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  • Writer's pictureDavide Bottoli

GR221 Maiorca - The Drystone Route

GR221, also known as the Ruta de Pedra en Sec, is a long-distance hiking trail located on the Spanish island of Mallorca. It is considered one of the most popular and challenging hiking routes on the island, attracting outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers from around the world.

The GR221 stretches for approximately 135 kilometers (84 miles) across the picturesque Serra de Tramuntana mountain range, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The trail traverses rugged terrain, rocky paths, and ancient stone-paved paths, providing hikers with stunning panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea, terraced landscapes, quaint villages, and lush forests.

I successfully completed this long-distance trail in April 2023, covering the distance from the southwest side of the island to the northeast in a span of six days. Along the route, there are huts, known as "refugis" in Catalan, that offer accommodations and meals. It is highly recommended to make advance reservations for these huts, particularly during the busy season, to ensure availability.

For this route, I utilized Komoot and Hiiker as navigation systems. It was crucial for me to download all the maps in advance, considering the possibility of poor service on the island. This turned out to be a wise decision, particularly because the trail signposting is rather inadequate. Despite being a fairly experienced hiker, I found myself missing the right turn a couple of times during the first two days.

If you're interested, you can find downloadable GPX tracks for the route at the following link:

Below you can read in more details the different steps of my journey

Day 0

I arrived in Palma in the afternoon and took advantage of the opportunity to make the most of the evening in the city. I treated myself with a visit to a local restaurant and purchased a small quantity of snacks that would come in handy on the trail in the days ahead. I highly recommend arriving in Palma the day before embarking on the hike to minimize the potential risks of flight cancellation, especially if your flight is scheduled for the same day as your hiking departure.

Day 1 (Port d'Andtrax - Ses Fontanelles)

Distance: 21.3km. Elevation Gain: 985m. Technical difficulty: 2/5. Signposting: 1.5/5.

I took the bus 101 from the central station of Palma - ticket can be purchase on board - and in 50' I was at Port d'Andtrax (pic below). From there you just have to follow the signposting and start the trail in between the main road and the sea.

After hiking for a couple of hours, covering approximately 8 kilometers, and navigating through the least signposted section of the day (take caution regarding Private Properties), you will arrive at the picturesque village of Sant Elm. This charming village offers various opportunities such as dining, grocery shopping, taking a refreshing swim in the sea, and potentially booking a hotel room to end your day earlier. I took a break for lunch and relished in Mediterranean cuisine, indulging in bocadillos (Spanish sandwiches) and pulpo (octopus).

From Sant Elm, I embarked on the hike up to La Trapa, a climb of over 400 meters in approximately 2.5 kilometers. This section provided an incredible vantage point overlooking Dragon Island (la Dragunera - pic below). Continuing on for around 9 kilometers under the scorching sun (make sure to bring water as there are no natural sources on the way), I made my way towards Les Fontanelles. It's important to note that the last 2.5 kilometers of this stretch are along the main road, so exercise caution as cars and motorbikes pass by.

I spent the night at Refugio Les Fontanelles, staying in a shared dorm room. This refuge offers an excellent option for accommodation and a warm shower, especially when booked in advance. One of the highlights was the opportunity to enjoy a delightful local dinner priced at 20 euros and a satisfying breakfast for 10 euros.

Day 2 (Ses Fontanelles - Esporles)

Distance: 27km. Elevation Gain: 1260m. Technical difficulty: 2/5. Signposting: 1.5/5.

From Refugio Les Fontanelles, the trail ascends uphill, and within the first 4 kilometers, I had already accomplished approximately 50% of the day's elevation gain. It is important to note that this particular section of the trail is inadequately signposted, so I highly recommend keeping the GPS or map readily accessible. However, despite the challenges, the breathtaking view from the summit will more than compensate for the strenuous hike. I strongly advise undertaking this ascent early in the morning as there is minimal shade available once the sun is high in the sky.

Following the uphill climb, a descent of approximately 7 kilometers awaits you, leading to the town of Estellences. This descent provides a well-deserved opportunity to rest, and I recommend indulging in a satisfying lunch. One excellent option is Restaurant Val Hermos, which offers a beautiful terrace with a sea view and provides good value for your money.

From Estellences, I set my course towards Esporles, and there are two route options available. One option is to pass through the town of Banyalbufar, which involves an additional descent followed by an ascent. Alternatively, you can choose to stay on the hillside and go directly to Esporles. Considering the significant ascent I had already encountered earlier in the day, I opted for the latter option. I continued for approximately 15 kilometers, navigating through gentle inclines and declines, until I finally arrived at Hostel Sa Fita in Esporles.

This village offers various amenities such as grocery stores, a pharmacy, and a selection of restaurants where you can savor local cuisine.

Day 3 (Esporles - Deià)

Distance: 24km. Elevation Gain: 1300m. Technical difficulty: 2/5. Signposting: 2.5/5.

