Mallorca’s wild side: A historic hike among dry stones

Written by The Frontier Post

PALMA, Spain (DPA): Any time but summer is the perfect season to take a long hike through Mallorca, when the sun is less scorching and while the sea is often just as inviting as ever.

Grab your boots for a trek in the Tramuntana mountains along the long-distance hiking trail GR221, an unlovingly named 150-kilometer (93-mile) route from Port d’Andratx in the south-west to Port de Pollenca in the island’s far northwest.

Banyalbufar is famous for its terraced landscape. (dpa Photo)
The dry-stone wall trail leads through lonely mountain landscapes again and again, as here on the plateau of L'Ofre.(dpa Photo)
Dry stone walls help make the Tramuntana mountains suitable for agriculture. (dpa Photo)
The view from the trail falls on Sant Elm and Sa Dragonera, the dragon island. (dpa Photo)

Right after you leave the marina, the path twists into hilly pine forests. You get an incredible view over the old fishing village of Sant Elm and the island of Sa Dragonera (which means dragon).

Head upwards for a steep walk through more pines and some impressive views that seem to suggest you stop and take a moment’s rest.

You can spot the abandoned Trappist monastery of La Trapa at one point and you may even hear the sound of classical music coming from the ruins.

Miguel Torres is a fan of Mozart and he listens to the music while he’s building stone walls. Now 80, he is helping to restore the almost 80-hectare monastery (198-acre) complex, built back in 1810 by French Trappist monks.

There’s no cement in the monastery’s dry stone structures, whether they’re buildings or the terraces, simply the painstaking work of angular stones that are carefully joined together.

“Nowhere has dry stone masonry been perfected like in Mallorca. UNESCO even named it a World Heritage Site in 2018,” says Torres.

He compares it to a composition: “Each stone is like the note of a symphony. It must have its rightful place to create a harmonious wall.”

The ascent through the Biniaraix Gorge will make you sweat. (dpa Photo)
The ascent through the Biniaraix Gorge will make you sweat. (dpa Photo)

You can spot plenty of examples of the art along the walk with its numerous boundary walls, terraces, houses, defense towers and sections of path, all of which are built using this historic technique.

It’s the reason why the pathway, whose official name is GR 221, is also dubbed the dry stone wall trail – Ruta de Pedra en Sec.

The day is punctuated by panoramic views of Mallorca’s rugged west coast. The cliffs fall away dramatically at the Mirador d’en Josep Sastre viewpoint, a drop of some 450 meters (1,476 feet) down to the sea.

Finca Ses Fontanelles is a 200-year-old farmhouse that has been transformed into an idyllic hiking hotel that is perfect to round off the day for a rest. The mood is peaceful here, with amiable sheep grazing below the citrus trees.

Setting out the next day from Ses Fontanelles, you have a steep 200-meter walk through a lonely gorge, with goats surprised by the presence of hikers. The higher you climb, the lovelier the views of the wild coast and the Mediterranean sea become.

Banyalbufar, a village of stone terraces, steep alleys and ocher sandstone houses, is one of the most beautiful in the region.

The name Banyalbufar means “built by the sea” and was bestowed by the Arabs who built terraces here centuries ago to cultivate Malvasia wine.

The following day, the path winds through dark oak forests to Esporles, then head up to a mountain ridge at an altitude of almost 600 meters. You can soon spot the day’s destination in the valley: Valldemossa, which draws the most visitors on the island.

It need not come as a surprise but many believe the next village, Deia, is even more beautiful – and the 13-kilometer walk one of the most impressive sections of this long-distance route.

You start out on a historic bridle path before reaching the Puig Gros. The descent to Deia is lovely, with its steep cliff path, before you reach flatter terraces of olive groves.

Deia has always drawn painters, poets and composers and is Mallorca’s artists’ village. Many stayed at the La Residencia hotel. It is worth a visit for its sculpture garden alone, to say nothing of the 800 works that are mainly by local artists.

The next day’s walk heads to the Port de Soller, through seemingly endless olive tree plantations. Take a closer look at the gnarled, centuries-old trees on the Muleta Peninsula and it feels like you can spot goblins, faces and a whole slew of animals.

Tear yourself away and the path heads right at the Cap Gros lighthouse, built in 1842. You’ll find yourself at the impressive beautiful natural harbor of Soller, where you finally get to leap into the Mediterranean.

The next day starts gently with a touch of nostalgia if you take a wooden-panelled tram that dates back to 1913. It will bring you from the beach promenade through citrus plantations to Soller where you can stock up on goodies and snacks for your picnic for the long hike to the Tossals Verds refuge.

The beautiful natural harbor and the beach of Port de Soller invite you to relax after a long day's journey. (dpa Photo)
On the grounds of the former Trappist monastery, hikers can admire the art of dry stone walling. (dpa Photo)

It’s a steep, zigzag path after the mountain village of Biniaraix, that leads you along dry stone paths through a lonely gorge.

After 750 meters you reach the Coll de L’Ofre and for a stunning view, take a look back into the Orange Valley of Soller.

High in the valley, the two reservoirs gleam in the sun and it smells of sage and herbs. The landscape is dominated by Mallorca’s highest mountain, the 1,436-meter Puig Major. Here at the Tossals Verds mountain hut, civilization seems far away.

Down in the valley below you can see the monastery of Lluc, Mallorca’s most important pilgrimage site, founded in the 13th century.

Try spending the night here in the monks’ former cells – the peace is heavenly once the day-trippers leave.

In the early morning, the sound of birdsong is soothing and there is a wonderful sense of calm until the hammering starts. Dry stone wall mason Damia Gonzalez and his team are busy restoring a section of path after the damage wrought by winter.

That is essential work, Gonzalez says, recalling that the dry stone masons’ guild was threatened with extinction in the 1980s, a move that also would have imperiled the preservation of the old mountain paths.

Today, the island council is ensuring that it is possible for people to be schooled in the traditional art of building dry stone walls. The Ruta de Pedra en Sec trail is also a project to promote hiking tourism in the island’s most remote mountain regions.

From Ses Fontanelles, the trail to Pas Gran climbs steeply for 200 meters through a gorge littered with scree and rocks. (dpa Photo)
Relaxation awaits in the hotel "La Residencia" after a day of hiking – with a beautiful view of Deiá. (dpa Photo)

Gradually the forest trail snakes down from the Tramuntana mountains into the bay of Pollenca, a valley where oranges, figs, almonds, pears and apricots grow.

You cross an old Roman bridge to reach the town center where you can admire its impressive mansions, palaces and parish church.

You can skip the last section of the walk. Hop on the bus instead, a good idea especially if the sea is calling your name for a cooling swim or several.

Meanwhile stone masons are gradually extending the dry-stone wall route, which is eventually due to reach the mystical Cape of Formentor.

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