Budget Backpacking Break in the Breathtaking Balearic Islands

DAY ONE – Deia to Refugi de Muleta

Guide book in hand, rucksack securely fastened and sun-cream generously applied, I jumped off the bus ready for my adventure. I had just taken the comfortable 210 from Palma’s bus station to the quaint town of Deia for the grand total of €2.85.

Keen to embark upon my trek I followed the instructions in my guide book to the trail head. After a few minutes a huge grin was plastered across my face. I had done it. The trail was in front of me. I was about to walk the GR221 otherwise known as the Drystone Route through the Serra de Tramuntana.

In my excitement I bounded down the path not paying any attention to stone markers. Before long I was wading through brambles. ‘This can’t be right,’ I thought. Then suddenly, I heard a high pitched whistle. An Austrian couple who had followed me off the bus waved me over. I scrambled back through the undergrowth and joined them on the ‘official path’. From then on I paid attention to my book, sign markers and watched out for when the path zig – zagged (which it did a fair few times).

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I strolled past orange and lemon groves which lined the path with precision. Stone walls were meticulously built across the mountains. After an uphill climb I reached the house of Son Mico. It had outstanding views and a lovely garden and cafe. While the fresh orange juice was rather deer (€2.75) the taste and setting made up for the price.

After my short break I continued walking and bumped into the Austrian couple at a junction further on. Here I decided to take the path away from the trail to a refugi house named Muleta.  After a while I could see a large brick house next to the sea.

‘Tienes una cama para me? (do you have a bed for me?)’ I tentatively inquired. I did not fancy walking any further and there was no other accommodation nearby. I hadn’t booked a place as the website confused me slightly. Luckily as it was not peak season and I was alone they had space.

The kind host showed me to the 30 bed-bunk dorm room and I rushed off to the showers. The cold water ran over my sticky skin washing off all sweat and sun-cream that had accumulated over the afternoon.

The day was pleasant and fairly gentle taking 4-5 hours covering 16 km. I passed a few people, mainly groups of walkers or couples enjoying the magical scenery. However, on the whole I had the path to myself. It was bliss. As I repetitively stepped one foot in-front of the other, my mind cleared. All I had to think about was the spectacular surroundings.

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Feeling refreshed that evening I met some fellow hikers. We sat outside under a wooden canopy chatting about our day’s hike and plans for the next few days. Our host called the next Refugi house for me to book a bed so I could have the guarantee of shelter.

For dinner we enjoyed meatballs, vegetables, potatoes, salad and bread. It was the perfect meal following an afternoon of hiking.

After filling up on dinner I sat on the wall outside the house and watched the sun sink towards the horizon. The sea looked calm, lightly crashing against the cliff edge. A breeze ran through my hair as I sat next to a friendly black and white cat. Dusty pink streaks lined the lower sky as the sun began disappearing. The first day had dawned – it was well spent in a peaceful place.

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DAY TWO- Refugi Muleta to Refugi Tossals Verds

I woke up to the rustling of rucksacks. Apparently, I am not the only early riser. Indeed far from it. My 7.00 am alarm seemed somewhat lazy to others. It is a ritual for hikers to go to bed early and set off at the crack of dawn.

I had a nice but basic breakfast of bread, cheese, meat and orange juice. For a nights stay, dinner and breakfast the Refugi house charge €30 – very reasonable. I used my own sleeping bag but if you don’t have one you can hire bedding there too.

I bidded farewell to the host and set off at 7.45 am (somewhat later than my new German friends). I headed downhill to Port de Soller a thirty minute walk from Refugi Muleta.

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From there I took a historic train built in 1907 to the town of Soller to join back onto the GR221 route. While one can walk the extra 6km it is worth saving your energy for the challenging day ahead. Plus the train ride is a lovely experience.  It takes you through green, lush mountains.

On arriving in Soller it is advisable to stock up on supplies as no shops will be seen for two days. I bought some fresh fruit from a local  store before setting off through the small town.

The steep climb became apparent very early on. I continuously zig – zagged up the mountains for what felt like an eternity. Taking a moments break to catch my breath I could see fantastic views across Soller and Port de Soller.

After a quiet some time had elapsed I glimpsed reservoir de Cuba. I had been waiting to get to the reservoir to enjoy my lunch beside it.

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I found a tree to relax under and hauled my rucksack off my sore back. The bright blue water rippled in the sunlight. Standing with my hands on my hips I looked out over the reservoir.

Before I had time to think I was flinging my sweat saturated shirt on the dusty ground. I slipped into my swimming costume and raced into the cold water. It took me a few moments to submerge fully but once I did I felt free.

(nb swimming in the reservoir is banned. I was informed later that there is a sign at the other side of the reservoir saying no swimming.)

I walked out of the water and sat in my swimsuit tucking into my cheese sandwich (that I had made at breakfast). I took a deep breath thinking the hardest part of the day was over. Little did I know what was to come.

