Mount Spalavera, Lago Maggiore, Italy | A Mountain Hike through Snow with a Spectacular Panorama over Lago Maggiore

Walking along snow covered paths to the summit of Mount Spalavera.

We had enjoyed a fun filled morning on the zip line, flying across a 340m deep valley at super fast speeds. For the remainder of the day we had planned a hike to the summit of Mount Spalavera, and the start was a short drive away from the zip line station. Luckily the zipline office had hiking maps so we could easily plan the route. We parked our car at Colle, the starting point for many hikes in the area of Verbania. Mount Spalavera is one of the higher summits that can be reached in a day, with the top reaching a height of 1534m. There was an information map and plenty of signs to the different walks adjacent to a hut, which I imagine serves as an information point to hikers and cyclists during the warmer season.

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There were a few other cars parked besides ours and we had just seen a man leave on the route up to mountain Spalavera before us. We were glad to have brought our hiking boots as the track was still covered in ten centimetre deep snow. Jerome was thrilled to be going on a proper walk in the snow, he had never been on a proper hike up a mountain with snow before, nor had Chris and I in a very long time. The snow was crunchy underfoot, in parts already wet and slushy and we could see in a few spots where the sun had already melted the white cover away. The first part led us along the trail through a birch forest, the green leaves already out, they had been surprised by the snow as much as the rest of us. The bright green of the leaves looked stunning against the white of the snow though and it was a truly unusual sight.

Stomping through the snow was much harder than we had anticipated, especially when walking uphill as well. We found it easier to walk in the footsteps from earlier walkers and followed their lead. Jerome was busy rolling snowballs and then letting them run down the hill, until they hit one of the birch trees and exploded into a puff of snow. Despite the snow on the ground, with the sun beating down on us we got hot hiking up the mountain. We had to take our jackets off and were able to walk in just our tops without being too cold. Bringing our sunglasses along proved to be useful, without them we had to squint our eyes from the brightness of the sun and the snow reflection.

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The hiking trail was snaking itself up the side of the mountain and clearly visible, even from further down, we could see the other lone hiker further on above us. The track is part of military road, which was part of a strategic defensive system built during World War One to prevent the possible invasion from Austro-German troops. It is part of the Italian-Swiss border known as the Cadorna Line, a unique example of wartime architecture, which today is used for civilian purposes only, like hiking and cycling. We had soon left the forest of birch trees behind and were able to see the valley, which Jerome and I had crossed on the zip line that morning. The higher we got the better the views were. We even started to get a glimpse of Lago Maggiore, stretching its many arms between the hills below. Just before we reached the top we could see a path going off to the left, into a forest of beech trees and some footsteps of a human person with his dog. This route had not been marked on our map but we kept it in mind as an alternative route down.

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From there on the wide track stopped and a narrow path led us along the ridge towards the mountain top. We noticed remains of trenches from WW One. We had to be careful of our steps now as the snow had accumulated in some parts and it was difficult to work out how deep the snow might be. This slowed us down but also made the last stretch of the hike more interesting for Jerome. He enjoyed jumping across the trenches and did not really care if he got stuck knee deep in the soft snow. Ahead we could see the summit cross and we were definitely up for a break when we finally reached it. Someone had put colourful bunting onto the cross and it had a sign showing the height of mount Spalavera. The vistas from the summit were incredible. 360º, with snow covered mountains, green hills and the lake visible below. The sky was very clear and we could see for a long distance. There also was a plate displaying the surrounding mountains and villages. We then sat down at the bottom of the cross and had a simple lunch of bread, cheese and tomatoes.

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We had originally planned to hike a circular route from the summit point. However due to the large amounts of snow we could not see the path, despite the signs pointing into the directions of where it should have been. We then made the group decision to head back the way we came along the ridge and follow the path we had seen on our climb up the mountain where the man and dog tracks were and a sign pointed to the same col as the other path. From there we would make a circular route back to our car.

When we reached the point where the footsteps went into the forest we started to follow them. There were also red and white stripes on the trees, which made it easier to find our route along the track. The snow was still thick between the trees and covered in the beeches’ brown pollen. Walking downhill was much faster but we kept sliding down the slippery leaves underneath the snow, every now and then. The path was winding through the forest and we had no sense of directions anymore, but it was an amazing descent with the snow, green leaves and glimpses of the mountains through the trees.

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travel with kids children mount spalavera lago maggiore hiking sunshineAfter about half an hour we arrived at a fountain and a crossroad, and back on our original route. There were the red and white signposts again, telling us to turn left along a dirt track back to Colle. We passed some teenagers on their motocross bikes, they obviously had fun riding through the snow and the icy patches on the road. Once we had left them behind us we were one again alone, with just the snow and the peaceful forest surrounding us. Jerome noticed some long icicles that had formed along the wall next to the road, the dew water dripping off their pointy ends. Jerome broke one off and tested its tip for sharpness and then carried it along, melting in his warm hands until it was almost gone.

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The forest ended and we passed the starting point of the zip line, walking back the bit of road that we had driven along in the back of the van to our flying experience earlier in the day. We passed some lonely houses on the way, most of them looked shut up until the summer season. In a few places we saw melt water running down the side of the mountain, some almost turning into mini waterfalls. The road had turned into slushy mud and we made a game of trying to avoid the puddles. We finally reached the end of the dirt track and our car.

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The hike is probably not very strenuous under normal circumstances and can easily be walked with a child that enjoys a longer hike. It is estimated to take around 2.5 hours, I would add another hour if you are hiking with smaller children. There are no major obstacles and the walls and trenches from the World War I give the hike an unusual feature, which most likely will appeal to children of all ages. The route is very well signposted and the paths are clearly visible during snow free conditions, you might even encounter some cyclists on the way. I recommend to wear proper hiking footwear and to carry a map of the local hiking routes. Take plenty of water and food with you, there are no opportunities to buy anything to eat or drink on the way. It is also advisable to wear a hat and use sun protection cream as there is no shade once you have left the forest. The views from the top are spectacular and I would recommend walking the walk on a clear sunny day for full enjoyment of the vistas. Do not set out on this walk if there is the chance of bad weather especially thunderstorms, this can be a threat to your life, there are no shelters or huts on the mountain.

