Warning: the drive to Cap de Formentor is not for the faint of heart…
But it sure is beautiful. What is Cap de Formentor you may be asking? It’s the most northern point of the Spanish island of Mallorca. The Formentor peninsula jets out into the sea, where the cap, or cape, comprises the eastern end. It has some of Mallorca’s most dramatic scenery, where the end of the Tramuntana mountain range meets the sea, and where – as the locals say – the four winds converge.
My family and I love to drive around new places, and we especially loved driving around Mallorca, as I highlighted in my post on Western Mallorca. It’s some of the most stunning landscape to behold. We were told that in order to experience Mallorca in its most rugged state, we had to drive the road to Cap de Formentor, where a lighthouse on a cliff greets you at the end. And so we did.
But I’ll say it again. The drive to Cap de Formentor is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it can be scary. The main road (Ma-2210) winds in and around plunging limestone cliffs, where drop-offs are literally jaw-dropping. Someone with vertigo such as myself should not be driving. So I didn’t. My cool as a cucumber driver husband did. But even he got squirmy in parts.
Before I get to the juicy details of our hairy ascent to the lighthouse, which lies 210 meters above sea level, let me give you some back-drop and context for the road that takes you there, as well as things to see along the way (or way back). The main road runs 13.5 km from Port de Pollenca to Cap de Formentor. It was built by the same Italian engineer who designed the hair-pin, snake-like road to Sa Colabra – Antonio Parietti. The idea behind his designs was that wherever the cliffs seemed too steep and too plunging to drive, he would curve the road. And curvy it is!
View after view of Mallorca’s most craggy coastline abound, and there are a few notable sites along the way to the lighthouse (the furthest point you can drive on the cape) worth mentioning; whether or not you visit them on the way over or way back is up to you. I personally think it’s best to go to the lighthouse first thing in the morning, because come mid-afternoon (which is when we went) the traffic can be very bad. Our timing was not good, and I’ll explain that more in detail below.
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One of the first major viewpoints the road brings you to is Mirador des Colomer. This is a must-see, and actually, I would say to do it on the way over as it gives you a good idea of what is to come – the views are breathtaking. This look-out point is perched on a cliff 300 meters above sea level and is no joke. I, with my vertigo, had to walk slowly and carefully out to one of its stone decks, where I wanted to take photos. We were so high up that I wouldn’t get next to the railing, for it’s a straight shot down to the ocean from there. I swiftly took some photos and got out of there! But it’s absolutely worth a visit, as I’m sure you can see in the photos here.
Note: this is a very touristy spot with loads of buses, but for a reason. It’s one of the best viewpoints on the island.
Not too far from Mirador des Colomer is Playa de Formentor, a beautiful beach set in a scenic cove, and surrounded by the Tramuntana mountains as well as pine forests. I can still smell the waft of pine in the air! It’s a long, sandy beach, but very narrow, so during August it was quite crowded. Nonetheless, the water was crystal clear and the perfect temperature, which had my girls begging to stay. They played in the sea while we read our books on the beach, all the while watching all the action in the bay and cove behind – lots of boats were pulling up to catch the serene views of the mountains all around, just like us. It’s a full-service beach with a couple of restaurants, bathrooms and water sport rentals. Note: there is a parking fee of about 10 euro for the parking lot.
Also worth noting is the Formentor hotel, nearby. We did not visit it, but it’s famous for being where the rich and famous stay, ever since it was built in the early 1930’s.
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Our favorite beach on the peninsula, however, was Cala Figuera, further along the road. This was a real highlight of our trip. I remember us driving and rounding a bend and suddenly seeing way down below the most electric blue water I had ever seen. I made my husband pull over immediately, and ran across the street to take a closer look. That’s what I loved about the driving – being able to see things I wouldn’t have otherwise, and having the freedom to pull over and see it on our own terms.
We were so in awe of the beach that we decided to continue on to the lighthouse so that we’d have as much time as we wanted later to explore it. Whether or not you visit it on the way over or way back, know that there is a parking lot (no fee) and hiking trail down to the cove. It’s rather steep and strenuous in parts, so bring sneakers. There is not a lot of shade so make sure to have water as well. For us, the hiking part was half the fun, and we were rewarded with one of the most spectacular beaches and coves on the island. I still day-dream about Cala Figuera.
Along the road there are various turn-offs where you can pull over to see the views of the rocks overlooking the Mediterranean. Some we stopped at and some we didn’t. We eventually made our way to the final ascent to the Cap de Formentor Lighthouse, and what a setting. And what a drive! This is the wild and rugged Mallorca people talk about, the end of the world as some describe it – at least in feeling. The lighthouse is on a cliff at the northern end of the island, and if you’re not careful, you might just fall off! Kidding, not kidding…it sure did feel like with one false move we might have taken the plunge!
The road to the lighthouse curves in and out of steep cliffs, and takes you up, up, up. It is vertigo’s worst nightmare, made even more difficult by the fact that the heavy traffic I talked about earlier kept us at a standstill for much of the time. We were there in the afternoon, which was mistake #1. Go in the morning! And we missed the one spot where we could turn around, which was mistake #2.
So here we were, at a standstill on a hairpin turn way up high, with the railing right next to us, and the sea below. It was terrifying! No way could I have been in the driver seat, as I could barely function in the passenger seat. And never mind that we had two girls with us! This was where my husband started to lose it a bit..but he kept his calm. We spent about a half hour like this on a couple different turns and finally made it to the lighthouse parking. I can’t describe the sense of relief I had.
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But were we rewarded with breathtaking views in the end? Most definitely. The views from the lighthouse are spectacular. Some say on a good day you can see Menorca, though we did not. The velvety blue Mediterranean went on seemingly forever, and it really did feel like the edge of the world. Like the Mirador des Colomer viewpoint, I gingerly walked along the outside of the lighthouse, as beyond the railing was a vast open sea of blue. It was stunning, but nerve-wracking. To calm myself, I got a snack at the cafeteria inside. So there is food and water awaiting you at the end, should you need to refuel, but note it is cash only.
In the end, I had no regrets about the drive to Cap de Formentor (though then again I wasn’t the one behind the wheel!). Yes it was scary at points, but it was a part of the island I feel should not be missed. Looking out over the sea from such a vantage point felt majestic and something, I realized, we had to earn.
A couple more photos..