The History of Mallorca – Part 2

Today is a continuation of our previous post 10 Fabulous (Historic) Facts about Mallorca bringing us from 1600 AD to the present time. So here are some more fabulous facts about how our beautiful island has evolved:

1. The War of Succession – so called because spanish war of succession mallorca hikingthe winner would succeed the heir-less King Carlos II, and rule a united Spain. It was fought among several European powers, against the Spanish loyal to Felipe V, France and Bavaria over a possible unification of the Kingdoms of Spain and France under one Bourbon monarch. Such a unification would have drastically changed the balance of power in Europe.

As it turned out, it resulted in the recognition of Felipe as King of Spain but he was required to renounce any claim to the French throne and to cede much of the Spanish Crown’s possessions thereby breaking up the Spanish Empire in Europe at the time.

Mallorca was the last territory to be acquired by Felipe in 1715, and the following years saw many changes for the island. The new King introduced a new regime, which abolished the autonomy the island had enjoyed. The first among the “Nueva Planta” decrees (another twist in the battle for language supremacy) was the decree that Mallorca would now use Castilian as the official language instead of Catalan. In 1716 the new regime made Mallorca part of the new Baleares region.

Antonio Barcelo with Mallorca Hiking2. Famous sailors and navigators feature in our next stage in history. Due to continued problems with pirates, the King gave permission for established sailors to defend their homelands. One “corsair” noted for his bravery (and for lending his ships to the King!) was Captain Antoni Barcelo. Achieving the rank of Lieutenant General of the Spanish Armada was one of the rewards for his gallantry and support.

Another famous sailor is the missionary Fray Junipero Serra. In the mid 1700’s he sailed to the new Americas and helped establish the missions of California. He can probably be given credit for founding such US cities as San Francisco. Not bad for an island boy brought up in Petra!

3. More wars in the 1900s – this time the Napoleonic version. The comfortable lifestyle and relative peace that had prevailed was harshly broken with the influx of refugees from Catalonia escaping the fighting on the mainland. Although this caused much unrest amongst islanders the new business skills of the Catalan settlers established a new bourgeoisie society and many new trading initiatives. This included shipping routes, train lines and communication channels with the mainland. The other major change was the return of the Catalan language.

4. Economic Crisis (yes, there were others!) – Bad times return and the equivalent of our current phylloxera plague mallorca history mallorca hikingeconomic crisis for Mallorca. The vibrant wine producing industry was devastated with all the vines destroyed by phylloxera plague. At the same time the colonies of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines broke away from Spain reducing significantly the local shipbuilding industry. There followed an exodus of islanders to the mainland and America to seek their fortunes elsewhere.

5. Enter the 20th Century and Two Giants in Mallorcan political history:

Born in Palma, Antoni Maura was a politician and spent most of his political life in Madrid as leader of the Conservative party. He was Prime Minister of Spain on five separate occasions during the early 1900’s.

Joan March Ordinas was a “rags to riches” financier who at one time was reputed to be the third richest man in the world. He was a Mallorcan businessman closely associated with the Nationalist side in the Spanish Civil War, and with Franco’s regime after the war. He was notorious for shady dealings and political influence, and in 1926 created the Banca March one of Mallorca’s largest banks.

Spanish Civil War as told by Mallorca Hiking

6. Spanish Civil War – General Francisco Franco succeeded in installing his military regime from a coup he mounted against the elected Republican party in 1936. He was backed by many conservative groups as well as Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

When Franco assumed power, the country entered three years of Civil War during which 1 million Spaniards lost their lives. He managed to keep Spain out of the Second World War that raged just after the Spanish Civil war had ended.

Mallorca was seen as a Nationalist stronghold and in 1936 it had a decisive battle against Republican forces. Now known as the Battle of Mallorca, it was won by the outnumbered islanders supported by the Italian air-force. Mallorca then became a base from which to send raids to the Spanish mainland.

General Franco not with Mallorca Hiking

7. The Franco Regime 1939 – 1975.

Franco’s right wing, military regime was hard and alienated Spain from the rest of the world. Franco implemented martial law and local languages such as Catalan, Mallorquin and Basque were forbidden in public places, with Castellano again installed as the official language. When he died in 1975, the monarchy was reinstated and local languages and cultures began to flourish.

8. Tourism arrives in Mallorca – from the 1950’s the island was discovered as a fabulous destination forholidays-in-majorca mallorca hiking holidays, sailing and (originally) fairly exclusive and classy clientele. This has steadily declined with mass construction of hotels in key resorts around the island. All inclusive breaks are the latest point of discussion in the context of the future of the island’s tourist industry.

Thankfully, the building frenzy that has left massive derelict and waste areas on the mainland and the Costas has been controlled to a degree in Mallorca. The latest economic problems have helped curb any further expansion. There is much debate about the need to return to quality tourism – highlighting the other Mallorca e.g. Rural Hotels, the natural environment, history and culture here at Mallorca Hiking we are big supporters of this latest strategy.

