Before we start on the hikes, just a word on the island.
Not everyone realises that there is, within only a few kilometres of the golden sandy beaches and lazy pavement cafes that cover Mallorca's beautiful coastline, not one but two fully fledged mountain ranges, ripe for exploring on foot.
There are literally thousands of hikes to choose from, variations, loops and alternative routes to keep you walking on the island for years, not only in the Serras either but over the plains and along the coast, so you can explore the multi-faceted and surprisingly varied terrain; coastal routes and jagged heights of the largest of the Balearic Islands.
The Serra de Tramuntana, which we will explore here, was declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in honour of the way man's actions on nature have, over the centuries, resulted in this monumental work, in perfect symbiosis with the natural landscape, resulting in a protected habitat of flora and fauna, a bird watching hotspot and a hiker's paradise.
The Sierra de Tramuntana runs through 20 municipalities over 119 km officially, though the trails stretch further, and can arguably be said to continue all the way to the Cape of Formentor. The range covers about 30% of the island's territory and over 1000 km2 of land, with peaks over 1000 m in height. The highest are Puig Major (1,443 m), Puig de Massanella (1,348 m), Serra d’Alfàbia (1,069 m), Es Teix (1,064) and Galatzó (1,026 m).
The Serra de Llevant on the eastern side of the island is less known, also protected and largely ignored, hence wonderful for walking. It is also a far gentler landscape.
For the purpose of this article and in order to give you taster of what you can do trekking wise in Mallorca, here are the 8 official stages of the GR221 route, ranging in difficulty and terrain, starting from Pollensa, only 6 km from Mar Calma Hotel.
The GR221 is the 119 km restored mountain route which crosses the Tramuntana Mountains from Pollensa in the northeast Pollensa in the northeast all the way to Port d'Andratx in the southwest, following goat paths, old smugglers routes and the dry stone way which has served mountain folk for millennia. Guide books usually take you from south to north and claim the entire hike to take 8 days, but you can walk it much faster, in either direction, or choose a few of the routes as individual hikes.
Stage 8 - GR221
Pollensa (Refuge Pont Roma) to Lluc (Refuge Son Amer) (16.7 km)
This is the last stage of the GR221 hike, and typically takes around four and a half hours. If you start here it is a gentle uphill walk practically all the way with a few steep climbs. The other way round of course it is all down hill. The beauty of this section is that it works well as an individual hike, and either direction lands you somewhere where you can enjoy a big meal at the end. The Monastery at Lluc is particularly rewarding as an after-hiking lunch stop; huge old dining room and a traditional Mallorcan menu of hot soupy rice dishes, paella and lots of meat. The other great thing about LLuc is that you can in the Monastery overnight.
Stage 7 - GR221
Lluc (Refuge Son Amer) to Refuge Tossals Verds (15.1 km)
This is a beautiful and challenging section of the GR221, remote, wild and windy with spectacular scenery. It also takes in two of the highest mountains in the area: Massanella (1364 m), Mallorca's second highest peak, and Puig d'en Galileu (1180 m), as well as the Cuber reservoir. For those interested in local history, there are a series of ice or snow pits on route. Tossals verds is also a staffed mountain refuge with communal and private rooms where you can stop off for the night.
Stage 6 - GR221
Refuge Tossals Verds to Port Soller (Muleta) (28 km)
This is the longest part of the Tramuntana hike and most guide books describe this route in reverse, though either way is good. Waking up in the little mountain refuge of Tossals Verds is always a joy. This way is less steep, but you will have to climb Puig d'Ofre (1091 m) whether you go north or south and it will take you approximately eight and a half hours with a snack break on route.
Stage 5 - GR221
Port Soller (Muleta) to Deia (Can Boi) (10.1 km)
This is a gorgeous coastal hike, linear and easy to walk along farmland tracks, country lanes and the sea. It takes about 3 hours to complete and regarless of the way you go (north or south) you end up somewhere perfect for a drink and meal at the end of the route.
Stage 4 - GR221
Deia to Esporles (5 hours)
Deià is a small coastal village set in an idyllic landscape of olive and orange groves on the edge of the mountains. The route, which tends to be done in reverse is 20 km long and considered moderate to difficult: Esporles – Coll de sa Basseta – Pla de l’Aljub – Coll de Sant Jordi – Valldemossa – Pla des Pouet – Es Caragolí – Deiá, taking you through holm oak forests and with several high peaks on the way.
Stage 3 - GR221
Esporles to Estellencs (7.6 km)
In June 2018, the GR221 was completely signposted from Es Capdellà to Esporles and from Deià to Pollença. Mallorca has a huge trail network: some built during the time of the Arabs (902-1229), other cross the forests to charcoal pits, others lead to inaccessible parts of the coast. These were built by tobacco-smugglers around 1920 or to reach the watchtowers built to warn of pirate attacks (16th century). Around Valldemossa the Austrian Archduke Lluis Salvador also built panoramic trails.
Stage 2 - GR221
Estellencs to La Trappa (7 hours 15 minutes)
200 years ago in 1810, the Trappist monks turned an almost barren valley into an oasis. The estate is now a nature reserve, owned and managed by the ecologist group GOB, which purchased it in 1993.
Stage 1 - GR221
La Trappa (Sant Elm) to Port d'Andratx (3 hours 45 minutes)
This last stage is in fact the first planned stage of the GR221, which we are doing in reverse. You will see Dragonera Island on route to the southernmost tip of the Serra de Tramuntana Mountains.
For a more in depth look at the route, you can download the Consell de Mallorca PDF flyer on the DRY STONE WAY and the separate refuges along the way.
The Mallorca local government has taken great pains to restore and signpost the Dry Stone Way, as well as publishing information on routes and habilitating mountain refuges along the way, so as to provide hikers with affordable accommodation at the end of each stage.
The idea is basically to promote alternative out of season tourism and hiking along the Dry Stone Way. It hasn't been that easy to achieve however, and several of the stages are still missing an open running refuge.
Refuges can be anything from monasteries, private estates or small lodges, some only accessible on foot, and provide bunk beds in shared rooms as well as one or two private rooms, meals, hot showers and packed sandwiches for the following day. Don't expect luxury, or wifi, accommdation is as rustic and back to basics as the landscape around you.
You will also need to book your bed way in advance, as places are limited and locals enjoy the hiking as much as visitors.
Although Mallorca does enjoy a temperate Mediterranean climate with very low rainfall and an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, the Tramuntana Mountains are changeable and temperatures up high can drop, even in the warmer months.
Hiking in Mallorca is best in spring and autumn when it is neither too hot nor too cold, though any time of year can be good. Do take plenty of water, waterproof clothing and tell someone or go with a guide.
Also worth mentioning here that large sections of the route run through private land, and though you allowed to cross, there may be livestock roaming, so take care to close any gates you open, and generally leave everything just as you found it.