By Martina Abba
Long are gone the days in which Palma de Mallorca was on the tourist map only for holiday resorts and partying youngsters.
The biggest island in the Balearics is now one of Europe’s best hiking destinations. And with pristine remote beaches, green woods on the edge of cliffs, and faraway lighthouses there is a bit for every taste.
During the past summer, I had the pleasure to be stuck on the island of Mallorca for over 2 months due to my job. I dedicated every day off to explore the nature-rich island and I discovered that sometimes we don’t need to go far to have incredible adventures.
Mallorca is the biggest island of the Balearic Archipelago, off the coast of Spain. It has a pleasant climate all year round, with temperate winters and warm but windy summers.
It is an all-year-round destination, as it is easily accessible from everywhere in Europe with a short flight.
People travel here for many reasons: some come just to be in the capital, Palma de Mallorca, a culture rich town with beautiful architecture and a busy night scene.
Others come just to explore the culinary wonders around the island, as Mallorca has anything from Michelin star restaurants to family-run bars which serve cheap food and beers, constantly buzzing with locals.
Most tourists come here over the summer, in order to enjoy the long beaches around the islands and to have a nice party at night. In the past decade though, Mallorca has started to focus on an ever-growing niche of tourists: hikers.
Hiking in Mallorca
The island has an incredible variety of hikes to offer: as a matter of fact, you can go on anything from a 30-minute walk to a remote beach, to a multi-day mountain hike. A very good website to find out about itineraries is >seemallorca.com, which has a dedicated section for walking around Mallorca.
My favorite type of hikes around the island are definitely those hikes that take you to a remote beach. I like walking and knowing that I will be able to splash into the sea upon arrival, with not a single soul around.
There are over 280 beaches in Mallorca: some of them are sandy and highly frequented (often close to villages and towns), but most of them are rocky patches (sometimes covered with the omnipresent Poseidonia sea-plant) which are unknown to most people, sometimes even to locals.
There is an excellent book available (unfortunately only in Spanish, but the English print is on its way), called “Todas las playas de Mallorca” (literally: “all the beaches in Mallorca”), which divides beaches in categories such as: couples beaches, family beaches, party beaches and hikers beaches. That is how I got to discover uncrowded incredible places.
Hike to Port d’ Estaca
One example of a beach hike is the one that takes you to the seemingly abandoned “Port d’Estaca”. From Palma, follow the signs for Port de Valldemossa; before the road (Ma1131) starts to wind down with some very sharp curves, there is a private road on the right. Park your car as good as you can and follow on foot.
The 3km gravel path will take you past Micheal Douglas’ villa, some donkeys and incredible views of the cliffs. Keep on the main path and you can’t go wrong. Once you get to Port d’Estaca, you can swim in the natural pool where the small fishing boats are moored: bring your mask and snorkel, as it is like swimming in an aquarium.
If you want to get away from Palma and surround yourself with nature, you can go for a day hike in one of the protected areas and sleep in the public refuges of the Mallorca community.
The refuges are hostel like structures which offer a communal kitchen and a bed in a dormitory (sometimes private rooms are available); they need to be booked in advance on the Consell de Mallorca web page, which unfortunately it is only in Catalan, but the booking process is quite intuitive.
Some of them offer cheap meals too, but others are “unmanned” and you need to have your own food to cook; bedding is not included.
Overnight at Cap Farrutx
If you want a good balance of beach, hike, and woods, then the hike to Cap Farrutx is the perfect mix. Follow the sign for the famous but not crowded Cala Torta; the road to get down is very bad, and it is probably best to use a 4×4 car (I would suggest leaving your rental car at the end of the tarred road, as it will get damaged).
From Cala Torta, start to follow the coastline keeping the sea on your right.
There are small milestones all the way which will guide you to the refuge. You will go past some beautiful “calas”, most of which are always deserted.
You can choose to follow the coastline and descend on to the cliffs or you can choose to stay in the woods on top of them, and only descend when you see the refuge.
The distance is roughly the same, around 6kms. A great spot to have your packed lunch is the Torre d’Aubarca, where you can enjoy incredible views.
The refuge (Refugi d’es Arenalet d’Aubarca,) was unmanned when my partner and I stayed there, and we cooked our dinner with fellow travelers and enjoyed a beautiful starry night.
Early the next morning we made our way up on to the Cap Farrutx. You can reach this refuge from inland too, through the “Parc Natural de la peninsula del Levant”, one of the many protected parks in Mallorca.
If you are a hardcore hiker, you can challenge yourself with one of the multi-days hikes that Palma has to offer. If you have enough time (and energy) you can even walk all around the island.
Alternatively, you can choose to wander around one of the Natural Parks and sleep in one of the refuges and then continue the next day and explore more of the park: for example, the huge Parc de la Serra de Tramuntana is perfect to explore in a week on foot. You can try a longer itinerary to get to a nice place, setting a number of kilometers per day over 2/3 days: the perfect example for such a hike is the Cap de Formentor.
Hike to Cap de Formentor
You don’t have to walk if you want to see the beautiful Cap de Formentor: as a matter of fact, there is a relatively trafficked road which can take you all the way to the lighthouse.
However, hiking on this cape will turn a quite touristy experience into an adventure. You can leave your car all the way back in Pollenca is you are in for a long hike or choose one of the parking spots alongside the main road.
A compulsory stop is the tourist office in Pollenca, which will provide you with the map of all the trails around Formentor. Camping is technically not permitted, but as long as you don’t camp on the beach authorities will turn a blind eye, as many people explore the area on foot over multiple days.
Ideally, a sleeping van is what you want, as it looks “less obvious” than a tent. There are restaurants and bars along the route, but they are very expensive, so pre-packed meals are the way to go.
From Port de Pollenca to the lighthouse there are around 20km in a straight line, following the car road.
We have met people who have walked (or even ran) there and back in the same day; but if a marathon-like endeavor is not your thing, then you can walk to Cala Figuera from the Platija de Formentor (where you can park) and make it your base for the next day’s exploration. Whatever your choice is, Formentor should not be missed.
How to get around
It might sound strange, but the best way to hike around the island is in a car. A car will give you the freedom to access the most remote paths which are not served by the public transportation system. Nevertheless, Mallorca has very good public transport (you can plan your route and find info here and there are plenty of routes which you will be able to access.
If you are not bringing your own car over from the mainland with one of the daily ferries (both from France and Spain), you can rent a car for a very cheap price, even in high season. The best websites to rent your car from are >doyouspain.com and >travelsupermarket.com: they are search engines which will find the cheapest available car from companies in the area.
Always read reviews online, but in my experience car hire has been pretty straightforward around the Balearics.