Once an ancient military path built to protect Menorca from invaders; now a continuous nature trail that protects the environment and heritage of the island, the Camí de Cavalls lies at the very core of Menorca’s identity.
I got a small taste for this 185km long route via a short trek and a few hours of mountain biking, and vowed one day to return to Menorca and complete the entire path that winds around the circumference of the island.
Our guide, Joan from Camí de Cavalls 360º said that such a journey would take around one week and that many people return to complete it more than once. The appeal is a trail that conceals some of the most pristine landscapes in the Mediterranean – an island declared a ‘Biosphere Reserve’ by UNESCO.
This sustainable loop swerves through multiple eco-systems, rugged coastlines that conceal 130 bays and coves, and a diverse landscape that changes from orange desert-like sands to dense woodland, wetlands to wave-crashing beaches, and flat paths to rugged cliff-tops.
An island that has remained relatively unknown and untouched, in comparison to its well-established and famous Balearic neighbours, Ibiza and Majorca, Menorca attracts the more adventurous explorer and nature sports enthusiast.
The Camí de Cavalls – which is completely off-limits to cars – is explored mainly via hiking, biking and horse riding. Two to five days on horseback covers a lot of ground, where you can ride the powerful and traditional Menorquín breed of horse from one of the many stables on the island. There’s 21 clearly marked cycle routes all around the island, including those on the Cami, and the loop itself attracts hardcore trail runners who take part in the 360º races annually.
I found the most solace exploring this path by foot, where I could stop and really absorb the environment as it changed colour and texture. Menorca prides itself on being a slow destination and finding harmony with nature, with the Camí de Cavalls reflecting exactly this mindset.
The meaning of Camí de Cavalls translates as the ‘Way of Horses’ – a name that is said to go back to the 14th century and the cavalleries (‘knights’) who were in charge of defending the island from pirates. Its use as a defence boundary was implemented on the island for centuries – with ancient watchtowers and trenches still in tact – until parts of it fell to disuse in the 20th century. Many sections of the path remained closed for decades, with owners of property locking and gating their land. In the 1990’s, under the protest of locals and with the help of the local authority, it was once again made completely accessible.
We followed the wooden trail markers that line the route, stamped with the now famous metal plaque with a picture of a horseshoe and the trail-marker number. On bike and foot, they led to woodland that concealed isolated beaches on the other side of leafy curtains, golden country roads that fed directly into dense green and hilly barren lands where not another soul could be seen.
Every time we reached a wooden gates and fence – one of the trail’s other popular and famous markings – we knew we were on the right journey. You would pass over 100 of them, one approximately every 1.85km, if you were to complete the entire route. I’ll count the handful we found as a good start.
The Camí de Cavalls once kept people away from Menorca in the name of its protection, but today the same path encourages people to stay and be a part of a sustainable method of its preservation. How many steps will you take in safeguarding the unique landscape of the island, held together by a single, circular trail?
Things to Know:
- The Camí de Cavalls is the registered long-distance walking route, GR 223.
- The hiking route can be broken down into 13 stages, all of which can be experienced individually or in combinations and which are suitable for any hiker ability level.
- For further information about planning your time in Menorca, visit the Spain Tourism website
Where to Stay:
Hotel Artiem Audax – An adult only hotel, that sits on the nature reserve coastline of Cala Galdana Bay.