Every time another friend falls under the ultra fever, we're incredulous. Not you too, we gasp! But perhaps we shouldn't. While some may be filling a hole, a gap or deep and empty void... most just love being up in there in the mountains, and here on the island there's enough mountain track to keep even the most extreme runners busy for days.
The Serra de Tramuntana Mountain range is one of the most magical places on the island; 90 kilometres long and up to 15 km wide, 62,000 ha of land and 1000 ha of sea, in perfect harmony with the work of man, this is an unusual feat and in recognition of this, the Tramuntana was declared World Heritage Site by the Unesco in June 2011!
It extends over more than 20 municipalities, from Andratx to Pollença, with small coastal villages like Banyalbufar, Pollença and Sóller and villages in the interior like Esporles, Fornalutx or Valldemossa. Puig Mayor is the highest peak at 1,443 metres, with many others oscillating around the 1000m mark. The range protects the island from the cold northerly winds and bestows this high mountain landscape with fertile foothills leading down to the plains.
The ultra trail fever has been running high for over a decade now, the pioneers who once clambered up the unmarked peaks in their ordinary running gear are now the weathered veterans. And it's crowning glory is the Tramuntana Travessa TTCMM with its two categories, 128 km and 59 km race.
Amid the furore that surrounds the trail, there's one thing that remains irresolute: more and more people are becoming aware of the magnificence of the Sierra!
The terrain is now getting more visibility and hence more protection. There are voices of discontent, (which is always necessary) claiming the runners treat the mountains with disrespect, leaving wrappers on virgin hillsides and wearing down the paths. But mostly the ultra phenomenon has drawn people into the mountains that wouldn't otherwise venture out there, and has got the island running more than ever before.
The GR221 is 173 km of cobbled ancient paths that cross the Serra de Tramuntana from the Port d’Andratx (in the south west of the island) to Pollença (in the north). These were once the only access routes to some of the most remote villages and estates, they were used by the ice carriers, goat herders and smugglers, and today have been largely restored and signposted to allow hikers and mountain runners to cross the island without stepping on a single tarmac road.
The Tramuntana can be crossed along the GR 221 Pedra en Sec (Dry Stone Way) long-distance trail and to make it more amenable, it has been divided into 7 stages:
1.1 - Port d'Andratx - Sant Elm - La Trapa
Not signposted - Medium difficulty - Height: ↑ 600 m, ↓ 330 m - Time: 3h 45min
This route only has cairns and paint markers to show the way. They aren't any right of way problems however. The restoration of La Trapa as a mountain hostel/refuge has been planned but as yet work has not started.
1.2 - La Trapa - Coll de Sa Gramola - Estellencs
Not signposted - Medium difficulty - Height: ↑ 800 m, ↓ 920 m - Time: 7h 15min
The route has only cairns and paint markers and difficult orientation in case of fog. They aren't any right of way problems. Along the way, you'll find the mountain hut of Coma d'en Vidal, which is open for groups and will hopefully be opened soon for hikers.
2 - Estellencs - Esporles
Signposted - Medium-low difficulty - Height: ↑ 500 m, ↓ 450 m - Time: 5h - Distance: 14km
This stage passes through the village of Banyalbufar and has the most appealing dry stone landscapes on the GR221.
3 - Esporles - Refugi de Can Boi (Deià)
Partially signposted - Medium-high difficulty - Height: ↑ 1120 m, ↓ 1170 m - Time: 6h 30min - Distance:
This stage of the route is only signposted at the beginning between Esporles and Coll de sa Basseta and in Sa Comuna de Valldemossa. The path is closed between Coll de sa Basseta and Coll de Sant Jordi, but walkers can pass through.
4 - Refugi de Can Boi (Deià) - Refugi de Muleta (Port de Sóller)
Signposted - Medium difficulty - Height: ↑ 220 m, ↓ 270 m - Time: 3h 15min - Distance: 10km
This stage of the Ruta de Pedra en Sec GR 221 hiking trail is located between the Es Teix Mountains and the northern coast.
5 - Refugi de Muleta - Refugi de Tossals Verds
Signposted - Medium-high difficulty - Height: ↑ 970 m, ↓ 550 m - Time: 8h - Distance: 30km
This stage takes in the steep Biniaraix ravine, Cuber reservoir and the Puig d'Ofre (1093m) mountain.
6 - Refugi de Tossals Verds - Lluc - Refugi de Son Amer
Signposted - Medium-high difficulty - Height: ↑ 830 m, ↓ 800 m - Time: 5h 15min - Distance: 16km
One of the most beautiful stages of the entire route, we pass between Puig de Massanella and the Serra des Teixos, overlooking the Puig Major, and climb the Puig d'en Galileu before descending to the monastery.
7 - Refugi de Son Amer - Refugi del Pont Romà (Pollença)
Signposted - Medium-low difficulty - Height: ↑ 250 m, ↓ 700 m - Time: 4h 30min - Distance: 17km
If you'd like to know more about the stages and the GR221 Dry Stone Route, here is the English version of the Guide Book.
During the hike, you can stay the night in one of the many mountain refuges, monasteries and camping sites along the route.
To book a mountain refuge in Mallorca, do so months in advance, places are limited and very popular in spring and autumn. Or phone: 971 177 652 between 10 a 14 h.
Un-serviced mountain refuges
The following are closed refuges with no services or staff, primarily a large open room with a fireplace. Some have beds, tables, chairs and outdoor toilets. Some are adapted for people with disabilities and reduced mobility, and most are open all year round. However, these are the most basic mountain refuges, set in the most virgin landscapes of the Serra.
These are a whole different thing altogether; more often than not, the serviced refuges are magnificent properties set in spectacular locations or townhouses in the mountain villages along the route. They have been adapted to accommodate hikers and trail runners of course, and though some offer the possibility of a private bedroom, most have rows of bunkbeds in large communal dormitories, a dining room and showers.
To see photos, prices and locations for each one, follow the links below:
I have so far only mentioned fell runners and hikers, but the truth is that anyone can walk the Dry Stone Way and enjoy the majestic mountain views of the Serra de Tramuntana in Mallorca, and I sincerely recommend you do! This is as far from the Majorca of tourist brochures and bad press you can get, and offers even the unlikely walker a chance to discover and explore one of Spain's most beautiful landscapes.
If you have any more questions or would like to know more about the UNESCO trail in Mallorca, please write to Mar Calma Hotel!