Rural Heartland

Rural Heartland: Why go

Known as Es Pla, this fertile central plain stretches from the Serra de Tramuntana range in the northwest to the Serra de Levante in the southeast. Seldom visited by tourists, this is Mallorca's agricultural heartland and used to be where most of the islanders lived pre-tourism. Nothing much has changed over the years. You'll see vineyards, groves of almond, apricot, fig and olive trees, grazing sheep and snuffling pigs, old dry stone walls, fincas, hundreds of old windmills to the east of Palma and in springtime a myriad of wild flowers. Sleepy country towns offer few tourist attractions beyond their weekly markets and occasional festivals, but do offer an insight into rural Mallorca. Staying here makes an ideal base for exploring the island - most places are within 20 minutes of Palma, beaches and the mountains.

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Our top tips for Rural Heartland

Do

Alaro Castle

For dramatic scenery, you can't beat the ascent of Alaro, a cliff-ringed mountain with an extensive ruined castle on the summit offering panoramic views over the whole island, and an excellent country restaurant at the trailhead. Photo by flickrtickr2009.

Drink

Bottoms up!

About 8km from Santa Maria off the main Palma-Inca road, lies Binissalem, the centre of Mallorca's wine-making industry. Viticulture was introduced to the island by the Romans, reached its peak in the late 19th century, but then phylloxera devastated most of the vineyards. Production has been revived and robust reds are now produced from the local Mantonegro grape. The best-known bodega is Franja Roja, who makes the Jose Ferrer brand.

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Get leathered Inca

Mallorca's third-largest town is industrialised and rather ugly, but it's the place to come for leather outlets (shoes, coats, jackets and handbags). For women, the best shop we've found is Farrutx (they have shops in Palma's Passeig Born and London's Fulham Road). Camper shoes, which are made in Inca, also have an outlet. Come on Thursdays, when the streets around Placa d'Espanya are taken over by Mallorca's largest weekly market.

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Sineu

Sineu, a medieval town, lies bang in the centre of the island. Visit early on a Wednesday morning when it buzzes with the country's most traditional market. Local farmers come to sell livestock, fresh flowers, fruit and vegetables, olives, leather, lace, pottery, baskets... even live snails! Join the locals for brunch at one of 2 hearty cellar restaurants, Ca'n font or Es Crup, where you'll eat typical Mallorquin fare and down red wine

Do

On your bike

This is Mallorca's most popular region for cycling, with flat and mountain routes all around. You can hire bikes and borrow maps from Reads Hotel (the best place to stay!).

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Vilfranca de Bonany Vilfranca de Bonany

This small town on the Palma-Manacor road is famous for its strings of drying vegetables hanging in front of the shops - peppers, aubergines, garlic and tomatoes, as well as gourds and sweetcorn. Vilafranca also produces delicious melons, whose harvest is celebrated with a melon festival each September.