Mallorca’s Dry Stone Route, the GR221 – a sampler

Mallorca's Dry Stone Route, the GR221

The GR221

In October we’re offering a 3-day sampler of Mallorca’s Dry Stone Route, the GR221. Many of you are already familiar with this hike and have seen our previous blog posts, but those of you who haven’t, do take a look at the following links, which describe the island’s first long-distance walking trail.

Mallorca’s Dry Stone Route

Dry Stone Route – GR221 – Part 1 and GR221 – Part 2

We’ll set off from Valdemossa with a small group of fun walkers on the 19th October, and we’ll cover 3 sections of this fabulous long-distance hike over 3 days. We won’t be walking the sections in the usual order, but then again we always like to do things a little differently! We’ve designed this trip to give you a “flavour” of the route – we’ll take it fairly easy, but there’ll be plenty of challenges along the way!

If you’re interested in joining us for some or all of this trip, please take a look at our detailed itinerary. For those of you who can only  join us for 1 day because of work commitments, that’s great. It is perfectly possible to come along just for 1 day, as there is a bus route that connects our stops. We would recommend you join us for the Wednesday 19th October to get the most out of your one day!

If you can’t join us on this occasion, remember we can always organise a trip especially for you on the dates that you choose – see Tailor Made Holidays.

We hope to see you soon, and in the meantime why not keep in touch and become a fan on Facebook and/or follow us on Twitter

Happy hiking from the Mallorca Hiking team!

 

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!

So much for our lovely GR221!

 

GR221, Mallorca, Majorca

GR221 route thoroughly blocked

This post is for everyone planning to hike the GR221, Mallorca’s Dry Stone Route, in the near future. I just wanted to give you a quick update on some recent issues, which have arisen with the GR221 routing. I’m afraid the GR221 has been, and continues to be, beset with problems regarding rights of way over private land, and now there’s a new one to watch out for.

Don’t expect there to be any helpful published information along the way!

But please note the implications for your trip are:

  1. Estellencs to Banyalbufar: This section has been problematic for years and it is currently un-passable, so it means taking a bus for this relatively short section of your hike. This is a fairly longstanding dispute, which is taking years to resolve with the landowner.
  2. Esporles to Valldemossa: This is a very recent development and the landowner of part of this section has now erected signs, fences, and (ironically) a very solid dry stone wall to prevent hikers passing over his land, thereby cutting off the route to Valldemossa.

The really maddening thing is that the Consell de Mallorca has issued no warnings and provided no information regarding the sudden closure of the Esporles to Valldemossa section. These paths are ancient rights of way and have been used for hundreds of years as a link between the two towns and yet they think a virtually imperceptible notice on their website is enough to inform us that suddenly, this section is “in project” or under construction, again.

Many hikers come to the island solely to complete the GR221 – a fabulous long distance trek – and just this morning, in the space of about an hour we met 7 hikers heading off for Valldemossa from Esporles. None of them had any idea that there was an issue with the route. All GR221 way-marking is still happily in place, lulling unsuspecting walkers into a false sense of well-being – little do they know that only meters ahead they will be faced with a massive wall blocking their route!

So what are your options?

GR221, Mallorca, Majorca

GR221 signage all still in place!

  • To persevere notwithstanding these obstacles? But beware, the landowner has also destroyed many of the way-markers that considerate hikers have taken the trouble to construct over many years, so path-finding is even more tough-going than before. Also beware an angry landowner who prevents you from passing over his land – you may have to back down and return to Esporles.
  • Alternatively, if you prefer the easy option, make your way to Valldemossa from Esporles by taxi and continue your hike from there.

Thankfully, from Valldemossa on the GR221 route is a clear run with no further problems.

So, what’s the story, you ask? What’s going on? That’s what we asked the Consell de Mallorca, whose (unhelpful!) explanation was that the section was (now) “not open”! Ah that’s just great, thanks for the heads up, really useful (yeah right). Well I’m sorry to say that that’s all we know for the time being, but we’ll be keeping our ears and eyes peeled for some local gossip and we’ll keep you posted!
If you’d like to be kept informed about developments on Mallorca’s GR221 then please sign up to our Facebook Page and keep your eye out for further posts on this Blog. Please also refer to the Consell de Mallorca for the “official” situation!
And finally, if all this sounds far too complicated to tackle alone, why not contact us about our guided walking tours and take a look at some of our favourite walks – there are plenty to choose from!
We hope to see you very soon!

