You want to do the Camí de Cavalls? Here's how

The official information makes it sound like the Camí de Cavalls is well sorted to do on foot, by bike or by horse. But, if you don't already live on Menorca a lot of the information you would like to know before taking on this path is difficult to find. This post aims to provide that information.

Horse, bike or foot?

The Camí de Cavalls is based on the old "Horse Road" that went round the island but for political/access reasons it doesn't exactly follow the historical route. The adjusted route means that there are parts that are not suitable for horses. Indeed it may be very technical even to lead a horse, and in some cases detours away from the official path are required. It you want to ride a horse around the Camí de Cavalls you need local knowledge and some flexibility. Talk to the folk at www.menorcahorseriding.com who know a bit more about this.

If you wish to cycle the trail you will need a mountain bike in good working order. Front and rear suspension is highly desirable as the going is very rocky. There are plenty of bits that are too steep to cycle so be prepared for a lot of lifting and pushing. There are also hundreds of gates. The trail is 185km long and it is a tough and technical ride. Good mountain bikes are available for hire on the island, even with home delivery. There are good bike shops in Mahón and Ciutadella.

If you have the time, then walking the Camí de Cavalls is perhaps the nicest way to see the scenery. But, 185km is a long way, and there are long sections without options for refuelling or stocking up on water, so you will need to plan carefully.

How long does it take?

This depends on your level of fitness and attitude. I don't know of anyone who has done the entire Camí de Cavalls by horse so cannot comment on this. Running or biking, the ultra extreme are capable of completing the circuit in a single 24 hour period - but this is very much a challenge for the ultra extreme only. I am pretty fit and mountain biked round in two very long and hard days - about 23 hours on the move by my reckoning. The going was a lot tougher than I had bargained for and I didn't have time to appreciate the journey or take pictures. If you are in Menorca for a week then 3 or 4 days would be a nice timescale to bike the complete path in, I think.

If you have several weeks then completing the path in stages at a more leisurely pace - cycling or walking early before the heat of the day arrives - is a sensible approach.

What's the trail like?

North coast: Up and down. There are some fast bits, some technical bits, some nice singletrack, not many flat bits. A few short road sections, quite a few bits where you'll need to push / carry your bike. The most spectacular coastline, in my opinion.

West coast around Ciutadella: Rocky, barren, and slow going over a pitted and crevaced limestone pavement "path". I predict you'll be glad to put this part behind you.

South coast: Pretty tough going a lot of this as the path descends into and then climbs out of the numerous gorges on the south coast. At some places the path heads inland and there is singletrack around the edges of the stone-walled fields. The most ridiculously pretty coastline, in my opinion.

East coast around Mahón: Generally quite quick. There is a long section on the road between Cala St Esteve and Cala Mesquida.

In wet conditions the rocks are slippery (particularly an issue on dewey mornings in the forests / gorges on the south coast).

Clockwise or Anticlockwise?

It doesn't make much difference - both ways work! I went anticlockwise.

Where to start?

From what I can make out people tend to start from wherever they are based - there is no set start or finish point. Perhaps reflecting this most people start at either Mahón or Ciutadella. I started at Fornells.

Time of year

Any time of year is possible. Long days are preferable so perhaps Spring would be ideal. Brits and other Northern Europeans are likely to find the mid to late summer months very hot. Winds from the north are cooling in the summer and chilling in the winter. The north coast is very exposed to these winds and strong winds from this direction would be best avoided unless you are looking for a particularly hardcore challenge.

Maps

Away from the towns the path is very well signposted. At night if you have a headtorch the posts that mark the way have reflectors and are very easy to spot. This was a nice surprise as I started and finished my trip in the dark, both days (mid winter). It is useful to have a map of the island so you can assess progress but you don't need a map and are unlikely to go wrong (if you do miss a turning you will soon realise you have gone wrong and it is not difficult to get back on track). At the beginning and end of each section are information boards that are useful to get your bearings. You don't need the equivalent of Ordnance Survey maps and - indeed - these are hard to come by anyway.

Water

There are long sections without settlements and carrying enough water is a serious matter. In summer it can be dangerously hot. The longest section without resupply options is between Playas de Fornells and Ciutadella. Note that there is a beach restaurant at Binimel-lá, but this is only open for a few hours each day and in summer only - so cannot be relied upon. Cala Morell also may have options for refreshments, but you will have to search these out and again may find nothing. In winter I carried 3 litres of water and was dry well before the time I reached Ciutadella, and that was winter. Go figure. Your options for going off-route to resupply are non trivial and will involve major detours.

On the south coast between Cala'n Bosch and Cala Galdana there are no resupply points: at Cala Galdana I resupplied from a hosepipe (found after a 20 minute search - winter remember, nothing open). These are the worst sections but keep well supplied and refill when you get the opportunity.

Food

It is easy to get food in Mahón, Ciutadella and Cala'n Porter at any time of year and most times of day. I also found a (single) bar/café in Son Bou and another (single offering) at Punta Prima. During the tourist season May to October all the urbanisations are likely to have small supermarkets and bar/restaurants so refuelling will be easier.

Safety / mobile coverage

There are long sections without mobile coverage and you may go a long time without seeing other trail users. In my 2 days I saw only 5 or 6 other people. If you injure yourself you could be in quite serious trouble so take necessary precautions. Obviously a bike helmet is essential. The minorcan landscape is very hard so if you do fall you are likely to suffer injury, which may be serious.

All the posts along the path are all numbered, so communicating your position is possible even if you do not know exactly where you are, providing you have mobile coverage (which as noted above, you may not have).

Camping

Wild camping is not allowed in Menorca. Despite this, with no-one around in winter, who is going to object? I took a bivvy bag and slept a peaceful night at Cala'n Turqueta on the south coast of the island. I was up and away before dawn and left no trace. Camping is great for flexibility and I would recommend this approach for a non-stop multi-day lap of the island (individuals / small groups). During the peak of the summer season beach camping is more strongly discouraged so extra discretion or seeking out more remote locations will be necessary (but not difficult, if this is your preferred approach).

Fun? Recommended?

Absolutely! It's a great path on a fantastic island. I thoroughly recommend at least a stage or two. For the physically prepared it is a nice distance for a short getaway circular expedition over a few days. Just be aware that is it a more serious undertaking than you might first assume. I'd recommend winter time for more solitude and less heat.

Some more good information

http://www.ctc.org.uk/cycle/road-around-menorca

Anything I missed?

Please contact me and I'll update this page.

 

AttachmentSize
File menorca-mtb-2-days.kml116.62 KB