The town of Artà lies nestled in a valley in the rural north east of Mallorca. It is not easily accessible without your own transport and as a result has remained largely untouched by tourism despite the treasures it has to offer.
A warren of Medieval streets winds inexorably upwards, culminating in 180 steep steps which lead to the town’s heart and highest point, the walled Sanctuary of Saint Salvador. From here any efforts exerted in the climb will be rewarded with uninterrupted views across Artà’s terracotta rooftops to the mountains beyond. There are plenty of shady spots to regain your breath and a café serving refreshments as well as a small modern church, built on the site of a 14th century original intentionally burnt in the early 19th century after it was used to treat patients during Europe’s last outbreak of bubonic plague.
Just below the Sanctuary squats the imposing church of the Transfiguration of the Lord whose bold, neo-gothic bulk dominates Artà’s skyline. It is to the side of this church that the steps to the top of the hill begin, flanked by stone carved angels.
Artà is also home to a number of museums, including the interesting and eclectic Regional Museum whose exhibits range from natural history to archaeology. It was at the museum we first learnt of Ses Païsses, the foremost Bronze Age site on the island which, despite its importance, is not particularly well known or indeed easy to find. Armed with directions from a friendly curator, we drove our car to the outskirts of town, identified the correct side street and followed it through farmland to a clearing amongst trees. A very reasonable 2€ entrance fee paid, we continued onwards to be greeted by the impressive mass of the settlement’s stone gateway.
Beyond the protective curve of the outer wall a number of structures survive, including an atalaia or watchtower.
As with so many ancient places, Ses Païsses exudes an atmosphere heavy with history. The past is palpable; you can feel it in the stones, worn by centuries of human touch, hear the whispers of memories in the rustle of the surrounding trees. It is the trees that for me brought the most magic, life in a place so long abandoned.
And so our visit to Mallorca ends. Next up we head north, to the forests of Finland.