Dry Stone Route, GR221 Pt 1

GR221 Dry Stone Route with Mallorca HikingToday we continue our description of Mallorca’s Dry Stone Route, which connects the SW of the island at Port Andratx to the NE at Pollensa. We’ll cover the early stages in this post and also let you know which sections are currently not open or are under construction.

The Dry Stone Route or GR221 has eight distinct stages, each with it’s own designated Refuge (not all of which are completed yet). The route passes through the Tramuntana mountains, crossing the island from west to east.

This well-known long-distance path was created by combining many routes, some dating back to the Arab occupation of Mallorca from around 900 AD. These ancient paths had many uses: connections between villages; commercial routes for bringing products to markets; entrances to watch towers to protect against pirates; access to the mountains for the charcoal and lime burners deep in the forests, the snow makers…

Many of these paths suffered significantly over the last sixty-odd years, mainly through erosion and neglect as a result of a change of use of the land, from farming to tourism. Recently however, there have been many initiatives to restore sections of the route, and a considerable amount has been invested in new signage and way-marking. Other problems that have arisen involve rights of access through private land, and although there have been efforts to resolve these amicably between the Consell of Mallorca and the landowners, there has been little success to date. The next stage is to resort to European law to resolve these rights of public access.

The eight sections of the walk are:

Stage 1 Port d’Andratx-la Trapa Stage 2 La Trapa-Estellencs Stage 3 Estellencs-Esporles

Stage 4 Esporles-Can Boi, Deia   Stage 5 Can Boi-Muleta, Port of Soller Stage 6 Muleta-Tossals Verds

Stage 7 Tossals Verds-Son Amer, Lluc Stage 8 Son Amer-Pollença

Since the end of 2010 the Dry Stone Route has been well way-marked from Deià to Pollença with 5 mountain “refuges” also functioning and looking after grateful walkers. In the southern section of the route Coll des Pi; Estellencs; Banyalbufar; Esporles and Coll de sa Basseta are also way-marked.

Let’s clarify in a little more detail now, exactly which sections are open and accessible, and which provide full way-marking. We don’t want you disappearing into the Mallorcan wilderness – although of course another option would be to use the services of a guide with Mallorca Hiking to make sure you stay on the right track!

In this post we will focus on stages 1 to 3: Port d’Andratx to Esporles. These first sections are a bit problematic – they are not well marked – if at all – and several sections cross private property, the rights for some of which are disputed, so the route has been diverted.

Monastry at Sa Trapa Mallorca HikingStage 1:   The first part of the route from Port Andratx is not very well marked but it is accessible. There are restoration works currently underway at the old monastery of La Trapa to create a mountain refuge.

Coll de Sa Gremola Walking Mallorca

Stage 2:   Between La Trapa and Coll de sa Gramola there is no way-marking. Again the route covers private property, but access is permitted.

From Coll de sa Gramola to Coma d’en Vidal, there are again no way-marks. The route here follows the Andratx- Estellencs (Ma-10) to the Pla de s’Evangèlica. The trail then crosses the mountainous area of S’Esclop to Coma d’en Vidal where there are plans to construct a further refuge.

Watch Tower Estellencs Walking MallorcaStage 3: From Coma d’en Vidal to Estellencs, again there are no way-marks. However, there is good news from Estellencs through Banyalbufar to Esporles – this section is fully way-marked. When the trail reaches Es Rafal, between Estellencs and Banyalbufar (a disputed right of way) it has been diverted.

There are no confirmed dates as to when signage will be completed for the sections without (as described above) – so if you are not a confident route-finder we advise you to walk this section with a guide.

To give you a flavour of the scenery and surroundings for these first sections of the Dry Stone Route – the first official walk for our new resident’s Mallorca Hiking Club recently completed the Old Postman’s Route. This runs between Esporles and Bunyalbufar, which makes up part of the third stage of the GR221. You can see lots of photographs from members on our Facebook Page. And there is also a superb short video on our YouTube Channel.

This is a beautiful part of the island and hopefully the full route will be clearly marked soon to allow the complete trek from one end of the island to the other.  Next week we’ll cover the area between stages 4 to 6 – in the meantime happy hiking!

