Weekend Travel: Hiking in Mallorca
Back in January we took a weekend trip to Mallorca, Spain with some friends to celebrate my husband's birthday. He planned the entire thing, from the Airbnb to the weekend's activities, which was new for us since I usually wear the travel planning hat. Josh, as a Colorado native, loves the outdoors and anything involving mountains, and so our weekend in Mallorca was centered around hiking.
Mallorca, an island off the Mediterranean coast of Spain, is a hotspot for beachgoers and sun-worshipers in the summertime. Tourists most commonly flock to the beaches of Palma de Mallorca, the beautiful capitol city. But during the offseason in late January, the more mild--but still sunny--weather is perfect for enjoying fresh picked oranges, seeing the almond trees come into bloom, and hiking around the Serra de Tramuntana.
We were working through our first winter in Belgium and having major sun withdrawals, so when we walked out of the Palma de Mallorca airport it was like entering an alien land. After picking up the rental car we made our way to downtown Palma for some sweet, sweet coffee at a sidewalk café (since, you know, that's kind of my thing--see Travel Rituals for more). We even splurged for a hot chocolate with churros. Mmm calories.
After spending the morning defrosting, we met up with our friends over the course of the afternoon and headed to our Airbnb. The evening was spent preparing for the next day's hike and hanging out--it was a pretty relaxed first day.
We woke up at the crack of dawn to head to our first hike, one that Josh picked out from a book on hiking in Mallorca. Check out that view:
Our hike started outside Pollença on the northern tip of the island. We took the Cala Bóquer trail, which goes through the Cala Bóquer valley to the (surprise!) Cala Bóquer inlet. The Pollença website describes this trail as:
" . . . a route with many interesting things: possessions, limestone ovens, unspoilt coves... But if one thing makes it particularly special it is the remains of one of the island's most important Talaiotic villages: Bocchoris (1000 B.C.). Its dwellers were the skillful slingers whose skill at launching stones made them heroes of the Carthaginian, Punic, and Roman battles."
Pretty cool, right? Or maybe just nerdy. I say both.
The trail down to the inlet was fairly easy for a casual hiker like me. There's a mild incline, but it's mostly flat until you reach the inlet. Then you have to pick your way down a few hills to get down to the water.
It took us about 45 minutes (with stops to take pictures of goats and such) to get from the parking lot to the inlet. The water was GORGEOUS and the inlet was the perfect place to stop for lunch before the real adventure began.
Josh had read in his book that one could "hike" to the top of the mountains on either side of the valley with the promise of an incredible view. So, after lunch we detoured from the return trail to embark one of the craziest hiking adventures I've ever been on.
There wasn't an official trail, so we followed little stacks of rocks that we guessed were meant to mark the way up. About halfway up I realized just how out of shape I'd gotten (I blame the Belgian chocolates. Okay, and avoiding cardio for months). The incline was very steep and at points we were closer to rock climbing than hiking.
Without realizing how intense the climb would be, we didn't bring quite enough water or snacks to keep up our electrolytes. Luckily I almost always carry granola bars and Justin's nut butter packets for emergencies, which were lifesavers (literally) since I was rather lightheaded by the time we reached the top. It was a lot harder than I wanted to admit, but when we finally got to the top, I begrudgingly conceded that it was, indeed, worth it.
Until we started the climb down. That steep incline and parts where we were rock climbing more than hiking? Oh yeah, ten times worse going down.
There was a point where I took the wrong goat trail and wound up separated from the rest of our group. Stuck on the wrong side of a rock outcrop, I couldn't see or hear anyone. The isolation was incredibly nerve-wracking--but the worst part was noticing the goat skeletons in the shrubbery below as I scaled my way back around the outcropping.
I could have cried once I finally reached the bottom. My legs felt like they were going to give out at any moment and my lungs were on fire, and I couldn't believe I had made it back down in one piece. Finally our group re-assembled and the high of surviving the climb carried us back through the remainder of the trail.
While we were on the north side of the island, we decided to drive up the coast a little further and visit the Cape Formentor lighthouse. The drive was incredible, like something out of a car magazine, and we made it just in time for sunset.
It was a very long, very full day. To top it off, that night we went to a local restaurant near our Airbnb to experience traditional Mallorcan food. Our most adventurous dish? Fried pig brains.
Our second hike of the weekend took us from the town of Alaró up to the Castell d'Alaró, an ancient castle ruin perched on a mountaintop in the Serra de Tramuntana.
It was a very long walk from the town to the actual trail up to the castle, but we passed some lovely groves of almond trees along the way.
The trail led us on another steep climb, much to my chagrin. But it was very beautiful, especially once we reached the olive trees. Overall, we climbed nearly 600 meters . . . and to be honest, I was not a happy camper, despite the incredible beauty that surrounded us.
I was exhausted, sweaty, sore, and hungry by the time we got to the top, not to mention feeling self-conscious about being the slowest of our friend group. I had hardly recovered from our adventure the day before and I wasn't thrilled about having to drag myself up yet another unexpectedly steep climb.
But my mood lightened once we ate our picnic lunch and walked around the Castell, part of which had been converted into a guest house and café for visitors. And at the very least, the way down was not riddled with quite as much danger as our previous hike, and I brightened at being able to keep up with the rest of my friends comfortably as we took the long walk back to Alaró.
That evening we went out to another restaurant, this time to a more modern fusion restaurant called S`Angel, which we enjoyed very much. We spent the rest of the night hanging out in front of the fireplace, eating oranges, and drinking the last of our Spanish wine before getting ready for our early morning Ryanair flight.
In the morning when we checked out, our Airbnb host very kindly brought us a bag of ensaïmada, a traditional Mallorcan pastry. As you might imagine from the super classy paper towel backdrop, I inhaled mine in the car on our way back to the airport.
The weekend went by in a whirl, but it was the perfect way to recharge our sun levels and take a break from the gloomy Belgian winter.