Estellencs & Banyalbufar
Miles and miles of walls and terraces have been built through the ages all across Mallorca. Where ever the ground was too steep and rocky to plant trees, families went to extreme efforts to make the most from the land. They picked up the stones to build walls and dug the earth to form level terraces. An elaborate system of water tanks and drainage channels would keep the ground moist using only gravity. Only once the water was flowing could the people plant their olive trees or vines.
The Moors who came to the island in 902 AD are credited with building the walls, bringing knowledge they had learnt on the arid lands of North Africa. They no doubt used slave labour to carry out most of the work. Legend has it that each generation added a level and on some hillsides the rows of terrace climb as high as the eye can see. The final effect is stunning for when you look at the terraces from ground level all you can see is a huge wall but if you were to fly overhead you would see a flat fertile area.
The highest density of these terraces can be found in the Tramuntana Mountains, along the north coast of the island. Tucked high in the mountains, overlooking the sea, is the tiny village of Banyabulfar where the efforts of years of hard work can be seen on the slopes surrounding the houses and farms. Virtually every square metre of hillside has been converted in a flat fertile terrace creating a fantastic meeting of man and nature. It is a testament to Moorish engineering and it is all watered by the springs which emerge from Puig Planicia's caves.
The original name of the village was Banyalbahar , with Banya being the name for a Moorish settlement and Bahar for by the sea; so it was known as the village by the sea. Over 300 years the Moors turned the rugged hillside into a fertile area, growing wheat, barley, pulses, olives, flax, hemp and saffron; they also supplemented their diet with fish from the sea. However, it was the large vineyard which the village became well known for. Acres of Malvasier vines were planted and while the Islamic faith banned the Moors from drinking alcohol, the sweet grapes could be eaten.
Following the conquest in 1229, Banyalbufar came under the control of Gilabert de Cruïlles and Ramon sa Clusa and they kept the vineyards going. The grapes produced a sweet dessert wine known as malmsey wine and it became a favourite of the court of Aragon. While some said it was a delight to drink, others were not so complementary about its taste.
Generations of barons lived in a large Finca called Son Bumnia and they no doubt ruled the peasants with a rod of iron, keeping them toiling in all weathers on the vineyards. In the 1880s the arrival of the vine pest known as phylloxera on Mallorca destroyed Banyabulfar's vineyards. With no annual income to rely on, the baron resorted to selling plots of land to the peasants to raise money. They continued they backbreaking work on the terraces, only this time they were growing fruit and vegetables to stay alive.
There are two places to get a good view of the terraces. The first involves a steep walk up the tarmac track leading from the centre of the village up the hillside. The second is a parking area about a mile to the east of the village; you can also follow the GR221 footpath along the coastline from here.
The Mirador de Ses Animes, or Watchtower of the Souls, is perched high on a cliff next to the mountain road west of the village. The tower is well worth a visit because of the fantastic views along the Tramuntana coast. From the top of the tower you can imagine the watchmen keeping a lookout for pirate ships coming to attack the village.
Back to Tramuntana (West) Page | Go to Mallorca Days Out home page
www.mallorcadaysout.com is the property of Andrew Rawson and all content is his copyright and no part of it may be reproduced without his permission. Webmaster: Ian Morrison, Apartado 59, Porto Colom 07670, Felanitx, Mallorca.