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the world's most spectacular roads

Carretera de Sa Calobra

Sa Calobra Road, (officially designed MA-2141), with a length of 13 km only, and located in Majorca Island, Spain, is one of the most scenic drives in the world. Imagine dropping a long piece of wet spaghetti on the floor. The pattern it makes looks something like what the road looks. Snaking through the rocky landscape of the island, the eight-mile stretch of tarmac is also steep. Built in such a way as to avoid using tunnels, a fair proportion of the road has a gradient of more than 7%. If you really want a challenge, try tackling it by bike.

Ruta de Sa Calobra (the Colubrid route) includes the infamous Nus de Sa Calobra, a curve of 360 degrees. This tie is one of the most famous curves in the world, turning 270 degrees and going under itself. It’s said that from Mallorca city to Sa Calobra Creek there are more than 800 turns. Built in 1932, when Sa Calobra had only a few habitants, this road is for sure the most spectacular on the island nowadays and famous for its snake-like shape. Created by the engineer Antonio Paretti it winds naturally around the mountain edges, a masterpiece of twists and turns. 31.000 m³ of rock were removed which was then used to level the road. To reduce the amount of excavation at this point, the architect drew inspiration from a neck tie to come up with the idea to make this crazy loop in the road. It is called the “Necktie” and measures 12 km leading down to the bay of Sa Calobra.

 

The road, designed by the Spanish engineer Antonio Parietti, was built in 1932 manually, without the help of any machine, and was designed in a way to avoid the construction of any tunnel. Ruta de Sa Calobra road saves a height of 800 m. and for its construction was necessary to move 31,000 m3 of rock, mainly for piling. Without a central line marked or guardrails, with a lot of traffic specially in summer, and extremely narrow, impassable for 2 cars at the same time, this road is one of the most dangerous in Spain. The asphalt becomes very dangerous on rainy days. To arrive to the creek it’s necessary to reach Coll dels Reis, a mountain pass at an elevation of 682m above the sea level. Parietti was the designer of another stunning road in Majorca too: the road to Cap de Formentor lighthouse.  

The road, with several narrow canyons and many bridges includes more than 50 curves, most of them hairpins and 2,5km with an average slope over than 7%. The road descends for nearly 10kms, from a height of 682 metres, to a little remote bay from which there is only one way out the very same 10kms (7% gradient) climb back up to the summit. The descent alone inspires terror in some, as it snakes its way ever downwards. If you are nervous of steep, winding descents, it is best not to contemplate it from the top. Antonio Parietti used the mountains natural curves for his road and the gradient is surprisingly steady. However the last 2 kilometres are the hardest with two points where the road reaches 11.5%. It is a challenge for cyclists, motor cyclists and car drivers alike, yet with the gentle speed of 20 km per hour makes it possible to enjoy the trip, above all for passengers. Passed impressive rocky landscape and through two cone-shaped rocks the Sa Calobra serpentine provides an unforgettable and sensational experience.


The road, officially called, MA-2141 is a dead end road which starts at the junction with the MA-10 road, near an aqueduct, and finishes on a payment parking, near the beach. The expected time to drive the whole road is around 25 minutes. Sa Calobra appeared on Cloud Atlas, a 2012 German drama and science fiction film written, produced and directed by The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer, with Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant. 

There are some narrow sections -scarcely wide enough for two cars- where if two vehicles have to pass each other, one might have to reverse for some kilometres of winding narrow road to get to a place wide enough to pass. It shouldn’t be attempted by those who don't know how to reverse.  The road is difficult and it’s a nightmare in the wet or dark (or both). The road is dangerous because: more than 50 sharp bends on short stretch of road, some sections lack a central road line or guard rails, lots of traffic in summer, but the road is impassable for more than two cars at many sections.

 

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