The walker in Mallorca

The sunshine might be fading, but winter proves to be a fine time for a walk on the Mallorcan wild side. Mick Webb steps out from the town of Sóller

A walking holiday through Mallorca's varied landscape had long been on my wish list, but a walking holiday in November hadn't. The guide books were ambivalent about the chances of Balearic sunshine at this time of year. However, undeterred, my partner and I looked out our dusty walking boots, packed swimming costumes and caught the plane to Palma for a long weekend in Sóller, on the island's north-west coast. A rain-filled grey sky greeted our arrival, along with local paper headlines announcing that a cold front had lowered the temperature by 10 degrees. Maybe we should have waited till spring after all. But an hour later, as we rattled, creaked and groaned our way up into the Tramuntana Mountains on the ancient narrow-gauge railway that links Palma and Sóller, patches of blue sky hinted at brighter things to come.

After an hour of geriatric but relaxing travel there was a fine view down into a wide valley filled with red-roofed buildings and almost completely encircled by an amphitheatre of mountains. This, after a couple of twisting hairpin bends, turned out to be our destination as well as the end of the line.

As a general rule of travelling, the nearest hotel to a railway terminus is best avoided - but that's not the case in Sóller. A mere stone's throw from the classy little station is the equally neat and tidy Hotel Guía, though our journey from one to the other was delayed, very pleasantly, by an exhibition in the station foyer featuring a series of prints by Miro and some stunning ceramics by Picasso. And it was free. The town's main square, La Plaça Consitucio was equally close at hand. The open-air terraces of its cafés and restaurants were deserted and rather sad at this time of year but there were two entertaining and playfully-decorated modernista façades belonging to the Church of Sant Bartomeu and, perhaps surprisingly, the Bank of Sóller. The architect was Joan Rubio, who studied under Gaudí and was clearly an assiduous pupil.

Even on a Saturday afternoon out of season, Sóller's unsuitability for 21st-century traffic was patently obvious as queues of cars built up in its narrow twisting streets. Traffic flow is further complicated by the tracks of the ancient tram which links Sóller with Port de Sóller. As the sun went down, we took a tram ride down to the sea, passing between gardens bright with startlingly-coloured bougainvillea and then enjoyed a gentle warm-up stroll around the port, set in a shapely bay. The Maritime Museum and most of the hotels and restaurants were closed, but on the evidence of those people who were around, I would guess that the main language of Port de Sóller is not Spanish or Catalan or Mallorquín but German.

Walking in earnest began the next day, after a wake-up whistle from the eight o'clock train to Palma. We found our way through the maze of streets flanked with miniature shops to the edge of town, crossed the not-very-busy bypass and set out along the Camí de Castelló, a path that leads to the village of Deià. For a couple of hours we strolled in warm, sunny weather along a well-marked track past olive groves, orange and lemon trees and smallholdings whose vegetable gardens were decorated with red peppers. We avoided the temptation of orange juice and cake at a country house called Can Prohom but unwisely decided to sample the ripe black olives, whose flavour, before curing, is bitter and quite disgusting.

The path meanders down to the coast. At the bottom of a narrow ravine is the Cala de Deià, a rocky inlet with a tiny beach. A scattering of young Mallorcans were sitting on the pebbles, texting away, while a group of elderly Germans were swimming in the lively waves. We would, of course, have joined them but lunch was calling so we climbed back up to picturesque Deià, clinging to the crags at the top of the ravine. This was the home of the writer Robert Graves, who was followed here by a host of artists, literati and glitterati. If Michael Douglas was lurking in one of the green-shuttered houses we failed to spot him - he owns property on the island. At the top of the village with its twee eateries we had an oil-free Spanish omelette and a glass of robust, local wine before retracing our steps back to Sóller. The rapidly advancing evening was filled with the scent of orange blossom and the huge wall of rock beyond the town was painted in glorious shades of orange by the setting sun.

The Deià walk was the hors d'oeuvre for Monday's main course: an 18km trek through the coastal mountains on the east side of town. After an undemanding beginning along the floor of the valley, the path turned abruptly upwards and kept on climbing through terraces of ancient, gnarled olive trees where equally gnarled and ancient farmers were employing low-tech methods to harvest the crop - shaking the branches. Birds and birdsong were everywhere and as we reached the pass at the top of that first breathtaking climb, two huge black vultures sailed overhead. Then it was downhill on a well-crafted path formed from large, rounded boulders towards a distant patch of iridescent dark green at the bottom of an almost uninhabited valley, totally enclosed by mountains.

The green patch resolved itself a grove of orange trees and the adjacent farmhouse provided the freshest orange-juice you've ever tasted, straight from the tree. I became the interpreter in a rather surreal discussion between the farmer and a group of German hikers. The latter were trying to locate a path back to Port de Sóller and refused to believe the farmer's assertions that the path no longer existed - "Look, here it is marked on our map and the map is not old, it is this year's."

We had no such problems with our route and, after another stiff climb, were rewarded with an uplifting view across the Mediterranean.

The next stretch of the path must be a contender for Europe's best cliff walk. Staying about 100m above the clearest aquamarine sea, it takes you round a sequence of headlands with views down to rocky bays and inlets virtually unreachable from the land. The breeze was gentle, the sun's rays were warming - not scorching - and the birdsong continued. But even in paradise there are serpents and our particular problem was that this was not a circular walk, so we had to get back - somehow.

In the summer and early autumn this is not a problem, as there is a regular boat service from our destination, Sa Calobra, back to Port de Sóller. But not in November. With this in mind I'd taken the phone numbers of some local taxis and charged my mobile phone but had not taken into account a complete lack of network coverage.

I kept my concerns to myself until at about four o'clock we reached the little beach at Cala Tuent and driven by a mixture of pride, aching knees and blistered feet, took the plunge into what turned out to be surprisingly warm water.

On the beach behind us the last two of that day's few visitors had untwined themselves from a lengthy embrace and were walking to their car. And with them, I realised, was going our only chance of getting out of here. We leapt up and were dressed and holding out our thumbs before they'd driven out of the car-park. A charming couple of young doctors - he was German, she was Spanish with a shared language of English - they took us back to Sóller. Although we didn't quite make it to Sa Calobra, we agreed that we would both be delighted to have another go next November.



The writer travelled to Mallorca with easyJet (0905 821 9005;, which flies to Palma from Belfast, Bristol, Liverpool, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and Newcastle. Palma is also served by MyTravel Flights (0870 241 5333;, bmibaby (0870 264 2229;, BMI (0870 6070 555; and Air Berlin (0870 738 8880;


Hotel El Guia, Carrer Castanyer 2, Sóller, Mallorca (00 34 971 630 227; Double rooms start at €80 (£57), including breakfast. The hotel is now closed and will reopen in March.

Gran Hotel Sóller, Carrer Romaguera 18, Sóller, Mallorca (00 34 971 638 686; Double rooms start at €257 (£184), including breakfast.


Mallorca tourist information (00 34 971 712 216;

Spanish Tourist Office (08459 400 180;

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot