The Sa Calobra climb is Mallorca’s most famous, spectacular and, arguably, toughest cycling climb.
Sheer limestone cliff faces reach down to the turquoise sea. Weaving through the craggy lunar landscape, a feat of engineering and a work of art: a looping grey squiggle of silver tarmac that entices cyclists from across the globe.
The Sa Calobra road balances beauty with brawn. It’s one of the most picturesque routes in Europe, but it demands serious mental toughness since you have to ride all the way down it before you ride up it. Once you’re at the hamlet by the sea, there’s no alternative to the long climb back up (unless you catch a boat or hitch a lift…).
While its out and back nature means it doesn’t have historical race pedigree, it’s not without its famous fans: Sir Bradley Wiggins trained here in preparation for his 2012 Tour de France victory.
Want to get a taste of Sa Calobra on Youtube? Check out our video:
All metrics in this article are approximate.
Sa Calobra climb highlights
The unforgettable first view of the famous 270° loop-the-loop turn and the endless hairpins snaking down to the sea.
Steady gradients allow sinewy climbing types to build good rhythm and pace on this, Mallorca’s iconic cycling climb.
Sa Calobra, Mallorca: route notes
So, how hard is Sa Calobra? Read on to find out!
1. Sa Calobra descent
Just before the rock walls you ride through at the top of the pass, there’s a brown sign that marks the top of the Coll dels Reis pass. From here it’s a 9.5km descent down to the village at Port de Sa Calobra and Sa Calobra beach.
Around 26 hairpin bends and 600m of descent create a white knuckle ride for anyone not used to Alpine-style downhill.
Enjoy the hairpins, but be warned: if you have time to think about anything other than the road ahead, it’s likely to be “wow, amazing views” – but also “ahhh, it’s going to be a slog back up!”.
2. Sa Calobra climb, part 1 (0-5km)
We’d suggest taking a look at the Sa Calobra climb profile in the “route map and profile” box above before reading on – our description will make more sense that way!
The official start is at the “Salida/Start” sign beyond the car park, so if you’re going for a time, don’t hammer if before then!
The first kilometre is relaxed but it soon ramps up to 6-8%. In the first 5 km you’re largely hairpin free, though there are a few nasties – one at about 2 km takes you up to 14%.
The opening kilometres of the climb are quite sheltered as you’re riding through trees. You also pass under the dramatic rock arch (see the photo below) – and the gradient steepens as you do so, though settles back down again quite quickly.
Ignore the turning off to the right (about 1.5 km in) – unless you fancy a trip to the lovely beach at Cala Tuent.
3. Sa Calobra climb, part 2 (5-10km)
The hairpins start in earnest at around 5 km, and it’s a mixture of hairpins and straight sections all the way to the top. They tend to average around 7 – 8%, with the inside of each hairpin offering the shortest – but steepest – line.
The scenery is at its most dramatic through these hairpins – it’s all bare rock and sinewy road weaving up the mountain like a giant scaletrix set.
In the last few kilometres, gradients ramp up to 9-10% and immediately after the most famous hairpin of them all – the 270° degree hairpin under the arch – your bike computer may hit readings of 12-4%… Save something for these last few hundred metres! You’ll need something left in the tank for this – and for the ride home.
The top of the climb is marked by the Coll dels Reis summit. From here, you loop back down the Coll dels Reis pass and then back to the viaduct.
If you cycle to Sa Calobra via the Col de sa Batalla, you’ll pass the well-known Repsol petrol station at the top of the Col. It sells lots of sugary snacks, gels etc. There’s also a café next door which does a mean cake.
At the Sa Calobra turn off, near the aqueduct, there is a small café (nicknamed the OJ shack by many). It’s open March to October.
There’s a café at the 270° section of road which bends under itself. It was closed whenever we’ve visited (early and late season), but we’ve read it does decent coffee and cakes.
At the bottom of the descent, there are a few (not very inspiring) restaurants.
For more coffee stop ideas, take a look at our post on Mallorca’s top cafés for cyclists.