Our dinner that evening was in the main square in Intra, at a wonderful little delicatessen, La Casera, that has a restaurant on the side. It has the most wonderful selection of wine, cheese and local anti-pasti, with great service and a friendly atmosphere. It gets busy so booking would be a god idea. To settle our dinner we took a stroll along the lakeside and watched the car ferries coming in and out with a Gelato for dessert which Jerome said was just reward for climbing a big mountain.

Premeno, Lago Maggiore, Italy | Our First Exhilarating Zip Line Experience

Our account of flying falcon style across a 340m deep valley.

Zip-lining had never really crossed our mind as an activity for holidays, however, when our Airbnb host Marina mentioned the idea we felt we had to find out more. She told us that some guests come specifically for the local zip-line and it is a great adventure. We were in two minds about it whether to try it, but in the end we asked her to call them up and see if they had a slot available for Jerome and I.

We were lucky and got on the first session the following day, meaning we had to get an early breakfast in order to be there on time.  We enjoyed our tea and coffee with croissants overlooking the the lawns of the garden at beautifully renovated Villa Guila where we were staying.  Thankfully there had not been any more snow overnight, which might have made our drive into the mountains more difficult and slower. Jerome was already over excited at the idea of reaching 100kmh on the line, I guess the anticipation of not knowing quite what to expect made it even worse.

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The drive to the zip line provided us with beautiful views of the mountains and valleys much of it still covered in snow. The higher we got towards the start of the zip-line, the more snow was still lying on the ground. At first the snow was only in places where the sun had not yet reached and later on even in the open fields and on side roads. We parked our car in the car park and walked down the steps to the hut where we completed the registration form, perhaps signing our lives away! We were the first ones to arrive in our group and the formalities were done with fairly quickly. Jerome and I curiously looked at the equipment. We could see the end of the line, just above the hut and the cable running across the valley was mostly invisible, only the red and white balls marking the steel cable made us realize where it went across between the two mountain sides. We could just about make out the hut at the other end. The idea that we would be descending that line hung high above the deep valley with just the cables for support was certainly creating some butterflies in our tummies. The view that morning was incredible, a clear blue sky with no clouds in sight. The snow covered mountains looked majestic and spectacular in the bright morning sun.

A ride on the zip line does not come cheap and we were about to find out if it is worth the money or not. Not surprisingly zip lining is a popular activity with stag and hen groups and so it came to no surprise when the others in our group turned out to be a group of men, one of them a groom to be. We still had some time before Jerome and I had to get into the van to drive to the starting point of the zip line. The café did some pretty decent coffee and hot chocolate which Jerome and I sipped nervously while waiting for the start.

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When it was time to go, we squeezed into the van and off we went along the narrow roads to the other side of the valley. The drive took us about 15 minutes and the last bit was on a dirt track that was still covered in snow. The excitement about our immediate adventure was all too visible, the guys seemed more anxious then Jerome and I. They spoke in Italian throughout the journey but I had a chat with my seat neighbor who told me they were from Milan and had come for the day to celebrate the upcoming wedding. Once we left the van, each of us carried some of the equipment that was needed for the flight on the zip line down to the hut. Our guide gave us some safety instructions and we were weighed in order to work out which fitting needed to go onto the zip line for our ride. We each got a helmet and some glasses to protect our eyes from the wind and any insects that might be flying our way. You may also wear sunglasses or reading glasses that you might require.

One of the group was kind enough to take a photo of us and email it to me, as I had decided against taking my mobile phone. When it was time to make the plunge the boys were all shy and asked us if we wanted to go first. We went to the open door, where we could see a net and the deep valley in front of us. I was worried we might get cold feet but we felt calm and were excited about our flight. We were strapped in, falcon style, meaning that we were lying down as if we were actually flying like a bird, rather then free style, which is like sitting on a swing seat. You also have the choice of going on your own, but of course that was out of question for Jerome and I. There is no minimum age restriction, however no person under the height of 120cm and 35kg is allowed on the flight. Children always have to go in pairs with an adult. It is also worth checking that there is no greater weight difference between the two people than 40kg and the maximum combine weight is 180kg.

We were strapped in and ready to go. The instructor asked us if we were ready….and then let us take off, onto our first flight. I cannot describe the feeling! All worries and fears were gone as we sped down the wire. It was incredible, probably the closest feeling to flying that we both ever experienced. At first we started to scream for joy and exhilaration and then when we looked down, we could see the snow between the trees, at some point I could make out a stream in the valley bed and the other end came approaching fast.

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At some point we flew 340m above ground and the speed can reach up to 120km/h, but I am sure we were too light to get even close to that maximum speed, as the heavier you are the faster you travel on the line. Once we had arrived and safe ground underneath our feet again, Jerome said he had had such an incredible time, that he wanted another go. Chris totally could not share our excitement, he had watched us fly over and said that just watching us made him feel sick – he has inherited a fear of heights sadly. However, he was happy for us to have another go and we checked and were able to get into the next available time slot.  There are runs about every hour. One after another we watched the guys fly over, one couple even had a go-pro and filmed the whole journey.

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On this flight we were joined again by another group of stags and to our surprise a mother with her daughter, who probably was around 9/10 years old.  We already felt like pros this time around and were the first to fly across, again.  The second flight was faster, I guess we knew that if we held our arms back and close to our body we would gain more speed, and it was still as exciting as the first.  I think I now understand why some people get addicted to these thrilling experiences…  We knew this was our last flight for that day, we could have gone back and forth all day long if Jerome would have had his way.