Mallorca’s Dry Stone Route Walk

Dry Stone Route Mallorca HikingOne of the longest walks across Mallorca is the famous Dry Stone Route, which spans the entire length of the Tramuntana from the Port of Andratx in the very south west of the island, to Pollensa in the north west. Officially known as the GR221 route, it is broken down into 8 stages:

  • Stage 1 Port d’Andratx-la Trapa
  • Stage 2 La Trapa-Estellencs
  • Stage 3 Estellencs-Esporles
  • Stage 4 Esporles-Can Boi (Deia)
  • Stage 5 Can Boi-Muleta (Port of Sóller)
  • Stage 6 Muleta-Tossals Verds
  • Stage 7 Tossals Verds-Son Amer (Lluc)
  • Stage 8 Son Amer-Pollença

In this post we’ll give you a general overview of the complete route, and subsequent posts will describe each stage in more detail. The beauty of this route is that you can complete one or several stages over a period of time. Walking the entire route over successive days is no problem, as there are a number of delightful rural, boutique hotels along the way (stay tuned, as these will be the subject of a future blog post!), and there is also a string of well-situated, government-run Refugis that offer excellent food & accommodation facilities (albeit in dormitory style!).

When fully completed, the Dry Stone Route will offer a refuge at the end of each stage where hikers can eat a good “home-cooked” dinner with local wine and stay overnight. At present there are five fantastic refuges already up and running: Tossals Verds, Muleta, Can Boi, Son Amer and Pont Romà and two others (la Trapa and s’Hostatgeria del Castell d’Alaró) will be restored in due course (though at this point work on La Trapa seems to have ground to a halt, and progress at Alaró has been extraordinarily slow!). However, recent news (see our earlier  blog post) that the Consell de Mallorca has ear-marked substantial funds for the renovation of the refuges (amongst other things) can only be good news for the completion of these refuges, and this fabulous long distance, linear hike.

The refuges of Son Amer, Tossals Verds and Can Boi (restored by Deià Town Hall) belong to the Consell de Mallorca. The rest are managed by the Consell de Mallorca thanks to agreements with several institutions and organisations. The refuge of Muleta belongs to Sóller Town Hall, the refuge of la Trapa to the ecologist group GOB (Balearic Ornithology Group), the refuge of s’Hostatgeria del Castell d’Alaró to Alaró Town Hall and the Bishopric of Mallorca, and the refuge of Pont Romà to Pollença Town Hall.

All the working refuges have been created from old, restored Mallorcan houses with the traditional architecture of the Tramuntana region in order to blend into the landscape and respect the area’s cultural heritage. So, they have plenty of traditional Mallorcan charm, but at the same time they offer ultra-modern, spacious shower and bathroom facilities – just what hikers need at the end of a long day. The rooms are spacious and dormitory-style with bunk beds. There is currently one refuge – Tossals Verds – that has a room just for 2 people. The food is simple, good and plentiful and all meals are available. They’ll even prepare you a substantial picnic lunch for your next day’s hike.

The refuges are well run and they are all manned by a permanent member of staff. Overnight bookings are managed centrally by the Consell de Mallorca, and reservations must be made at least 5 days in advance of your stay. They are limited to the number of reservations they can take in order to protect the environment, maintain standards and avoid overcrowding – so booking ahead is essential.

Whilst walking the Dry-stone Route you’ll discover the natural dry-stone landscapes of the Tramuntana mountain range as well as man-made dry-stone features, such as walls, terracing, fountains, shelters, snow houses, etc. Additionally the route goes through many interesting historic remains. Hikers will be enchanted by the traces of myths and legends; experience the traditions, customs, gastronomy, craft work and skills of the region; and above all, see the diverse and dramatic landscapes from the coast, bays and cliff faces to the rugged, remote terrain of the high sierra.

At Mallorca Hiking we incorporate several sections of this long-distance walk into independent hikes (albeit slightly adapted for the benefit of the hike), such as: the Tossals Verds Loop,  Deia to Puerto Sóller, Cúber reservoir and Biniaraix, the old Postman’s route etc. Alternatively, we can organise a complete long distance linear hike with bag transfer service, as one of our Tailor Made holidays – the ideal opportunity to discover the beauty and history of the island in one holiday.

Why not sign up for all our follow-up articles about each individual section of the route – all you need to do is register to follow this blog.

Dry Stone Hiking Route Mallorca Spain