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!

 

Looking forward to the almond blossom…

Almond blossom in Mallorca, Majorca

Almond blossom in Mallorca

Here at Mallorca Hiking we can’t believe it’s already November and that all the Christmas festivities will start soon! That usually means there’s not so much time available to get out and enjoy some walking :-(

But we’re looking on the bright side and plan to make up for a busy December with lots of good walks in the new year. We’re already looking forward to the almond blossom season, which in Mallorca is usually from the end of January to about mid-February – our short video will give you a general idea.

If that has tempted you and you’re looking for a sunny spot to enjoy a walking holiday, we can organise a tailor-made holiday for you and your group, which includes guided walks, accommodation, additional activities, hotel and restaurant recommendations… Just contact us for a chat and more information.

And if you’re just interested in a day’s walking, we recommend you to have a look at our 2 favourite blossom walks throughout January and February:

–  Rural wanderings – Es Capdella and the Galatzo Estate

–  4 Picturesque rural villages

Please contact us directly to reserve your place.

We look forward to seeing you!

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!

A Summer day trip down the Torrent de Pareis

torrent de pareis

Our group

It was a hot dry day in mid-June when a small group of us set off early from Escorca to tackle the infamous Torrent de Pareis hike. There was a sense of excitement among the group as we had all wanted to do this hike many times before, only to be told “the conditions weren’t right”, or “there was too much water in the gorge”, “there had been heavy rains recently” ….. so this was our first time.

The temperature was perfect as we set off, the skies were crystal clear blue, and the views towards Puig Roig were stunning. Our guide Nina showed us the location of the concealed gap in the craggy rocks where the gorge carved by the torrent ran through the Tramuntana mountains. This is where we were headed. We admired the views.

The start of the hike is a gentle descent through masses of carritx grass, which is very typical of Mallorca’s alpine regions. We chatted animatedly as we zigzagged down to the dry riverbed and a point at which the paths of 3 different torrents met. Here we took a short rest and then continued, following the bed of the torrent de pareis. At first it was easy enough – we followed narrow paths along the edge of the riverbed; we scrambled over a few boulders and strolled along the pebble surface of the riverbed. But slowly and steadily the boulders got bigger; the scrambling got more strenuous; and there was no longer an inclination to cruise along chatting. This needed concentration; your wits about you. And at times even our guide had to stop and think and try and remember – which tiny gap between these massive boulders was going to offer us a way through. This was a real challenge.

torrent de pareis, Mallorca

Boulders, boulders everywhere…

As the sun rose in the sky, the temperature rose too, and so did the challenges we faced. We met a group of fun and noisy young Spanish guys – they were loving it; leaping among the boulders like mountain goats and sliding down the well worn surfaces. There are a few sections where you need to reverse down a crack in the rocks with the help of ropes – almost light abseiling. I think we all used every muscle in our body and not just the ones you’d expect to use for a “normal” hike! I for one, could feel every muscle for days after the hike.

By now we were deep inside the gorge, and it felt like another world. Slightly surreal. What a stunning landscape. At times the gorge is so narrow, that you can only see a slither of blue sky between the imposing rock faces on either side. It gradually becomes clear why this could be a very dangerous place to be when there is a lot of water flowing in the torrent ….

torrent de pareis, Mallorca

A chink of sky

And after about 5 hours of walking and mainly clambering, the gorge begins to open up and let some more daylight in.  We continue our walk and finally we’re greeted by a very normal Sunday scene in Mallorca – lots of happy laughing people relaxing with picnics on a beautiful pebble beach. This is Sa Calobra, our destination, and the scene is a very strange contrast to our day so far. Ed and Sean had run out of water way back, so they made a beeline for the bars along the coast. The rest of us couldn’t wait to get into our bikinis and dive into the cool, crystal clear water ahead. This was the best swim of the summer, by far!

This is an epic hike and well worth doing if you enjoy a bit of adventure – do take a look at the video we took on the day, as it’ll give you a more visual description of what’s involved! This is not the sort of hike to do on your own for the first time, so if you would like to hire a guide please contact us.

And if you’d like to know more about walking in Mallorca, please visit our website and our Facebook page for information and advice, as well as tips, photos…

Walking in Mallorca in June

So far, this June has been a fantastic time to be out walking in Mallorca. The conditions have been perfect – sunny, clear and not too hot.

