The Thrill of That which is not available to most
Full photo gallery available on Google Photos
Mallorca’s history is old. Sitting in the Northwest Mediterranean off the coast of Spain, but just within reach of France, Italy and Northern Africa, it had strategic value for both commerce and defense. For ages, this rugged island was the target of Moorish pirates and barbarians looking to plunder and raid. Castel del Rey is an ancient fortress built into the cliff face that is thought to have been a key defensive stronghold against such attacks.
We first heard about the fortress through the agent coordinating our bungalow rental. She described it as an easy but striking hike that shouldn't be missed. Then she explained that it was on the private property of the richest family on the island and that only 20 people per day were granted permission to hike it. Exclusive hime? Striking views of the countryside and mountains, a private beach at the turnaround point? I was hooked.
Our realty agent coordinated getting all the paperwork in order for us to gain access. It involved a government stamp and providing passports for ID. She also provided directions to where to park and embark from. However, we found them to be tricky to follow. (I will put some additional detail on this into the tips portion for anyone looking to do this hike.)
Sounds easy enough
The hike was described to us as easy. Multiple Mallorcans mentioned having done it themselves in three or four hours. The total distance being 12km (just under 7.5 miles.). Easy right? We’ll crush this. I love maps, so we picked up a map at a bookstore. Armed with Google, a paper map, a rucksack full of food and water, and our wits we headed out on the short drive to the trailhead. And that is where we experienced our first challenge. Mallorca is very poorly labeled once you get to the small village streets that connect residences. We had great difficulty locating the correct parking area and even the correct road to embark down. (I’ve marked this on the embedded map for your convenience should you choose to give this trail a try.) We finally got it on our third try, but not after having had to ask directions from a gardener and also trespassing accidentally into the wrong property.
The trail alternates between paved road and dusty single track. I’m not fully certain we were on the correct route at points. It was difficult to tell if we were supposed to follow the single track exclusively, but we managed alright. The first several miles were in the shade of the trees and it was relatively early in the morning, so we felt strong and optimistic.
As we neared the fortress, we emerged from the forest and entered into an exposed section. That’s when we noticed how hot the day actually was. Since this was an unplanned adventure, we didn’t have any way to gather additional water, and were forced to carefully ration what we were carrying so as to not run out. (Not to mention, there were very few sources along the way.)
We finally reached the fortress after an exposed series of switchbacks up to the gated entrance. Unfortunately, the gate was locked and we were only able to peer in through the door and some of the lower windows. (I had really hoped that we would have been able to wander through the inside.) From the fortress entrance, there were amazing views of the coast to the West and the mountains to the South. For a small Island, Mallorca packs in some stunning landscapes.
The selling point of the hike for us had been the private beach a few miles further past the fortress. We could just barely see it from our position and after a bit of coaxing, I convinced Heidi we should go for it. Unfortunately, this also required backtracking down the hill to the main road and then following this road along a series of what felt like never-ending switchbacks. The sun was fully overhead and the walk was grueling. Several times we asked ourselves how this could possibly be done in three hours as described. Were we really in that bad of physical condition?
Finally we arrived at the private beach, only to learn what a natural Mallorcan beach actually is: Rocks. There wasn’t much of a place to relax or wade in the water, which is what I’d really been hoping to treat my sore feet to. I ended up dangling them in the cool Mediterranean as I sat on a fairly uncomfortable rock. Just inland from the beach was a shelter that had a small amount of shade. We ate our lunch here and rested as we contemplated the long hike back uphill to the car.
The walk back sucked. It sucked hard. We were extremely tired and there was no shelter from the sun, which made the exhaustion all the more noticeable. Heidi wasn’t happy that I had insisted we push on to the beach, and I was regretting it a bit as well. (Ultimately, I am happy we went to see it, as I would always wonder what it was like, but in reality it could be skipped. It is beautiful, but it was not soothing or terribly enjoyable.)
We slowly meandered back to the car. Things became easier when we reached the shade of the trees, but our fuel tanks were definitely on empty. The entire hike ended up taking more than twice the time we had expected, but that includes time spent getting slightly lost at the beginning and stopping frequently so I could take hundreds of photos of the mountains.
When we arrived back at our villa, we celebrated our exhausted state in true American fashion with crappy beer. After consulting Heidi’s Apple Watch and GPS records, we clocked our total distance of walking at just shy of 16 miles. Not quite the 7.5 miles we were initially promised. It is possible the 7.5 mile figure just accounted for the distance to the fortress. (We didn’t take a measurement there, so I can’t be sure.)
Hack Your Pack Tips
This hike is easy enough if you do a bit of planning, are in half-way decent shape, and are willing to figure a few things out on your own as you go. Here are some callouts that will help make the hike more enjoyable:
- Permits - You need to get a permit from the government in order to hike this trail. It requires providing your passport and some additional information. I can’t be more specific about this because this part was taken care of for me by our realty office in Port de Pollença.
- Water - Take lots of it. There are a couple streams before you emerge from the trees, but they can be extremely low to totally dry.
Sunscreen - A good 90 minutes of the trail is totally exposed if you’re heading to the fortress. A good couple hours is totally exposed if you’re planning to include the walk to the beach.
- Maps - I suggest printing out the Google map route I’ve included or purchasing a trail map. The trails are not marked and since you’re on private land, the staff and residents of the estate aren’t overly eager to help you navigate. They sort of tolerate your presence, but they’re not welcoming.
- Start Early - The hike itself can take a long time if you’re slow or stop often for photos. Try to get start as early as possible as there is a cut-off time in the evening where you must exit before.
- Drones - It’s probably not allowed, but if I were going to do this hike again, I’d love to take a drone so I could get some unexpected views of the fortress, or even explore the inside a bit. If you do go this route, please be as respectful as possible. Wouldn’t want the owners to restrict the hike or ban drones outright.
- Footwear - No need for heavy hiking boots. On this trail, you'd be more comfortable in trail runners or sneakers.
If photos are your thing, check out the full photo gallery available on Google Photos.
I'm very glad that our realtor told us about this hike, and that we were able to experience something that is a bit off the beaten path. I hope that in reading this post and in viewing the photos, you're excited enough to check out this hike should you ever visit Mallorca. It is important that you be respectful of the land, trail, and structures when you're there. Everything is on private land and accessible to the public only through the generosity of the owners. Remember that your actions and behavior will dictate how future visitors are able to enjoy this site. Be respectful and remember to leave no trace.