Impressive hilltop fortress
Arta (Artà) is a quiet, attractive rural town with a maze of narrow streets, medieval buildings and pretty cafes with an impressive hilltop fortress built in the 14th century. Tucked away in a picturesque valley and 10 km inland from the northeast coast of the island, it is framed by mountains and beautiful rugged hills courtesy of the Llevant Natural Park.
The town has stayed relatively untouched by tourism, the main visitors being German resulting in the German language becoming Arta’s unofficial third language. Tourists arrive in Arta mostly on market day, which is Tuesday each week to purchase local products such as weaved baskets and pottery.
Culture & heritage
The mainly Mallorquin residents cling rigorously to their heritage and quite righty too, they have lots of it to protect. The whole area is a magnet for culture vultures arriving to explore the many historic landmarks including the Sanctuary of Sant Salvador, Ses Païsses (a bronze age Talaiotic settlement), the Parish church of the Transfiguration of the Lord and the much-visited Caves d'Arta.
Overlooking the town is the fortified 14th century Santuari de Sant Salvador, a 4000 sqm walled fortress, without question, the biggest attraction for visitors to this historic town. The walk-up Cavalry Hill to the fortress is challenging with 180 steps; however, it is well worth the effort just for the views from the sanctuary’s courtyard.
Not a lot of people know about Arta’s dark history – the bubonic plague. It was one of the last places in Europe to suffer an outbreak, which occurred in 1820 killing 1200 residents. Many people moved out of the town to escape infection and the nearby village of Colonia de Sant Pere was developed by survivors.
Rolling hills, endless olive groves and romantic hilltop villages – the Serra de Llevant mountains in the east of the island offer an unbeatable snapshot of rural Majorca. You'll visit an aloe vera farm, a weekly country market and a cave system in one great day. Elisabeth, one of our expert guides, says, ‘When I have visitors from home, I take them to the same places visited on this tour – this is the authentic Majorca.'