We just completed a flurry of short walking holidays with some delightful Canadian, American, Austrian and Swedish walkers. It couldn’t have been better – great company, great walking and great weather…. and we just managed to finish before the rain began to fall (it had been forecast for days!). A day of refreshing showers and now the sun is shining again!

We walked some fantastic routes in the Tramuntana mountains: a couple in and around Sóller – see our website blog.mallorcahiking.com or our walks Ref. W-NW11, W-NW08, a circular route out of the pretty village of Valldemossa Ref. W-NW10 and one a little further down the coast from Esporles to Banyalbufar Ref. W-NW01.

Let’s hope the conditions stay like this for a couple more weeks… the forecast is good, so let’s get out there and enjoy some more fabulous walks, before the heat sets in!

Walking the Road to Happiness

 

walking in Mallorca

The road to happiness

Walking the Road to Happiness

The pursuit of happiness is a hot topic and for good reason, as living in our society today is deemed to be more stressful than ever before.

So what can we do about it? Exercise is a fantastic way to help us ‘switch-off’ but I want to show you why walking is particularly beneficial to our happiness and well-being.

Walking – a time to reflect…

As walking is not as strenuous as other forms of exercise, perhaps it is more conducive to reflective thought and relaxation. When hiking with a friend of mine recently, I recall asking him why he loves walking so much and he said, ‘because it’s like a form of meditation; it allows my mind to wander.’ My friend’s response resonated with a recent newspaper article tackling ‘Why are we so tired all the time?’ Professor Stephen Palmer, director of the Centre for Stress Management, says ‘we don’t give ourselves time to reflect – no wonder we’re so tired. We are human doings now not human beings’. Research shows meditation and ‘mindfulness’- learning to live in the moment to quiet the mind – can help us feel more rested. We can apply mindfulness when walking outdoors, spending time ‘in the now’ and noticing the world around us, not only to combat stress but to be fully aware of, and appreciate our natural environment.

Exercising in a natural environment

walking in Mallorca

happy days!

When was the last time you walked in a green, wide-open space? In the woods? Or in the park? The impact that being in a natural environment has on the brain is significant. Mental health charity Mind recently looked at the role the environment plays on the effectiveness of outdoor exercise for mental wellbeing. Using 20 people in two contrasting walks, one inside and the other outdoors in a natural setting, they found:

  • 90% of people reported an increase in self-esteem after an outdoor walk verses 17% indoors.
  • 71% of  people experienced a decrease in the levels of depression after an outdoor walk verses 45% indoors.
  • 71% people stated they felt less tense after an outdoor walk verses 28% indoors.

The combination of walking and being in the outdoors appears to have a very positive effect on mental health: the endorphins released in the brain elevate mood and help prevent depression.

 How else does walking benefit our mental health?

Studies have shown how walking can heighten mental alertness and improve memory. Physiologist Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, a physiologist at a London hospital, says exercise has a dramatic positive effect on the brain. A study of 6000 women in California found that those who walked regularly showed improvements to higher mental processes, suggesting long-term effects of walking on concentration and cognitive abilities could be profound.

So let’s get walking! If it can improve HAPPINESS and well-being, cognitive ability and concentration… What’s stopping you?

Why not contact us at Mallorca Hiking for more information on walking in the warm winter sunshine of Mallorca or join us on our Facebook page. We’d love to help you on your way to good health, wellbeing and happiness!

 

Tramuntana as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

This week 2 big celebrity visitors to the island supported Mallorca’s application for the Tramuntana mountains to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (officially defined as a site with “special cultural or physical significance”).

Rock legend Patti Smith and her band were playing in the magical setting of the gardens of Palau Comtes d’Aiamans, in Lloseta, at the feet of the Sierra de Tramuntana (how appropriate!), and Michael Douglas – a long time ambassador to Mallorca and property owner in the Tramuntana – is on one of his regular visits to the island with wife Catherine Zeta Jones and family.

If you’d like to help preserve this fabulous natural resource for all outdoors and nature lovers, why not join the growing band of supporters for this application? Take a look at the following link on Facebook (it’s mainly in Catalan, which is a bit of a challenge, but you can get the general gist!)

PER QUE LA SERRA DE TRAMUNTANA SIGUI DECLARADA PATRIMONI DE LA HUMANITAT. PARA QUE LA SIERRA DE TRAMONTANA SEA DECLARADA PATRIMONIO DE LA HUMANIDAD.

Happy hiking!

