The Tramuntana Mountains, increasingly more popular. | Archive

Following the end of the first state of alarm in 2020, there was a boom in mountain activities in Mallorca. The growth is continuing, so much so that the Balearic Mountaineering Federation is now the fourth ranked sports federation in the islands behind football, golf and basketball. Now that it's autumn, hiking and other activities are on the increase, especially in the Tramuntana Mountains.

Popular with both residents and tourists, there are concerns about a progressive overcrowding of the mountain range, and more and more voices are calling for better signage for routes. The number of people going into the mountains is increasing and so is the number of mountain rescues. Improved signage, it is argued, will help to prevent accidents.

Environmental conservation is a major issue. Human pressure threatens this. But more than ten years on since the Tramuntana, the jewel for nature tourism, was declared a World Heritage Site, there are no real data to measure this pressure. In 2019, the regional environment ministry installed some people counters, but these meters are still in a "test phase".

Mayors have been demanding, without much success, that appropriate protocols are introduced to try and prevent problems caused by overcrowding. There are times, especially when it snows, that the mountains "are like a theme park".

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Costs are incurred in various ways, one of them being fines for entering exclusion zones, access to which is limited to scientific purposes. The number of infringements is only low, but then monitoring isn't straightforward. Environment ministry figures indicate that sixteen sanctioning procedures in respect of the Tramuntana were opened in 2021.

For the Council of Mallorca's tourism department, mountain activities (predominantly hiking) represent a strategic tourism segment because of the potential for addressing seasonality. The season starts in January and runs until May before picking up again in September. There has been a growth in the number of specialist companies, European and Mallorcan.

But this success brings with it a potential downside, and when it comes to signage there are rules in Mallorca which are unlike other parts of Spain and other countries. The Balearic government's management plan for natural resources forbids any painting of information on rocks. This adds to the expense of and difficulties with installing adequate signs, a reason why there is limited signage.

This is one factor in striking the right balance with the need for conservation. Another, and this became evident when that post-state of alarm boom occurred, is litter.