Torrent de Pareis, Mallorca, Spain | Hiking the Torrent de Pareis with a Child

Our experience of hiking through the finest gorge on Mallorca.

As a blogger and travel writer I had to think long and hard about whether I should include this hike through the Torrent de Pareis, perhaps the finest walk on Mallorca, on my blog. After discussing it with Chris, I decided to write about our experiences for the main reason, that I should make people and that includes parents, aware of the dangers of this hike, especially as it features in a number of guides and on some of the maps.  Before you read further be aware that this is not a hike in the normal sense, it borders on scrambling and canyoning in parts and it would be dangerous if undertaken un-prepared. Every year, casualties and accidents happen on this decent, these are usually caused by people who over estimate their own abilities or choose to set out without planning and preparation. The hike is not a walk in the park, it is the most strenuous hike on the island! To consider attempting it you must be a fit and experienced mountain hiker, not scared of heights, be steady on your feet, flexible and able to squeeze through gaps in the rocks, and be able to climb down larger rocks and boulders.

Planning and preparation for the route is essential – NEVER venture onto this hike if it has rained in the last 10 days and only if the weather forecast shows dry conditions, with zero chance of rainfall. Rain not only makes the rocks treachery and slippery, if large amounts of rain fall, the torrent turns into a dangerous, raging mountain stream and will sweep away everything in its path including you. Recommended for a hike are the months of May to October. Having said that, in dry years we have hiked the Torrent de Pareis once in March and the second time in April and we did not encounter any water in the gorge during our hikes. You should never attempt this hike on your own, always go in a group of 2, ideally 3 or more people.

When preparing make sure you have the right provisions and equipment. It is absolutely essential to take a rope with you, ideally around 5m in length. Take a phone for emergencies but keep in mind, there is no mobile reception in the gorge! Take plenty of water, 1.5l per person, more during the hot summer months. Food and snacks are essential, plus a first aid kit and a hiking map and ideally a guide book with detailed descriptions of the route down.

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Finally, inform someone, that you are going on this hike, this can be a friend or family member or even your hotel reception, and check in with them when you have finished. Leave early in the morning to have enough time to enjoy the beauty of this incredible hike and not be in danger of missing the last bus or boat at Sa Calobra.  My advice is to plan at least 6-7 hours for the hike, plus more if you want to include the detour into the most difficult gorge on the island, Sa Fosca.  The entire way is only about 8km with 680m descent but the difficulty of the terrain will mean that progress is much slower than you expect.

Having read all that and those warnings you maybe surprised to learn that the first time we hiked the Torrent de Pareis, Jerome was just 5 years old and he walked the whole way. Bear in mind not every five year old could do that, he was already an experienced mountain hiker, and he has been on walking holidays every year since he was born. He himself wanted to hike the torrent after he had seen photos of the gorge and heard stories about it from his grandparents and friends on the island. One dry spring after a lot of talking it through with my parents and Chris, we decided that we would attempt the walk with him. A local friend had told us that he had done the walk with his sons a few times and considering how much Jerome had hiked before he should be fine.

That first time, we took a taxi from Soller to the start of the hike and came back by boat. On our second attempt five years later we drove to the start, and used a taxi to collect the car. The main starting point for the hike is just before you reach the Restaurant Escorca from Soller, at km 25.5. There you will find an information board, which details and warns about the difficult parts of the hike. To the left is the entrance to the hiking trail that starts around some sheep fields. Shortly after you will pass through a gate and walk through a field, following a wall. On the morning of our hike the sun was only just reaching the top of the surrounding mountains and the morning air was still fresh with dew on the grass and the sheep in the field looked as sleepy as us. Both Chris and my Dad carried full backpacks with our equipment and food, we had taken a special rope that you normally would use to lift and deliver large sacks of sand, plus some normal climbing rope too. The special rope we used later to lower Jerome down some of the larger rocks and boulders. The climbing rope came in useful at a few points, even for the adults.

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About fifteen minutes into the walk, we had left the woods behind and were on the zigzag path through the fields, where we found a sunny spot to sit down. We had breakfast of freshly baked croissants from our favourite bakery and hot tea and coffee from our flasks. Down below we could see the gorge with its sharp cliffs, still pitch black, the sun had not yet reached this part of the Serra Tramuntana. Keeping an eye on the time we moved on after a brief stop, slowly downhill, through the tall clumps of pampas grass, some of the leaves were taller than Jerome and we had to keep an eye out to not miss him among the green. To the other side of the gorge we could see Puig Roig with the old police halt to stop the smugglers and the cave houses of Escorca, that were built into the mountainside eons ago.

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The stony path, winds itself downhill following dry stream towards the main riverbed that cut the gorge. When we had reached the streambed we got our first glimpse into the torrent. Still shady inside, the sun was not high enough to reach into the gorge. Reaching the riverbed we walked left along the Torrent de Lluc until we got to the junction at the Torrent des Gorg Blau, this is where the real Torrent de Pareis starts. It is also possible to take the longer route in via the riverbed of the Torrent de Lluc but that takes far longer and misses the impressive views on the descent.

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Entering the deep gorge, it is there that the real beauty of the torrent becomes visible. 300 metre tall cliffs to either side, towered above us, with just a narrow opening where we could see the cloudless, blue sky high above. Until there, the hike had been a fairly normal hike, the gravel and stones in the river bed meant that we could not walk as fast and had to watch our steps, but there had been no difficult sections yet. We all gazed at the immense beauty and Jerome was very excited that he was able to join us on the walk.

