A New Years hike at Platja de Muro and a visit to Port de Sollér

January, 2022

Our intention is to explore Parc Natural de s’Albufera de Mallorca together with the dogs, on this glorious New Years day. According to our travel guidebook, the area is an eldorado for birdwatchers, as more than 200 species of rare birds have been spotted in the wetlands. We, and a few others, are pretty disappointed that the parc is closed, as we are fully prepared for a big hike. At least the beach is on walking distance and the dogs are getting very excited; they smell the sea! Platja de Muro is just an extension of the Parc Natural and it feels like we are on a Caribbean island! Soft sand, blue skies and a turquoise sea. In the summer it will be busy here with sunbathing tourists, but today there are just a few other dogs…..

Later we drive through Can Picafort, which was once a picturesque fishing village, but is now destroyed by ugly apartment buildings. At the far end of the boulevard some sculptures, made by the artist Joán Bennàssar, are overlooking the serene bay. These pieces of cement, mainly women, are goddesses and fairies, who dialogue with nature and the sea. They are distributed in 4 groups and are all located on the beach, along the promenade; desire, ritual, treasure and wound

The next day, we are going to discover a part of the northern coast and the dogs are joining us again for the trip. The Serra de Tramuntana, an impressive limestone mountain range of almost 90 km long, is covering this part of the island. Our plan is to drive to Esporles and from there direction Banyalbufar, both very pretty places! Just before Banyalbufar is a small parking place at the side of the very curvy road and it is also the starting point of a fabulous hike to Port de Canonge. Again nothing is going according to our plans, as the parking place is already occupied by a rough 20 cars. No other possibilities to park the car. Why did we go on the weekend, instead of choosing a quiet day during the week? The dogs are getting eager to go out and we too! We turn around and drive up the hill again and find a small spot behind the bus stop. Here, in the middle of nowhere, on top of the hill, a ruin of a former hamlet is visible. It is pretty spooky, but the dogs love it!

From here we follow the road to another pretty town called Valldemossa, a popular town for weekend outings! The road now turns towards the coast and passes scenic places like Deia. We decide to go to Port de Sóller, situated on a secluded bay with plenty of restaurants and lovely terraces overlooking the beach, the harbour and the lighthouse.

We take the dogs for a walk and they seem to like the ambience! Later we feed them, before they go for a nap in the car, while we have ‘a bite’ in town.

Port de Soller is fabulous and very relaxing! Our hike will have to wait for next time and NOT in the weekend!

The lively market towns Inca and Sineu

December, 2021

The commercial town of Inca is just a ten minute drive from our “home”. It is the third main town on the island and perfect for shopping. Inca is famous for the leather industry and the many old wine cellars, now converted into restaurants. We like to go on Thursday, which is market day and enjoy the Christmas spirit, with all the flowers on the square. I have never seen so many poinsettias in one spot! After getting some local produce, we find a place on a small terrace and enjoy the Spanish ambience, while sipping a red wine, a cappuccino and a croissant for the small amount of euro 5.40!!!

Sineu is another lovely market town and also very centrally located. Once it was the most important town on the island! Many tourists, as well as locals, are flocking the streets on the Wednesday, when fruits and vegetables, handicrafts and even livestock can be purchased. Another big attraction of this rural small place is the parish church, with its massive bell tower; Iglesia Santa Maria de Sineu. Very impressive from the outside and inside!

We stroll the streets of Sineu up and down, admiring historical buildings, and discover the Monastery of the Immaculate Conception, which is nowadays a nunnery. It was built on the ruins of the former Palace, residence of the many kings of Mallorca.

Later we return to the main square, where we find an empty table in front of the church, overlooking the market. We order a drink and a small bite and they serve us very tasty local cheese and jamón. A great way to end this beautiful morning!

Dogs paradise around Parc Natural de la Peninsula de Llevant

December, 2021

We are not the only ones, who are having a great Christmas holiday. The dogs just love to go with us on our day trips and above all they LOVE their Christmas present from the landlord!

Parc Natural de la Peninisula de Llevant is a small hour drive to the eastern side of Mallorca. We park the car at Urbanicació Sant Pere Betlem and hike the trail along the scenic coast until the far end; Es Caló. On one side the sea and on the other side the lower mountains of Puig Todosa.

This area is not very well-known and still unspoiled. On the Punta des Caló, where the trail ends, we find a very narrow path through the bush and arrive on a small and rocky beach. Here the dogs can run and swim! It is just paradise!