9. In 1983 the Balearics became an Autonomous State – the Balearic islands now have their own governing body, and local elections started shortly after the Autonomous Statutes were passed. Today, Palma is the capital of the Balearic Islands and is the seat of government for the political and judicial system for the ‘Autonomous Community of the Balearic Islands’.

10. Mallorca Hiking was founded in 2001 – probably one of the most significant developments in modern times for Mallorca (!!) offering everything required to show the wmallorca-hiking walking holidays mallorcaorld the natural beauty, culture, cuisine and history of this wonderful island. This includes Tailor Made Walking Holidays for those who want to escape with their own personal agenda within the great outdoors of Mallorca; Guided Walking Tours; walking and wine tours, gourmet tours and now a growing local Resident’s Walking Club and all are helping secure Mallorca Hiking’s footprint throughout the Mallorcan countryside – come join our party and help us spread the word about our wonderful island!

Wild Orchids of Mallorca

bumblebee orchid Mallorca Hiking There are no less than 60 species of Orchid growing wild in Mallorca and the Balearic islands. They grow in hedgerows, meadows, woodland and even wet-lands, as they prefer a damp atmosphere. These beautiful specimens are protected in Spain and it is totally forbidden to pick them. But the pleasure of “collecting” them pictorially is even more enjoyable as you can look back on your find forever, and the Orchid can continue to give pleasure to all who pass by.

The areas around the island where you’re likely to find wild Orchids are the Mondragó nature reserve near Santanyí, in the s‘Albufera near Alcúdia, Cabrera National Park and (the most prolific) in the Tramuntana mountain range.

Orchids are incredibly adept at attracting insects to pollinate them, and have many tricks to attract their flyingOrchid Pollination Mallorca Hiking germinators. The flower grows to imitate a female insect such as a bee or a wasp (see examples in our slide show below), thereby enticing the male to mate with it. The male may leave disappointed, but the Bee or Wasp Orchid knows this will ensure it’s pollen will be attached to him and passed on to the next Orchid.

Other pollination ploys include emitting scents of the female insect and producing a form of glue so the insect has to struggle to escape. The flower then bends sufficiently as the insect breaks free to ensure the pollen is in the right position for when the insect makes contact with the stigma of the next flower.

Self pollination is also possible with Orchids, meaning if all else fails, they can do the job themselves! The result of this is that all genetic mutations are passed to all offspring of the parent. This gives rise to many stable populations as we can now see throughout Mallorca.All these factors have helped create a growing and varied range of Orchid species for us to enjoy on the island.

Orchids can be found blooming from as early as February . The White Helleborine with its white to cream-yellow flowers and the Giant Orchid, which grows to a height of 60cm are two early bloomers. Other popular species are The Mirror Orchid and the Ophrys Balearica or Balearic Orchid (the only native orchid species in the entire Balearic islands). Below we have created a slideshow of many of the varieties of Orchids you can find around our beautiful island. See how many you can find, photograph and identify later. We would also appreciate it if you left us a comment with locations on the island where you have discovered wild Orchids.

For a sure sighting of one of these beautiful flowers why not come along on one of our Tailor Made Holidays – or if you are resident in Mallorca join our Resident’s Walking Club – we have regular monthly walks and will bring you closer to all things beautiful in Mallorca.

Click on one of the images to open a lightbox slideshow

Photographs all taken in Mallorca

Photographs courtesy of:

Orchi at Wikimedia Commons (www.commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Orchi)

www.thinkoholic.com

The Peaks of Mallorca

Es Teix Peak with Mallorca Hiking

Es Teix Peak

The Serra de Tramuntana is the highest mountain range and the most extensive area of natural beauty on Mallorca. In this stretch of highlands, which spans from Valldemosa to Pollensa, we find some of the most enjoyable and demanding walks. There are many peaks (or Puig in Mallorquin) and each has a magic of its own, and it is from here that we get the most spectacular views across the island. Let’s take a virtual tour (or viaje) through these magical Peaks of Mallorca.

Starting from the beautiful village of Valldemossa we have clear views of our first peak, which is easily accessible on foot. Es Teix (meaning yew in Catalan and so named because of the yew trees growing on the slopes) stands majestically above the villages of Deia and Valldemossa – the central point of a long ridge running from Talia Vella to Sa Gelara above Sóller. It’s highest point is 1064m and from here there are far-reaching views of both sides of Mallorca as well as along the main ridge of the Serra de Tramuntana. This is a popular peak to ascend, as combined with the Archduke’s bridle path it is one of the island’s classic hikes.

