When most people think of Mallorca, the largest island of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, they probably think more of partying than of hill walking and trekking on secluded paths through romantic mountain villages. However, for some years now, the local government has been trying to make this charming island not only a destination for hikers, but also establish a long-distance hiking trail. The GR 221 – also known as “Ruta de pedra en sec” meaning “Route of the Dry Stone Walls” gains its name from the natural stone walls along the trail, which are also used for the cultivation of olives, wine and oranges on the Balearic island.
The GR 221 mostly follows historic mountain trails, old coal miners’ paths and traditionally paved hiking trails through the Tramuntana mountain range. It stretches from Port d’Andratx in the southwest to Pollenca in the northwest. The entire long-distance hillwalking trail has a length of 130 km. Regular accommodation along the way makes it easy to divide the hike into longer or shorter daily stages. Unlike in many other places in Europe, hiking in Mallorca can be combined with swimming in secluded bays in the evening, far away from package tourism.
Signposting on the GR 221
The southern part of the GR 221 from Port d’Andratx to Valldemossa is in part still unsigned. Several mountain huts and also the historic Trappist monastery La Trapa are currently being rebuilt. They should be ready as accommodation for hikers in the near future.
Almost 80 % of the Tramuntana mountains are privately owned, and some land owners are critical of hiking tourism on Mallorca. The route has had to be changed several times already because private landowners have blocked the path. In addition, official waymarking is not possible on private property. At these points, private organisations have made unofficial path markings with cairns, red arrows and red dots. They show long-distance hikers the right way at crucial points.
From Deia, however, the GR 221 is officially signposted all the way to Pollenca. From this point onwards, there is also inexpensive and very comfortable accommodation specifically for hikers on the GR 221 (refugi), which can be booked through the island’s government.
As very few holidaymakers on Mallorca go hiking in the Tramuntana mountains, you encounter surprisingly few people compared to Alpine tours and can enjoy the unique panorama in complete peace. The trail usually ends each stage in one of the picturesque mountain villages on the west coast. Long-distance hikers have a choice here between simpler accommodation (from Deia in the refugi) or more luxurious hotels. Restaurants and small village shops or supermarkets have everything you need. The bathing bays in each stage town can usually be reached easily on foot in 20 to 30 minutes. The well-developed bus network on Mallorca also makes it easy to get to and from the various towns along the GR 221.
The official “huts”, called “refugi” in Spanish, are run by the Mallorca island government. You have to book them in advance online. Unfortunately, it is not yet possible to book spontaneously, so you need a strict schedule when hiking the GR 221. There are refugi in Deià, Port de Soller, near the Cuber reservoir, at the Lluc monastery and in Pollenca at the end of the GR 221.
There are other self-catering refuges, accessible only with a key, which can also be booked via the island’s government website. All the refuges are housed in historic buildings, and so hikers can spend the night in an old oil mill in Deià, among other places. There is one right next to the lighthouse high above the sea in Port de Soller, and the Tossals Verds refugi is in a romantic mountain cottage.
In terms of equipment, the huts are very comfortable and not comparable to a hut in the Alps, they are more like an upscale youth hostel. They have hot water, electricity, power sockets and comfortable beds. Most hut keepers also sell drinks and small snacks. They also offer dinner and breakfast.
Best season and weather for GR 221
The Balearic Islands, of which Majorca is a part, have a comparatively mild climate for most of the year, with ideal weather for hillwalking. However, the best and most beautiful seasons for hiking are spring (mid-March to June) and autumn (mid-September to mid-November). In summer it is often very hot. The paths provide little to no shade, and some of the natural drinking water sources along the way run out of water. In winter, it can be stormy; as well as fog and rain, there may also be snowfall, even on this Mediterranean island.
What do I need to pack for the GR 221?
As Mallorca has a relatively good infrastructure with numerous accommodation options and small shops in almost every mountain village, you should definitely pack light. Food can usually be purchased conveniently each day before or after the respective stage. It is important to carry at least 2 litres of drinking water per person with you from the start of the day, as there are few if any natural water sources along the way. Well broken-in walking shoes are ideal for the rocky and karst-like terrain. Walking poles can make the ascents and descents easier and protect the knees. A comfortable rucksack also makes the trip more comfortable and, if you pack light, there is still enough room for swimwear.