I borrowed Chris’ old phone for the second run to take some photos and I gave him mine to film our flight (my first video on the blog, please do not get scared while watching it, he took the film in time lapse mode by mistake!  It is probably about ten times faster than real!).  We threatened afterwards to go again a third time to make him get the video right, but we agreed to come back some time to try it again instead.

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Would we do it again? Yes, definitely! It was worth every penny, especially when you consider that there is no prior experience or training required. We felt safe and at no time worried that anything might go wrong. It was a fun filled morning that Jerome and I will remember for the rest of our lives. Maybe one day we can even get Chris to join us!

He got to have some fun later on Monte Spalavera that day which you will be able to read about in my next post.

 

Isola Madre, Lago Maggiore, Italy | Exploring the Charming Botanical Gardens of Isola Madre

Our visit to the exotic gardens of Isola Madre.

Isola Madre was a contrasting visit after we had explored the sumptuous palace and gardens of Isola Bella earlier that day. The short boat ride from one island to the next was over in less than 20 minutes, with a short stop at Stresa. On our approach to the Isola Madre we could see that it was somewhat larger, less built on and covered in lush vegetation, with only one stately palazzo on the Southern side and a small café on the end of the island. Isola Madre is not only the largest of the Borromean islands it was also the first to be inhabited by the aristocratic family. The palazzo Borromeo was built at the beginning of the 16th century and later extended in the Renaissance style, however it is renowned for its botanical gardens more than the house, with a variety of exotic plants from all over the world.

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Jerome was looking forward to the gardens of Isola Madre and we had to promise him to leave the house until last.  He loves to walk around and explore in gardens and unusually for a child loves not only all forms of wildlife but is interested by plants too. Walking up the ancient stone steps from the jetty, through an iron gate, we could see the palazzo above us and the entrance to the garden was straight ahead. We immediately realized that the style of the garden was very different to the Italian garden on Isola Bella. It was much wilder, with larger flowerbeds and big trees and bushes. The garden was constructed over seven terraces, in the English style, for count Vitaliano Borromeo and covers the entire island. They remain largely unchanged since the 18th century and have seen famous visitors like Napoeon and writer Gustave Flaubert, who named the Isola Madre “Earthly Paradise”.

We strolled along the southern side of the gardens, called the African Avenue, which on average is about four degrees warmer than the rest of the island. We could see the gardeners taking out the wilted tulips from among the flowerbeds of colourful poppies. We also noticed a beautiful staircase covered in sweet smelling wisteria as we strolled along. Further on were a lot of ferns and moss-covered stones, this part of the island was noticeably cooler due to the towering trees and the constant shade.

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We looked into the old boathouse, where we could see an old, wooden gondolier, very much like the ones we had seen last year in Venice. Around the corner we stumbled upon a field of camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas, an overwhelming wall of flower power in shades of pink, red, white and yellow. Jerome discovered a narrow path going off into the depth of the colourful bushes that few others seemed to follow. It was a pleasure to stroll along the path, especially as we did not meet anyone else along the way. The rhododendron blossoms had formed a flower carpet underneath the bushes, which glowed in the setting spring sun.

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The narrow path ended by a large lawn, where we could see colourful birds grazing between the bushes and flowers. Jerome with his love and admiration for birds stopped in wonder to gaze at them. There also was a white peacock, like we had seen at Isola Bella earlier but also several colourful hens and some exotic pheasant like birds wandering around. At the end of the lawn we also saw an aviary with smaller, exotic birds.

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Our stroll took us on past some conifers and Japanese pine trees. Life on the island must have been very isolated and shut off from the rest of the world, wandering and playing in this amazing garden, full of rare and exotic flowers and plants must have nurtured the love and curiosity for nature from a very early age. I felt that children growing up on Isola Madre must have had a very happy and hopefully free childhood compared to the children on the more formal Isola Bella.

On our round through the garden we eventually found ourselves at the back of the Borromeo Palazzo. Right in front stands the Tibetean cypress, the largest of its kind in Europe. It was severly damaged in a tornado that hit the island in 2006 and on its path through damaged the garden substantially, including this precious tree. A lot of effort and care went into keeping the tree from dying. It was not hard to notice the steel cables attached to the tree to keep it from falling over and it appeared to have recovered from most of the storm damage, it still looks a bit delicately balanced though and I do hope it recovers fully.

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We entered the palace from this side of the garden and immediately made our way up the wide stairs, past paintings of the Borromeo family and ancestors to the first floor. This palazzo was much more down to earth in comparison to the splendor we had seen at the baroque palace on Isola Bella. It felt much more like a family home, although I felt it was much darker inside, despite the bright sunshine outside. The décor was more basic and rustic but Iam sure for the 16th century it was rich. There was plenty of plush furniture on display, a heavenly canopy bed with curtains. Jerome was curious about the curtains around the bed and we explained to him that they served as a form of privacy from the servants and to keep the cold and light out.

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One room had a massive theatre with marionettes and scene set up. In the room adjacent we found display cases full of the most incredible marionettes, including a devil that breathed smoke and other scary and beautiful puppets. It must have been an absolute childhood dream to live and watch these shows. A lot of money and time must have gone into preparing these spectacular theatres and surely adults must have had fun watching them too. Downstairs on the ground floor were more rooms filled with antique furniture from the Borromeo’s estates. We knew time was getting tight before the house and garden would close and did a quick walk through the remaining salons and out into the last of the sun.

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Back outside we walked down the stairs to the little chapel that has been turned into a shop and café. This was a lovely spot to sit and enjoy the view of the pretty pond whilst sipping a cup of coffee. We walked along the front of the house and exited to the back of the park. To our surprise we saw there was a restaurant, hidden away in the perfect location, catching the early evening sun. Sitting on the terrace must be one of the most beautiful places to have dinner in the area. I am not sure about the food though, on our visit it was still closed for the season.