Another great area to explore is just on the eastern side of the same Parc Natural and it is called Cala Estreta, Cala Matzoc and Cala Mitjana. The area is great for hiking, very quiet and just nature! A beautiful trip and possible to combine with the ancient towns of Artà and Capdepera. We choose to spend more time on the wild beach with the dogs. Here they can run freely and there are more trails over the rocks and into the back country.

After a couple of hours we drive to Cala Rajada. The dogs are fast asleep in the car and we go for an early supper into town. Along the seaside we find restaurant “Euforia”, where they serve all kinds of delicious tapas. We are sipping our wine and absorbing the view over the Mediterranean Sea. By now the weather is changing completely; suddenly thunder starts together with some heavy rain showers and a beautiful rainbow appears!

After our delicious meal, we walk back to the car and take the dogs for a last stroll. The rain has disappeared and the sky turns into a dramatic painting!!!

Climbing to the top of the Puig d’Alaró

December, 2021

Definitely a must to visit are the ruins of Castell d’Alaró. They have always been a very important reference point in Mallorcan culture. To reach the ruins we drive to the small town Alaró and continue towards restaurant Es Verger via a terrible narrow and bumpy road. It is so small that oncoming traffic can’t pass. Halfway I get a panic attack, get out of the car and start walking. My partner just loves the challenge!

It is better to leave the car in Alaró and walk the old pelgrims route (four hours two ways with an elevation of 600 meters) or go to the other side of the mountain, to Orient. In Es Verger we first drink a coffee before we start climbing. The restaurant is rustic authentic, with a big fire place and famous for the lamb shoulder cooked in a wood-fired oven. We still have to earn our lunch and it will be cheese and bread and no roasted lamb today!

We hike all the way up to 825 meters and go through one of the fortified entrances. Just a few steps higher you will find the Hostatgeria and the ‘Ermita de la Mare de Déu del Refugi’.

You will be rewarded with dramatic views over Es Pla, the Tramuntana mountains and the Orient Valley.

On our return we take a smaller but quicker trail. You have to “mind your step”!

A house and labrador sit in central Mallorca

December, 2021

It is not easy to find a convenient house sit during covid times. You need to be patient and be willing to spend a lot of hours on the internet, browsing the house sitters websites. In the end we are rewarded with a great sit of nearly three weeks on the Balearic island of Mallorca. I never visited Mallorca in the past and in my imagination it was just one of those party islands, where nature is sacrificed for huge hotels and ugly apartment buildings. Pictures of our future house sit showed lushy gardens and panoramic views and when we saw the pictures of the two black labradors, we didn’t think twice!

We rushed to the bookstore to get information about hiking trails (Rother guides) and interesting places to visit on the island and we are very surprised to discover that Mallorca has many natural parks, scenic roads and historical villages.

In December Covid was still a big issue and we, as well as the landlords, had to try to stay healthy! It all worked out fine and we even didn’t need to get tested! The house was all decorated for Christmas, the fire place worked great and the doggies stole our hearts from day one, so our holiday started (and theirs too!)

We decide to take the dogs with us in the car on most of our outings. It means we can stay away a bit longer during the day and the dogs love to go with us on our adventures. Our first outing will be to Parc Natural Es Trenc, in the southern part of the island. Just before entering the parc, we pass Salines de Llevant. Several lagoons are nourished by the waters of the sea and later the salt is extracted and gathered into huge piles.

In between the artificial lakes and the 6 km long beach, you will find dunes with all kinds of plants, which are adapted to the salt in the soil. Once on the beach, we let the dogs run free, as this time of the year there are only a handful of visitors.

Our second trip goes to Cap de Formentor, in the north of the island. The peninsula is protected on one side by the Tramuntana mountains and blessed with some fabulous beaches on the southern side. To reach the east of the peninsula you have to drive a very curvy road. Don’t forget to stop at Mirador de la Creueta for some fabulous views!

We take the dogs out for a walk on Cala Formentor, where the turqoise sea looks inviting for a swim. Margot, the youngest labrador is afraid of water, but Rosie just loves to jump in!

After our hike and swim, we are driving back to Puerto de Pollenca, a lively fishing harbour, where we find a great place to eat, right at the water side; “Stay Restaurant”.

The dogs are sleeping in the car, totally exhausted from the hike. Later, after we have had our supper, we take them again for another outing on the beach, before we drive home.

Endless hiking possibilities at Refugio El Pilar

24th and 25th of December, 2020

Just south of the Cumbre Nueva and at 1450 meter on the Cumbre Vieja a variety of hiking trails are starting at Refugio El Pilar. It is a large recreation area where the island people also meet up for a picnic or a barbecue. The trees provide sufficient shade during the warm summer days and it is a perfect playground for children.