Tossals Verds Peak with Mallorca Hiking

Tossals Verds

Moving on in the direction of Sóller we come to the Puig de Tossals Verds, which is the highest of a group of peaks south of Gorg Blau, and east of the Cúber reservoirs. There are a number of good walks in the Tossals area, and one of the most popular is the circuit around the mountain via the Tossals Verds refuge. However, in this post we’re focussing on peaks…. and this is another easy peak to reach. Together with a climb to the top of nearby Morro d’Almallutx, it is a challenging – and very satisfying – day’s hike; by itself, it is a good afternoon’s work-out – see our fun video on Youtube!  The highest point is 1115m and again we get some spectacular views down to the Bay of Palma and across to Massanella and Puig Major (see below).

From Tossals we move on to Puig d’en Gallileu which looks over the monastery of Lluc. This peak can be reached from the reservoir of Cuber through woodlands and passing the watering hole of Font Des Prat. Our route now ascends again, moving into the mighty backbone of this mountain.

Two more easily accessible peaks in the  area are Sa Rateta at 1084m and L’Ofre at 1091m. Together they constitute a fabulous day’s hiking, starting at the Cúber reservoir. L’Ofre is a very distinctive cone-shaped peak and this walk is a high ridge walk between the two peaks with breathtaking 360º views. Get your binoculars out and watch for the birds of prey - we very often see them in this area. Alternatively we could descend into Sóller from L’Ofre via the famous Pilgrim’s Steps and the pretty village of Biniaraix.

The peak of Massenella with Mallorca Hiking

The peak of Massenella with Mallorca Hiking

The highest peak on the island is actually Puig Major at 1436m but this is military zone so it is not accessible by the public. The highest accessible peak is the Puig de Massenella (1367m) and it is a challenging but enjoyable hike to the summit. The route to the top of Massenella finishes at Ses Bassetes, where the atmosphere and views are truly breathtaking – this is definitely worth the effort and a very memorable experience!

The peak of Tomir with Mallorca Hiking

The peak of Tomir

Heading a bit further north now,  we come to Puig Tomir (1103m), another well known and popular summit to climb. It is very accessible and we can reach the top via a glorious climb in about 1 and a half hours from the Binifaldó road. This is an intriguing peak – bare and rocky with steep crags and a circular snowpit nearby – and gets a unique perspective of Pollensa and the Formentor peninsular. However, our views are saved right until the end when we reach the top and look down over the town of Pollensa. Stunning!

Puig Roig with Mallorca Hiking

Puig Roig

The last of our peaks in this post is Puig Roig (1002m) – a magical walk with smugglers paths and cave houses, makes this a classic finish in our mountain adventure. We’ll very likely see birds of prey circling in the sky above – a glorious sight. This is a stunning and very Mallorcan hike, which ends with the descent to the monastery at Lluc, a suitable destination to bring our post to a close.

Now enjoy a selection of stunning photos of these wonderful peaks – below. Why not plan your next walking holiday with us at Mallorca Hiking – and make this virtual tour a reality? We’ll design an itinerary just for you and your friends – see our tailor-made holidays. See you soon…

The Moors and the Christians

Moors & Christians1 Mallorca HikingThe second Monday in May (the 9th May in 2011) is a massive fiesta in the Sóller calendar. Much of the activity revolves around the annual re-enactment of the famous battle between the Moors and Christians originally fought on the beaches on 11th May 1561.

Celebrations commemorate a battle won by the bravery of the Pollença citizens who fought against 1,500 Moors led by the fearsome pirate Dragut. Probably the biggest pirate attack ever to be launched  on the island was thwarted primarily by the bravery of local hero, Joan Mas.  His warnings and  his heroic launch into battle, leading his local kinsmen to attack the pirates landing on the beaches, saved the day.

The initial “attack” comes by boats from the sea and onto the beach near the pier in Puerto de Sóller; the action then moves down the coast –  accompanied by Moors & Christians Mallorca Hikingtraditional Mallorquin music. The battles then move into the town centre, where historically both men and women rise up against the pirates.

The whole town of Sóller gets involved in some way in this fiesta. The two warring parties are easily identified as the Moorish troops wear dark make-up, but sometimes within the chaos and modern day enthusiasm for the fight it is hard to see who is actually winning. Needless to say lots of food and drink is consumed and everybody – both participants and spectators have a thoroughly good and very rowdy time!

As well as a huge street party, there is also an amazing fireworks display in the evening. From about 8 p.m. everyone who has taken part in the battle arrives at the Plaza. Here everybody joins in the biggest “fight” of the day and the noise is quite deafening – thick clouds of smoke fill the village square. Banks and houses are “robbed” by ladder-wielding pirates; bodies are strewn everywhere as the enactment mimics history with people hanging from trees, and blood-stained clothes adding to the dramatic effects. Finally victory is announced and the village joins as one singing La Balanguera – the hymn of Mallorca. Now all become friends again and the party really begins!

Moors & Christians Mallorca Hiking

Moors & Christians Mallorca Hiking

Music and festivities continue late into the night.