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We walked back towards the gate and down the steps to the jetty. The sun had turned the lake into a silver carpet, a magical end to our trip to Isola Madre.

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Our only wish, would have been to have had more time to explore both islands, I would recommend considering up to a full day for Isola Bella and a good half day for Isola Madre. Children will love the boat trips, the animals on both islands and the little paths through the gardens. The houses can be a bit overwhelming but I think the marionettes and grotto can catch any child’s imagination.

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Isola Bella, Lago Maggiore, Italy | Visiting the Sumptuous Palazzo and Garden of Isola Bella

Exploring one of the three islands of the Borromeo family.

The Italian Lakes used to be an easily accessible weekend break for us when we still lived in Germany. The drive down to Lago di Lugano took just over 6 hours so it was a visit we often made in late spring or early summer. Unfortunately living in London for the last 7 years has made it almost impossible for us to make the journey there, as whilst flights to Milan are easy the timing and need for a car made it more difficult. This spring however so we had the perfect chance as for various reasons we were all in Germany giving us the chance to drive to Lago Maggiore for the May bank holiday weekend. We set out on Thursday, late afternoon and arrived in the evening, just in time for dinner in the little hillside village of Premeno nestling in the corner of the lake. This year the drive took much longer than expected, it started to snow just before we reached St Gotthard tunnel and the long winding road along the lake to reach Premeno seemed to take forever in the driving rain coming in from the lake. I had booked a room in an Airbnb, which turned out to be a true Italian Palazzo with a park like garden. The rooms were absolutely beautiful, Jerome had his own, and they were very spacious. Marina our host was a very friendly and helpful, and it was apparent that she had put a lot of time and effort into renovation the large house. The welcome made up for the drive and we enjoyed a quick dinner nearby before retiring.

After a good nights sleep we woke up to a snow covered garden. Jerome was overjoyed to see that it had snowed, as we obviously had not expected this to happen at all at this time of the year, it was nearly May after all! Breakfast was served for us in the salon, with the large double doors leading out onto the terrace that overlooked the garden. I had hoped that we would be able to sit and enjoy the early spring sun while having breakfast outside but that was not going to happen and we had to content ourselves with snow covered trees.

We had discussed our plans for the day over breakfast and decided to visit the Borromean Islands, Isola Bella and Isola Madre. These three islands still belong to the aristocratic family, the Borromeans, who acquired a string of islands, (five in total) in the 16th century. Isola Bella, Madre and San Giovanni are still owned by the family today. The islands are only accessible by boat but can be reached from a few spots on the lake by the regular ferry service. We drove into Pallanza, where we bought tickets for the next boat to Isola Bella and a return journey via Isola Madre.

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We waited by the jetty for the boat, the departure times were still displayed on a clock where the time had to be changed manually and the destinations were printed on boards, no digital displays in sight yet. Jerome was excited when the boat arrived and we got seats outside to the front behind the prow. We first glided across the calm lake towards Isola Madre, glad that the previous days rain had cleared. We soon left the pretty town of Pallanza behind with the snow covered mountains visible behind and to all sides of the Lago Maggiore. Some people got off and on at Isola Madre and we stopped at Baveno and Isola Supperiore (another of the Borromean Islands) before finally reaching Isola Bella.

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On our approach we could see the Palazzo Borromeo taking up the entire end of the island. Along the harbour side we could see a church and other buildings, some restaurants and small hotels among them. Once we got off the boat we went straight to the Palazzo, passing some tacky souvenir huts, which in my opinion spoiled the old traditional charm of the island a bit. The entry to the baroque palace is not cheap, but can be combined with tickets at a reduced fee for the other islands if visited on the same day.

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The grand stairs led us up to the first floor of the palazzo already gave us an idea of what to expect. Carlo III of the Borromeo family had started to build this palace for his wife in 1632, when the island was no more than a few rocks and the odd fishing hut. Even today parts of the palace and gardens are only accessible to family members of the Borromeos. The rooms we entered, one after another in this sumptuous palace, were filled with paintings of famous artists, intricate mosaic tiled floors and opulent furniture. The ceilings in each room were lavishly decorated and the walls covered in stucco and large golden mirrors.

We could only gaze in wonder at the opulence, such a palace surely should have been the home of a king and queen… One of the rooms was decorated to accommodate Napoleon and his wife for a while. My favourite room was the Northern Hall with its large windows looking out onto the lake and the high, domed ceiling, although this was only finished in 1948. After a few of these sumptuous rooms Jerome could not wait to get through the palace, and not surprisingly he did not seem very interested in the stuffy, old furniture or the views through the windows. He is a nature lover and was keen to get out into the garden and the sunshine.

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Even he seemed quite surprised when we had ended our tour of the first floor and walked the steps downstairs, and he considerably slowed his pace. First we stumbled upon a room full of marionettes, arranged in a variety of scenes. There were horse drawn carriages, armies of soldiers, giants and clowns, everything a child could want to watch in a puppet theatre. The children growing up in the Palazzo surely must have been well entertained. The next surprise awaited us in the rooms that followed, the absolute highlight of the Palazzo for us, the grotto.

The family retreated to these lower level rooms in the grotto during the hot summer months, which was designed as a cool retreat from the heat. The walls, ceilings, floors, and doorways were all covered with intricate, nautical inspired murals made from shells, and black and white pebbles.  It took workman and architects over a century to complete the grotto due to the ornate design. We were in total awe when walking through these rooms that anyone could have imagined such a living quarters. As well as the walls and ceiling the rooms were filled with rare artistic exhibits made of sea things from black Japanese coral to more local marine items. In the last room of the grotto we found the most peculiar display of horse saddles and bridles surrounding a model of the original castle of Angera.

