One day before we had walked to the pretty village of Fornalutx as a warm up for the week of walking ahead, and for our next day, we decided on the somewhat more strenuous walk to the Mirador de Ses Barques. This is a viewpoint with restaurant, high above in the hillside of Soller on the road over the mountains from Soller.
We started our ramble from the market hall, a great place to get fresh fruit, vegetables and locally caught fish and to get an impression of the local colour. Keep in mind though the market hall is only open in the mornings, until about 13:00. We picked up some fresh fruit to take with us and moving on we passed the Gran Hotel to our right. The hotel is in a building of outstanding traditional architecture, which was turned into the most luxurious hotel in town a few years ago. Unfortunately inside it lacks the same traditional style and anyone staying there might feel they are more in a business hotel rather than a stunning holiday hotel on Mallorca. Shortly after the hotel the route passes the main car park of central Soller ands turn right to cross the towns mountain stream, which can be like a torrent after heavy rain. Jerome enjoys coming there to feed the many ducks which breed along the riverbed and we have admired little chicks a few times during our visits over the years.
After having turned right and crossed the bridge the way turns immediately left along a narrow street until it reaches the local football pitch. From this point There are several hiking trails leading up to reach the Mirador de Ses Barques, giving a choice of ways up and down, any of the signposts marked Cala Tuent/Sa Costera, will all first lead to the view point Ses Barques. Our chosen route that day led us right in front of the football pitch, following the road next to another mountain stream for one block before turning left again. There the path led straight up and anyone who will have done the walk from Fornalutx to Soller I wrote about previously will recognise this as the last part of the return road. However, instead of turning onto the road that leads to Fornalutx we took the steep incline, which after passing the last few houses of the outskirts of Soller ends in a narrow hiking trail up into the fields and woods.
Having left civilisation behind we found ourselves surrounded by nature. Jerome and my father were listening out for bird songs and were soon rewarded with the hoo-hoo call of a hoopoe. Jerome had stolen my Dad’s binoculars and together they kept an eye out for the bird in the branches of the trees. To me it just sounded like a cuckoo, but then I am not even close to the bird expert my Dad is or even Jerome is. After the call had stopped for a longer period of time we were able to walk on.
A thick pine forest soon surrounded us, which provided us with shade and cooler air, the day had already turned out to be surprisingly warm for the time of year. At the end of the forest we had to cross a loop of the main mountain road that winds its way up into the high mountains of the Tramuntana range, past the two main water reservoirs until it eventually ends at the other end of the northern coast at Pollenca past the LLuc monastary. It is also the route by car to the viewpoint that was our objective that day, but walking up is far more rewarding. We carefully looked and listened for cars and motorbikes but actually had to be more aware of the cyclists that use this road as a race track on the way downhill.
On we went, climbing higher on the stony path and steps. We could see wild pink gladiolas on the paths edge, more ancient olive trees, with their twisted trunks and sheep grazing between. There were also some lovely houses or huts, built into the hills with amazing views of the landscape that surrounds them. At several points we had to climb across the stiles that make it possible to cross the fences without having to open a gate and risk the sheep escaping.
Every time we walk through the hills of Mallorca I have to admire the dry stonewalls, which have meticulously been built hundreds of years ago to make the land more accessible for humans and animals. The terracing has been built up over more than a thousand years and it is a shame to think the decline of agriculture may put these traditions at risk. These walls can sometimes collapse after long and heavy rains and then need to be repaired by a skilled worker. This year there seemed to be rather a lot of walls that had fallen down as Mallorca and especially the area around Soller had some of the highest rainfalls over the winter ever.
It was getting hotter and our legs started to ache from the long hill climb. We knew it was not going to be much longer before we would reach the highest point of the hike, and soon enough, we could see the crash barriers of the next loop of the road and we had arrived at Mirador de Ses Barques. Due to the Easter break the car park was almost full, but we did not have trouble to get a free table at the restaurant. Normally we would sit on the terrace to enjoy the incredible view over the valley, all the way to the Port of Soller, its bay and the dark blue sea in the distance, but the wind was blowing rather strong up from the coast making it preferable instead to take a more protected table by the stairs with views to the mountains.
We ordered some coffee, orange juice and pa ambo li. Pa amb oli is a local speciality, usually two slices of bread, with a few drops of olive oil, tomatoes rubbed over it and topped with cheese or Spanish ham making a basic but delicious snack. Jerome went off to look over the viewpoint on his own and returned excited to tell us that there were lots of cats everywhere. He asked us to come and see them but we all wanted to stay and enjoy our drinks. The cat whisperer in him is clearly enchanting.
Refuelled, we got back onto our feet and while we could have walked back the way we came we took the dirt track opposite the café to commence our return hike. The sun had completely disappeared behind thick clouds during our break and we actually had to put our jumpers on as the temperature had suddenly dropped considerably, showing how variable weather can be on mountains. After walking for about ten minutes we reached the entrance to a narrow path with the signpost for Port Soller to our left. Turning onto this path we immediately lost on height, walking down stone steps.
The white blossoms of the asphodel were all around us and among the olive trees. They seem to like the mountainous and rocky soil of the valley and had turned the stone terraces into a sea of white blossoms. Jerome and Chris walked ahead, while my parents and I were walking at a much slower pace and chatting, the way down being much less strenuous than the ascent. We stopped now and again to admire the ever-changing views of Port Soller and the Soller valley. At some point we got to a sign post where the trail divides into two, one side leading right to the port and the other back left towards the main Soller village. We followed the signs left towards Sa Capelleta, a path we had never taken before.
We crossed the main mountain road again and shortly afterwards we noticed a church, set back from an empty car park. To our right we could see a large cross next to a gate. My parents and I went through the gate, expecting a small cemetery but after a short walk we found a tiny chapel. Luckily the door was unlocked and we went inside to find a peculiar room. It was made to look like a limestone cave with a statue of Holy Mary as the centrepiece behind the altar. We were excited to have stumbled onto this little hidden gem that is not well know, we had been coming many years but this was the first time we had discovered it.
We rejoined the boys again and commenced our hike downhill into town. The path descends through some lovely flower filled meadows just beyond the chapel with views over the village. The way down ends on the road that we had walked back from Fornalutx the day before, near where Jerome had petted the cat, but we had never noticed the sign on previous visits – it was hidden behind a tree and not visible unless you come from Soller direction. We strolled the short section back into town, this time all the way to the main plaza, Placa de la Constitucio for our daily dose of ice cream at Can Pau, as the perfect end to our walk.
This walk is more strenuous than the one I described in my previous post, but is ideal with children that like to walk but verges on a real hike more than a stroll. The paths are a little rougher and there is a significant gain in height (around 350m) compared the other stroll I described. However, it is a rewarding challenge with the advantage of the stop at the Mirador for a view and some refreshments in the middle of the 4-5 hours it takes.
As mentioned before, I recommend investing in a map and guide to the area – especially as there are a number of routes up and down. Plus I would ensure you are prepared for mountain walking with suitable footwear, clothing and a pack with water and snacks before setting out.