Hiking in Spain
Mallorca Beyond the Beaches
If you want to explore the “real Mallorca”, the Mallorca beyond the beaches teeming with tourists in holiday resorts, your best bet for a base may be a hotel right on the seaside. This may sound contradictory and counter-intuitive, so let me explain.
Firstly, you must take into account that the interior of the island – where you find the mountains and most of the interesting hiking trails – is very hard to reach indeed. There are only a couple of railway connections on Mallorca, and public road transport is largely concentrated on the coastline – for the simple reason that this is where 90% of the local population live. You would need to hire either a car or a tour operator to take you away from the coastline, and car rental companies, as well as tour operators, can only be found in one of the coastal towns.
Secondly, even if you do not want to go that far and would like to concentrate your explorations on the “small interior” of the island – the countryside just in the back of the resorts, about 3 to 5 km away from the coast – you may find that the conditions on the ground will conspire to make things inconvenient and very hard for you.
The biggest problem is that practically all the land you see is used either for agriculture or some part of the tourism trade, usually the latter, and in the absence of proper trails, every exploration of this hinterland at the very least starts with an unpleasant walk on the hard shoulder of a busy country road.
In one word: in order to have a meaningful hiking experience on Mallorca, you need professional help.
Such help can come in many ways, but for us, it was mainly provided by the tour operator No Frills Excursions, one of the largest providers of such services in the northern part of Mallorca (and definitely the best value you can get.)
They offer everything, from one-day tours around the island and night trips to the party town of Magalluf (outward journey at 10 pm, return at 5 in the morning) to guided hiking tours of the mountains.
For other destinations, they also offer to drop you somewhere at a specific hiking trail and pick you up again after a certain number of hours, so there is also something in it for people who like to set off on their own.
Just as important is the right choice of hotel as the base for your explorations. We were lucky enough to spend our time on the island on the invitation of the Hotel Vanity Golf in Port d’Alcudia where hiking is king, in many ways.
The Vanity Golf has a long history as a hotel for sporting activities, having been established in 1932 around one of the island’s first 18-hole golf courses (hence the name): hydroplanes used to land regularly in the Bay of Alcudia, bringing in wealthy French visitors for a brief, one-day or two-day golfing stopovers on their way from Algiers to Marseille.
Today’s modern building has moved on, however, providing a mainly mature and well-heeled “empty nesters” clientele with offers of genteel pastimes such as Yoga sessions and days in the spa. A putting range, meanwhile, still pays a tribute to the hotel’s past.
But the activity on which the Vanity Golf has specialized under Manager Antonio Marti is hiking: everything from day-long excursions into Mallorca’s two mountain ranges to leisurely walks through near-by market towns.
A wide range of maps and information can be obtained from the reception, but the hotel’s “unique selling point” is that once a week, every Saturday, Senor Marti – hotel manager and at the same time an officially certified tour guide – personally leads a group of his guests to one of six selected locations. And it’s all for free (for visitors who are staying at the hotel)!
Antonio Marti is a true Mallorquin and loves to introduce his international guests to the beauties, the flora and the wildlife of his native island. A dedicated hiker for many years, he has designed all the tours himself and rotates them on a weekly basis, also taking into account the interests – and probable stamina – of each individual group.
For us, he had arranged a four-to-five-hour hike though the Parc Natural de la Peninsula de Levant, featuring a trip to the Ermita de Betlem, where – until only a few years ago – a handful of hermit monks held out against the advance of modern civilization. We are very much looking forward to that – and will tell you next time how we got on.
We are guests of Vanity Hotel Golf and No Frills Excursions, both helping us discover Mallorca beyond its beaches.