossa is also the birthplace of Santa Catalina Thomas, Mallorca’s patron saint. A peasant girl born in 1531, she became a nun in Palma and was renowned for her humility. Catalina died in 1574, was beatified in 1792 and achieved sainthood in 1935. Almost every home in Valldemossa has a plaque imploring her prayers and her birthplace at Carrer Rectoria 5 has been turned into a shrine.

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