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Back upstairs we left the building to visit the gardens, however, Instead of heading straight on we discovered some steps to the right, which led us up into the glasshouse of the Palazzo. Warm and humid inside, we walked among tropical plants and ferns until we exited and found ourselves close to the side stairs into the main gardens. This was built over ten terrace levels in the Italian style, a style that focuses on the symmetry and geometry of the garden as much as the plants. The garden did not stop to impress us as much as the house had. On the perfectly manicured, lush green, lawn we could see the famous white peacocks strutting about and lazing under the bushes. Every now and then we could hear their high-pitched screeches, which could be heard through out the gardens. The lawns were surrounded with flowering shrubs in bloom.

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travel with kids children isola bella lago maggiore italy palazzo borromeo garden peacocks

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We stood in front of the breath-taking amphitheatre, with its striking display of sculptures, fountains and giant shells and to top it off, Eros riding on a unicorn. We climbed the steps among the statues of the classical Gods to the top. From there we had an amazing view of the geometrical garden below and the villas and palazzos on the hillside of the lake.

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travel with kids children isola bella lago maggiore italy palazzo borromeo garden amphitheatre

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On our stroll through the extensive garden we stumbled upon other fountains and ponds and a huge variety of plants that seem to thrive in the local climate. Jerome loved exploring all the paths and little hidden corners in the garden. I was most impressed by the bright pink azaleas, which were huge compared to the ones I had seen before.  The mild climate by the lake favours many Japanese and Asian plants that have combined well with more local specimens such as the towering cypresses and citruses.

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travel with kids children isola bella lago maggiore italy palazzo borromeo garden azalea

travel with kids children isola bella lago maggiore italy palazzo borromeo garden

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With time ticking towards our boat departure to ensure we still had time to visit Isola Madre, we reluctantly left this beautiful setting to head down the steps between the cafes for the jetty. We just had enough time for a quick snack waiting the last moments for the ferry back. Be careful to get the right jetty, as the return boats are further along from the drop off point.

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travel with kids children isola bella lago maggiore italy palazzo borromeo boat landing

You can read about the stunning gardens at Isola Madre in my next post.

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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travel with kids children soller mallorca spain hiking torrent de pareis rope

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain hiking torrent de pareis puig roig

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain hiking torrent de pareis cave houses

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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travel with kids children soller mallorca spain hiking torrent de pareis rocks

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain hiking torrent de pareis cliffs

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain hiking torrent de pareis stream bed

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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travel with kids children soller mallorca spain hiking torrent de pareis stream bed

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain hiking torrent de pareis stream bed

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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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travel with kids children soller mallorca spain hiking torrent de pareis gorge blau

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travel with kids children soller mallorca spain hiking torrent de pareis moss

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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travel with kids children soller mallorca spain hiking torrent de pareis boulder

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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.

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain hiking torrent de pareis narrow passage

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travel with kids children soller mallorca spain hiking torrent de pareis boulders

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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travel with kids children soller mallorca spain hiking torrent de pareis sa calobra

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain torrent de pareis sa calobra

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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travel with kids children soller mallorca spain hiking torrent de pareis port

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain hiking torrent de pareis beach

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travel with kids children soller mallorca spain hiking torrent de pareis happy child

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 | Three Mountain Tops with Incredible Vistas over the Serra Tramuntana and the Island.

Jerome’s favourite hike over three mountains and a long descent back to Soller.

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Last year was the first time we attempted to hike the route known locally as the “Three Peaks”, which is high up in the Tramuntana Mountains. The hike is known for being rather strenuous, my parents had walked it many years before without any younger ones in tow, but we were always keen to try new walks in the area and with Jerome older it seemed a good adventure.  The previous year not only did we climb the three mountaintops, we also took the long scenic route home. Instead of heading back to the Cuber water reservoir and the car park there we added the trek down along the famous Barranc de Biniaraix to the ordeal. Jerome had clearly enjoyed the adventurous route a lot. In the time leading up to our trip to Mallorca this year he had constantly asked, “Are we going to do the Three Peaks again?”. I believe part of the motivation is to test his limits and hike the maximum for a boy of his age.

The hike up to the three mountaintops is not very well sign posted, unlike many other walks on the island. However it is one of the most visual stunning hikes, with incredible views over the whole island and the sea beyond. Due to the lack of signposts, the hike must only be attempted on a fine, sunny day with no chance of clouds, fog and rain! Without a clear line of sight finding the right path in mist could be a big problem, if not really dangerous at some points. If you are planning to go anywhere on the upper reaches of the Tramuntana Mountains always check the local weather forecast the day before and on the morning of your planned hike again, to make sure that you will not be surprised by clouds and showers during your day! In most places the path can only be found by spotting the stone cairns ahead on the mountainside and top, or the occasional red dot on a stone. Therefore it is absolutely necessary to have a clear view of your surrounding area. If you do embark on the walk and you can see mist rising or low clouds form turn back to the start to avoid getting lost or even hurt.

The way starts from the car park by the Cuber reservoir. It is a lovely drive from Soller or Lluc direction, with amazing views of the mountains and the sea in the distance. You also have the option to take a taxi or the bus from Soller to the start of the hike if you do not have a car or want to make it a one way walk back to the Soller valley. The hike is usually recommended as a circular tour and therefore using your own car is a good way of reaching the start point.

The drive up into the mountains takes around 30 minutes and we always play a game of counting the cyclists that pass us on the way. Jerome chose to count the cyclists riding up the mountains, while my Mum looked out for the ones coming downhill. When we parked our car on the roadside, next to the entrance to the Cuber lake, Jerome had won with a narrow head count more, and we had passed nearly two hundred bikes! The reservoir, thanks to the heavy rains over the winter months was full again after last year’s drought and makes a beautiful vista. The lake is surrounded by mountains to all sides and a dam was built years ago to serve as a main water reservoir for Palma and the other villages and towns on Mallorca. Lake Cuber is a popular starting point for many other walks in the Serra Tramuntana so the car parks nearby can get busy. It is also a great spot for bird watching and we could see a few bird watchers in the grassy fields with their equipment on their stake out.