The initial section of the trail involves a gradual ascent, which becomes slightly steeper around kilometer 4. At this point, it's important to take a right turn off the main road, as it is not signposted and many hikers make the mistake of continuing straight. The following 6 kilometers consist of rocky and dusty terrain within the forest until reaching the descent into Valldemossa.

Valldemossa is an incredibly charming and lively city, making it worthwhile to consider potentially spending a night there. Although I hadn't planned to stay overnight, I decided to resupply there for lunch, which I would enjoy a few hours later at the top of Es Caragoli. It's essential to be cautious with the GPS track, as there are a couple of ways to reach the summit (Komoot provides excellent coverage for it).

From the top of Es Caragoli, a steep and continuous descent awaits, leading you to the village of Deia. I recommend venturing a bit further beyond the village to reach the bay, where you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view.

Day 4 (Deià - Soller)

Distance: 10km. Elevation Gain: 360m. Technical difficulty: 1/5. Signposting: 4.5/5.

This particular day on the trail was the shortest, providing a much-needed opportunity to recuperate some energy after the previous long day and to prepare for the challenges ahead. The path follows the hillside, featuring gentle ascents and descents that can be comfortably completed within a couple of hours at a good pace.

There are a few noteworthy highlights along today's route:

  • Ristorante Son Mico, which offers a pleasant and rejuvenating break right in the heart of the trail.

  • The city of Soller (pic below), where the central square provides an ideal spot to enjoy a refreshing cold cana (local beer) on a hot day.

Day 5 (Soller - Lluc)

Distance: 31km. Elevation Gain: 1600m. Technical difficulty: 2/5. Signposting: 4/5.

The day's trail follows a relatively straightforward pattern of ascending and descending. It begins with a steep climb to a plateau, from where you'll proceed along a flat terrain for approximately 10 kilometers next to the Embassament de Cuber, an artificial lake (see picture below). Afterward, you'll face another significant ascent towards Puig de Massanella.

This particular day is quite demanding, so it's important to ensure you have an ample supply of water. It is recommended to split this day into two stages, taking advantage of Refugi Tossals Verd for dinner and accommodation. However, please note that this refuge tends to be in high demand, so it's advisable to make reservations well in advance. If it's not possible to secure a booking, an alternative solution is to bypass the route leading to this refuge and head directly towards Lluc.

From the summit of Puig de Massanella, you'll embark on a descent of approximately 600 meters over a distance of about 6 kilometers. This will be followed by a final slight uphill section leading to Refugi de Son Amer in Lluc. The refuge provides ample sleeping accommodations and offers a wonderful retreat for the night, complete with dinner and breakfast.

Day 6 (Lluc - Pollenca (or port de Pollenca: +7km on flat terrain on a paved flat road))

Distance: 19km. Elevation Gain: 220m. Technical difficulty: 1/5. Signposting: 4.5/5.

The day begins with a gentle ascent for about 3 kilometers, followed by a combination of descent and flat terrain for the remaining 8 kilometers. The initial part of the day takes you through a pleasant forested area, while the latter part becomes less interesting as it follows the side of the main road, often on a paved surface.

However, reaching Pollenca brings a sense of great satisfaction as you realize that you have successfully completed the entire GR221 trail and arrived on the other side of the island. The city welcomes you with a wide array of restaurants and tapas bars, allowing you to indulge in Spanish cuisine without the need to walk any further.

While there is an option to also reach Port de Pollenca, it would require an additional 7 kilometers of walking along the main road, which may not be very appealing, especially after spending the past few days on the marvelous trails surrounded by nature.

The adventure ends here: it's easy then to take the local Bus 301 and get back to Palma Central Station in 1h05'.

General tips:

  • The best season to undertake this trail is outside of the summer season, as the weather can become excessively hot and sun exposure can be intense.

  • It is important to bring an ample supply of water with you, as there are no natural water sources along the way, and fountains are only available in some of the villages.

  • Booking the Refugis in advance is highly recommended. While it is possible to find available spots on the same day, based on my experience, it is a risky approach.

  • Camping is technically not allowed, but there are areas where you could potentially set up your tent for the night. However, it is crucial to ensure that you leave no trace behind.

  • Both boots and trail running shoes are suitable for this trail; it ultimately depends on your personal preference.

  • The trail attracts a diverse international crowd, so don't hesitate to make friends along the way. It can make the challenging steep ascents easier when you have companions to share the journey with.

  • You don't need to carry excessive amounts of food for multiple days ahead. Almost all villages along the trail have grocery stores where you can resupply, and there are also restaurants where you can savor local dishes and enjoy a meal.

"Take the path less traveled, like the GR221. It may be challenging, but the rewards are magnificent views, newfound strength, and a journey that will leave footprints on your soul."

Hope you enjoyed the reading. For any other info, let's get in touch!


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