The Rugged Side of Majorca
19 October, 2015
Majorca is renowned the world over for its beaches and coves, but the Sierra de Tramuntana, which rises over a thousand metres above the island’s north coast, is a veritable paradise for hiking enthusiasts. An intricate network of centuries-old tracks and footpaths has been upgraded into a set of fully-fledged walking routes traversing a surprisingly rocky landscape carpeted with dense forest. Peeping out of the clearings are a number of quaint villages and hamlets that preserve their pristine charm. A long-distance footpath, known as the Dry Stone Route (Ruta de Piedra en Seco) or GR-221, runs from one end of the range to the other, flanked by the most rugged landscapes in Majorca. The route, imbued with the region’s rich cultural heritage, covers 120 km and can be done in full or by sections. For visitors with a tight schedule, we have selected three of the best sections along the trail.
1. Ses Basses and La Trapa – the Stunning Sa Dragonera Vantage Point
The walking route starts at the Coll de Sa Gramola, a mountain pass accessible from the Andratx main road. From here, a trail heads westwards towards the caseta de Ses Basses. After that the path narrows and leads to an area with various viewpoints overlooking the sea, affording wonderful panoramic views. The trail gradually merges into the wild landscape which compounds a rugged, breathtaking setting against the backdrop of the island of Sa Dragonera protruding into the sea. After a descent flanked by vegetation, you come to an old Trappist monastery now under restoration. The project will eventually include a shelter for hikers. For the return trip, you go back the same way you came.
This is an easy route, covering 15 km for the whole round trip, ideal for a morning’s hike.
Access: Coll de Sa Gramola lies 5 km from Andratx, reached via the Ma-10 main road, where there is a parking area. If you happen to come in two cars, you can extend the excursion beyond La Trapa as far as Sant Elm, where you can park one of the cars beforehand. The walking distance from Coll de Sa Gramola to Sant Elm is 13 km in all. Remember to take water as there are no drinking sources on the way and little shade.
2. Camí de s’Arxiduc – a High-Flying Lookout Between Valldemossa and Deià
The excursion begins at the Charterhouse of Valldemossa, the former residence of King Sancho I of Majorca. Exit the village of Valldemossa following the white and red markers of the GR-221 along a stony path with a steep gradient that ends at the Es Cairats shelter, which is still closed. It should be noted that original route of the GR-221 was very different from the current one as it used to go over the summit of Talaia Vella, from where it joined up with the Camí de s’Arxiduc. On the new route, old lime kilns are visible on the ascent leading to Es Cairats, as are charcoal kilns and the small shelters once inhabited by those in charge of managing resources in the magnificent holm oak woods.
After the shelter, the footpath turns into a track and you soon come to a wild, open area. The GR-221 markers lead to the summit of Puig Gros, the Pla des Aritges plain and Es Caragolí, where the route finally links up with the panoramic Camí de s’Arxiduc. Before taking a detour to descend towards Deià, it is well worth walking a few extra yards – even though this involves going back on our tracks – along this emblematic route, as it runs along the ridge of the mountains. It was commissioned by the Archduke Louis Salvador of Habsburg-Lorraine in the late-19th century for the sole purpose of being able to enjoy the scenery.
While only 13 km long, the route has a difficulty of medium-high, on account of the slopes and terrain, which is very rocky and steep in some stretches.
Access: You can leave your car in Valldemossa and take the bus back from Deià.
3. From Sóller to the Monastery of Lluc – A Weekend in the Mountain Heartland
One of the most spectacular, varied, accessible and best appointed sections of the GR-221 is the one that connects the historical town of Sóller to the Monastery of Lluc. It covers a distance of 35 km and can readily be divided into two stages – of 19 km and 15 km each – with an overnight in the Tossals Verds shelter.
Stage 1 – On the first day, the GR-221 markers point you from the centre of Sóller to the bucolic Biniaraix gorge. This involves a pronounced accumulated slope, leading up to the Coll de l’Ofre and the Cúber dam. From here, the more seasoned hikers can proceed to the Tossals Verds shelter via the new Pas Llis bypass, with an added ascent and a brief, simple equipped pass. The alternative is the old route which goes around Coll des Coloms and does not entail any difficulty.
Stage 2 – After regaining your strength in the shelter, you proceed along the GR-221 towards the panoramic areas of Coll des Prat and Coll des Telègraf. From here, a long descent leads you to the monastery along a winding path which snakes through a holm-oak wood featuring old but recently restored ice pits.
The trek lasts two days and the difficulty level is medium to high, as it includes steep slopes – with a daily accumulated slope of over 1,100 metres – and prolonged descents along tracks. The terrain is rocky and requires mountain footwear, in addition to trekking poles. While the path is signposted with posts, waymarkers and paint marks, it is advisable to take your own hiking map, such as the one published by the Editorial Alpina. You should also book overnights at the Tossals Verds shelter in advance, as capacity is limited (website).
Access: You can get a bus to Sóller from Palma, or you can travel on the old Sóller railway, which has been plying the route daily since 1912. You can take the L330 line bus to make the return journey from Lluc to Palma.
Don’t wait to discover the rugged enclaves of Majorca – check out our flights here.
Text by Sergio Fernández Tolosa & Amelia Herrero Becker of Con Un Par de Ruedas
Photos by Con Un Par de Ruedas
19 October, 2015