The Cumbre Vieja is a large chain of volcanoes that emerge in the form of a ridge. It is possible to hike over the Cumbre Vieja all the way until Los Canarios. You do need transportation back! Our hikes will be a bit shorter.

El Pared Vieja is another smaller recreation area and connected with Refugio El Pilar via route PR-LP18. A nice 7 km hike with an elevation of 250 meters. The narrow path brings us quickly down and goes mostly through laurel and pine forests. It is a perfect hike for today, as the weather is cloudy and there are not many viewpoints. The 250 meters up are a bit more challenging!

As we love the area around El Pilar, we decide to go for another hike the day after. This time we park the car at mile marker 4 on the road towards El Refugio.

From here the views over the valley and the mountains are magnificent! The signs give you the choice which trails to take. The blue sky is inviting and we decide to go for a route of 10 km.

This is an amazing trail! It is part of Ruta de Los Volcanoes and the San Juan Volcano and we hike first over fields of old lava. After, the landscape changes and we walk through the woods. Suddenly, our shoes touch pure volcanic rock and we have to cross a whole field of these black stones. Don’t try this on Flip Flops!

Again the scenery changes; we go through an ancient and colorful lava flow, until we have to climb all the way up the mountain, along the old stream. It is a very steep climb!!! Finally, we reach a wider path and can relax. The view down on the old eruption is impressive.

Later in the afternoon, we drive down the mountain to Puerto de Tazacorte. We will have our Christmas meal at our favorite restaurant  “El Trebol”,  with a view over the sea. There are just a handful of tourists at this time a year and no reservation is necessary. A very relaxing place, where they serve tasty fish and other dishes for low prices. A wonderful ending of our two week visit to this impressive island!

 

The colonial town of Santa Cruz de la Palma

21st of December, 2020

A visit to the capital city of La Palma is a “must”! Santa Cruz is not only an important port, but also an architectural heritage and one of the most beautiful towns within the Canarian archipelago. Colonial-style houses, cobblestone streets, the famous balconies on the Avenida Maritima and plenty of plazas and palaces.

We spent around half a day climbing up and down the stairs of the old city, discovering hidden plazas, colourful houses and tiny stores. At the Plaza de la Alameda you will find the replica of the Santa Maria ship; the ship of Columbus in which he reached America in 1492. It houses the Museum of Navigation.

Plaza de España is the most important square of Santa Cruz. It is surrounded by Renaissance buildings and the famous Church of San Salvador. Civic ceremonies take place here and people gather to exchange the latest gossip! The door of the town hall (Ayuntamiento) was open and we quickly sneaked into the council chamber.

On the Avenida Maritima we admired the famous Casas de Los Balcones, decorated with plenty of pretty flowering plants.

We definitely forgot to visit a lot of other historic and interesting buildings, but maybe next time?

 

Roque de Los Muchachos and the ravine of La Zarza

20th of December, 2020

From El Paso we drive through the “tunnel de la Cumbre” to the other side of the island. Just before we enter the capital Santa Cruz de la Palma, we turn left and drive up the hill towards the small, but important 17th-century Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Las Nieves. The 14th-century sculpture of Virgin Mary is the oldest religious statue in the Canary Islands.

After our visit to the church, we drink a coffee on the central square and continue our trip to the mountain top Roque de Los Muchachos. The scenic road goes like a snake higher and higher and slowly the landscape is changing from green fertile land to dense forests and finally to the bare volcanic mountain ridge of the Caldera de Taburiente. The colours of the rock formations are intense and we park the car to get a closer look. It is extremely cold and windy outside and we quickly change our summer coat for a warmer one. Temperatures drop easily with ten degrees on top of the mountain.

Our next stop is at 2396 metres above sea level, on the rim of the Taburiente National Park. From far you can see the Astrophysics Observatory, which hosts the largest optical-infrared telescope in the world. The conditions of the sky above La Palma are exceptional and therefor all kinds of studies take place with different telescopes and instruments.

At 2426 meters the famous Roque de Los Muchachos can be find. Experienced hikers arrive here by foot, via the trails. The view is panoramic and very impressive. There is a trail over the rim to a point where you can see into the crater, but I give the camera to my partner. It is way too high and too steep for me!

Too bad there is nowhere a place to get a coffee or be able to have a sanitary stop. It was a long drive up and it will be a long drive down! Ah well, there are plenty of bushes beside the road….

