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!

What to pack for a 4 day hike… (With no bag transfers!)

How to pack for a 4 day hiking trip

Victoria

Hi everyone, I’m Victoria and I’m the newest member of the team at Mallorca Hiking.

Having recently returned from a trip to South America, mostly spent hiking around a handful of Patagonia’s National Parks, I like to think I have a few useful tips I can give to help you pack for a 4 day hike. The mountains of Mallorca may not be The Andean Altiplano, but there are a number of essentials any hiker needs when setting off for a few days hard walking.

It’s worth bearing in mind that although Mallorca has over 300 days of sunshine annually, temperatures can vary hugely between day and night-time. In the Autumn, the weather is a blissful 18-25 degrees Celsius during the day but nights can drop to 6 degrees. Winters are mild, with an average temperature of 14 degrees during the day and 4 degrees at night. I’ve therefore included a list of some warmer gear to take with you too.

The key is not to pack too much! A huge heavy backpack will not make for fun hiking- you don’t want to jeopardise your holiday for the sake of three spare pairs of shoes…

Many of the essentials I’d recommend may be obvious, but perhaps there’ll be a few surprises too. I’ve also included ‘specialist’ items, which I’d advise you to consider buying as they helped make my hiking trips that much more enjoyable!

Kit List:

  • what to pack for a 4 day walking trip

    Platypus / Camel Bak hydration system

    Backpack- For a 4 day hike, a 35-55 litre backpack is ideal. It’s not necessary to have a backpack any bigger than 55l, as all bedding and towels are provided at your chosen accommodation, even if you’re staying in one of the island’s refuges. I’d recommend choosing a backpack with a padded hip belt to ensure the majority of the weight is carried on the hips.

  • Fully-charged camera- It’s better to bring a fully charged camera, as a recharger just adds extra weight to your pack.
  • Spending money- For dinner each night as well as picnics and other irresistible local delicacies along the way…
  • Platypus Hoser/CamelBak hydration pack 1.5-2 litres*- My No. 1 item. It’s hands free, reusable, easy to pack, and most importantly it helps to keep you constantly hydrated- a major consideration when hiking in Mallorca. See our previous blog post on the importance of hydration.
  • Walking poles*. They help when climbing uphill but most importantly, they help take the weight off your joints when going downhill. Walking poles are available to hire for 5 Euros per day from Mallorca Hiking.
  • Head torch*- Just in case you get caught out in the dark; or to go to the loo at night if you’re staying in a refuge…

In the winter, if you’re walking at high altitude, you may be surprised to hear that a woolly hat and some light gloves are also really welcome.

Snacks:

what to pack for a 4 day walk in Mallorca

Trail Mix Bar

My favourites are:

  • Trail Mix- nuts and dried fruit. Trailmix is great to eat for slow-burning energy and it’s light to carry. My favourite mix includes almonds, raisins and dried cranberries. For a 4 day trip, I recommend bringing a freezer bag-sized pack.
  • Muesli bars. Also high energy and nutritious (and unlike chocolate they won’t melt!). Bring 2-3 muesli bars per day.

But the good news is that if you’re doing Mallorca’s long distance hike, the GR221, there are quite a few opportunities to stock up along the way, so you don’t have to carry supplies for the duration of the trek.

Toiletries and Basic First Aid:

Sun cream, 1 loo roll, plasters, blister plasters, insect repellent, ibruprofen, Imodium, toothbrush and toothbrush holder (for the head of the brush) miniature toothpaste, chapstick (including spf 15 is best), deodorant, feminine hygiene products.

I would also recommend packing ear plugs if you’re a light sleeper, and particularly if you’re staying in a refuge where you sleep in dormitories. You never know how noisy your fellow hikers may be!

Clothing:

  • 3-4 lightweight t-shirts*- (one can be used as nightwear).  Polyester/elastane-mix t-shirts are ideal as they are light-weight and quick drying. They can be bought at any good outdoor shop (see shop reference list below)
  • 1 pair of comfortable walking trousers* or sports leggings. Zip off trousers are great as when it warms up you can zip off the lower leg to convert into shorts.
  • 1 pair of shorts*- preferably lightweight, quick-dry walking shorts. Do not bring denim – it’s heavy to carry and takes ages to dry!
  • 1 pair of lightweight trousers/long johns/leggings – for nightwear

    what to pack for a 4 day walking trip in Mallorca

    Ready for the GR221!