At the junction of the canyons and if you have enough time for the little detour to Sa Fosca (plan in another 1h) walk up along the torrent des Gorg Blau to your left, until you get to some slippery rocks, which will make your passage more difficult. Past these rocks you will find Sa Fosca, the most difficult gorge on the island, some parts never see the light of day and at the narrowest it is only one step across the top. We did not venture to Sa Fosca on our first hike with Jerome, however, the second time we made the detour and we all agreed it was definitely worth the extra effort and time. Brave souls do descend this canyon from the top but it is one only for the canyoning experts.

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After leaving the junction of the two torrents and heading into the entrance to the Torrent de Pareis we had to walk to the right side of the streambed. If you keep an eye out, you might be able to see a cave up in the cliffs. Some 15 minutes later you will encounter the first difficult part of the hike. A massive stone blocks the canyon base and must be negotiated. Carefully find yourself a way around two pools, they might be filled with murky water and then down the “steps” or ledges, which someone has carved into right side of the boulder. It is there that we first used our rope, we slowly lowered Jerome down the side of the boulder, when he was five years old. Last time he found his own footing and we did not need the help of the rope, we just gave him some advice on where to put his feet.

The hike goes on winding along the riverbed, make sure to stay on the right path, this might be indicated by where people have trodden before or by coloured markers and stone cairns. The next difficult places are some narrow sections where you will have to lower yourself with the help of the ropes that have been fixed to the rocks, we found having some extra rope here useful. A little while later a pool follows, which needs to be passed on the right. Jerome was always eager to be the first one for the next challenge ahead, however, usually it would be my Dad or I, who would test the waters and give Jerome some help from down below in case he needed it. My Mum would go next and Chris would follow last to make sure everyone was OK.

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At some points we could see where the water level would be when the gorge is filled with water, in parts green moss had grown on the smooth rocks along the riverbed. It is a sobering thought to realise that after a storm that water will rush through the canyon as much as 6 metres or more deep. About half way into the hike we found a flat rock where we could all sit down and enjoyed our packed lunch, being sure to keep some food and water for later.

At some point we had to leave the riverbed on the left side and shortly afterwards we passed another cave. There were still a few more tricky passages to come though. We had to squeeze ourselves through a narrow gap and then our last ordeal, which used to be even more difficult, until someone made an opening into the rocks.  The last difficult point is called in Spanish “fat men get thin” and involves descending 2 to 3 metres down a small hole in a massive rock. I think the name says it all.

Having mastered all the treacherous sections, it is possible to enjoy the last spectacular stretch of the gorge before it ends. On the last section it is usual to find some curious ill equipped tourists coming towards you on the flat stretch from Sa Calobra, they probably read the warning sign at the entrance to the gorge and want to find out what it is like for themselves. Few get further than the last big obstacle thankfully.

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The gorge finally opens out, the large rocks turn into a field of gravel and there is a small lake that is normally filled with murky, green water to the right. The impressive view of the sea between the rocks and the beach at Sa Calobra will come into view, giving a spectacular end to the hike through the Torrent de Pareis.

We always have to accustom ourselves at this point, to the many tourists around, after barely meeting anybody for the whole day. Most tourists visit Sa Calobra to experience the hairpin road that descends from the mountain pass, to see the secluded beach, relax and go for a swim. A large number of them are not even aware of the beauty that is hidden behind the sheer rocks and cliffs further behind their backs.

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I always have mixed feelings after ending this hike, for one I am relieved we made it, unharmed and safely down the gorge, on the other hand I wish I could have savoured the beauty of it for longer. Straight after finishing the hike we always say never again but I know, possibly not next year, or the year after but for sure we will attack the hike again, the next time we have a dry spring.

With our legs weary and our feet sore we walked the last stretch through the man made tunnel to the port of Sa Calobra. On the last occasion we still had some time spare before Jerome and I would take the boat back to Soller. My parents and Chris called a taxi that would take them back up the road to the car at Escorca, but as the taxi would not take five, so it gave Jerome an excuse to enjoy the boat again. There is a bus service that goes from Sa Calobra past the restaurant but it only runs at certain times of the year and it was only scheduled to start a few weeks later. I wonder at the patience of the drivers of both buses and taxis that ply the twisty road down and up to Sa Calobra.

While waiting for our transport we went down to one of the cafes overlooking the little, stony beach in the port to have our well-deserved coffee and ice cream. There were surprisingly few tourists around, despite the Easter holidays and many of the cafes and restaurants were still closed up. Once the boat arrived we left my parents and Chris behind, they were still waiting for the taxi, while Jerome and I boarded the boat back to Soller. We both enjoyed the calm ride, past Cala Tuent and the beautiful coastline back to Port de Soller..

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There are some hikers that say it is easier to hike up the gorge than down. We have twice hiked it downhill and I can say that the view and option of a hot coffee and an ice cream is more appealing to us than climbing for 7-8 hours straight up the hill.

I will finish this post not on the joy of the adventure but with a final warning. This is not a hike for everyone, the route is tough and needs planning and preparation. There are also experienced guides that will take you through the gorge, I can recommend Tramuntana tours in Soller. It helps to have someone with you, that knows the in and outs of the Torrent de Pareis. Remember if you are having any doubts about whether you are fit and experienced enough for this hike, it might be better to say no I am not, and do not set out – better safe than sorry later. No one wants to be rescued by the mountain rescue or even worse not make it out. Having written all that, I will finish by saying that after both our hikes Jerome had a big grin on his face and we were rather proud that he achieved such an incredible adventure.

Soller, Mallorca, Spain | A Hike from Soller to the View at Mirador de Ses Barques

A hike through olive groves, past sheep and horses to the view point of Mirador de Sea Barques

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.