Es Firó is the biggest and most dramatic fiesta that takes place in Sóller. It is well worth experiencing, so if you can get to Mallorca in early May it’s a great time of year to combine a walking holiday as well as some serious partying!

If you can’t take time off, take a look at our tailor made walking holidays – we can organise a walking itinerary especially for you and your group, exactly when you want it…

We hope to see you soon…

Fiery Fiestas in January

Fiestas January MallorcaJanuary enjoys two of the most vibrant fiestas here in Mallorca, and both are deeply rooted in folklore. They are celebrated with bonfires, street parties, firework displays and live musical events throughout all the main squares of Palma and many villages.

The first fiesta is that of San Antoni Abat, the protector of crops and livestock, although this fiesta also has links to Mallorca’s ancient fertility rites. Celebrated island-wide (except in Palma) on the 17th of January – Sa Pobla, Arta and Sant Joan have the biggest celebrations and even make San Antoni an official public holiday.

On the 16th of January, the eve of the saint’s day, bonfires are started throughout all the villages. BBQs are lit on street corners where families and neighbourhoods come together to party and to eat sobrasada, grilled sausages and many other traditional Mallorcan foods. You’ll see many demonic characters fire walking and dancing in the streets depicting the devil and the temptations that San Antoni battled with in the dessert.

As he was the patron saint of animals, on the day of San Antoni many families with their children go to their local church to have their pets and livestock blessed in a charming ceremony, asking for protection from the saint.

San Sebastian is the patron saint of Palma, so it is the city Palma that hosts the main celebrations for the fiesta on the 20th. This is a major fiesta with a week-long itinerary of musical and other events throughout the week prior to the 20th (you can find a list of events on the web page of the Ayuntamiento de Palma). San Sebastain was credited with the “miraculous” end to the black death plague that struck Mallorca in 1523-1524.

The main street party during this week of festivities is on the 19th of January, when there is live music in most of the city’s main squares – famous names to local folk groups to djs perform throughout the night. The evening starts early at 19.00hrs with a procession of giants, which process through the streets from the Plaza Cort to the Plaza Mayor. Again, bonfires form the centre-piece of the night’s revelries in each square – the Mayor starts the first bonfire and then all the fires throughout the city follow the lead. The music starts any time between 20.00 and 22.00hrs and plays on until the early hours of the following morning…

The 20th is the actual day of the fiesta where morning mass is held in the Cathederal of San Sebastian the Solemn.

Then on the 22nd of January, there is the spectacular Artiafoc fireworks display where it seems that everybody on the island crams themselves into Palma’s Paseo Maritimo to watch the show. Cascades of colour from screeching rockets and vibrating explosions illuminate the whole of the bay of Palma – a night not to be missed!

Receive all the latest information about Mallorca, the fiestas, the gastronomy, the historic villages and beauty spots as well as the best walking tours and tailor-made holidays by following the Mallorca Hiking blog – see below.

Don’t destroy what you came to enjoy!

dasyatis pastinaca common stingray

dasyatis pastinaca common stingray

… that’s Brad’s motto and we totally agree with him!

Brad and Bea are a passionate team and we’re happy to say that Mallorca Hiking is increasingly working together with them, particularly when it comes to activities such as scuba diving and snorkeling (as well as canyoning and rock climbing, but we’ll save those for another day!). Brad is a qualified and highly experienced PADI dive instructor and today’s post is his story:

“Another beautiful summer day in Mallorca, clear blue skies and a slight sea breeze…what an Island!

Txus is a good friend of mine and a non-diver but he asked me to take him diving for the first time….”Hombre!!! For sure…lets go!!”  We were about to see the largest concentration of rays that I have ever seen anywhere in the world… in Mallorca!

I had been told about a spot in Mallorca that has a large population of sting rays. Coming from Australia and having dived with rays there, I wasn’t expecting too much. People say there isn’t much to see in the Med… haha… this is so far from the truth.

We arrived at our dive site and unpacked the gear whilst I gave Txus a thorough briefing in my ever-improving Spanish. I explained to him the very basics of diving, what to do, what not to do and what to expect to see.  All of this was done whilst enjoying the breathtaking views of the rugged coastline and crystal clear waters of Mallorca.

When we’d finished the briefing we slipped into our wetsuits and jackets, grabbed our fins, mask and snorkel and made our way to the water’s edge. I did my final checks on Txus and myself and in we went. The first thing we do before and at the end of any dive is to inflate our BCD (buoyancy control device) – a very simple and very important procedure.

The smile on Txus´ face spread from ear to ear and we hadn’t even gone underwater yet. As an experienced instructor I know that when someone is smiling like that at the beginning of their first dive, that the dive itself will be one of the most memorable experiences of their lives.

As we exchanged signals that we were “OK to Go Down” we released the air from our jackets and Txus´ underwater adventure had begun. We were blessed with amazing visibility, and were welcomed to the underwater world by a curious yet cautious Mediterranean Rainbow Wrasse. Txus was mesmerized.