We rode Sa Calobra from Port de Pollença on two of our four trips to Mallorca. Most recently we stayed at Hotel Illa d’Or and would recommend it to friends. It’s a good-looking hotel that will appeal to both cyclists and non-cyclists, particularly if you’re not with kids.
If you’re not sure about Port de Pollença and are wondering which town is best for you, our best towns for cyclists article should help you narrow things down.
You’ll also find more accommodation suggestions in our ultimate guide to Mallorca for cyclists.
The Sa Calobra cycling climb might not be as hardcore as some of Europe’s other famous climbs, but don’t underestimate it. Before you cycle Sa Calobra, read these tips:
- Summit: The last 3 kilometres of the climb are some of the steepest and most exposed. It can get windy so prepare accordingly.
- Tunnel: Towards the bottom, there’s a narrow precipice tunnel where two cliffs almost meet overhead. It’s steep as you go through and be ready to put on your brakes if there’s a car/coach coming in the opposite direction.
- Traffic: Sa Calobra is famous with cyclists and general tourists. Watch out for other vehicles, from cars to coaches and from individual cyclists to groups of cyclists on training camps. The road is narrow with limited passing places. This is a particular issue towards the bottom where corners are shaded and hidden. Be very careful not to obstruct cyclists/vehicles coming in the opposite direction, especially on righthand turns. We also suggest getting to Sa Calobra as early as possible – best to plan to leave by 11am. If you’re visiting in the height of summer this is particularly important as otherwise you’re likely to have a hellish time grinding in, surrounded by coaches and cars.
- Sa Calobra weather: Rain: If you’re unlucky enough to encounter rain, consider postponing as it’s unlikely to be pleasant. Heat: From May until October, temperatures can be in excess of 30℃ and sometimes much hotter. Fill up your water bottle at the bottom as there’s nowhere to fill up until the top.
- Decide your strategy before you set off: there are tempting viewpoints all the way down/up the climb and, depending on your appetite for photos vs. times, you might want to stop. Also, on such an iconic climb, it’s easy to get excited and hit it too hard at the bottom – remember it’s a long way up!
- Want a Sa Calobra bike photo? In high season, enterprising photographers are usually in position, ready to take photos of you on your way up and down. You can visit their website and buy the photo later.
- Check our tips for cycling in Mallorca before you set out.
Unless you get a boat from Port Soller to Port de Sa Calobra (and they’re seasonal), you’ll need to do some decent climbing on the road to Sa Calobra. If you’re coming from the south, that may involve Puig Major or, from the north, Col de sa Batalla or Col de Femenia… Check our other ride guides for more details.
Once you see the aqueduct spanning the road (with coffee shop underneath) you’re nearly there – but keep going! You’re not at the top of the Sa Calobra yet. The start of the descent is at the summit of the Coll dels Reis, 2.5km away (with an average gradient of 6%), where the road goes between two rock walls.
Want to climb Sa Calobra on one of our Mallorca cycle routes?
Take a look at our Sa Batalla loop.
If you’re looking for a truly epic day, you could tack the Sa Calobra on to our classic Mallorca cycling climbs loop. You would be approaching Sa Batalla from the south, heading north, and so would have the Puig Major climb (as well as Coll de Soller and Coll d’Orient) in your legs before tackling Sa Calobra: not for the faint-hearted!
Or there’s the Big Daddy Challenge ride which sees you tackle Sa Calobra at the end of a very long day in the saddle!
Interested in the Sa Calobra Strava leaderboard?
The Sa Calobra Strava segment is here: Sa Calobra – Coll dels Reis (official).
At the time of writing, the record is held by Sebastian Gomez. He completed the climb in January 2016 in an impressive 24’54, knocking 5 seconds off David Lopez (of Team Sky fame). They’re the only two riders to be under the 25 minutes mark.
Queen of the Climb is Emma Pooley at 30:52 and 11.4mph.
Don’t miss our other related ride guides on Mallorca: see the related rides section above as well as a few of our many articles on Mallorca, below.
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