If you love the smell of orange blossom and the taste of home-made ice cream, invigorating mountain walks and gentle seaside strolls, the town of Soller in Mallorca will suit you down to the ground
The well-known beach resorts around Mallorca’s coastline teem with tourists, but if you leave the beach behind and head for the Tramuntana mountains, on the island’s west coast, you will come to the bustling town of Soller. This makes a great base for exploring the area, and is particularly popular with hikers and cyclists.
The Soller valley is famous for its citrus groves of oranges and lemons, and if you're there in spring, the heady scent of the orange blossom, enhanced by the warm sun and soft breeze, will hit you as soon as you arrive. It seems like everybody has a few trees squeezed into their back gardens, with bigger plantations on the outskirts of town.
Getting there couldn’t be easier, as there are numerous flights from the UK into Palma. Although your first instinct will be to hire a car, why not let the train take the strain? Palma Airport has an efficient airport bus service into the city, which stops conveniently next to the station and costs just €1.80. The Soller train is one of the main tourist attractions on the island, so is always busy. The journey takes just over an hour and will take you across the plains outside Palma before winding its way through tunnels and over viaducts into the valley beyond the mountains. The first glimpses of Soller are stunning, and sometimes the train will stop at a purpose-built viewing station so you can capture the scene on camera or just drink in the panorama. On arrival, if you have chosen to stay in one of the town-centre hotels, you will be just a stroll away from the station; if not, the taxi rank is right outside.
Take time to sit in the main square, Placa Constitucio, and enjoy a leisurely café con leche or a plate of tapas under the trees whilst watching the children play around the fountain. Stroll along La Luna, the pretty main street, for the most part traffic-free, and lined with artisan shops, boutiques and restaurants. On Saturday mornings, the street comes alive with a market that attracts tourist and locals.
Down to the sea
Every so often, a beautifully maintained tram trundles over the cobbles and through the middle of the square on its way to the port of Soller. This journey is a must, as the tram winds it way through the narrow streets and at times you feel you are in someone’s back garden. The orange trees are so close you can almost pick the fruit en route! The three-mile journey takes about 20 minutes and is a real experience. As the perfectly shaped bay opens up in front of you, the tram hugs the shoreline on the way to its eventual stop beside the recently enlarged marina.
Puerto Soller has a very different atmosphere to the town; this is a holiday resort, with hotels, sandy beach, bars, restaurants and a bustling marina. But compared to other holiday resorts on Mallorca, it is still pretty low-key, which gives it such charm. Take time to wander around the harbour along the broad promenade, which is being extended to run around the bay. You will find boat trips to nearby Sa Calobra and, if you are lucky, be able to watch the fishermen land their catch.
A pleasant excursion is to walk to the port from Soller, through the hills at the back of the town. The walk takes about two hours and there is a place to stop on the way for fresh orange juice. Arrive in Puerto Soller for lunch and then take the tram back. When you arrive back into town, you will find that the tram conveniently stops outside an ice cream parlour where they sell the locally made orange ice cream – delicious!
Another energetic day out is to take the local bus into the picturesque town of Deia. Home to the rich and famous, Deia boasts one of the most sought-after hotels on Mallorca, La Residencia. After a stroll around, you can walk back to Soller over the mountains with an obligatory stop for freshly squeezed orange juice en route. The trail often passes near the railway track; you will hear the train long before you see it, as it ducks in and out of the tunnels.
Walking out of Soller to the tiny hamlet of Biniaraix and on to the village of Fornalutx provides more stunning scenery, which changes around every bend. An added incentive is the thought of a delicious lunch at the popular Es Turo restaurant in Fornalutx.
Where to stay
New hotels are springing up all the time, both in Soller town and at the port. The newly renovated La Vila hotel is conveniently situated right on Soller’s main square. The eight rooms are fairly spacious, with good bathroom facilities. There's a pretty courtyard garden at the back of the hotel, which is perfect for breakfast in the summer months. The food is very good and the owner – Toni – is very helpful.
The new kid on the block is a delightful boutique hotel situated just behind the cathedral. C'an Abril opened in 2010 and is a lovingly restored town house offering beautiful rooms with stunning en suite bathrooms. Breakfast is a highlight, especially if you can enjoy it outside in the charming courtyard. Warm croissants and lots of freshly prepared fruit plus a slice of heavenly pa amb oli, the Mallorcan speciality of bread, tomato and oil with a slice of cheese for good measure.
The Salvia is an elegant boutique hotel just a few minutes' walk from the centre of town. It is a more expensive option and perfect for honeymoons or special occasions. The larger Gran Hotel Soller is also right in town and offers more facilities, such as a pool and spa.