  • 3 pairs quality walking socks*- Merino wool or merino/polyester-mix walking socks are ideal as you don’t have to wear two pairs which saves on space, and they keep your feet dry and cool.
  • 3 underpants
  • (Women) 1 sports bra – much comfier to wear when walking.
  • 1 pair of quality walking boots*, preferably worn-in prior to the holiday as new boots are more likely to cause blisters
  • Cap*
  • Sunglasses*
  • Rainproof/windproof jacket (and possibly also over-trousers depending on the time of year)*- Preferably Goretex. It’s always advisable to bring a waterproof, as even if it’s unlikely to rain it’s useful as an extra windproof layer.
  • Lightweight fleece* for layering
  • Flipflops/indoor shoes- For evening use, bring flipflops or a lightweight pair of shoes, e.g. canvas plimsolls. It’s heaven to shed your walking boots for a few hours in the evening!

NB: Sometimes, if you know you’ll be staying somewhere that you can wash out a few things overnight, you can actually get away with packing a bit less – always good news ;-)

Where’s best to buy the gear?

All the items above marked * can be bought at UK outdoor clothing shops, for example:

In Mallorca, the main place to buy good walking kit is Decathlon and of course Bestard makes some awesome hiking boots! Also good for outdoor kit is Es Refugi in C/ Sindicat, 21, 07002 Palma de Mallorca, Phone:+34 971 71 67 31. Sorry there’s no link but their site doesn’t seem to be working at the moment.

If you’ve got any questions, please don’t hesitate to send them my way. Either leave a comment here or contact us by email. Also do take a look at our previous blog posts with tips and advice about kit.
Happy hiking!

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!

 

Walking Holidays – Seven Key Tips For Beginners

Hiking & Walking Tips with Mallorca hikingTom Oxby is one of our guest writers and today we have another excellent checklist he has created for those of you thinking of taking your first Walking Holiday:

Walking Holidays are a great way to explore the world. Whether you are on a trail in your country or visiting another you are sure to meet like minded people. If this is the first of your walking holidays you may be wondering where to start but by following these tips you can easily be on the trail.

Tip 1 – Planning – There are two options; using a tour operator or planning the walking holiday yourself.

Booking through a tour operator can be a great choice for your first walking holiday. They arrange the accommodation, some meals and experienced guides. Depending on the destination and tour operator one hike may be offered each day or several hikes requiring different levels of experience. Before booking check on the level of experience required as a multi-day hike along the Inca Trail in Peru varies from a walk in the English countryside.

If planning the walking holiday yourself you will need to arrange accommodation, transportation to the hike starting location, detailed maps and guides. There is lots of information about adventure travel.

Tip 2 – Equipment – You will require a pack (rucksack), hiking boots, hiking socks, poles, water bottles, rain wear, jacket, hat and other clothing which will depend on your walking holiday destination. Additional items may include sunscreen, insect repellent, first aid kit, digital camera and bear spray if visiting western North America.

Tip 3 – Training – You need to start a program of walks to get and keep in shape prior to your departure on your walking holidays. Break in your hiking boots and test all the equipment to ensure it is comfortable and working properly. Are you using the hiking poles properly?

Tip 4 -Transportation – Arrange for your flight and any other transportation needs such as train passes or rental cars. Book early and you may qualify for a better price, especially if a discount or charter airline flies to your destination.

Trains or local buses may be required to get from the airport or train station to the walking holiday starting location. It rail transportation is required to connect to your route consider a rail pass. Often rail passes include discounts to museums, attractions and local buses as well.

Tip 5 – Documentation – Check requirements for passports, visas and vaccinations. Vaccinations, where required, sometimes need to be taken well in advance of departure. Travel insurance with medical coverage should be considered. If you purchased a walking holiday from a tour operator travel insurance is usually mandatory.

Tip 6 – Accommodation – If you have booked with a tour operator this is included in your walking holiday package. If planning on your own you will need to book a hotel, bed and breakfast or hostel in advance. Accommodation in popular areas such as Zermatt in Switzerland; Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies and the Lake District in England can be difficult during high season. Consider traveling in shoulder seasons which are not as busy and prices are generally cheaper. The final option is camping along the way.

Tip 7 – Finishing touches – You are now down to the final details of your walking holiday. If traveling to a foreign country consider learning a few phrases of the local language, it goes a long way with the local citizens. Take photo copies of all your documentation with you and if traveling to a foreign country obtain local currency in advance. Depending on your destination you may need to purchase snacks for the trail in advance as well.

Your first walking holiday should be exciting, so follow these tips and have wonderful hike.

