I have lived on Mallorca for six and a half years now and I'm still astounded by the natural beauty of the island. One such area is the National Park of Llevant, located in the north east corner of the island.
The park was created in 2002 and the 1,576 hectares of protected reserve represents a huge diversity of habitats in a small space.
At the time of its creation, the area consisted of both public and privately owned land, however there was such strong opposition to the reserve by private landowners that only 90% of the original land earmarked finally came under protection.
The sparse landscape is dominated by dwarf palms, long grasses, reeds and the occasional oak tree. The vegetation in the area was subjected to years of fire clearances, in order to encourage pasture for sheep and cattle grazing.
For bird lovers, cormorants and rare Audouin seagulls are often sighted, along with the impressive Eleonora's falcon and the booted eagle. For those with more patience and a good set of binoculars, you may catch a glimpse of an osprey. It is certainly an area that lends itself to quiet contemplation.
There are three mountain huts; known locally as refugios within the park, which are operated by the Consell de Mallorca and can be booked by private groups or per room, if you are happy to share with others. The Refugio de s'Arenalet (originally used as a summer house by the owners of the estate), the Refugio de s'Alzina and lastly Refugio Caseta dels Oguers, located 20 minutes walk from S'Arenalet, which used to house the stable boys. There is a camp site near S'Arenalet which can accommodate up to 30 people, or 7 tents.
Two weekends ago I was fortunate to be invited, along with my daughter, to stay with three other families at Refugio Caseta dels Oguers. We left Soller, on the other side of Majorca on Friday afternoon and arrived in the municipality of Arta, just over an hour later. There we met up with a representative from the Consell de Mallorca and handed over our five boxes of food and drink, to see us through the weekend. As part of the accommodation package, the Consell offers a transportation service for your supplies direct to the refuge. It was a service that was warmly welcomed by all of us; however, you must carry out all that you take in, except the rubbish thankfully.
From Arta we drove in convoy towards the trail head. After several wrong turns and conflicting directions from a number of locals, we finally found the right road heading for the coast. The directions supplied to us from the Consell de Mallorca were vague and I recommend taking a good map of the area with you.
The hike to the refuges begins in Cala Estreta, a narrow beach inlet located five minutes drive from Cala Mitjana, a popular bathing beach in the summer time. We loaded our rucksacks, brimming with toys, and set off for the refuge, late in the afternoon. The first part of the path crosses the rocky coast, so good shoes are recommended. Half an hour later we reached Cala Matzoc beach, a fantastic destination for a picnic outing. It was another 30 minutes before we finally came upon the first signpost, indicating that we were on the right track. From here we passed a couple of unspoilt and remote beaches. This place is a world away from the mass tourism and package holidays in the bay of Palma de Mallorca. However, the last 20 minutes tested everyone's resolve, as we struggled up a steep hill up to our very own mountain hut. I'm not sure who was more relieved to have arrived - parents or children!
Having been used to the basic tramping huts in New Zealand, this refuge was luxury. The Caseta dels Oguers is equipped with three double rooms and a bunk room, two bathrooms, showers with hot water, a separate kitchen area containing a gas oven, a wood burning stove and an open fire - perfect for barbecuing. The terrace afforded views all the way along the coast towards Cala Ratjada. We had arrived in paradise and had our own beach just below us. It was the perfect weekend getaway with children.
Bookings for all the huts mentioned can be made through the Ajuntament de Arta on: +34 971 829 219. Lines are open for reservations between 8am and 10am, Monday to Friday. However, reservations can only be made 3 months before arrival and it's a very popular spot with the local Mallorcans. And rightly so.
Refugio de s'Arenalet: has a capacity of 22 people in 4 quadruple bedrooms and three doubles.
Refugio de s'Alzina: has a capacity of 10 people in 5 double rooms.
Refugio Caseta dels Oguers: Holds a maximum of 10 people.
Andy Mitter & Michelle Holland operate Tramuntana Tours, an adventure company offering a range of outdoor activities.
- Bird Watching
- Hiking / Walking