“Like many other sun-hungry drop-outs after him, Ludwig Salvator found his happiness on the island of Majorca” - Sonia Schmökel
The Path of the Archduke, or Camí de s’Arxiduc, is thought by many avid hikers to be one of the most magnificent walks on the island, which is not entirely surprising as it was purpose-built by an eccentric Austrian Archduke for the sole function of giving him a pleasurable route to take his horses on. In this, he succeeded beyond doubt, leaving as his legacy this amazing path for us all to enjoy today.
The History #
Ludwig Salvator, a decidedly handsome young man, was from the Austrian-Tuscan branch of the Habsburg dynasty. Considered pleasure-seeking mavericks, they were not the most popular part of the family, so when Italian unification ended the Habsburg reign in Tuscany, the Emperor had to figure out what to with his wayward relatives. Ludwig was first sent to Prague, which wasn’t to his liking, so he asked, using asthma as an excuse, to be allowed to move to warmer climes. He settled on Mallorca, and instantly fell in love with the island. He bought vast swaths of land between Valldemossa and Deià, building stately homes and dedicating himself to his real passions... science and nature. The locals adored the generous, offbeat Archduke, who was accessible to even his most lowly tenants.
In 1883, he drew up plans for what is now called the Archduke Way, and the rest is, as they say, history!
The Walk #
If you like a challenge, and have a good fitness level, this is a fabulous walk for you! The full 17kms circuit (there are shortcuts to reduce the distance to just over 11kms) takes somewhere in the vicinity of five hours to complete and takes you from the starting point in Valldemossa, up steep inclines and through grand holly oak and gnarled olive trees until reaching the Coll de Son Gallard, at an elevation of 766 metres. Here, you continue along the oddly semi-barren and rocky ridge until the crystal blue waters of the Med and dramatic Deià coastline present themselves for your viewing pleasure. Turn your head the other way, and the Tramuntanas loom large.
Keep walking and you’ll arrive to the cliff-side path with views to Sa Foradada to die for. The next big stopping point is when you reach the top of the 945 metre Puig Caragoli, the highest point of the walk. The road starts its downhill portion from here, taking you through the Es Cairats valley, past the Son Gual estate and finally back into Valldemossa.
Along the way, there are also points of historical interest, such as pits and small huts that were once used to store charcoal and snow, a valuable commodity during the hot summer months. Just a small detour away is also the cave of a 17th century hermit who spent a life in solitude and prayer and whose skull now resides in the Hermitage de La Trinitat in Valldemossa.
Affordable Mallorca Tip: The path isn’t always clearly marked, so carry a good map or use a guide so your walking wonderland doesn’t turn into a nightmare replete with forest rangers having to fish you off a mountain in the middle of the night. Not fun!
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By Stephanie Horsman
16 October, 2020