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…

 

Highlights of modern art and architecture in Palma

You may or may not know that Palma is an absolute treat for contemporary art lovers – there are Joan Miró sculptures everywhere especially around the Cathedral in Parc de la Mar. In fact Joan Miro and Mallorca are inextricably connected (his mother and his wife were from the island, and Miro lived and worked here for 40 years), and many examples of his work are on display in the galleries. Es Baluard, the contemporary art gallery has an excellent collection, as does Palau March in the heart of historic Palma, where you can see works by Picasso, Miró and Dalí all in one room! This museum has one of the best collections of contemporary Spanish art you’ll find outside Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia…

Few people realize that there is a wealth of culture and history waiting to be discovered in Mallorca’s capital and this season we’ll be doing just that – discovering some of the cultural delights on our doorstep – on foot, of course!

see more details of the tour:

http://blog.mallorcahiking.com/en/p147/palma-excursion-art-architecture.html

and the dates we’ve scheduled the tour for:

http://blog.mallorcahiking.com/en/c3/walking-calendar-mallorca-majorca.html

Mallorca’s gastronomy during hiking (part two)

jamon serrano

In our last blog post we where talking about what to bring when you go for a walk and giving suggestions and tips on delicious local food and products. Here comes the continuation on the same topic.

Pa amb oli” is the way local people from Mallorca call a slice of bread with tomatoes, olive oil and salt. This is the local sandwich base, which can be topped with other food or eaten directly as the 4 ingredients are already very tasteful. The best thing to do while hiking is to prepare it during one of our stops: cut some bread slices with a foldable knife, cut some tomato slices (the tomato should be a big one!) and then add virgin olive oil (local gold) and salt. A fresh “pa amb oli” is something that all locals go mad about!!

Dry cured cuts of meat are among the best toppings to a “pa amb oli”. Typical dry cured meat from Mallorca is made of pork meat, salt and spices. The most popular types that are eaten without cooking are sobrassada (orange soft paste that can be directly spread on a bread slice or bread cookie), paté (orange soft paste made of pork libber that can also be spread on a bread slice or bread cookie) and camaiot (grey and white color, cut in slices). These are the fatty and “unhealthy” part of the meal, but in small quantities they are just delicious if you like meat. It is common to also complement the “pa amb oli” with other Spanish dry cured cuts of meat such as Jamón Serrano, fuet, chorizo, salchichón… We recommend you to buy from small producers in order to maximize quality and authenticity. Majorcan cheese

There are many cheese producers in Mallorca, bringing lots of different products to the market. Cow and sheep cheeses are the most usual, though there are some excellent goat cheeses as well. Native red sheep are farmed to produce excellent and original flavors. There are ecologic producers who use traditional methods and reach excellent results (normally a bit more expensive than bigger producers). Curing and aging processes directly affect consistence, texture and taste of each cheese. We do not recommend bringing fresh cheese when hiking unless you bring a well functioning/long lasting cold bag. Cheese is a source of animal fat, protein, vitamins from group A, B and D, as well as minerals like calcium and phosphorus (great for our bones). It must be eaten moderately, but when you are hiking it is always nice to cut some slices with your foldable knife and enjoy its fantastic flavors, alone or combined with a “pa amb oli”.

 

Bakery products from Mallorca, both salty and sweet, normally contain pork fat. They are not healthy products eaten on a regular basis but it can be interesting to bring some of them ‘cause they are delicious and provide a caloric boost that can be needed when you have a long way to walk. “Coques” (sort of cold pizzas with only vegetables on it) with paprika, onion, tomatoes or parsley are crunchy and oily. “Panades” are round pasties filled with cooked lamb meat or bacon, onion and peas. “Cocarrois” are long pasties filled with cooked vegetables, including raisins. These pasties use to be typical Easter food, but nowadays they are baked the whole year around; they are very convenient to bring to an excursion because they last more than other bakery products. If you like sweet stuff (or you are longing for a sugar kick), then you must bring some ensaïmada, a round spiral inflated dough powdered with sugar, sometimes filled with sweetened apricots or other ingredients (cream, chocolate, etc.). There are other typical sweet baked products like “coca de patata”, “bunyols”, “crespells” and “robiols”, but easy on the sugar and fat.

panades

In terms of drinking, we always recommend to drink mineral water (preferably from Mallorcan springs). Freshly squeezed natural orange juice can be sometimes acquired in some hikes as there are some rural houses which prepare them for you in the very moment.

Finally, we sometimes like to bring some local red wine to do a small toast and savor this traditional beverage during our lunch break. But the wine culture in Mallorca is interesting and rich enough to write another blog-post…