What goes up, must come down...
Ok, climbs are cool, but we consider it’s not all about the climbs. What better reward is there to reach a summit? Exactly, it's a fun and scenic descent! Well, at least for us it is. And one can find loads of them on Mallorca. Although it’s a small island, there’s over 50 peaks above 1000 meters (3200 feet) in the Tramuntana Mountain Range and several mountains on the rest of the island. That gives plenty of climbs and descents with cool switchbacks and surrounded by beautiful sceneries. As the mountain range is part of the World Heritage by Unesco, the government receives subventions to maintain the roads in a good state, which they mostly are. So here’s a heads up to what we consider to be the best or our favorite climbs and descents, based on different criteria, from scenery to reward.
Puig Sant Salvador
Distance: 5km / Elevation gain: 350m / Average gradient: 6.4% / Category: 2nd
First of all, ‘Puig' means mountain in Catalan, so it’s literally the mountain of Saint Saviour. We could tell you loads about its history, but that’s a story for another day. It’s the highest peak in the East of Mallorca, at 510 meters above Sea level. Its climb is not long, but it’s still a second category in cycling difficulty standards. The first stretch seems like a long false flat, but which slowly turns into a 7% gradient when the first curves arrive. So many people start off way too hard and blow into pieces after the first kilometer… *evil laughter*. The remaining 4km up are mostly switchbacks through pines and passing all kinds of religious monuments like a tiny chapel with candles (start pushing for a steep stretch). Views are mostly to the center of the island and Tramuntana Mountains in the back. Generally you’re climbing up between a 6-10% gradient. Yup, quite intense, we promise the views on the top are totally worth it (unless it’s overcast)! On the top you can find a Monastery with its chapel, a hostel and a ‘Sao Paolo style’ Jesus cross statue. From the platform on the summit you can take in a panoramic view over most of Mallorca and some clear days spot the islands of Menorca and Cabrera.
Distance: 6km / Elevation gain: 335m / Average gradient: 5.7% / Category: 2nd
You probably know the word ‘Col’ in French, so it’s pretty straightforward to assume ‘Coll’ is the Catalan versión for ‘mountain pass’. The Pass of Honor is a very nice climb and part of a loop we have in “our backyard” that passes through the Orient Valley. It starts off just outside the picturesque town of Bunyola, located at the feet of the Tramuntana Mountains. One actually already starts climbing from the town square and through its tiny streets, but the official sign is placed further up. So on the sign it says 5km, but it’s really over 6km long. The average gradient is a bit sneaky, as there are a few rests in it, so you’re really climbing around 7-8% gradient most of the time. You quickly get some very pretty views before entering the more narrow and forested canyon. You’ll see a great variety of trees and plants and occasionally cycle past a waterstream. There are a few rural hotels and private homes beside the road as well. To give away one ‘but’, we have to admit that the pavement is not great, but it’s still the best option into Orient Valley, which you preferably can’t miss. Hopefully it will be newly paved soon, so we can update this post. The reward to climbing this Coll is the amazing scenery in Orient Valley, its town (Orient) and the descent down Coll d’Orient on the other side. A 5km very fast and sweeping descent from the valley down to Alaró through 2 big vertical table mountains. We go there all the time for a short but intense loop and never get tired of its beauty.
Distance: 14km / Elevation gain: 800m / Average gradient: 6.2% / Category: 1st
This one could be tagged as an Alpine Monster as a reference, but we'll stick to Tramuntana Monster. There’s not really an official name for this climb. As it’s summit is nearby the base of the highest peak of Mallorca called the Puig Major, and it’s the longest climb on the island, we guess people just decided to call it that way. The actual summit is at the Monnaber Tunnel, and that’s what the sign says. Anyway, as we mentioned, it’s a long climb, but it’s also quite pretty. You start off from the town of Soller and its gorgeous valley. Most of the way up you ride through Pine forest and at certain spots you can enjoy marvellous views into the Valley and towards the mountains. If you know where the summit is (the tunnel carved into the mountains), you can see it from far away, but we don’t recommend people knowing as the road there seems endless. If you go out early it’s very likely to find goats or donkeys on the road. There’s a spot where you cross through a hole carved into the rock and just 1 downhill segment to relax the legs (or not). After many twists and turns to get out of the valley, one arrives at the Monnaber Tunnel, with a lookout over the valley and the Mediterranean Sea in the back, but the real reward is is the scenery on the other side of the tunnel… Descending the Puig Major: if you’re into a long, fun and speedy descent, the Puig Major is a great one! The pavement is good, there are little tight bends and there’s good visibility. There’s a ‘but’ to it though: traffic! Tour Busses, motorbikes crossing lanes and slow descending rental cars.
