GR221 Wrap-up and Final Thoughts: Port de Pollença to Palma de Mallorca
Miles hiked: 1.5-ish
Total miles: 93.5-ish
Busses taken: 2
Sunburns received: 1
Heavy condensation and a few mysterious bug bites greeted me to the morning as the sky was just beginning to brighten. The moon was still reflecting light with full vigor, but it was soon overpowered as alpenglow transitioned to full-on sunlight along the spine of limestone in front of me. It had been a warm, clear night, but everything was soaked with condensation and I admonished myself for not considering this inevitability last night. Needing to get to the bus stop in town, I didn’t wait around trying to dry it out and packed it away. Sorry, quilt.
My right foot was in surprisingly bad shape. It was impossible to see, but easy to feel when I put on my shoe, some slight swelling on the outside of my arch. That’s what I get for hiking 18 miles on a small injury. I limped off in moderate pain hoping that taking it easy in Barcelona can fix the issue before I get to Tenerife.
Calm and sunny. Despite the injury, I felt good. The day was perfect and I was well aware of the perfection. I laid out my soggy articles at the bus stop and enjoyed the warm sunshine.
The entire Tramuntana scrolled through my vision as the 340 bus bombed down the highway. I couldn’t say I recognized most of it, because I never saw most of it. It would be a fine day to be out there now, and I was already thinking about how I hoped the weather would be this good next time. That’s telling, I suppose. As miserable as I had it for a few days, my journey along the spine of Mallorca was still awesome and I wish to return someday. As a destination and route to reach for, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the GR221 to anyone looking for a spring hiking objective. The greater ranges in the northern hemisphere are still getting snow, but it’s sunny, with a chance of miserable rain, in the Tramuntana mountains. If you’re eager to get the hiking season started, you can do it for days in Mallorca.
After just over an hour of motoring, the bus pulled into the underground station at Plaça de Espana in the center of Palma. I should have headed to the airport to rest my foot, but my curiosity got the better of me. Although I saw more of the city during my meander than I would have otherwise, the narrow streets, intense cathedral, and beachfront promenade have given me a taste that I would like to sample further. Another reason to return. Yep, no doubt about it. I’ll be back.
GR221: (maybe) Helpful Things to Know
• Water: Reliable water is an issue in the Tramuntana, especially in the early stages through Estellencs. The south is much drier so that there are zero natural sources and, even in towns, it is hard to find running water. Bottles are always available for purchase and this is the only way to refill at the critical Ses Fontanelles. The maximum I carried was four liters for the stretch north of Fontanelles, which would have covered me for the day, and night had I needed it. That’s really not too bad for desert hiking, though. Towns are only about eight miles apart, but nights will be dry if camping.
Further north there is abundant water in towns and ‘fonts’ begin to appear in the wild. Not all of these we’re flowing in March despite the rain, but I was using 2-3 liters per day during the latter half of my hike. Of course, the generally cold conditions were a big part of my depressed consumption, but water planning in the north should be easy no matter the weather.
Treatment? The locals in the south warned me against drinking the tap water. I did anyway without issue. I never filtered the water coming out of a spout unless it was specifically called out as non potable. I did filter pretty much everything else, but I have no idea if it was necessary. Probably not. Do they have giardia in Mallorca? There are a lot of sheep and goats hanging around. Who knows what nasty things they put in the water?
• Food: My approach was to entirely self-cater this trip, which I was able to do successfully. Though I started out with enough comida for about five days like a jabroni, this is not necessary. Towns are frequent along the route and most have a store to support a resupply. The exception to this is the 32 mile stretch from Sóller to Pollença, which took me three days to complete. Rumor has it that there is a small grocery store between the two in Lluc, but it closes at 12:30 and didn’t look that great through the window when I gazed in hungrily. I wouldn’t count on it. The towns that I can confirm have good grocery stores are Esporles, Sóller, and Pollença, but I would trust that all besides Lluc have enough to survive on.
Other options for filling bellies are probably more extensive, if more expensive. I passed at least one, but usually multiple refugi or restaurants every day that would have gladly taken my money in exchange for a prepared meal. However, as an aspiring vegan it didn’t even cross my mind to seek what was on offer, for if I were to check, my disappointment would have been all but guaranteed. No jamón o pescado para mí.
In summary, food is good and you should eat it. There are many ways to do this on the GR221. But beware! If you love peanut butter like I do, come prepared. I couldn’t find pb anywhere on the island, even in Palma. Good thing I packed 750g of it!
• Camping: I hear that wild camping is officially illegal in Spain. No one cares. I have never had an easier time finding good camp sites on or off of trail anywhere in the world. Back in the day, Mallorcans decided to make all slanted ground into level ground, which means that one is never far from a comfortable place to sleep. In general, I passed good camping merely ten minutes walking from town. The ‘wilderness’ is full of ancient flat things too. Once the decision to set up for the night has been made, a suitable location is usually found within 30 minutes, with obvious exceptions around the big towns of Sóller and Pollença.
There are two places I know of where it is officially legal to camp. The first is La Trapa, very nice and highly recommended camping with no facilities. Second is a private campground in Lluc that I skipped.
Other accommodation options are available for the camping averse, though I did not research these nor do I care to for the purpose of this blog. Refugi and hotels in town exist, that’s enough from me.
• Language: In all seriousness, knowing German will be more useful than knowing Spanish. Most of my interactions were with other hikers and 100% of them were German. That being said, everyone speaks English too, so stick with that.
• Cost: This trip cost me very little. I spent around €50 actually in Mallorca over 8 nights. That is, not including flights. Roughly €24 of that was spent on bus tickets between Palma and the airport (€5 each way), and between Palma and the trailheads. The rest was spent on groceries. As I said before, my dietary choices limited my temptation to splurge on a meal so all of my food came from supermarkets. I also brought a ton (too much) food with me, further reducing expenditures. I can’t comment on typical cost of accommodation, or meals out, or anything really. I know you can spend a lot more than I did. I’m not sure you could spend less.
• Getting around: The bus system was reliable, pretty cheap, and easy to navigate. They are cash only, but that’s the only downside. I found it easy to get the needed bus info at tourist info center in Palma and Port de Pollença. As I said above, I spent about €24 on bus tickets. The airport bus takes roughly 15 minutes each way. Palma to Port de d’Andratx took 1.5 hours. Port de Pollença to Plama took just over one hour.
Anything else you want to know?