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travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre dam

We first walked along the gravel road towards the dam, from there we could already see the first of our three mountains, SaRateta, to the right side of the dam on the south side of the Lake. Just before the dam we turned left onto a narrow hiking trail, which runs through the long, scraggly pampas grass. Here, you will not fail to notice the constant humming of the water rushing down the pipeline towards Palma. The pipe has been encased in concrete above ground and you will come across it a short while later. First the path leads you up to the left side of the narrow valley then, once the path drops downhill, you might notice a tunnel to your left. This is one of the tunnels used for the water pipes of the lake. There are a few more, further down the mountain, however you will not pass these on the walk to the three peaks. They are part of a different walk that we can highly recommend as well. The first tunnel to the left is sometimes used as a stable for the sheep and whilst it is accessible to curious hikers the amount of sheep’s poo might scare you off.

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travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre water pipe

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre mountainside

After the col near the tunnel you will descend for a few meters, be careful here as part of the rocks and gravel are rather slippery. At the bottom you will notice a pipe running across the mountain stream and the pipeline below. Jerome and I usually balance across this pipe, just for the fun of it. The hiking trail then runs alongside the water pipe, you might even notice a valve on your climb up the next stretch. Close to the valve you need to keep an eye out for the stone men and blue spots that indicate where the trail to the Three Peaks turns off. If you have reached the top of the hill and the trail descends again you have already missed the signs and need to turn around.

Once you are on the trail you will be able to see where other people have trodden on the path before you. It is still advisable to constantly keep an eye out for the signs or the trail ahead as the path cross rocky patches and in places the way can be a little unclear but the foot wear marks from other walks give a good guide, and occasional cairns and blue spots lead you up the steep hillside. From there on you will quite quickly gain on height, walking through a forest of Mediterranean oaks and the rocky mountains of the Serra de Tramuntana. Keep an eye out for the majestic black vultures that circle high above in the sky and are known to nest in the area. Jerome and my Dad always bring their binoculars along to watch these rare birds in flight.

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travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre trees

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As you approach the end of the oaks at a col watch out for the sign where the hiking path divides, the left leg would lead you to Orient, it is the right trail you want to take heading up hill through the last clump of larger trees. Shortly after you will leave most of the trees behind and you will have the rocky mountainside in front of you. If you concentrate your eyes you will recognise some of the path, winding itself up to the top in a set of zigzag lines. You might wonder why anyone would make trails going up the mountains of this height, so far away from any civilisation with no trees or anything in sight. Men made these tracks to access the snow huts, which were built high up in the mountains, where snow was kept in order to turn it into ice. The ice would then be used to keep food from being spoiled by the hot summer temperatures on the island and to keep the richer folks cool in centuries past.

You will pass the ruin of one of these snow huts on your way to the first mountaintop, also the highest of the three, the Puig de Sa Rateta at 1113m. Be aware that near the hut you might find deep caves, it is important to keep away from these holes as some of them are more than a few meters deep. Stop frequently on your ascent to take in the ever changing, amazing views over the south side of the island. If you know the geography of the region, you will be able to see Mount Alaro, Inca and eventually Palma and Alcudia, plus the sea in the distance. Once you have passed the snow hut to your left you will have to find your way through a plain of pampa grass and rocks before you finally reach the last slopes of Sa Rateta that heads up to a lonely tree and the back right towards the peak across a sea of stones and rocks punctuated by the odd small cairn.

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travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre sa rateta

Pick a spot near the highest point and take a break to enjoy the incredible views over the Serra Tramuntana in all directions. We found a comfortable rock for us to sit on, protected from the wind and unpacked our lunch. Down below we could see the Cuber reservoir glistening in the sun, behind to the north the second reservoir Gorg Blau, a much deeper blue and across to Puig Major, the highest mountain on the island. You will not fail to notice the zigzag road leading to the Spanish military base at the top of this biggest peak and the radar on top. Sadly Puig Major is off limits to non-army personnel and cannot be hiked. To our surprise another family with two boys, similar age to Jerome, turned up. They came from of the opposite direction and had already climbed the other two peaks. They did not seem to linger for long and left shortly afterwards.

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travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre Alcudia bay

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre water reservoirs

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre

We packed our backpack and left for the second mountain, Puig de Na Franqesa, 1067m. The descend is an easy one, only 200 meteres downhill where you will pass through a grassy area and you might notice the remains of the occasional log fire. It seems that people spend the night here sometime, wild camping in the mountains. The path up to the second mountaintop is partly protected by the shade of some stunted oak trees and you might encounter some bigger boulders that need to be crossed but none that prove to be of any major difficulty. The climb is not as hard as the way up but it does stretch the muscles again. The hike then leads you along the top of the ridge of Na Franqesa for a while, not for the faint hearted or someone with fear of heights, before descending again. This downhill section is much more difficult than the last one and you should carefully consider your route down the slippery rocks and rubble keeping an eye on the route up marked here and there by cairns.

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travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre

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At the bottom, take notice the wall to your right, with a gap in its midst, this is one of the main ways back to the reservoir. Just to the left is the entry point for the track up to the third and last mountain, the L’Ofre, which peaks at 1091m. This is one of our favourite mountains as it looks like the ideal image of an imaginary mountain of a child, when seen from Soller – an almost perfect rocky triangle surrounded by trees. The path up to the top is easier to spot as there are more hikers climbing L’Ofre on average than the other two, plus the way is less rocky and has more stretches of earth. The first part of the path is fairly easy but as the summit is approached the way leads off the left (south) side and the sharply right and steeply climbs to the last run in to the peak. At this sharp bend another way up from the south side joins. Be aware that the top is very narrow and has drops on three sides. I could imagine if it is very crowded it can get claustrophobic to stay too long but if you are lucky with us it a great place of a pause and a view. The vistas are among the finest on the island, you can see the town of Soller down below and the stunning surrounding landscape.