Tom Oxby is a recognised expert writer for Hiking and Cycling holidays and you can visit his webpage here: www.walking-holidays.org


Tailor Made Walking Holidays in Mallorca

Tailor Made Holidays in MallorcaWe appreciate your holiday time is a precious part of your year and it needs to deliver the fullest satisfaction for your break away from everyday life. Give yourself what YOU want in your holiday – don’t allow yourself to be herded into what a tour operator or hotel group wants to serve up. Here at Mallorca Hiking we give you a holiday, which is 100% tailor made for you – we start each trip with a blank sheet of paper. We match your dreams, your budget and your dates to our knowledge, our contacts on the ground, and our creative thinking.

Everything is planned around you – from dates, to hotels, to walking routes, to restaurants, to any other activities YOU want to include. Your Tailor Made Holiday.

Mallorca has a little known range of terrain: from mountains, to valleys, to beaches & coves, to wide open spaces. The variety is plentiful in this island paradise and there is something for everyone.

Our walking routes vary so we advise you and choose walks to suit your pace, your level and your experience. Our guides are seasoned professionals who live on the island and have a wealth of knowledge, experience, and contacts. They care about making your holiday special, and their experience and knowledge is focussed on delivering your every requirement.

We’ll help and advise you when choosing somewhere to stay – and we’ll book it for you too. We have a number of fabulous hotels that we like to work with – see our accommodation list – and they are all small, boutique hotels with a special Mallorcan charm. They will enhance your holiday experience.

Each Tailor Made holiday is a unique programme that includes the walks, excursions, additional activities and special interests that you choose. Tell us what you’re interested in and we’ll organise an itinerary to match. For example, some of our popular themes include:

–       Mallorca’s cuisine, it’s home-grown food products, and the seasonal fiestas that celebrate each, e.g. the olive fair and the honey fair, both in November

–       The history and culture of the island – see our Excursions, for example Palma’s Art & Architecture

–       The island’s wild flowers – particularly in the spring

–       Mallorca’s wines, including vineyard tours and wine tastings

Some of the additional activities that you can include in your holiday itinerary are biking, boating, diving, ballooning, helicopter tours and much more.

Alternatively if you’re traveling on your own or as a couple and you’d like to join other like-minded walkers for one of our fabulous walking holiday itineraries, we have a number of scheduled group holidays that you can sign up for. These holidays are for small groups of 8 people and are already designed with dates set, so please check our calendar for details.

Your holiday is very precious time and we understand how to get it right for you. Our guides and organisers are available all day, every day you are here in Mallorca – making sure you have everything, as you want it, when you want it. And because the people we work with know what we expect, they go that extra mile for our clients – after all, it’s often the special touches which count. Your only requirement is to relax and enjoy…

Make your holiday in 2011 one to remember with Mallorca Hiking. Contact us now to start arranging your Tailor Made Holiday.

Guided Walking Holidays – 7 Advantages That Will Make it Irresistible

Today we feature a gue7 Advantages of Guided Walking Toursst post from Tom Oxby –  a seasoned hiker who regularly writes about Walking Holidays. Here’s his summary on booking a guided walking holiday:

There are plenty of adventure travel companies that offer guided walking holidays. So why are they so popular and what are the advantages:

The guides
With a guided walking holiday you have experienced guides who know the route. They will point out local vegetation, natural landmarks and sites of historic importance. In case of emergency they are there to assist. Also your guide can provide a wealth of information on everything from the popular use of trekking poles, types of English sheep to using a GPS or map reading.

The trails
The travel company runs the walking holidays on the same trails all year long and knows what works best and is most interesting for their hiking guests. Information is provided in advance on the terrain, elevations and distance. Some companies run different levels of walks each day for beginners to advanced hikers.

Getting to the trail head
This can be a hassle when planning your own walking holiday. With a guided walking holiday the company provides chartered buses which get you to the trail head in a timely fashion. Some companies do use local transportation and are familiar with the schedules and obtaining tickets.

Accommodation
Accommodation is located close to where you will be hiking and is used to having this type of client. Your hotels have been booked for the season so the travel company has developed a relationship with the hotel should problems arise. Some travel companies operate their own hotels, particularly in England.

Meet other hikers
It is always a wonderful experience to meet and talk with others from around the world. They frequently have interesting views of other walking holiday destinations, suggestions on hiking gear. In the evening you have a ready made group when visiting a pub or bar and restaurants.

Meals
Some or all healthy meals are generally usually included and group dining is generally cheaper.

Cost
A travel company can arrange the accommodation, local transportation and meals at a rate cheaper than you could arrange yourself. As a bonus you have a guide so you can save money on guide books and maps if you wish as well.

Never considered a guided walking holiday, these seven advantages make it an irresistible option.

Guest Article courtesy Tom Oxby: Walking Holidays