Let the fun begin…

Thalossoma pavo-ornate wrasse

Thalossoma pavo-ornate wrasse

We were immersed in an underwater landscape of white sandy patches surrounded by lush Posedonia fields, small rocky outcrops and small underwater caves. We glided through channels of sand that were lined with Posedonia  – picturesque and calm… then all of a sudden from beneath the sand BOOM… our first ray, nervous of our presence, swam off into the distance at speed. Common Sting Rays bury themselves under a light layer of sand making them difficult to see, so when you unknowingly approach them, their lightning fast movement, flapping their wings, shaking off the sand and darting off into the distance, can take you by surprise.

As we dropped down to around 9 meters we approached another large sandy area, and this is where things were going to get very, very busy with Rays. Every meter we swam, there was another ray in front of us…Txus was over the moon, his mask letting in water through the creases in his super huge smile… (top tip: happy smiling divers must clear water from their mask regularly!)

We approached a few of the rays without disturbing them, so we could get up close and personal with these amazing creatures… within 30 cm I’d say – eye to eye with a common sting ray in Mallorca… just amazing.

scuba diving in Mallorca

Coris Julis Doncella-Rainbow wrasse

The next thing I saw was a very special moment – an Ornate Wrasse had befriended my student Txus, and whilst Txus was standing upright with his right hand held out in front of him, this very curious little fish was swimming from the palm of his open hand up to his mask and then back to his palm…. This continued for 2 to 3 minutes. In my experience fish from the Wrasse family are naturally inquisitive and this little guy was no different. Txus displayed the same level of curiosity… a true connection was made between fish and man.

We dived for almost 1 hour, returning to our entry point and greeting each other on the surface with huge smiles and a big man hug…what a dive! A memorable experience for new diver Txus and another memorable experience for this salty old diver.”   By Brad Robertson of  www.OndineEscape.com

Tempted?  Why not ask us to design a tailor-made holiday for you?  We will include all the activities you like doing most – fabulous guided walks, diving or snorkeling with Brad, boating, to name but a few. Please call or email us for tips, ideas and further information.

Mushroom picking in Mallorca

Collecting mushrooms

Collecting mushrooms

One of the many things that we love about Mallorca is the island’s dedication to its traditions of foraging for local wild produce, such as mushrooms, asparagus and the like. When we’re out walking in the mountains at this time of year, we meet any number of Mallorcan families enthusiastically searching for setas, all equipped with their traditional wicker baskets to collect their mouth-watering harvest.

The Mallorcan mushroom season is usually late October to November, depending on the weather. The rains usually arrive in late August, but if like this year they’re late, the season tends to be a bit later.

 

Mushrooms or Setas in Mallorca

Mushroom varieties in Mallorca

Mushrooms are quite varied in Spain, with some very big varieties growing in the forest areas. Our weather is good for mushrooms – hot summers, high humidity and autumn rains all contribute to conditions that allow them to thrive.  Ceps, or porcini (in Spanish rovellos) are quite common, as are Chanterelles. Niscalos or lactarius deliciosus are also prolific, and are used in many of the local dishes. But here in Mallorca the real pick of the crop is the Esclata-sangs (Lactarius Sanguifluus – Bleeding Milk Cap) a large flat fleshy mushroom, which bursts with flavour when cooked…!

This island is not shy about promoting its local produce, and every year on the last weekend of November, the tiny Mallorcan village of Mancor del Vall comes alive with the Fira de l’esclata-sang i de la Muntanya. This delightful little place lies in the foothills of the Tramuntana mountains and this autumn fair is one of its annual highlights.

Esclata-sangs in Mallorca

Esclata-sangs in Mallorca

This wonderful fair aims to show and preserve traditional mountain activities and island traditions, but the main attraction is their prized mushrooms, which are showcased over the weekend in a variety of dishes offered by local bars and restaurants. You can snack on mushrooms on toast, freshly made at one of the many stalls, or visit one of the cafes or restaurants to try one of the many specially prepared dishes featuring these delicious mushrooms.

If you’d like to find out a bit more about the varieties of mushrooms you can find here (particularly the edible variety!), there is an excellent online catalogue published by the University of the Balearic Islands in conjunction with the Balearic Natural History Museum.

And then, why not “go local” and join Mallorca Hiking for a guided mushroom foraging walk. Our expert guides will take you to the best areas, talk you through the various species and keep you safe by making sure you don’t pick the wrong ones!  If you’d like to book a walk just for you and your family and friends, we’ll organise a tailor-made day out just for you… you can then go home and cook a delicious meal with what you’ve picked!

Do contact us for more information – we’ll be happy to help…

 

The GR221 – with or without a guide?

