On 27 June 2011, the Serra Tramuntana (Tramuntana Range) was awarded World Heritage Status. The UNESCO acknowledged its cultural and historical legacy, which is both intangible and incalculable; a nature reserve valued for the wealth of its endemic flora and fauna, which has inspired numerous artists, and which is universally renowned for its beauty … but there are many who were already familiar with and enraptured by this rocky 90km (56 Mile) stretch of Mallorcan landscape between “Sa Dragonera” and “Cap de Formentor”.
“The best view comes after the hardest climb”
Among its famous, frequent or occasional visitors and residents we find personalities from the past and present such as the poet Miquel Costa I Llobera, from Pollensa, who praised its beauty in many of his verses; artists enchanted by its abrupt silhouettes and pleasant light who painted and continue to paint its landscapes: two examples are the Catalan Anglada-Camarasa and Dionís Bennassar of Pollensa.
Joan Miró took inspiration from the Serra during the long periods he spent on the island. The British writer, Robert Graves, imbued in it, strongly defended the idiosyncrasies of this special area and strove to protect them. Today, his simple grave in Deià is a place of pilgrimage for many of his admirers. The writers Agatha Christie and Anaïs Nin, fascinated by the charms of the island and the Serra, created part of their work there, even featuring it in their novels.
Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria, a Habsburg, is known as a champion for Mallorca’s wildlife, in an era when the term “conservation” meant nothing.
He arrived in Mallorca in 1867 and fell in love with the island’s deep blue Mediterranean Sea and clear skies. His main residence of Son Marroig near the village of Deià is now a museum.
Much of what was his property now belongs to the American actor Michael Douglas notably the Moorish style palace S’Etaca that Ludwig converted from a ruined old manor house.
The Austrian Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Hapsburg-Lorraine, locally known as “S’Arxiduc”, made an admirable contribution with his extensive opus: “Die Balearen”, a comprehensive study of life in the Serra de Tramuntana. Celebrities as Boris Becker, Claudia Schiffer, Paco de Lucía, or Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones, the architect Jordi Bonet (in charge of the completion of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona), or the composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, who also has a home in the area, have publicly defended and supported its candidature to World Heritage status.
Famous admirers such as Sissi, the real Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria, or Romy Schneider, the actress who portrayed her on film; Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis; Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier, or visitors such as George Lucas, Brigitte Bardot, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, Natalie Wood, Jack Nicholson, Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, Tom Hanks, Annie Lennox, Antonio Banderas, Van Morrison, Ava Gardner or a young Stephen Hawking, and an unending group of eminent personalities have enjoyed and praised the Serra de Tramuntana.
Its geological formation, mostly limestone, makes it the main water reserve in Mallorca. Moreover, it is unique from a botanical point of view with more than 25 endemic species and subspecies and 13 varieties of prized orchid. Among its native fauna, we find the cute Mallorcan midwife toad, the Minoricensis pine marten, the shy Balearic genet, or the majestic black vulture, the largest bird of prey in Europe. Seahawks, ospreys or long-tailed white coats glide through the skies, between the cliffs of the Serra and the sea.
Mallorca is the only Mediterranean island where Cinereous Vultures can be found. This magnificent bird was nearly extinct in the early 1980s because of illegal hunting and wildlife poisoning.
In 1983, the Black Vulture Conservation Foundation (BVCF), in conjunction with the regional government of the Balearic Islands, started a conservation project to halt the decline of the species.
Today, the Cinereous Vulture population is booming in Mallorca! Their population has multiplied by ten during the last four decades.
Many features of the Serra bear witness to the integration of human activities of the past with the natural environment: cobbled paths, silos and charcoal burners huts, cisterns, water mills, structures for storing ice and archaeological features such as cave dwellings or burial sites, “talayots” and prehistoric settlements.
Smuggling, which was common during the 20th century, and numerous pirate skirmishes which took place in the 16th and 17th centuries, have left in their wake some interesting structures, such as watch towers or ingenious hideouts used by smugglers.
But the most remarkable landscape features have to be the “marjades”(dry stone wall terraces), which were constructed using only local stone, with no mortar or cement, and which measure approximately 19,000 linear kilometres (12,000 Miles), more than three times the length of the Great Wall of China. Not to be missed are the incredible “marjades” at Caimari.
There is a network of footpaths and mountain refuges for crossing the Serra on foot, which is a great way to discover its hidden charms. Suitable for all ages, it is divided into several stages for different abilities. Accommodation at the refuges can be reserved via the Consell de Mallorca website.
Thanks to UNESCO and its designation as World Heritage Site, the Serra Tramuntana won’t be under the threat of over development or huge infrastructures.