Algaida is a sleepy old town located in the center of Mallorca and possesses a classic beauty of various narrow streets without pavements and a central square dominated by a sandstone church. Located 20km, or 12 miles, north east of the capital Palma, and the Son Sant Joan International Airport. Few visitors make it into the town centre; the attractions are all on the outskirts, on the Palma-Manacor road. The main one is Ca’n Gordiola, a glass factory housed in a mock castle. The ground floor contains a workshop (though it looks more like a church with its arches and stained glass} where you can watch glass being blown; upstairs there are museums devoted to both glass and perfume. A further 2km along the road to Manacor is a string of well-known restaurants, where the people of Palma head at weekends for old-fashioned Mallorcan cuisine. There are three beaches that surround the Algaida. These are Platja de Palma, Platja Arenal and Platja Ciutat Jardi. If you really want to enjoy the real life of Algaida then you must go to their cafes and bars.
As you would expect, the range of accommodation available around Algaida is very limited, and as far as we are aware the town doesn’t as yet feature in any of the major tour operators brochures. As a result, anyone considering a visit here must make provision to either collect a hire car from the airport, or make the journey into the town by one of the many taxis that will be waiting outside the arrivals hall.
For those visitors who do prefer to make the short journey by car, in preference to a taxi ride, the main Ma-15 Carrer de Manacor does run less than 1km to the north of the town, making it quite a short journey.
Lying in the south-east of the island, Algaida is a largely rural municipality, with the majority of those living in the small town of Algaida itself. The little villages of Randa and Pina are the only other communities of any size.
Archaeological remains found in the municipality point to settlements dating back to prehistoric times, but the first recorded mention of it is in 1232 when two ‘alqueries’ (Muslim farms) were recorded under the name of Algaida. The term Algaida is derived from the Islamic word ‘al-gaida’, meaning the wood or forest. Under Arab rule, the territory occupied by the municipality of Algaida was part of a larger administrative region under the name of ‘Juz de Muntuy’, which included the municipalities of Algaida, Campos, Llucmajor, Montuïri, Santanyí and Ses Salines. A reminder of the region’s past can be seen in the many wells and water tanks in the area and descendants of the array of hydraulic structures built by the Arabs to collect water.
The Catalan conquest of the island in the 13th Century reshaped the area and from a very scattered population, the people of the area began to consolidate around certain large farms, and small villages began to spring up.
The terrain in Algaida is made up of rolling hills and although the landscape is primarily farmland with almond and fig trees, pine and holm – oak forests cover the low mountains. Almost 250 hectares of the municipality between the Son Gual and Xorrigo ravines is a designated nature reserve.
There are six small mountains in the municipality of which the highest, at 544m, is Puig de Randa. This magnificent mountain is well worth a climb if you have the energy, especially as the mountainside is home to three beautiful secluded monasteries: On the lower terrace, the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Gracia is a hermitage dating from the 15th Century and has been constructed like a swallow’s nest on the edge of a rocky promontory; on the second terrace lies Santuario lies de Sant Honorat, dating from the 14th Century.
However, perhaps the most impressive of the three, and certainly the most famous, is near the top of the mountain and is called the Santuario Nuestra Señora. It is famous throughout the island as a retreat for the famous writer and philosopher Ramón Lull. Born into a wealthy family in Palma, Ramón was a notorious hellraiser when young, but underwent a religious conversion at the age of 30 and devoted himself to the study of Christianity and to campaigning for closer association between the three major religions of the time – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He was the first scholar to write extensively in the Catalan language, which is the root of the Majorcan dialect. In commemoration of his life and work, a Ramón Lull museum and school dedicated to his teachings are also to be found on the mountain.
Aside from famous hermits, Algaida is also well known as a centre of the Majorcan style of cuisine, known as ‘mallorquinischen’, which is quite distinct from Spanish cuisine. It involves cooking with pork and chicken and lots of almonds, olives and vegetables and there are many restaurants specialising in this type of cookery in the municipality – it is a must for any visitor to give it a try.
Algaida is also home to a rather controversial bull in the form of a statue originally erected as a promotional tool for Osborne, a sherry distiller. Bulls are a national symbol of Spain and as such, the Algaida bull is perceived by advocates of Majorcan independence as a symbol of foreign dominance and has sustained several attacks, although, such is the importance of the bull as a Spanish symbol, it has been rebuilt by the authorities each time. The bull can be seen on the main road out to Manacor.