Looking for a challenging running or cycling break with a backdrop to distract from the aching legs? Head to stunning Soller, Mallorca. If it is good enough for Team Sky, it's good enough for us..
I am never fond of that time of year, when the nights draw in and the air turns damp. A four night break in the warmth, to kick off my winter training was what I needed. Mallorca and more specifically,
Mallorca can be reached relatively quickly and reasonably, with most of the budget airlines flying there throughout summer and well into the autumn.
From the airport the capital Palma is easily reached by bus. A 10 minute journey and you will be neatly dropped in the heart of this lively Spanish city, with a host of cafes and bars to choose from for post-flight refreshments. The bus station is opposite the Plaza Espana square where we enjoyed a quick beer and waited for our bus to Soller. The buses are fairly frequent and there are two services to Soller- one on a more leisurly coastal route and the other a more speedy direct route through the tunnel that cuts through the heart of the rocky mountain scape.
Soller has a good range of Finca C'as Sant, a beautiful large house on the fringe of the town centre. Our hosts Lourdes and Raphael were extemely welcoming and their home has been made into a small hotel of timeless beauty. Our room was large and stylishly furnished. Each morning breakfast was served on the large terrace in front of the house under the shade of the vines. We enjoyed orange juice freshly squeezed from the trees we sat close to, and eggs from the hens that were happily wondering around the edge of the swimming pool in the early morning sun.
Other fincas that appear equally charming are C'as Curial and Finca Ca N'ai (www.canai.com), both within easy reach of the old town of Soller.
The main square in Soller, Placa Constitucio, is a bustling hub of activity and the dramatic frontal of the church of Saint Bartholomew, offers a great vista from all of the restaurants. We dined in 3 of the restaurants facing onto the square, our favourite being Bar Central (Placa Constitucio, tel: 971 630008) for a superb tasting plate of local tapas, and for coffee and cake as you watch the world go by, Cafe Soller (Placa de sa Constitucio 13). Once in a while the old tram rumbles through the square on its way down to the port.
Port de Soller (read full expert review), although quite separate to the old town, offers a pleasant addition to the destination. Both through the day time, when the beach and safe calm swimming waters can be enjoyed, and in an evening where a whole other world of dining options are opened up to you. The tram costs €5 each for a single journey and as a taxi would be €8, the tram is a much more enjoyable way to travel for your evening meal! We dined in one of the restaurants right on the beach, Solleric (Cami del Far, Plantja d'en repic, Port de Soller) where the paella was particularly enjoyable.
Although I'm sure there are all the ingredients in Soller and the port for a relaxing beach break, there is a real sense that plenty of visitors have come to work on fitness, as well a tan. Lycra clad cyclists pass by along the sea front frequently, heading out for a challenging day on the pedals. There is an outdoor adventure company- Tramuntana Tours (www.tramuntanatours.com), with shops in both the old town and the port. They are well stocked with gear for walking, cycling and running and in adition to this have some quality road and mountain bikes for hire. Guided walks, kayaking and rock climbing are amongst the tours they can arrange for you.
For those intending to explore the surrounding area on foot without a guide, the major routes are extemely well marked by finger posts. A copy of Walking in Mallorca by June Parker could prove useful, but a decent local map is probably sufficient. We headed out of Soller on two of the recognised routes. The first a circular pathway through Biniaraix, Fornalutx and Binibassi that was around 7 miles. We climbed steeply away from Soller and were quickly high up on the mountain side. Olive groves clutch onto the craggy earth and sheep with bells jangling around their necks roam, seemingly better equiped than us for the gradient. Fornalutx is a small atmospheric village, just large enough for a few eating and drinking options and with a Finca hotel of it's own, C'an Reus (www.canreushotel.com). Our second chosen run was a linea route from Soller to the port, again sending us high onto the edge of the Tramuntana mountains with dramatic views over the beautiful valley and out to sea. We dropped steadily down through the village of Sa Figuera and arrived at the coast for a cooling dip in the sea and an ice cream.
For linea routes be warned that local buses along the coast are infrequent and the bus we attempted to catch from Soller old town, to the start of our run in Deia, was full to capacity having only begun its journey one stop earlier in the port!
Even for the keenest hiker or runner, a holiday of a week or more in this area could easily be planned and filled with different routes for each day. The temperature in the summer months perhaps does not lend it's self to activity of this level, but certainly the spring, autumn and winter time are perfect for escaping our cooler climate and experiencing some warm weather training, in what is arguably some of the best terrain with views to remember for an energetic break.