A tryst with La Trapa Monastery in Sant Elm
Winter hike from Sant Elm to the ruins of La Trapa
Mallorca offers excellent hiking and walking opportunities, and the months between October and May provide the perfect weather conditions for hikers keen to explore Mallorca’s varied and spectacularly scenic terrain.
On a cloudy November morning, I decided to take some friends visiting the island on a southwestern Mallorca hiking experience. A coastal route at the foot of the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range, this trail starts from Sant Elm, via the 400-year-old Torre Cala Basset Watchtower and onto the ruins of La Trapa Monastery. So, at around 11:30, we set off on our journey with the help of my trusted friend or, should I say, guidebook, the ‘Rother Walking Guide’ which covers the finest coastal and mountain walks in Mallorca. The book states this hike should take 3 hours and 20 minutes, and has some of the best coastal and mountain views.
Having parked our car on one of the residential streets opposite the well-known Es Moli Restaurant in Sant Elm, we started walking up Avinguda de La Trapa. A few minutes later, the tarmacked road evolved into more of a gravelled dirt track called Camí de Can Tomeví. This track is lined by a rural stone wall and marks the start of a compelling, luscious green forest.
A few minutes later, we reached a crossroads in front of an abandoned house. At this point, it is worth mentioning that there are two stages to this hike, and actually there’s the option to complete the first part as a smaller hike in its own right. The first part is the hike from Sant Elm to the watchtower, Torre Cala en Basset, which is a there and back retracing your footsteps kind of trip. The second part of the hike is a loop from the crossroads to La Trapa Monastery, and down through the valley and back to the crossroads.
For this first part of our hike towards the watchtower, we took the left at the crossroads down a broad path where we couldn’t help but notice that the soil transformed into a vibrant terracotta red. We passed a few derelict properties before the path got narrower and narrower. It wasn’t long before we hit a larger track in an open space, where (as directed by our hiking book), we turned right. A further 200m down the track there are some faded red way markings, indicating we should take a right up into the pine forest. From this point, directions were made easier by cairns and arrows made out of stones, which had been placed to help hikers like ourselves take the right route. Soon we emerged from the forest and our first views over the island of Dragonera made us stop in our tracks and admire the views.
As we carried on, at this point travelling along the coastline, we were awaiting our first glimpse of Torre Cala en Basset which had been promised in my book. We hadn’t passed a single person on our route so far, but as the watchtower emerged in the distance, we spotted two groups of people outside. Upon closer inspection, we discovered we could climb up to the top of the tower with the help of a ladder and a rope. To get the full experience, we braved the climb up and were rewarded with fantastic views over the island of Dragonera and the sea below the rather large drop! After spending 10 minutes at the watchtower, we left and followed the way we came to get back to the crossroads. This first stage of the hike was just over an hour and led us into a false sense of security as it was quite an easy hike, perfect for beginners or those keen for a shorter walk.
Back at the crossroads, we then took the middle path which is signposted La Trapa and was just a few steps away from the way we had come back from. We followed the path up the mountains, ignoring the two posts on the left which were a few minutes into the route and could have misled us if we hadn’t had our guidebook. The path uphill was the less obvious route even though it was well-trodden and waymarked with cairns for the initial part of the journey. However, as we travelled further, the rocky terrain got increasingly difficult and the way wasn’t as clear, but we continued to follow our instincts and found a rope which had been placed to help hikers pass some big rocks on the trickiest part of the route. This was a welcome indication that we were on the right path and we continued to travel towards the top of the mountain with a little bit of scrambling on the way. This steep climb certainly got our hearts racing! At the top we stood on a rocky platform to view the Dragonera again but from a higher level this time, then continued along the coastal path toward the ruins of the Trapist monastery.
Upon arrival at the site, we spotted that the ruins were surrounded by terraced gardens and could see people were hard at work maintaining the site. The views were mesmerising and, because we had previously decided to eat our packed lunch here, we had plenty of time to soak up the scenery and read the signs introducing a bit about the history of the monastery. Within the grounds of the ruins, there was a small picnic area with some wooden benches to rest. It was the perfect spot to sit down and eat our pre-prepared sandwiches, whilst resting before the next part of our trail.
Leaving La Trapa Monastery, we had to contend with a steep descent up a track! This was a leg burning 15-20-minute climb with some hairpin twist and turns. At the top, however, we were more than rewarded for our efforts as we stood speechless, taking in the panoramic views of the mountains and valleys below. We were then relieved to see that the rest of the hike would be a descent into Sant Elm. It was a further half an hour of hairpin twists and turns downhill before we reached the crossroads for the third and final time. From here, we retraced our first footsteps back along the track to reach the village at 3 o’clock. So the hike was a good three and a half hours, including our lunch break.
If you are travelling to Mallorca this winter, I would highly recommend this hike for its epic coastal and mountain scenery! It’s an easy-moderate difficulty level, simply due to the climb before La Trapa Monastery. Unfortunately, many of the restaurants are closed in Sant Elm in the winter months. Cala Conills is one of the top seafood restaurants in the area and boasts fantastic views over the beach in Sant Elm. Otherwise, Port de Andratx is nearby and here you will find plenty of good restaurants to choose from.
Top Tips: Proper hiking boots are recommended for this route, although trainers with good grip are also suitable. You will need water, and some snacks to boost your energy levels. Take suitable clothing for all weather conditions, as Mallorca’s weather can be changeable in the winter time.
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