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travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre soller

There are two ways to walk down L”Ofre, either the way you came and then through the gap in the wall, and along the path which ends back at the reservoir. Or instead take the right hand track at the sharp bend just below the summit and walk the route that is slightly longer round the mountain past the Coll de L’Ofre to the reservoir which provides a pretty, if rather steep decent.

We took the right track and descended the steep path down through the trees, then at the col where a path comes up from the Orient valley we walked back right to the Coll de L’Ofre. The col is the joining of several ways, the one up we had just come from, another leads back to Cuber and the third was our planned way forward – and we followed the sign for Barranc de Biniaraix to Soller. Luckily for us my parents had taken the shorter route back skipping L’Ofre so we did not need to worry about getting back to the collect the car.

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre barring de biniaraix

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre barring de biniaraix

The Barranc de Biniaraix is an old pilgrim path that leads right across the Serra de Tramuntana from Valldemossa to Lluc. The section down to Biniaraix follows the side of a steep valley, almost a gorge cut by the torrent with hundreds of stony steps through dry stone terraced olive groves. Every hiker should at least once hike up and or down the Barranc. I have followed the route a few times and I am still amazed at the steps, there are so many of them and cannot imagine how long it must have taken for men to build them. You will notice some small casitas and olivars (huts used to gather the crops) among the olive groves, locals come and stay there during the warmer months of the year. Imagine all the food, drinks and other necessities they have to carry up the mountain for just a few days…

I could definitely feel my feet on the way down the many steps, even the best of hiking shoes at some point make your feet ache. The sun was just setting behind the mountains and the light was that magical, early evening light that gave everything around us a golden glow. The three of us were all a bit weary. We had left my parents behind to walk back to the reservoir and to drive the car back to Soller, but at least we knew we would soon be getting a hot meal in front of our noses the minute we walked into the door. Jerome still seemed to have the most energy left and he mostly ran ahead, he would wait for us to catch him up every now and then, even moaning when we were a bit slower.

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre barring de biniaraix

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre barring de biniaraix

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre barring de biniaraix

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre barring de biniaraix

travel with kids children soller mallorca spain three mountain tops hike lofre barring de biniaraix

Eventually we reached the old water channel built between the path and the torrent. It must have once carried the water downhill, past some of the huts, into the valley of Biniaraix below. Jerome and I balanced on it for a while, the curves of the tiles made it quite difficult to walk on though. The torrent next to it was empty except for a few puddles where the sunlight rarely penetrates. We crossed the streambed of the torrent a few times, before we finally reached the old washhouse of Biniaraix. From there it was another 2 kilometers along the road back to Soller, reversing part of the route we had walked as a warm up to Fornalutx earlier in the holiday.

We arrived back at Soller exhausted but happy to have accomplished the hardest walk of our holiday. Jerome was especially very proud of himself to have walked this long hike for a second time in his life. He has already said, that he wants to do it again next year, but we will see…

This strenuous hike has a total length of more than 12 km if walked as the original circular route and takes at least 5 to 6 hours if you are fit. Our addition of the walk down the Barranc de Biniaraix adds a further 8 km or more to the hike. The total ascend and descend is around 700m from Cuber, and if walking back to Soller the descend adds more than a 1000m to the total. The route should only be attempted in good, sunny weather, it is dangerous to hike in bad weather conditions, even with a GPS, there are many sharp drops and the path can be hard to find in good light let alone bad. Never set out without all the critical hiking provisions and a clear plan. Make sure you have a detailed map and description of the route with you. Take plenty of water, food and warm, wind proof clothing, as the temperatures on the mountaintops can be considerably colder than in the valley, plus may change sharply. There are no opportunities along the way where you can buy drinks or food, so take more than you will need just in case. Wear proper hiking boots and carry a mobile and first aid kit with you at all times. It is advisable to do this tour only in groups of two or more in case something happens. Children under the age of 10 should probably not be taken on this hike, it is definitely not a casual walk, being really a route for more experienced mountain walkers.

Raixa, Mallorca, Spain | The Raixa Estate is Still a Hidden Gem Among Sights on the Island

A stroll through the magnificent water gardens and house of the Raixa estate.

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Following our hike along the coast we needed a break from walking and had decided the evening before that we would visit the beautiful Raixa Estate near Bunyola. My Mum had always wanted to go and made several attempts for a visit but always arrived at closed doors as they are not open every day and in the past were often closed for renovation. We wanted to make sure this would not happen again and therefore checked the website to find their new regular opening times now that all the repairs are complete.

It was a short drive to the estate from Soller, and it can likewise be easily reached by car from Palma. We followed the sign posts after Bunyola and parked the car in the public car park at the end of a bumpy and dusty drive, along the dirt track right from the main road. Outside the main entrance gate we found a sign post with a short description of the history and the map of the estate. Raixa lies at the foot of some hills of the Tramuntana Mountains and dates back to the 13th century, when Mallorca was under Moorish rule. The large estate first was a country home to a family who wanted to escape the city while their peasants farmed the land. The vault of the chapel and the porch in the courtyard are the only remains from that period.

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate stone wall

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate grounds

A few hundred years later the first count of Montenegro took over the estate and developed it into a small but profitable agricultural business and beautiful family home. Houses were renovated and extended, and the pleasure gardens were created. A local Cardinal took over in 1800 and as an avid collector of art he created a museum of classical sculptures in Raixa. Many of these sculptures can now be seen in the Bellver castle in Palma. They also transformed the houses into a villa of neoclassical style. Unfortunately, the cardinal died in Italy before the renovations were barely started and his favourite nephews took over to make his wishes come true.