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Passing the reservoir you have the choice. Either you can opt to walk a steep adventurous path which is slightly quicker or you can go for a longer path which is easier and has a gentler gradient. Me being me I chose the fun adventure path. This started off with more of our zig-zag steep paths. Other than the panting and pressure on the thighs the path was manageable. Then I reached a peak and a down hill stretch began.

‘Oh my god,’ a fifty-something year old English woman said with exasperation as she approached me. ‘Almost there and then its down-hill,’ I reassured her. ‘Well you have all down hill from here too,’ she advised me. ‘What a killer,’ her husband chipped in as he caught her up. I left them to finish climbing the hill as I carried on in the direction they had just come.

It is funny how people only remember the hard parts of the walk.  It certainly wasn’t all down hill from there. Parts of the route involved clambering up rocks. While other sections I carefully maneuvered myself down balancing precariously on unstable stones. At times I was worried that I had gone off route and was lost in the wilderness. Then I would walk around a bend in the mountains and see a sign reassuring me that I was indeed going in the right direction.

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At one stage I reached chains attached to the rock face. These were needed to haul myself up and along the cliff face. After considerably longer than two hours (estimated time on the path sign by the reservoir) I wondered how much longer the journey would take.

I followed sign after sign and still the house was no where in sight. Eventually I glimpsed a roof top in the near distance. Over-joyed I picked up the pace. However, on turning the corner the house disappeared completely from my vision. Was my mind playing tricks on me?

Finally, the house was in sight for real. I walked up to the door feeling utter achievement that I had made it. After showering and rejoining those I had met the previous night we tucked into a delicious dinner of meat, mushrooms and rice. We were even treated with a bottle of Mallorcan red wine.

It was safe to say after walking 20 km in 8/9 hours and eating a yummy dinner I slept like a baby.

DAY THREE – Tossals Verds to Lluc

I woke up feeling exhausted and apprehensive about another challenging day of hill climbing. Nonetheless, I set off. The day treated me with spectacular views. There was little shade all morning as I hiked up exposed mountains in the harsh sunlight. The extremity only spurred me on to reach the end destination.

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I found a perfect shady sheltered lunch spot hidden behind rocks. I tucked into yet another cheese sandwich while looking out over the mountains. Their grand dramatic green outlines complemented the bright blue cloudless sky.

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Around 14km and 6 hours later I made it to Lluc. I had no accommodation booked. While the refugi houses are fantastic I didn’t fancy another breakfast of bread or sharing dorm room. The next option was staying in an old monastery named Santuari de Lluc. Online all the rooms where booked but I thought I would give it a try. I walked into the cool reception area to inquire. They had a single room for €40. Slightly more expensive than  I was used to but my legs were heavy, feet aching and skin sticky – I took the room. It had a tiny window, basic single bed and not much floor room. What it did have was a half size bath. I  quickly ran it and leapt in letting my muscles loosen up.

I walked around the monastery, admiring the building and gardens.

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I bumped into some friends from the refugi and we enjoyed a tasty paella for dinner.

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Again I slept like a baby.

After LLuc you can opt to walk to Polenca or take the bus there. This last leg of the journey is all down hill which can be harsh on the knees and feet. I was knackered, so decided to take the bus to Polenca. To find bus routes and timetables check out the TIB website.

 

Top tips for hiking the GR221 trail:

Guide book and maps – while you don’t really need either for the second half of the GR221 route (my journey above) the beginning of the trek is trickier. Consequently, a guide book or at least map will help you keep on track. The book I used was fab – in Mallorca: GR221 – The Drystone Route (International Trekking). I highly recommend it. he way it summarises each day and lets you know where you can buy supplies on route.

Water – you can drink tap water no problem. Occasionally, on route there were drinking taps. However, these were few. I would carry 2.5 L a day and fill up in the refugi houses. It is very hot and so you will drink more than you think.

Packing – you don’t need much, keep your kit to the bare minimum. I took the following: Sleeping bag, bivy bag, change of clothes, 2.5 L water, snacks,flip flops, sun-cream, cap, mini tooth paste/brush + shower gel, water proof jacket (only time I used it was when I got off the plane in London coming home!), torch, phone (not that it worked), compass + guidebook.

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5 responses to “Budget Backpacking Break in the Breathtaking Balearic Islands

  1. Sarah, What an amazing if hard trek. Makes the Peak and Lake districts appear as a stroll in the park. Really good that you are continuing to blog your travel experiences which together with your photos I continue to really enjoy. Mandy and I are meeting your folks on the 24th June and I know Steven and maybe Alex are free so if you and Jonathan are available then that would be wonderful. Hopefully see you then. Best wishes. Mark.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It was so beautiful. I am glad you are still enjoying my blog. Thank you for your feedback. Yes – depending on times I should be free on the 24th. I would love to see you all. Take care and catch up soon. I hope you are having a lovely weekend and enjoying the sun.

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