Stages and hotspots
Stage 1: Port d’Andratx to Sant Elm
Length: 8 kilometres, 350 metres altitude gain
We start in the harbour in the coastal town of Port d’Andratx. The GR 221, which is still unsigned at this point, winds past magnificent villas. You quickly gain height until you reach the Vermell Pass. At this point, you can enjoy magnificent views of “Dragon Island” (La Dragonera) and the first stage destination, the picturesque fishing village of Sant Elm on the west coast of Mallorca. There are deep blue bays in Sant Elm that are perfect for swimming. After the first, rather short day of hiking, there is plenty of time for this. Here, life goes at its own pace and people meet at the bay to eat freshly caught fish in one of the small restaurants.
Stage 2: Sant Elm to Estellencs
Length: 21 kilometres, 1,200 metres altitude gain
Walk through the dense pine forest, until you reach the old Trappist monastery of La Trapa. The wonderful views that you can enjoy here are perfect for a relaxing break. From here, the path follows a coastal path with further magnificent panoramic views of the cliffs and back to Dragon Island. The small detour to the Mirador d’en Josep Sastre (“Devil’s Pulpit”) viewpoint on the cliff is an absolute must. After a short stretch along the road, the GR 221 climbs over hidden mountain paths to the rugged high plateau of the table mountain S’Esclop. Other secluded and varied mountain trails lead down to the picturesque mountain village of Estellencs. If you want to split the stage, you can spend the night at the Finca Ses Fontanelles. This is in a beautiful location at the foot of the table mountain. In Estellencs’ lovingly furnished village shop, the locals are also happy to sell a few juicy oranges or their local wine to the hikers.
Stage 3: Estellencs to Esporles
Length: 16 kilometres, 800 metres altitude gain
This medium-difficulty stage first passes through the vineyards and olive groves of Estellencs and then climbs slowly. The path crosses the extensive grounds of the Finca Planicia, which is owned by the Mallorca government. Several historic coal miner’s sites and old coal miner’s settlements offer an excellent opportunity to explore and take a rest. Following hidden paths, the trail soon reaches a historic postal route that takes us directly to the sleepy little town of Esporles. Here, a short stroll is a great way to discover Esporles. Coffee tastes particularly good in the cosy bars along the street. It’s easy to strike up a conversation with the locals. They are delighted that hikers are finally considering Mallorca as a destination and will tell you about “their” mountains on the Balearic island.
Stage 4: Esporles to Deia/Refugi Can Boi
Length: 22 kilometres, 1,200 metres altitude gain
The path leads through the extensive forests of the Son Cabaspre finca on lonely mountain paths past more coal-mining sites across the Son Pacs plateau and the Sa Comuna mountain viewpoint directly to Valldemossa. Rocky paths quickly take you higher into the Son Moragues Nature Park on the barren and treeless high plateau of the Teix massif. If you’re lucky, you can see the bearded vultures that live on Mallorca. The descent follows the historic mountain path of the king, the “Cami de S’Arxiduc”, with spectacular views of the artists’ village of Deià. The small, romantic mountain village is perfect for exploring in the evening, with numerous handicraft shops offering a wide selection of local souvenirs. Afterwards, tired feet will be delighted to take a refreshing dip in the Mediterranean Sea in the beautifully located bathing bay of Deià. You can end the evening here with a glass of wine as the sun sets over the Mediterranean.
