Taking Mallorca’s slow train to Sóller

If you’re the kind of person who likes to take things nice and slow on holiday, then the venerable old train that runs from Palma de Mallorca to Sóller is clearly for you.

It takes over an hour to travel just 27 km/16.7 miles, from coast to (almost) coast, so this is clearly a line where nothing happens in a hurry.

The slow train to Sóller pulls into Palma de Mallorca station.

That’s because the ancient locomotives (and they are ancient!) have to tackle the formidable barrier of the Serra de Tramuntana mountains, which bar the way between Palma and Sóller. That involves much slow and steady climbing, with innumerable twists, turns and tunnels on the way.

The railway began life more than a century ago, a single-track, narrow-gauge line built to connect the capital with the orange and lemon growing area around Sóller. The line was electrified in 1929, and both the locomotives and carriages haven’t changed a great deal since.

A train from another era – inside the carriages it’s all varnished wood and brasswork.

There’s plenty of well-varnished wood, brass lamps and leather seats on show. When you board the train, you clamber up iron steps to a traditional outside platform at the front and back of every carriage, the kind you last saw in the closing credits of a Western movie.

And as the train chugs out of Palma station, there’s plenty of old-school hooting, whistling and clankety-clank noises.

So what’s to see?

The train rattles along through the suburban streets of Palma and out into the countryside, past the Hippodrome (trotting races are a big thing in Mallorca) and through fields of fruit trees.

Soon enough, you leave the flat coastal strip behind and the mountains of the Tramuntana take up most of the view. The tram stops at the little town of Bunyola at the foot of the Serra Alfàbia, and then the ascent really begins

Two trains crossing over at Banyola. The line is single-track for most of the way, so trains pass each other in the station.
Heading up into the Serra de Tramuntana.

There are 13 tunnels along the line, which must have taken some serious engineering. The big daddy is a seemingly endless three kilometre long tunnel at the highest point of the line, 200m above sea level. That delivers you through the mountain and out into the Sóller valley on the other side.

Stunning views as you emerge from the tunnel at the summit of the line.

The train stops for photo opportunities at the Pujol d’en Banya mirador and there’s plenty to look at. To say the mountains are spectacular is kind of an understatement.

Photo opportunities galore at the mirador.

Then it’s a leisurely trundle down the valley and into the little town of Sóller itself. Take in the Sant Bartomeu church which dominates the main square, its striking modernist facade designed by one of Gaudí’s disciples, We joined the tourist crowds to grab an ice cream and have a bit of a wander.

The striking modernist facade of the church of Sant Bartomeu
Sóller main square

El Port de Sóller

For more rail-related adventure, head on down to the coast on the Tram de Sóller. It’s another piece of railway history, built around the same time as the line that brought you over from Palma. It’s owned by the same company and the trams depart right next to the train station.

The tram that takes you down to Port de Sóller

Ironically nicknamed Red Lightning (well, it is red!), the tram rumbles very slowly past the shops and ice-cream toting tourists for the five-kilometre run downhill to Port de Sóller.

Stand on the open platforms at the end of the carriages for the best view as the tram trundles along the Port de Sóller seafront (on the left on the way down, on the right on the way up).

Stand on the platform for the best views.
The narrow entrance to the bay of Port de Sóller from the tram.

The bay is stunning – it has a narrow entrance from the open sea and it’s hemmed in by mountains on all sides, so it sits in a huge natural bowl. Port de Sóller is relatively unspoiled, and it’s a great place to grab a beer and/or a bite to eat and enjoy the view.

Looking up into the mountains that surround Port de Sóller.

Fascinating fact!

A group of investors tried to take over the line in 2019. With around a million passengers a year, somebody clearly thought it was a smart move. But they reckoned without the small shareholders of Sóller itself.

Lots of local families owned stock in El Ferrocarril de Sóller, dating from the time when money was raised to build the line in the first place. According to this piece, most of the 172,000 shares are owned by around 800 locals.

And a majority said no. So that was that. Result!

Waiting for the train back to Palma from Sóller

Booking your ticket

You can reserve up to 7 days ahead of time online here. Recommended to avoid on-the-day queues.

Buy a combined return ticket for the train to Soller and tram to Port de Soller for €32. Pricey but well worth it.

The little modernist-style station in Palma. The platform gets a little crowded just before departure time.

If you want to travel same day, you need to buy a ticket in person at the station booking office. The platform does get crowded ahead of departure, so get there in plenty of time if you want to sit together with friends or family.

© Guy Pelham

For more posts about Spain, check out my home page here and take your pick! There’s plenty on food, wine and travel around Spain, especially the Costa Blanca.

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