Mallorca's GR221 or dry stone route

Signage for the GR221

We’ve had loads of enquiries recently from walkers wanting to complete Mallorca’s long distance hike, the GR221 or Dry Stone Route. And among the most frequently asked questions is – do you need a guide or can you walk it alone?

Well, the answer is that in theory you should be able to walk it alone but in practice it’s not quite as simple as that. The local government has invested a considerable amount of money in developing the route and way-marking it and for the best part it is clear and well-marked. But there are 2 stages 1) Esporles to Valldemossa, and 2) Valldemossa to Deia, that really do benefit from a professional guide. The first of these – Esporles to Valldemossa starts with a few signs, which soon dissolve so you have to rely on cairns and red dots on the rocks, and a few other bits of rustic signage to guide your way. If you miss one and take a wrong turning, it’s difficult to get back on track. The second tricky stage, Valldemossa to Deia is similarly lacking in way-marking (for some reason). Added to which, there are a number of different routes out of Valldemossa (of differing lengths) that connect with the steep path down to Deia, so for the visitor the choices can be baffling…

Mallorca's GR221 or dry stone route signage

Consell de Mallorca Info boards at the start of each stage

Another stage, Estellencs to Banyalbufar remains under a cloud of boundary issues so it is best to hop on a bus for this short section and avoid the issue, or if you’re determined not to miss anything, definitely use a guide for half a day.

In our view, the best holiday experience is a combination of guided and un-guided walks. There are so many more benefits to using a local guide than just route finding – a good guide will give you an insider’s view of the island, tell you about the plants and bird life you see along the way, tell you stories about the various characters who have featured in the island’s history, and take you to the best local bars and restaurants! So, if you take our advice you’ll use a guide for the tricky days (and at the same time benefit from all the other good stuff he/she can offer!), and enjoy the well-marked stages on your own. In fact, we’ve just completed exactly this kind of trip…

On the last day of February, a group of Mallorca residents set off from Es Capdella in the South West of the island to complete the GR221 over 6 days. This is how we did it:

On day 1, we walked un-guided with no path-finding problems, from Es Capdella to Estellencs. As it was our first day, we took a leisurely pace in glorious warm sunshine, and had time for a cool drink on our arrival in the tiny village of Estellencs, before catching the 5 pm bus to Banyalbufar (and therefore avoiding the controversial Estellencs to Banyalbufar stage!).

Day 2: another glorious day and we were feeling lazy, so we hopped on a bus from Banyalbufar to Esporles and started our hike from there. As I know the route from Esporles to Valldemossa (one of the tricky path-finding stages!) I led the group, but we met a couple of German girls who were lost and finding the path-finding very tough. If I hadn’t known this stage, I would have asked one of Mallorca Hiking’s expert guides to lead us.

Mallorca's GR221 or dry stone route

Nina telling us a few essentials before setting off on day 3

Day 3: Another tricky stage – Valldemossa to Deia – and today one of Mallorca Hiking’s fabulous guides Nina guided us and educated us in the flora and fauna of the island, as well as telling us about the island’s fascinating rural history and ancient rural industries. This was a stress-free and very informative day thanks to Nina, her knowledge and her guiding skills!

Day 4: As we weren’t able to stay in the refuges on this occasion (they were fully booked!) we had to cheat slightly and hiked from the town of Sóller to the Cúber reservoir via the Barranc de Biniaraix, and took a mini-bus back down to Sóller for the night at the end of the day. This is a very well marked trail, so no problems with path-finding today (even if we had been able to continue to the Tossals Verds refuge).

Mallorca's GR221 or dry stone route

Snow covering our path

Day 5: This was a challenging day. Even though this stage – Tossals Verds (or in our case the Cúber reservoir) to Lluc Monastery – is well way-marked, this year’s heavy snowfall lingered at over 1,000 metres and had covered up some crucial sections of our path. There were a few stressful moments but we succeeded, and reached our destination safely. However, moments like this are a sobering reminder that conditions on the mountain – snow, low cloud etc – can quickly and effectively impair visibility! Another good reason to have with you a guide  that knows the route well and can “read” the weather!

Day 6: Lluc Monastery to Pollensa is an easy end to this fabulous trek; well way-marked and un-challenging hiking, though we did (for the first time on our trip) have some heavy rain to contend with (a challenge in itself!).

As you can see, our 6-day trek demonstrated all the good reasons for hiring a guide for at least some of the stages of the GR221! For more photos of our trip, please go to our Facebook page.

If you would like more information on Mallorca’s long distance trail, the GR221 please take a look at some of our previous blog posts, such as:

Mallorca’s dry stone route – an overview

Dry stone route, part 1

Dry stone route, part 2

or contact us with your questions. We’d be happy to help.

In the meantime happy hiking from the Mallorca Hiking team!