Coll de Femenía
Distance: 7km / Elevation gain: 410m / Average gradient: 6% / Category: 2nd
The Coll de Femenía is located in the North of the Tramuntana Mountains and connects Pollença and Lluc. It’s both a great way in (see numbers above) or out of the mountains, but we prefer to include it in a descending direction on our trips. The smooth tarmac, sweeping bends and changing scenery makes it one of our favorite downhills. In combination with climbing Coll de Sa Batalla, we call it the Lluc Loop. After a rollercoaster road from the sanctuary, you reach the summit of Femenia at 510m above sea level. The first part doesn’t offer much views, but the second half of the descent you’ll have amazing sights over the beautiful valley called Vall d’en March. Check out the amazing eroded rock formations and mountains around you (or rather do that when climbing)! You’ll really enjoy the long stretch through the valley at the bottom that will take you to the town of Pollença.
Coll de Sa Batalla
Distance: 8km / Elevation gain: 430m / Average gradient: 5% / Category: 2nd
The Coll de Sa Batalla is a popular climb to get into the Tramuntana Mountains and one of Fonzie’s favorites on the island. It starts from the pretty town of Caimari, where you can find one of our favorite Cycling Cafés called Sa Ruta Verda (we love their juices, bagels, homemade bars and cakes). The road also leads one up towards Lluc Sanctuary, a place of pilgrimage. Its road passes mostly through pine forest and has many switchbacks. At certain spots you’ll cross the pilgrimage walking track. After a few kilometers up you get some stunning views over a valley and the East. Later you pass between two stone walls. The cliff on the right just after this split is called ‘the jump of the beautiful lady’, after a legend (or not). They placed protection to avoid cyclists from following her fate. A few kilometers further up you reach the pass. Not much to see there, but you can refuel at the restaurant before either heading towards the Puig Major or down to Lluc and Pollença.
Distance: 9km / Elevation gain: 670m / Average gradient: 7% / Category: 1st
And last but not least, our most emblematic, epic and king of Climbs on Mallorca is the famous Sa Calobra. It’s actually a tiny port village located within the Tramuntana Mountains on the Northwest coast. It’s only accessible by boat or a single long winding road, which is one of the main goals of cyclists coming to the island. So the thing is, you’ll most likely first descend it and afterwards climb it back out, unless you decide to take the ferry (from or to)! The summit is officially called Coll del Reis, but normally the road is referred to as Sa Calobra. So first things first. The descent is AMAZING (yes, in capital letters). It’s very likely you’ll stop a few times to capture the scenery one way or another. The first thing you’ll love is the famous 270° loop-the-loop turn. From up there and some other spots you can see a great segment of the serpentine road descending, you’ll probably express amazement out loud in different kinds of language and start to worry / be excited about the climb back out. Anyway, the scenery is just astonishing and although you might be more focused on the switchbacks (around 26) and breaking on the way down, you’ll get to enjoy it again on the way up! So let’s get to the climbing part. The 9km of intense climbing with ramps up to 14% are some of the toughest on the island, but as we’ve both heard and consider ourselves, one of the most beautiful climbs in the world. Sir Bradley Wiggins trained here in preparation for his 2012 Tour de France victory. You’ll start from the tiny port back out through a few kilometers of pine forest and through its famous rock arch. You’ll slowly start to move out of the tree cover and just over halfway you’re able to see all the way up to the loop turn. Jeesh that’s far! Yup, still 5km to go and the last 2 kilometers are the steepest, so save your energy! Your reward? Quite clear at this point…