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate castle gate

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate faces

Once we had strolled through the gate we noticed the house among the orange groves. The main feature that immediately stuck in my mind was the stunning, south facing gallery and balcony with its sand coloured pillars and arches. The entrance path led us up, along the right side of the estate and through a gate that looked like a children’s castle with its two little towers to either side of the archway. Ahead we could see the entrance to the courtyard of the large house but first we walked through the entrance garden that abuts the original main drive. A fountain with water trickling out of the mouth of a grim looking, bearded face was built into the wall to our right. Opposite we found a statue of the cardinal and next to it a small, overgrown pond.

The main entrance to the estate was not reached from the courtyard but through the house. The friendly lady at the desk informed us that it was free to enter the house and gardens and gave us a free leaflet with some information. To our surprise we could choose from English and German, not only Spanish and Catalan as we had expected. The house has been completely renovated by the Mallorcan government but I have to say that most of the original features, like floor tiles and windows have been removed and exchanged for new replicas. This was a huge disappointment, not only for me, but the rest of my family too. There are many old photos of the rooms and whilst the décor was never sumptuous like Italian palaces it clearly had many rich local features such as terracotta tiles on the floors that have been lost to time.

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate loggia

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate balcony

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate loggia garden

They have made it interesting to wander through the house though, with plenty of history, and displays of plant and animal life in the area on show. Even Jerome found the large number of films and interactive displays interesting and we had to drag him out of the kitchen where he was cooking some local dishes of the day from a hundred years ago on an ipad interacuve learning display. Even the kitchen was moved and changed, it did feature some of the original features though and a window looks into the old original olive mill, which was rather interesting to see. A walk onto the balcony to enjoy the view over the orange grove and the Loggia garden with manicured buxus and fountain is a must and perhaps the highlight of the house tour.

Once we left the house to the back door we immediately stood in front of the magnificent garden stairs dedicated to the god Apollo. The eye-catching lions at the bottom of the stairs that lead up to the statue of Apollo are sadly closed to the pubic but even if we could not wander up and down on them they were definitely among our favourite feature of the garden. Unlike the house the original garden features have been preserved and the layout and plants must be like the original times it was built. Water plays an elemental part in the gardens of Raixa and we could see water running down either side of the steps from lion’s faces and into the basins below before overflowing and running down the walls. The water had left algea and stains from years of uninterrupted flow, but I thought this just added to its charm.

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate apollo stairs lion

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate apollo stairs

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate water way

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate false ruin

The upper gardens were structured around the stairs and the route led along a landscaped path, past smaller fountains, a waterway on the ground that feeds the gardens, a false ruin (a common feature for this period) and several ponds. We passed the statue of Apollo to the top of the stairs, which gave us a beautiful view down towards the back of the house.

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate pond statue

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate stairs

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate apollo fountain

Shortly after the path divides and the woman had advised us to go up the narrow, steep path through the hillside garden, to the little pavilion and viewpoint. Before we reached the pavilion we found a little grotto that was made to look like a limestone cave with fake stuck on remnants of stalactites and stalagmites. Jerome sat down on the concrete seat built into the cave’s wall for a while, enjoying the cool air of the grotto. Other people started to come into the cave and space was sparse so we moved on to the pavilion.

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate cave

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate cave

The round, pavilion is built onto a point that sticks out over the flat land that runs all the way from Raixa to Palma, which can be seen from one of the windows in the distance. I was less taken by the view than the colourful windows, every window was a different colour and one was made up of four coloured panes. The afternoon sunlight shone though and created a dreamy pattern on the floor and walls. It reminded me of the Bahia palace that we had visited in January. The boys quickly moved on while my mum and I stayed behind to take some photos and enjoy the play of light.

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate stained glass widow

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate pavilion windows

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate colourful windows

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate pavilion

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate view

Once back down the hill, we finally saw the famous water reservoir, the largest of its kind on the island. The turquoise water looked very inviting, especially in the afternoon heat. The water comes from the estates own well in the hills above Valldemossa and without it the creation of the gardens would have been impossible. The original tank was too small leading to them creating this huge one, more than 80m long.

We stepped onto the Italian style terrace protruding over the pool to watch the carps swim in the deep water. At the far end we spotted the water gushing into the pool. The water from the pool also fed the watermill, which could be seen in one of the houses to the back of the pool. The mill was used to grind grains in the olden days and we were able to see some of the millstones in the ground through a window.

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate large pond terrace

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate water well

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate large pond

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate large pond fish

Back in the house we walked down a flight of stairs and ended up in the sunny courtyard. The house was built around this courtyard, a common feature of many larger mansions on the island and Spain. To the right, next to the entrance archway we found the little chapel and there also was a traditional well to one side of the courtyard. We exited the courtyard at the opposite end, where a few steps led us down to the manicured garden. More interesting though was the little vegetable garden to its right. The field was planted with local fruit and vegetables in neat rows.

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate courtyard

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate fountain

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate cacti

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate vegetable garden

travel with kids children mallorca spain raixa estate fountain loggia garden

I have to say that we really enjoyed our visit to Raixa and will return again on one of our frequent visits to Mallorca. It is a marvellous place to spend a few hours wandering through the house and along the paths in the gardens. To make the most of a visit and to see the full beauty of the garden it would be advisable to visit in Spring. Please also note that the gardens are closed in Winter and only open again in March, again check the website to make sure you will not encounter closed doors.

If you like gardens you may also want to drive the short road up to the Soller tunnel and also visit the Jardins D’Alfabia. The house and gardens there, are just as stunning and still a among the lesser known the sights of the island.