Discovering the East of Mallorca

 

Discover the East of Mallorca

Hiking on Arta coast

Many visitors come to hike in Mallorca atracted by its popular routes in Serra de Tramuntana. The breathtaking landscapes of Serra de Tramuntana are in fact a fantastic environment worth visiting, but there are other great hiking and biking spots which offer different and unique features. In particular, the East of Mallorca is a very attractive area for hikers because it has a varied offer of natural elements and a very accessible seashore. This area has many mountain summits with panoramic views over the sea and the island, coastal paths, forests, caves, historic buildings and remains, virgin beaches and lovely villages. Most of the walks in this area are very calm and go through well-preserved natural areas, helping us to get away from crowds and stress.

The Peninsula de Llevant comprises several municipalities (Artà, Capdepera, Son Servera, Sant Llorenç and Manacor) and has a long coastal shore that runs from Colònia de Sant Pere until Portocristo. From Colònia de Sant Pere until Cala Rajada there is a marine reserve, which means that it has a particularly rich marine flora and fauna. Therefore, we strongly recommend you to bring snorkelling equipment in order to enjoy a true Mediterranean experience during your hike.

Depending on the site of the Peninsula we can find different attractions in terms of outdoor activities:

  • Colònia de Sant Pere is a small village located by the sea in a coastal area running along the feet of the mountains of Serra de Llevant. It has a very long flat coastal itinerary (10km) suitable for walking, biking and Nordic Walking. The pavement has gravel and stones except for the sandy beaches, pebble beaches and urban areas. We think it is a perfect plan for families and elderly people due to its smooth flat paths. Swimming is possible (and recommendable) at many spots during the itinerary, both from the beaches or from the rocks. However it is important to not take any risks when it is windy and there are big waves.
  • Ermita de Betlem is a lovely and isolated hermitage built in the XIXth century, hidden in the mountains over Colònia de Sant Pere. It can be reached by car through a very narrow and complicated road or by foot both from Colònia de Sant Pere and Artà. In the surroundings of the hermitage there is a beautiful natural fountain, crops and mountain terraces with fabulous views over the coast. Several walks begin also in the hermitage, such as the route to the  summit of the stunning Bec de Ferrutx and the route towards the Natural Park. The place is very inspiring due to its pintoresque views, silence, fresh air and maritime atmosphere.
  • The Parc Natural de la Península de Llevant is the largest area in Mallorca with such an environmental protection and it is located in the mountains of Artà. Its mountainous terrain is mainly covered with bushes, carritx grass and stones, though there are some pines, oaks and other trees as well. Wild goats and predatory birds are the larger wild animals in this area, being easy to spot during your hike. In total there are 13 different signposted itineraries for hikers, nevertheless there are other interesting paths without signage. The difficulty varies depending on the length of the walks, but it is important to notice that reaching the virgin beaches takes at least 5 hours. The Park has a visitors facility which can be reached by car (same road to Ermita de Betlem), and it also features 3 well equiped cabins and a camping area for overnight stays.

    Coastal paths Llevant

    Watchtower of Albarca

  • The North coast of Artà and Capdepera has several interesting coastal walks in which it is possible to combine hiking and swimming when the weather allows it. There are several beaches with a special charm (Cala Torta, Cala Mitjana, Cala Mazoc, Cala Mesquida, Cala Agulla) and an abandoned but well preserved watchtower that can be visited. This side of the Peninsula is partly covered by pine woods which provide a pleasant shadow during the summertime.
  • Cala Rajada is a tourist seaside village located in the easternmost point of Mallorca. It has a long paved maritime promenade from Cala Gat until Cala de n’Aguait that passes the nicest part of the village and its pintoresque fishing port. In its surroundings we find several attractions such as the lighthouse, old tower ruins, a small lake (green lake) with salt water, the castle of Capdepera and several beaches. The summits of Puig de Son Jaumell and Cap Vermell have unique views over Cala Rajada and the Peninsula, being among the most interesting hiking routes nearby the village.
  • Punta de n’Amer, located in a cape between Cala Millor and Sa Coma, is a small coastal protected area with signed trails. The cape is partially covered by pines on sandy ground, though there are many open air rocky areas. Trails are not long but are particularly suitable for running, Nordic Walking or just walking.  We recommend to visit the castle from the XVIIth century and enjoy the sea breeze from the restaurant’s terrace.

    Head torch is always good to bring to a cave

    Exploring the caves

  • The coastal area nearby Portocristo is mostly composed by short cliffs (less than 30m), caves and narrow beaches. Nearby Cala Barques there are several cliffs suitable for Psycho-Block (climbing without ropes), which usually gather a few climbers and some audience as well. In Cala Magraner there are regular rock climbing routes of many difficulty levels, very appropriate for begginers.  The area is full of caves but unfortunatelly they are quite hidden and there are no signs to get there. Among our favourite caves there is Cova dels Coloms and Cova des Moro. The first one can only be reached from the sea and has a lot of inner lakes, with freezing waters, therefore a wetsuit is very recommended. The cave itinerary is long and features some amazing “halls” and rocky domes. The second one is a dry cave that used to be the home of ancient tribal human groups. The inner itinerary is shorter but also interesting as we find remains of the old human settlement integrated with the natural shapes.We really enjoy visiting caves due to their magic atmosphere, a combination of complicated and beautiful rock shapes, dark shadows and holes, humid and clean air, silence and echoes, etc.

