GR221 - narrative
Mallorca sea to sea

We have been to Mallorca many times, it's one of our favourite walking areas. Dramatic limestone scenery, beaches and coves, Fincas, and friendly people; it never disappoints us.

We've walked all over the northern part of the island, and never found a dull bit; every holiday brings a new surprise.

We initially did circular walks (and it's a great area for those) but then started devising linear ones. The designation of the GR221 covering much of the mountains has encouraged us, and we've extended it at either end to make what we think is a satisfying walk. At eight days it's a bit long, but Sóller makes a natural start and end point for those wanting to split it. We ourselves have, on different occasions, walked from Sant Elm in the west to Sóller, and also from Valldemossa through Sóller and out to the east at Port de Pollença. The photos come from various holidays; we normally visit in March to get our first taste of the year's sunshine.

DAY 1:
The official start of the GR221 is at Port d'Andratx, but it is too touristy for our taste; we started at Sant Elm, a little way up the coast. If you've come from a busy life elsewhere, or are just stressed out by the flight, Sant Elm is just right; it's quietly beautiful, and very peaceful. Indeed the whole terrain of this western end of the island is a great introduction to the walk - small but perfectly formed.

The walk to Andratx takes the long way round, exploring the coast, isolated houses, and the Monastery at Sa Trapa. There is a quicker way if time is short.

DAY 2:
There is no path, as far as we know, to the first port of call, the hamlet of Capdellà. We were rather unsure of what was in front of us so took a taxi, which went round on the main road. However, there is a series of lanes from Andratx which could make a lovely rural walk. Next time!

Even though we'd cheated a bit, we took a break at the bar at Capdellà before setting out on the main challenge of the day: walking north over the Tramuntana range between the mountains Esclop and Galazó, and down the other side to Estellencs. Our book warned us that route-finding was tricky, so we were apprehensive as we walked up the lane towards the hills, past a beautiful Finca and into a remote-feeling jungly area where we had lunch. But the path stayed clear, and remained well-marked as we climbed.

We didn't see a soul, and were happy (see photo) as we came over the col. Just after that the signage needed looking for, but soon we were wending our way down the other side, to the north coast with which we were more familiar. Down to the road, across the other side, and into Estellencs on a delightful woodland track which had been the road before the tarred one was built. Plus the first GR221 signs, very reassuring.

DAY 3:
A more gentle day today; the morning is spent exploring Mallorca's north coast, where the mountains sweep down to the sea. Every so often there is a slight bay, where a town can grow. Estellencs is one, as is Banyalbulfar, the lunch stop. The morning's path parallels the tarmac road, and sometimes goes on to it owing to disputes with a landowner.

In the afternoon, the path rises and goes inland on an old Mail Path. Our guidebook waxes lyrical about the beauties of this path, but the only time we walked it we were in cloud so it was just a path. (Our most common walking month in Mallorca is March; not much rain, chance of sun high, but clouds can be low.) Route-finding to the pretty town of Esporles was easy.

DAY 4:
A brilliant day. The morning's walk to Valldemossa is pleasant, but it is the afternoon that stays in the memory. Valldemossa lies in a dip in the Tramuntana, and we walk up the next massif, along it on the 'Archduke's Path', and down to the north coast in a dramatic descent.

This path is spectacular without being actually dangerous - a mini adventure. In cloud it would lose its appeal, and cairns should be followed carefully. The top is a tangle of limestone scenery, with (amazingly) a bridleway path built in the 19th Century by Archduke Ludwig Salvator.

The descent is to Deià, another north coast town built where the northern slope relents. Both Deià and Valldemossa are well-known to tourists, and there is no shortage of facilities.

DAY 5:
A more relaxed day. The path ambles over the north-east tongue of the massif and into the Sóller basin.

It starts out with a rather lengthy stretch along the road, then branches right, through charming scenery and Fincas.

For us, the best bit is coming round to the first glimpse of Sóller, our favourite town in Mallorca, nestling under the forbidding cliffs of the Cornadors. This is a short day, so there is time to enjoy the town square and maybe take the sweet little tram down to the Port. The fares are Tourist Prices, but well worth it!

DAY 6:
From Sóller it appears that the cliffs behind are impenetrable, but this is the day we walk up them, explore the hills, lakes and valleys we find up there, and stay in a refuge on the south side of the Tramuntana with views over the rest of the island.

I had a memorable day walking it in 2003, so much so that I wrote up the experience in detail for another website. Here is the direct link. This version starts a little out of Sóller and also takes a diversion up the Cornadors, but is essentially the same walk. The photo here is taken from the Cornadors, and shows the mountains under which we walk this day.

This stage starts by walking out of Sóller. Its suburbs are not all beautiful, but the lanes are pretty, and the vertical view ahead makes you glad for some level walking. The actual ascent is stunning, there is every excuse to stop and admire the constantly-changing views as you climb. Then up to a farm, up more to a lake, and finally on and around a massif to the south, to arrive at the Tossals Verds refuge.

Not surprisingly, this is the most popular walk on Mallorca, and you will likely meet several tour groups; but as you go round away from the lake, they will thin out.

DAY 7:
Another mountain day. We retrace our steps from the refuge back on to the massif, then continue round the north side of Mount Massanella and down to the Monastery at Lluc.

In reconstructing this walk later (we didn't take notes at the time) I find I have few memories of this day, or the next. That doesn't make them bad days: the scenery around Massanella is stark and exciting, and our Guidebooks rate this part of the walk highly.

Perhaps my lack of memory is due to having mixed feelings about the Lluc Monastery that can't quite decide if it's a Monastery or a Tourist resort. Certainly it's very popular; we tend to prefer coming to pretty mountain villages that no-one else seems to know about.

DAY 8:
The final day of the walk is long but gentle, a descent from the Tramuntana into the world of people, yachts, beaches and restaurants. It's perhaps that transition, after all the excitements of the mountains, that provides the satisfaction of this final chapter.

The photo shows the town of Pollença and the Port de Pollença beyond it. To the left are some more hills that have beautiful walks in them, should you wish to stay on.

The GR221 ends at Pollença, but although this is a perfectly nice town, it doesn't quite do it for us as the end of the walk, which is why we recommend a further hour to the coast. I quite like the Port de Pollença, and it reminds us how far we've come from quiet little Sant Elm. After the rigours of the walk, the indulgence of trying to work out which restaurant will give us the best seafood supper appeals to me, especially as I am brimming with inner happiness at having walked right across this beautiful island.

© Jeremy Polmear 2011