Our next goal is Parque Cultural La Zarza in Ville de Garafia. This is an archeological park built around important finds of petroglyphes. The Visitor Centre gives insight information about the native population of La Palma. We pay the fee of around 2 euro a person, have a short look around and start our hike into the ravine of la Zarza. According to our travel book it is an impressive path to explore and we fully agree!

It has been a very busy day, full of new impressions, tons of pictures and a great hiking experience in a gorge and we still have to drive all the way back to Valle de Ariadne!

 

 

Hiking from the Cumbrecita to the chapel of Virgen del Pino

18th of December, 2020

Again we drive towards El Paso and continue to Caldera de Taburiente National Park. We leave our car on the parking-lot and call a taxi. The driver brings us, together with two other tourists, all the way up the mountain. It only costs 9 euro for the four of us. Many people make a reservation for a parking spot up the mountain, admire the view and return again, after a small walking tour. We decided to go for a long hike all the way down, to the chapel of Virgen del Pino. It is a distance of around nine kilometer and more difficult than the earlier hikes we undertook.

I am very happy with my walking poles! Descending the mountain is at times very steep and I feel more safe and secure using them.

We walk into dense Canarian pine woods, through barranco’s (gorges) and have to watch our steps continuously. At times the path becomes very narrow and rocky. Not a hike you should do in the heat of summer!

At a certain point there is a road junction; from here you can go straight back to the information center or you go left to the chapel. We take the left road and start climbing again. It seems the road  never ends! I thought we were nearly at our destination, but we continue going up and down through the pine woods. Finally, the landscape changes and we reach Ermita de la Virgen del Pino.

It is said that one day “Our Lady” has appeared in the large pine tree on the grounds of the chapel. This conifer served as a sanctuary for her and gave the virgin her name. In 1876 the chapel was built and it seems that during the construction one of the branches of this special tree was cut and it spilled blood after the cut! This is one of the stories, but there are different versions. Celebrations, processions and masses are taking place in and around the small, but important chapel.

We get some rest on the bench beside the famous pine tree and  continue our hike back to the place where we started in the morning. The last kilometers are mainly over a rough path, full of big stones, but with nice views over the pasture. It reminds me of the Irish landscape!

 

 

Fuencaliente; volcanoes, salt fields and a lighthouse

16th of December, 2020

Our trip today brings us to the southern tip of La Palma, to the village Los Canarios, situated in the community of Fuencaliente. Such a difference with the northern side of the island, where frequent rainfall encourages the lush growth of ferns and trees. The south is dry, warm and windy!

Fuencaliente derives its name from “fuente caliente”, that means “hot source”. Once there was a medicinal sulphur source, Fuente Santa, which disappeared under lava during an outbreak of Volcán San Antonio in 1677. Over the years the soil became fertile and winegrowers discovered the area. Nowadays, the Malvasía grapes are famous!

We drive from Los Canarios, via a small and curvy road, all the way down to the huge parking place close to the lighthouse. We leave the car behind and walk to the bus stop. According to the local time table, the bus should arrive soon. The plan is to go all the way up again by bus, grab a coffee in Los Canarios, visit the information centre and walk all the way down to the lighthouse. The only problem is that there is no bus! There are only four other vehicles on the parking lot. We see three young ladies, who are walking in our direction. Have they seen a bus during the last half an hour? No, no bus, but why don’t we hop in their car and we all go up together? I look at one of the girls, who is twice the size as her girlfriends, and try to imagine how we all five will fit in the very tiny vehicle. My partner and I are squeezed in the back of the car with the enormous lady. The girls are from Gran Canaria and very familiar with driving on small curvy roads. They go fast! By the time we arrive in the village, my face mask is soaked!

Finally, we are on our way down again. We pay our fee at the visitors centre and my partner is going up to see the crater of Volcán San Antonio. The climb is pretty high and crowded with people, so I decide to stay down. Beyond the entrance, the path downhill starts towards Volcán Teneguía and the Lighthouse.

It is a spectacular hike over fields of old lava with amazing views. Definitely, not recommended to challenge in windy or rainy conditions! Volcán Teneguía is 493 high and its last eruption was in 1971.

While having lunch, the blue-bearded lizards are begging for food!

At some points the views go all the way to the islands of La Gomera and El Hierro.

We finally arrive at the salt fields, the Salinas Marinas. The contrast of the white from the salt, the blue from the ocean and the black from the volcanic earth is one of a kind.

We end the day at restaurant Jardin del Sal, where you can sip your drink on a terrace with on one side the old and new lighthouse and the salt basins on the other side.