Monday, 16 April 2012

Happy Birthday, Sóller Train, Mallorca, 100 years old

All aboard! The Ferrocarril de Sóller, ready to depart from Palma.
Officially called the Ferrocarril de Sóller (pr. Soh-yer), this magical little narrow-gauge train celebrated its 100th birthday on the 14th of April 2012. But it's more than just a train, it's a real, traditional 'day-out'. For in order to make it to your end destination, the Port de Sóller (and it's attractive beach, cafés and restaurants), you also 'have to' catch an electric tram (although you can, if you wish, walk the last 4.9km).

Start early in Palma's Plaza de España on the north-east corner of the old town. It's easy to find, nearly every city bus routes through Plaza de España. Pick up the excellent, fold-out emt (Empresa Municipal de Transports de Palma de Mallorca) bus-map for routes. The first train leaves at 08:00 (see for up-to-date train times which change with the season and demand). Journey time is about an hour.

A return ticket to Sóller (the town, not the port) is 17 euros, and the first few hundred metres of the journey is slightly strange, as the train clatters along its tracks down the middle of a road and you pass cars coming the other way and people enjoying cafés con leche in pavement bars. But you're soon out of the city and into the countryside and the train starts to climb.

Polished wood and brass might make you feel you've travelled back in time.

You head through a long, dark tunnel on the journey through the Sierra de Tramuntana mountains. Once you're through, you stop at the Mirador Pujol de'n Banya where you can get off for a few minutes and enjoy the view of Sóller in the valley below. Notice the tower of Sóller's church, as you'll soon be wandering around below it.

The view of Sóller church from the Mirador.

The guard will honk his horn and wave his flag to make sure you don't miss the re-start, then it's a rapid clickedy-clack downhill over a viaduct and through another (shorter) tunnel to the town of ller

There's often a bit of a rush from the train to the electric tram which will take you to the Port de Sóller, but I'd advise you to let it pass you by. The old-town of Sóller itself is worth an hour or so of your time. Wander the backstreets or enjoy the view of the church from one of the cafés in the plaza. Then, when there's less of a crowd, hop on the tram for the last (4 euro) leg of the outward journey. 

Relax in Sóller's Plaça de la Constitució rather than rush for the first tram out.
Sóller town.

The electric tram takes about half an hour to rumble to the pretty port/beach area where you can take your pick of the bars and restaurants and enjoy the view of the bay. The only thing you'll need to remember, is to leave enough time for the tram-ride back to Sóller to catch your train to Palma. Last trains are usually about 18:00 (check the website or at the station).

Last stop, the Port de Sóller.

It's a great day out; especially, I'd imagine, if you have children. There are enough dark tunnels (thirteen in all) to give them a shock, especially if you're standing outside between the carriages when you clatter into them. The countryside is full of orange, lemon and olive trees, while the views of mountains and valleys are wonderful. The polished wood and brass of the carriages could make you believe that you'd travelled back a hundred years to the birth of the railway. And if you're a real rail enthusiast, the website (above) has a lot of detail about where and when both train and tram were built, plus some other 'technical' data, such as the fact that the track width is 914mm (an English yard) and that some of the bends that the train negotiates have radii below 190 metres!

Happy Birthday, Ferrocarril de Sóller. (Or, feliz cumpleaños, as they say around here). And next year, we can celebrate again. The tram was inaugurated on the 4th of October, 1913.

All aboard...

...but we'll be back.

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  1. i took my notes for my next trip to mallorca.
    thank you!

  2. Very cool experience! Looks like fun, I have always wanted to visit Mallorca