As you can see, it is worth discovering the East of Mallorca. If you’d like to know more about walking in this area or walking in Mallorca, please visit our website and our Facebook page for information and advice, as well as tips, photos…

 

Walking with babies and small children on Mallorca

Walking with babies on Mallorca

Picnic break with little baby in nature

Every day there is a growing request for information about where you can go and hike or walk bringing your baby or little child with you on Mallorca. The truth is in fact that there are many places that you can walk with your kids to enjoy the magic nature of the island; either by carrying them in different types of carriers or by letting the child walk by him or herself. If you are well prepared and using common sense, you can bring your little child almost anywhere into nature on the island. There is however quit a few things you need to keep in mind before heading out for an excursion with your little ones, here comes a list one some of those things:

Know the total distance & type of terrain

Be completely sure on the distance that you are planning on doing and the type of terrain. Many walkers in all ages have been surprised by Mallorcas stony terrain; the stones are many and they are everywhere! Bear in mind that there is a huge difference for a 2- year old walking on a more or less flat earth track or asfalted little backroad compared to “coastering” on rocky stones or jumping from stone to stone on a very uneven surface. On the later option mentioned, a lot more time and energy is consumed and this needs to be taken into account. Many times there are several different ways of arriving to a location – be sure to choose the option that suits your whole family the best and most importantly; make sure you know where you are going either by asking, using a good map or contracting a guide. Its also wise to have a good think about were you are actually going, if you’re not sure which routes are suitable for going with kids, then have a look the walks we have graded as easy walks (green boot) – they will give you a realistic idea and perhaps some inspiration.

Keep a track on time

Walking with your children in Nature

Parents hiking on Mallorca

As mentioned before we all know that it takes more time to take small steps than bigger “adult” steps. Sunset happens pretty fast on Mallorca throughout the year, and its is not the most pleasant experience to get caught by darkness without a flashlight, perhaps on your way back from the beach. To avoid this be sure to check when the sun goes down locally and keep a track on time.

Be well equipped

First of all consider carefully how you are going to carry your child keeping both your and your babys comfort level in mind (padded bandoliers, sunshield etc). For smaller babies we have been very satisfied with carriers such as “ergobaby”, “manduca”, “babybjörn” and similar brands and we were using this type of carrier for all kinds of walks until our son was more or less 1 year old. The time one type of carrier is used depends on several things though, most importantly the babies weight. We did experience that these kind of carriers tended to get too warm from time to time here on Mallorca, as  you carry the baby very close to your belly or back. Later on we got a babycarrier where the baby sits in a separate “seat” on your back from the brand Deuter (Kid Comfort) and this is the one we are currently using. It has got a handy sunshield that can be taken off and a pocket where you can carry other things apart from the child. You can find a huge variety of this type of baby carriers on the market in all price levels and be sure to check the second hand offers before you by a brand new one.  There are a few other things you should consider bringing before you get into nature with your small children, for example; a small headtorch is inexpensive, it doesn’t weight much and it can come in handy more than one time during your trip. A little first aid kit bag can save you from a lot of hazzle, be sure to complement it with your own details. We have also found it very useful bringing some kind of soft, light weight, easy-to-fold and well isolated pad that you can use for changing diapers, for sitting on, or for your baby to have a small nap on. Last but not least, do not forget your own equipment! If you wan’t to be sure of not leaving anything necessary at home, then have a quick look at our kit list.

Walking with babies

Walking with children

Bring the “just in case” stuff

When bringing small children into nature with you, its recommended that you have a good thought about what you are bringing because you don’t want to find  yourself carrying any extra weight and neither do you want to be in the situation where you think “I should have brought that”.. Bring a little bit extra food and snacks, enough water for everyone, 3-4 diapers per child, one complet set of extra clothes and perhaps a small light quilt. If its summer then be sure to not forget sun lotion, swimmers (if you are going near the sea) and perhaps goggles if your child is used to wearing them. If your child is walking by him/herself, it might be a good idea to bring a “small surprise” that you can take out and give to them if they run out of energy or motivation for continuing walking; fruit, dried fruit and chocolate are classic “decoys”. In the end the most important thing is that you and your child can be able to enjoy your outing together, and if you are not sure on how to set up this by yourself, just contact us and we will come back to you with a tailor made day-plan that suits both your and your babies needs. We would also very  much like to hear about your point of view and experiences when it comes to hiking with babies on Mallorca so please feel free to join the debate on our facebook page.