Stage 5: Deià to Port de Soller/Refugi Muleta
Length: 10 kilometres, 400 metres altitude gain
This stage of the GR 221 is somewhat easier again and takes you along a historic and restored post path, always above the coast. The path treats you to great panoramic views as it continues to Finca Son Mico. From there, the path leads through the stony landscape of the Finca Muleta Gran to the stage destination, the Refugi Muleta. The spectacular location of the Refugi right next to the old lighthouse of Port de Soller offers unique sunsets above the bay. An alternative is the fantastic pirate’s path “Cami de Alconasser”. The old smuggler’s path starts in Deià and follows the cliffs, with secluded bays along the way perfect for a swim and a rest. There is also plenty of time for a ride on the historic tram along the beach. Time flies by on the fine sandy beach of Cala Sóller where there are many restaurants and tapas bars offering the finest Mallorcan cuisine.
Stage 6: Port de Sóller/Refugi Muleta to Refugi Tossals Verds
Length: 24 kilometres, 1,200 metres altitude gain
This long and difficult stage heads into the high mountains of the Tramuntana. From Port de Sóller, the trail leads along hidden paths into the valley of Sóller. The path winds along countless orange trees to the sleepy village of Biniaraix. From there, a 600-year-old pilgrims’ path runs through the impressive gorge of the Barranc de Biniaraix and then up countless steps to the Coll de L’Ofre above the Cuber reservoir. At 900 metres above sea level, you can admire the art of building dry-stone walls for olive cultivation. The GR 221 follows the lake and, on mountain paths at the foot of the Tossal massif, soon reaches the Refugi Tossals Verds, set idyllically in the mountains. Sitting on the terrace of the beautiful finca under the vines, dinner in the Mallorcan mountain hut tastes twice as good. The very tame donkeys right behind the finca are always happy to be petted in the evening.
Stage 7: Refugi Tossals Verds – Lluc/Refugi Son Amer
Length: 15 kilometres, 900 metres altitude gain
From the Refugi Tossals Verds, a mountain path leads beneath the slopes of Massanella, up to the Coll des Prat. From here, it is possible to climb the highest summit on Mallorca. However, the ascent to the Puig des Massanella (1367 m altitude) involves an unsecured climbing passage and is only recommended for experienced mountaineers. From the col below Massanella, the normal route follows the “Cami Vell de Ses Voltes d Galileu” high trail and leads past some old snow houses and coal miners’ sites, down to the monastery in Lluc.
A visit to this most important pilgrimage site on Mallorca is highly recommended. The nearby gorge of Torrent de Pareis leads through one of the most impressive canyons in Europe directly to the bathing bay of Sa Calobra. From the beach at the end of the gorge, you can easily return to Port de Sóller or other towns on the island by bus or boat. The length and difficulty of the tour (you have to climb or jump down 1-2 metre high rocks several times) means that we recommend taking a break here to complete this full-day tour, if necessary. From the terrace of the Refugi Son Amer, however, you can enjoy a magnificent view of the Lluc monastery and end the day with a tasty, traditional Mallorcan dinner.
Stage 8: Refugi Son Amer/Lluc – Refugi Ponte Roma/Pollenca
Length: 17 kilometres, 600 metres altitude gain
The last stage of the GR 221 leads through dense forest over two small passes at the foot of Mount Tomir. If you are feeling adventurous, you can climb Puig Tomir from here (highly recommended) and then descend directly to Pollenca. The ascent has some chains for safety and requires surefootedness and a head for heights, but offers unique views of the entire island. The normal route continues along the historic pilgrims’ path “Camì Vell de Pollenca” leading directly to the last refugi in Pollenca, the Refugi Ponte Roma. The historic old town is definitely worth exploring. In Pollenca’s large market square right next to the church, the local homemade orange ice cream and tapas are particularly tasty.
The highlights – hiking sections of the GR 221
If you don’t have much time and would like to explore just a section of the GR 221 in the Tramuntana mountains, we recommend joining the officially marked part of the GR 221 in Deià (4 day stages) or Port de Sóller (3 day stages). These routes can also be combined with an ascent of the Torrent de Pareis near the monastery in Lluc.
Another particularly impressive option is a day trip along the first section of stage 2: from Sant Elm you pass the monastery of La Trapa to the Mirador de d’en Josep Sastre lookout point. Here, 600 m above the coast, hikers can enjoy breathtaking views of the cliffs and the island of La Dragonera.