The beaches of the Balearic Islands fill up with people every year, especially in summer. Tourists find plenty to do along the seashore, and now the island’s rocks are providing another pastime: building cairns. This ancient custom is something that comes to us almost as an impulse, but its popularity in recent years along the coasts of Spain’s Mediterranean islands (particularly along the Pas d’Es Trucadors route, on Formentera) has attracted the attention of conservation groups. Although some say that the stone mounds channel energy, this does not mean that they are beneficial for their natural surroundings.

“It is not only something that affects our coasts. It is a global problem and has been for almost a decade,” warns Toni Muñoz, from the Grup Balear d’Ornitologia i Defensa de la Naturalesa (GOB). “It has two kinds of impact: firstly, environmental, since moving stones uncovers the roots of local plants and disturbs habitats with certain specific light or humidity conditions. The other impact is on the landscape, since this habit prevents other visitors from enjoying a place in its natural state,” he says. Although for some it is an atavistic rite or a way of awakening their mystical side, the solution to being at one with nature starts with not altering it.