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We’ll Let You in on a Little Secret: Mallorca is For Hikers

Despite its alluring reputation, fewer travelers know about the extensive network of well-maintained walking trails that make Mallorca a superb destination for hikers.

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Mallorca’s spectacular hiking trails are something of an open secret. With crystal clear waters off Mallorca’s turquoise coast, this Spanish island has long been known as a beach destination—and the second home of famous artists such as Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, and the English novelist Robert Graves. International celebrities are drawn to the seaside paradise of Deià and the golden valley of Sóller—seeking inspiration, white-sand beaches, sophisticated cuisine, and exceptional wines.

Despite its alluring reputation, fewer travelers know about the extensive network of well-maintained walking trails that make Mallorca a superb destination for hikers. “The island is made for walking,” says Jamen Yeaton-Masi, Country Walkers VP of Operations. “Everywhere you go, you’ll find a network of trails.” Our Spain: Balearic Islands, Mallorca & Deia Guided Tour is particularly delightful in the spring and fall when the temperatures are cooler and the beach crowd has thinned out—and hikers have miles of trails, views, and exquisite restaurants largely to themselves.

Mallorcan Footpaths: Where Ancient Meets Modern

The Balearic Islands, and Mallorca in particular, have a long and colorful history. Among the extensive network of Mallorcan footpaths include those developed by Arab traders in the 9th century—some of which crisscross the mountains and coastline while others drop into hidden coves where smugglers once engaged in medieval skullduggery. The modern-day Ruta de Pedra en Sec (the Dry Stone Route—also known as the GR221) incorporates ancient, cobbled paths with more modern offshoots—all of which are actively maintained by the local government. “You can easily find the network of trails—they’re all marked really well,” says Tricia Dowhan, Country Walkers Travel Designer for Mallorca. “There’s an incredible infrastructure for outdoor adventures—and I think that helps hikers feel confident and safe on the trail. Exploring the Tramuntana’s incredible stone terraces (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) is the experience of a lifetime.”

Many of the island’s walking trails lead to the network of stone watchtowers, or torres, which line Mallorca’s azure coast. The torres were historically used to alert islanders of approaching pirates—giving them time to mount a defense. At the first sign of seafaring marauders, the torre’s sentinel lit the tower’s beacon fire—alerting the next torre to light its fire, and so on in succession down the coastline. In 1663, the small island of Sa Cabrera was seized by pirates, and Torre di Cala Pi was built to protect the cerulean bay of Llucmajor from invasion. As your local Mallorquin guides lead you in a stunning walk along the sparkling Cala Pi coastline, you can explore the Torre di Cala Pi up close—and maybe take a plunge in the diaphanous turquoise waters of the local beach.

Island Biodiversity and Exquisite Viniculture

The lush valleys of Mallorca are edged by the dramatic granite peaks of the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range to the west and the Serra de Llevant peaks in the east—resulting in rich biodiversity.  The unique valley ecosystems are perfect for cultivation of citrus fruits, olives, and wild mountain saffron. Heading towards the coast, the dry, rocky terrain is ideal for growing grapes—with hot summers, mild winters, and a unique terroir of limestone over clay. “What I love about this tour is the diversity,” says Jamen. “You might start your day with a gorgeous walk along the coast—then later on you’re walking through these little villages, and then in the afternoon, you’re walking in the mountains.” Along the way, you may find little nooks featuring artisanal island crafts—including vibrant Ikat fabrics, exquisite leather work, and locally-woven baskets.

The legendary seaside village of Banyalbufar is sometimes referred to as the “hanging gardens of Banyalbufar” after the terraced hillsides dripping with tropical blooms, vegetables, and—most notably—the iconic Malvasia grape. A venerable varietal thought to be descended from ancient Greece, Malvasia thrives in the sea-swept climate of the Balearic Islands. In the 19th century, Banyalbufar’s vines were devastated by disease—but in 1980, a strain of local Malvasia was miraculously discovered growing in a neighborhood garden. A restoration effort was launched—and local families donated terrace space to grow Malvasia grapes to support the fledgling “Malvasia de Banyalbufar” wine co-operative. Today, the co-op produces three white Malvasia vintages—each unique to the region and developed using traditional Mallorcan wine-making techniques. “I was just blown away by the quality of the wine in Mallorca,” says Jamen. “I’ve tasted wines all over the world, but Mallorcan vintages are really unique and exceptional.”

Flowers of the Sea

White wooden fishing boats dot the turquoise waters off the coast of Mallorca—and with the island’s many charming restaurants serve up the day’s fresh catch. You can choose from a wealth of options—including pristine scallops baked in the shell, fresh paella dyed black with prized squid ink, and whole sea bream, fresh from the ocean and grilled over an open flame. But the truly remarkable element of Mallorcan cooking—in addition to the fresh seafood, bright citrus, plump olives, and scarlet tomatoes—is salt.

To those of us who experience salt primarily as a tumbler of sodium chloride from the local supermarket, flor de sal is nothing short of a revelation. A naturally occurring crystal that blooms on the surface of salt marshes, flor de sal is carefully gathered by hand using traditional methods. As it travels towards the salt flats at Salinas d’Es Trenc, sea water passes through a series of canals and basins—slowly evaporating and allowing the delicate flor de sal crystals to blossom. “The flor de sal is just on the surface, and they literally rake it by hand,” says Tricia. “The salt flats are in a local nature reserve. During our visit to the salt flats, it’s amazing to see the vibrant pink flamingoes and other birds flocking to feed on insects.” The nature preserve also protects the salt flats from environmental contaminates—and produces some of the purest salt available.

The delicate flavors of Mallorcan flor de sal have caught the interest of famous chefs—including British chef Marc Fosh, head of Mallorca’s only Michelin-starred restaurant, located within our elegant Palma boutique hotel, Convent de la Missió. In collaboration with Swiss culinary innovator Katja Wöhr, the pair developed a unique infusion of flavors with flor de sal from Salinas d’Es Trenc. During your visit to the salt flats, you can sample a variety of flavors of flor de sal—perhaps including those infused with black olive, lemon, and even rose. Between the fresh seafood, juicy oranges, exceptional olive oil, flor de sal, and the culinary creativity of its chefs, Mallorca is truly a destination for foodies!

Palma: Sunny and Chic

Before starting your Spain: Balearic Islands, Mallorca & Deia Guided Tour, you simply can’t miss a two-night Pre-Tour Extension to Palma—the island’s capital. Here, the five-star Hotel de Convent de la Missió is the perfect introduction to this exclusive island vacation. Set in an historic convent, the hotel combines old-world Palma with the luxury of a five-star hotel—and Marc Fosh’s famous Michelin-starred restaurant. “Most of the island is quite rural,” says Tricia. “But Palma is a traditional European city—with pristine streets and parks, and a laid-back feel. This is where you’ll find fantastic places to shop, sightsee, and experience island nightlife.”  While in Palma, you can check out historic sites such as the Royal Palace of La Almudaina, the Catedral de Santa María de Palma de Mallorca, and museums dedicated to the island’s vibrant artistic tradition. This Palma Pre-Tour Extension is a little slice of sophistication before beginning your trek through the biodiverse landscape of Mallorca’s lush mountain valleys and spectacular seaside trails.

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