The cultural landscape of the Serra de Tramuntana is an example of sustainable agricultural use and a witness to the harmonious coexistence between man and the environment for centuries. Each civilisation that has passed through the mountain range has transformed the land to make it more habitable. From these human actions has emerged the current landscape, recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2011.
The exchange between the Muslim and Christian cultures forged this unique landscape. The Muslim domination is reflected in water regulation systems such as irrigation channels, cisterns and waterwheels. After the Christian conquest, the land was divided into large estates for agricultural and livestock purposes, and dry stone construction became widespread to prepare the land for the cultivation of olive trees, vines and cereals.
Today, the Serra preserves this immense set of terraces, the complex hydraulic technology, the network of cobbled paths and other ethnological and cultural elements of great interest.
The present-day Serra de Tramuntana is a direct heir to the period of Muslim Mallorca, which began in 903 and led to the transformation of the rural space through extensive livestock farming and irrigated agriculture. The Muslims were experts in water channelling and distribution techniques for use in orchards and vegetable gardens, which resulted in a wooded landscape with hunting, extensive livestock farming and irrigated farms, around which population centres and mosques were located.
Subsequently, the Catalan conquest of Mallorca in 1229 led to the implementation of the European feudal system, which led to a concentration of the population and a reduction of the forest in order to obtain new areas for cultivation. At this time, in addition to the villages, feudal systems appeared, which broke up the agricultural dispersion, concentrated property in the hands of the nobility and created the so-called possessions, the large rural estates.
The villages and estates in the Serra de Tramuntana are of medieval origin and some of them still survive today, such as Valldemossa, Estellencs, Banyalbufar and Fornalutx. They appeared as repopulation points after the Christian conquest, in some cases associated with communal forest properties, the inhabitants of which obtained their own resources. This is the case of the communes of Bunyola, Fornalutx or Caimari, still today public properties and proudly maintained jointly by their inhabitants.
It was in the 17th century that there is first evidence of the traditional systems of exploitation of forest resources, such as charcoal and lime, which were used to exploit the Mediterranean holm oak groves where it was not possible, for climatic reasons, to cultivate olive trees. The cultivation of olive oil and its landscape, which continues to this day, was complemented by the expansion of vineyards in the 19th century and almond trees in the 20th century, which gave rise to the cultural landscape that still exists today.
At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the rural landscape of olive oil and terraces, with its farms and small villages, was overlaid by the effects of industrialisation. At that time, the creation of infrastructures such as railways, roads, paths or small power stations in some cases, are a magnificent example of public heritage well integrated into the environment, as many of them were built using the dry stone technique.
On the other hand, the development of the textile industry, very prominent in towns such as Sóller and Esporles, generated a very notable commercial development that allowed for the urban expansion of the most important towns. From the second half of the 20th century onwards, the tourist industry led to the progressive abandonment of agricultural activity in the areas that were most difficult to cultivate.