Fresh orange juice, gnarled olive trees and a cloudless sky. Can I tempt you to walk the GR221?
The GR221, also known as the Dry Stone route, is an 87 mile trail that runs across the Serra de Tramuntana from Port d’Andratx to Pollença in Majorca. Although the GR221 is a relatively new route it often follows old cobbled paths between the olive terraces, hence its name.
Rather than walk the path in its entirety we based ourselves in Soller and spent three days combining parts of the trail with other local walks. We used a combination of the Sunflower Mallorca guide and a locally bought Soller 1:15000 hiking map and guide to plan our walks.
1. Deia to Soller (Sunflower guide – walk 13, 6.2 miles)
Our first walk on the GR221 was a great introduction to the trail. It offered a variety of scenery; sea views, shaded woodland and olive groves. And cake.
From Soller we took the bus to Deia, a 25 minute ride up and over the windy hillside for the grand sum of 1.55 euros each. Some walkers choose to walk from Soller to Deia but there’s a risk the bus will be full on the return journey.
Leaving Deia we walked downhill towards the coast, diverting onto the GR221 before we reached the beach. If you’re following this walk I do recommend a detour down to the cove, Cala de Deia. We originally missed this out so returned a few days later to visit. There’s a couple of restaurants on the beach, one of which starred in The Night Manager back in 2016.
Back on the GR221 the path is straightforward and relatively easy going but you do need to keep your eyes on the ground as there are stones aplenty to trip you up.
Much of the early walk is in the shade, passing under holm oaks and beside huge boulders. We quickly became acquainted with the Spanish love of wire fencing and keep out signs.
About an hour after leaving Deia we reached my highlight of the walk, Son Mico Finca. Yes, a cake stop! We sat on the outside terrace and between us sampled chocolate and pear tart, lemon meringue pie and orange tart. All were amazing, but the coffee less so (stick to the orange juice). Be aware the toilet doesn’t have a sink so bring hand sanitiser.
After leaving Son Mico we walked down the cobbled path, eventually passing a 13th century chapel. According to the guidebook this is in ruins but it looked newly restored to me. Either that or we found the wrong chapel.
This walk is justifiably popular. This brings with it the very British problem of how to address walkers coming in the other direction. We stuck to Hola but after you realise most of the hikers are German it’s tempting to use Hallo. Actually, we always knew when Spanish hikers were approaching, they were the ones dressed in down jackets, hats and thick trousers!
Leaving the GR221 we took the path towards Soller, finally emerging on the town’s ring road. Despite the earlier cake there was still space for an ice cream so we headed into town to sample the locally made orange and lemon delicacies.
2. Es Barranc circuit (Sunflower guide – walk 17, 4 miles)
This was the shortest walk we followed in our Sunflower guide but it was quite tough going due to the combination of afternoon heat and a strenuous ascent. That said, the spectacular views made up for the extra effort.
From Soller we walked to the village of Biniaraix where we stopped for a drink in the village square. Leaving the shade behind we followed the GR221 Cami d’es Barranc for a few minutes, stopping frequently to admire the views back over the village.
The guidebook described a turn on to the Cami Vell a Cuber opposite a carob tree. This helpfully answered one of my son’s questions, namely what are the things on the floor that look like black banana skins? Answer, carob pods. Native to the Mediterranean the pods can be used as a substitute for chocolate; the pulp from the pods is ground to make locust bean gum.
Our path took us high above the ravine, zigzagging up through the olive trees and stone terraces. Another mystery required an answer. Why does every olive tree have a bottle hanging from it? Fortunely you can still get 4G in the mountains. Answer, they’re a deterrent for the olive fruit fly.
Our walking map offered a short diversion to Cova de ses Alfabies. Leaving the cobbled stone path we followed blue dots painted on stone to a large overhanging cliff where water drips from the ceiling into clay pots. These have somehow petrified into the rock; I’ve no idea how old they are but in my imagination they are of Roman origin!
Back on the olive terrace a new game was invented en route; guess the famous person. Potentially a minefield when your teens think famous people are social media and YouTube stars. Oh the generation gap.
After trekking uphill in the afternoon sun we finally crossed a pass and began to descend into some welcome shade, soon reaching a small waterfall. Time for a paddle and photo stop.
Heading downhill we rejoined the GR221 Cami d’es Barranc for the descent to Biniaraix. The path runs down the ravine beside a stream which was dry during our visit but must be spectacular after heavy rain.
Back in Biniaraix we stopped for another much needed drink. We’d drank all of our water by this time; this is definitely a consideration if you’re walking in the warmer months.
The road back into Soller took us past orange and lemon trees, flowering wisteria and the occasional cactus. Idyllic, although the lack of footpaths means you need to keep your wits about you!
3. Walk around Cuber reservoir to L’Ofre (Sunflower guide – walk 20, 7.4 miles)
This circular walk started from the car park at Cuber reservoir. We drove but it’s also possible to take the once daily bus (April to October) or a taxi. This is the easiest option if you want to walk the classic route down to Biniaraix.
From the car park there’s a great view of Puig Major, the highest mountain on Majorca. It’s off limit to walkers as it’s a military base, with a large bulbous radar tower on top. I can easily imagine it as a villain’s lair in a James Bond film!
On this walk the GR221, took us along the northern edge of the Cuber reservoir. The reservoir provides water to Palma so there are strict rules; no swimming, fishing or boating. The waters were crystal clear, albeit with fully grown trees emerging from it. I can only assume the water levels were higher than usual due to the winter rains.
As we walked a couple of red kites flew above us. Impressive, but as we live in Oxfordshire we’re used to seeing these birds. Instead we were on the lookout for a much larger bird, the black vulture.
Leaving the far end of the reservoir we walked up to the Coll de L’Ofre. From here’s the GR221 descends to the Barranco de Biniaraix. However we were off to climb L’Ofre, a 3579ft peak.
If you ask a child (or indeed me) to draw a mountain they’ll probably come up with something that resembles L’Ofre. Seen from Soller it’s easily identified as it’s an almost perfect cone shape.
After traversing around L’Ofre we started our ascent. There is a path, of sorts, up through the rosemary bushes marked by small cairns and blue dots. There are a couple of hands on rock sections. And, for me, bum on rock going down.
By now we’d seen a couple of black vultures soaring high above nearby mountains. Halfway up L’Ofre they chose to glide directly over us, what an amazing experience. These vultures are the largest raptors in Europe and were bought back from the brink of extinction in the 1980s.
It’s difficult to decide whether the views from the summit or the vultures were the highlight of this walk. Up top Cuber reservoir sparkled in the distance and all of the surrounding peaks were cloud free.
We ate our picnic after descending to the main path. My son was mesmerised throughout by a large scarab beetle rolling sheep dung. Even more so when he managed to video it falling off the edge of a rock still holding on to the dung. Hilarious if you’re a 13 year old boy.
We returned to our car via the opposite side of the reservoir, accompanied by the sound of sheep bells. Photographs are great but it’s the tinkle of sheep bells and the smell of citrus groves that will forever remind me of our Majorcan holiday.
- We found Soller an excellent base; plenty of tourist facilities but a working town too. We stayed in a centrally located Airbnb flat overlooking a small orange grove. The citrus aroma from our balcony was divine!
- Spring and autumn are the best times for a walking holiday. Temperatures in April ranged from 16-22C although nights were chilly.
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