Mallorca, especially Soller and the Tramuntana mountains have been a special place for my family for a long time. I started coming to Soller over 20 years ago. The first few years it was just my Mum and I, we would spend a week in a hotel overlooking Playa de Repic at Port Soller, and go hiking in the area. Later on Chris joined me, he had been to other parts of Mallorca, Pollenca and Cala St Vincent, but like me he fell in love with Soller the first time he visited. Jerome had his first holiday here when he just a few weeks old and to him and us it has become a third home.
The combination of the surrounding mountains with the terraced olive groves, vales of citrus groves, old houses and the close distance to the sea give it a charm other spots on the island are missing out on. Palma and the airport are less than 30 minutes drive away, while other parts of the island can be reached in less than an hours drive. It is also mostly devoid from the horrible concrete hotel blocks found in so many other towns and seaside resorts like a Balearic disease. Soller especially still feels like an authentic Mallorquin town, with its narrow lanes and alleys and the traditional stone town houses.
The Placa Constitucio is surrounded by little cafes and restaurants and shaded by plane trees. The fountain at the centre of the plaza, in front of the amazing cathedral, Sant Bartomeu is a popular meeting point for locals and tourists of all ages. The church and the Banco de Soller to its left are iconic buildings, dating back to 1904 and were designed by a pupil of Antoni Gaudi in the modernist style. The cathedral can be seen from many parts of the Vall de Soller (the surrounding valley).
The Tram – Tranvia
Jerome’s favourite part of Soller, besides the delicious home made ice cream parlour at the entrance of Calle Lluna (the little local main shopping street) is the Tranvia (tram) that runs from the train station through the Soller town centre and later on past orange groves to the Port de Soller. The tram dates back to 1913 and is one of the smallest and oldest working tramways in Europe. Some of the cars have been imported from Lisbon and Bilbao and are all beautifully restored to their original condition. Ever since Jerome was little a ride on the tram was a must at least once during every stay there. He would stand outside on the back platform, holding tight to the rail, with a big smile on his face as the tram wriggled its way along. The ride takes just under 30 minutes and now costs a rather touristic expense of 6€ one-way, but it is mostly full.
The Train to Palma
El Tren de Soller is a another popular tourist attraction. The train started to put an end to the isolation between Soller and the rest of the island, when the train line connected Palma to Soller in 1911 after years of planning and construction. It was one of the earliest electric routes in Europe. A ride on the train is also a must, when either visiting from Palma or taking a day trip to Palma from Soller. The train winds itself up the mountains and trough many tunnels before reaching the other side of the mountain range at Bunyola and then on through the almond orchards towards Palma as the end stop. The train rolling stock also dates back to the beginning of the 20th century and is an attraction in its own right, with the wooden benches and outside platform at each end of the carriages.
Hiking in the Tramuntana Mountains
One of the main reasons for us to return to Soller again and again has been mainly the many hiking tracks and walks in and around Soller and in the higher mountains. Hiking in the area is possible from October to the beginning of May, the other months of the year are rather too hot for more than an evening stroll. February to April are the most popular months for walking tours. The almond blossoms in February are to Mallorca what Sakura (cherry blossom season) is to Japan. The white and pink blossoms are a beautiful sight that can be seen, either by walking trough the orchards, cycling and driving across the island. Orange blossoms appear in the late winter months and are much harder to be seen but the smell is incredible. There is no better way to experience the fragrant scent of the flowers than by walking on one of the many trails through the orange and lemon groves of the valley.
Hiking with Kids
The great advantage of the hiking trails in and around Soller is that there is a wide array of hikes for all abilities. From shorter strolls to several hour long walks, or more strenuous hikes with long climbs and descends. Jerome first started to come along on a backpack and then from the age of two we would take walks with him along the shorter routes. Walking is such a great activity, for young and old to enjoy the wildlife, nature and of course the views. Jerome has always liked the challenge of pushing himself up along the hill, usually running ahead. There have been moments when he did not want to walk any further, but I guess he knew that unless he would walk on we would have to stay there forever….
Preparing for a Hike with Kids
You as a parent should know your child well enough to know how far and long they are prepared to walk. Take enough food, snack and drinks with you and make as many breaks as you need to, even in spring it can be very warm so lots of water is essential. Make sure you have proper hiking boots or at least stout shoes suitable to the path you plan to take, basic trainers might not be enough on some of the trails especially in the higher or rockier parts. Most important invest in a good guide and map to ensure you do not get lost and can both plan and help follow the many way marked routes. We used to play games on the walks to pass the time, inventing stories and spotting games, once he was older we played word association games.
Beaches and Accommodation
Port de Soller also offers two beaches, protected by the natural bay, with shallow water and low waves even on rougher days. The water in July and August has a pleasant temperature of around 25ºC. There are lifeguards, plenty of shops and restaurants, playgrounds and even pedalos for rent, another one of Jerome’s favourites.
As mentioned earlier, Soller and Port de Soller have mostly been spared the building boom of the 1970’s and 80’s that spoilt some parts of the islands. There is a wide range of accommodation on offer to suit any budget. If you prefer to stay in a hotel, you can choose between a hotel in the port by the beach, one in a country surrounded by olive and orange groves or a town hotel in and around Soller. We prefer to stay in a house or apartment, there are plenty of options on Airbnb or similar websites.
Restaurants and Car Hire
Most restaurants will offer children’s menus and are child friendly. I can recommend Es Passeig, a long standing favourite of ours. It overlooks the beach and the entrance to the bay. Children can run around as it is on a pedestrian area but most important is that the food is just so delicious. It is very popular now so is advisable to reserve in advance to get a table for lunch or dinner.
We would recommend to hire a car for your entire stay as it makes your life so much easier to get around and explore the stunning countryside. Leave your pushchairs at home, navigating the narrow streets of the towns and villages can be difficult, and I speak from experience, unless you only want to stroll along the beach promenade in Port de Soller.
Port de Soller
Port de Soller still has an active fishing community and it is an amazing experience to watch the fisher boats return from their day at sea in the afternoon followed by swarms of screeching seagulls. It is also worth watching them sort though the different kinds of fish in their catch and then unload the fish in boxes. You may buy the fish either in the market hall in Soller or eat it in many of the local restaurants.
As it is a regular destination for us and we recently were in Soller, I thought I should share it with you. My next few posts will contain our favourite walks and hiking tours in and around Soller. I hope you will enjoy them…