The Sa Calobra Canyon, also known as the Torrent de Pareis Gorge, must be one of the island’s most dramatic landscapes and is one of Mallorca’s two Natural Monuments. Friends of ours wanted to go there for a walk a few weeks ago and were most surprised when we told them that it would be well worth visiting but would, indeed, be a very testing hike or trek, and not to be underestimated. We advised them not to overestimate their skills and rather enter the canyon from the seaside, trying to get up into the gorge as far as they could and to turn back when the going got too rough.
Luckily, our friends heeded our advice and set off with sturdy walking boots, a plentiful supply of water, the mobile phone charged up and a digital camera for the scenic views en route. They went through Inca and admired the drive up past the terraced landscape of the Tramuntana mountains, turned left on top in the direction of Sóller and turned right past the aqueduct in the direction of Sa Calobra. They were most impressed by the 12 km long serpentine route and by the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea when they got down to Sa Calobra. They found the beach, had a swim, walked to the mouth of the canyon and began the hike. The trek was far from an easy Sunday afternoon stroll but, was just this side of too demanding. After about an hour the path was blocked by some boulders of perhaps 3 metres in height and they decided that it was time to head back. I am glad they did. They went back for another refreshing swim in the gorgeous sea before they headed back for Inca where they treated themselves to some excellent fish (Cap Roig [scorpion fish], at 50 € per kg).
When they returned home they stated categorically that they wanted to live here in Mallorca as well. They had seen the island at its best.
Sadly, one has to be reminded that quite a number of lives have been lost in that very canyon over the last 15 to 20 years, tourists as well as locals. So do not embark on this hike unless you have carefully and truthfully evaluated the conditions: your own fitness, that of your companions and that of your equipment.
Some Mallorcan friends reckon that the best time for this hiking excursion would be between May and September, but whenever you go, do not take children under the age of ten. If you still want to go, heed this advice: Take your sturdiest pair of shoes, certainly no sandals or flip-flops. Take plenty of water. And then some more. Take some food as well, apart from a couple of sandwiches, like nuts, or muesli bars. Take your mobile phone, and make sure the battery is charged up to the full. Take a rope. Take an extra piece of clothing in case you might get stuck for the night, and a towel. Best of all, don’t go on your own. Even if you go in a group of two or four, go with someone who has been there and has done it at least once before, just to be on the safe side. Always make sure, before you set off, that plenty of people know where you are going, when you leave and when you are aiming to come back. Do not undertake this excursion lightly.
If you go by car, as most people would, you take the Palma – Soller road, crossing the pass instead of taking the new tunnel. This way you have fun right from the beginning of your trip. Then take the Pollença road, passing the army barracks below Puig Major, the Cuber water reservoir and the Gorg Blau (another water reservoir). Make your way to Escorca and park your car, let’s say near the church. Leave no valuables in your car.
If you are in two cars, which might make much more sense as far as the return journey is concerned, drive back with both cars for about 3 km or four, and take the road off to the right where it is signposted ‘Sa Calobra’. If you reach Gorg Blau again, you have gone too far. Now, one of the most daring serpentine roads in the Balearics awaits you. But if you are not a driving novice, you will manage. You drive all the way down to Sa Calobra, where you park one of your two cars. Again, do not leave anything valuable in this car either. Drive back with the other car to Escorca.
From Escorca, follow the signs for S’Entrefoc, now on foot, or Puig des Cosconar (ca. 542 m, mind that you don’t climb up that one). Just stay on the narrow path which should not be too tricky. Follow the arrows and look out for the occasional small piles of stones that mark the route. You will spend the best part of two hours before you get to the ‘Cova des Soldat Pelut’. This is where the hike starts in earnest. This is the point where the Torrent de Lluc meets the Torrent de Pareis. The Torrent de Pareis is a dry river bed most of the time, and only turns into a river, and sometimes a wild and dangerous one, after a heavy rainfall. Don’t continue your hike if there is more than a palm of water in it when you get there, and better still, go only when dry actually means DRY.
There is no path in the torrent, or if there ever has been one, the last rainfalls have washed that away. Large rocks, stones and pebbles make your footing quite unstable, so it is best to take your time. If conditions are to your advantage, you should come to the end of the Torrent after a further two hours before you come to the end of the rocky stretch and the start of the pebbled bit leading eventually to the beach of Sa Calobra. In case of emergencies during your hike, ring 112 for help. And have a safe return.
If you are more sensible and less adventurous, you might, like me, want to take the walk instead of the hike. That means you drive down to Sa Calobra where you will probably find that the bottom end of the Torrent de Pareis is almost dry, and easily accessible. Walk up a few hundred meters on the pebbly stretches of the Torrent, and aim for the rockier stretch. Once there, do yourself a favor and do not get lured any deeper into the river bed, even if it is dry-dry. Do not be bribed by any Sirens either, but head back towards your car, where you will find a half a dozen bars and restaurants, and you can enjoy the spectacular sea views.
If the sea is calm there is a daily boat service from Port de Sóller to Sa Calobra at 10h00, 11h15, 13h00 and 15h00, April to October (Barcas Tramuntana).
For those of you who have no need of such possible hardship or a physical challenge in general, but rather get their nurture from the beauty of the landscape or the pleasures of music, heed this: an annual concert is performed in the Torrent de Pareis at the safe end of the canyon, 200 m or so up from the beach. This year’s event will be staged on July 7th at 17h30 when a concert will be given by the choir Coral Universitat de les Illes Balears. That’s tomorrow, on Sunday. Admission is free. There will be boats returning to Port de Sóller after the end of the concert.