I've recently been in Amsterdam for my Brother's wedding. Whilst over there, the plan was also to celebrate the buck's party in Barcelona. Although a beautiful city, I've previously checked out the freight and wanted to go somewhere different. After a little searching, I came across the island of Majorca and saw it had quite a few railway lines. One of them specifically caught my interest: there was a heritage train from Palma to Port De Soller and I was determined to check it out.
Getting to Palma
Palma has its own international airport. It actually feels a little like Las Vegas when you arrive. The airport is new, and quite large. Out the front you'll find 20-odd coaches ready to take tour groups to their resorts.
You get the feeling pretty quickly that the island is used as a dirty weekend away. There were around 25 drunk (they started on the beer at Schiphol Airport) dutch students on my plane as we left at 6am. I didn't bother to see where they went after we disembarked.
You'll find flights from all major european airports direct to Palma. It took 2.5 hours to get there from Amsterdam.
From the airport, take Bus Number 1. This will drop you off straight out the front of the Estació Intermodal which happens to be across the road from the Estació Tren de Sóller.
Palma - Estació tren de Sóller
The Tren de Sóller runs from Palma through to Port de Soller. The Palma station is located just next to the main station in the center of Palma city.
This station is at the end of the Palma yard and has multiple platforms. There is a main single platform from the station building, but this is only for arrivals. Every train I saw leave departed from the loop platform. This involves walking into the yard, across the first track. It seems that the staff are more than happy for you to wander around and take photos.
Here you get to meet the train. It's a single electric locomotive hauling a fleet of around 5 carriages. All wooden construction is seriously endearing. The interior is simple and all windows can be opened. It seems that the Swiss helped build or electrify the railway. Don't expect air-conditioning either; it was 10am and the temperature was already over 30 degrees, so make sure you dress lightly!
Expect to see some shunting in the yard too, and listen to the guards... chances are they're telling you politely to get out of the way. This is a heavily-utilised tourist train; so expect the odd foamer as well.
The first service of the day from Port de Sóller arrived as we were about to leave.
Palma to San Sardina
This first leg of the trip starts with a run down a street in north-east Palma. Traffic is held at certain points and lights are coordinated. The train doesn't muck around either, full speed being met whenever possible through the city.
10 minutes later the city fades away and you're in the country-side. There's a horse racing stadium on the north side, just after the city and some interesting stables. After this it's farmland and orchards.
The first stop is then San Sardina. A lovely sandstone building that connects the Ferrocarril de Port de Sóller to the main metro train network. After this stop, the countryside really starts to get impressive.
San Sardina to Bunyola
There are other stops in-between; but the train hardly stops at them. Most people are destined to the very end station, so the intermediates aren't overly populated. Either way, the countryside doesn't disappoint. The backdrop is the mountain range that separates the plains from the ocean. On the other side is Port de Sóller.
About 10 minutes before Bunyola you'll pass the maintenance yard. There's a rusting old hi-rail, that seems to have been made out of an old flatbed truck. There's also a triangle for turning vehicles... I don't know if it's still in use.
From there, it's more olive groves. You'll then start entering a valley just before Bunyola Station. At the station keep an eye out for an older-style hi-rail and other construction vehicles.
Bunyola to Sóller
The track now dives through quite a few tunnels before breaching the other side of the mountain range. Once on the other side, a large horse-shoe curve is navigated which provides a fantastic view of the town of Sóller. Note that we are still inland; the Port is still a distance away and alternative transport is provided!
There's quite a few loops along the way. Expect to stop and wait for passes; unless the opposing services is already waiting for you.
Before you know it, the train has navigated the descent and has arrived at Sóller Station.
The town of Sóller
Above the ocean, surrounded in a valley, Sóller is the junction between the tram and the train. Spend some time here and check out the architecture and tapas menus!
If you happen to wander behind the station, you'll find a few level crossings for the railway... many of which provide great vantage points. First you'll be able to see the rear of the station yard and then, following the track, all sorts of architecture that has been built to fit the railway in. One house actually consists of two plots, either side of the line, and has a private overpass!
I got to one crossing late afternoon. You'll have to guess when the train comes through, but you can do that pretty easily with the timetable here.
At one point, I walked down from Soller to the Port. This took a lot longer than I expected; but was totally worth it.
Taking the Tram from Sóller to Port de Sóller
If you bought the combined ticket, then jump on the tram here. It's a long way to walk to the port! Unlike Melbourne, the trams from the city to the port consisted of multiple vehicles. The route is primarily single-track and there are loops at most stations. The consists are usually one driving car with two trailers, but the odd service has a driving car at both ends. Where required, the conductors will switch the driving car to the other end of the consist at the end of the line.
The tram digs through suburbia and then descends, parallel to the highway, down to the port. At the bottom of the decent, you arrive through the mountain range into the port. At the bottom it's beach and marina; very different to everything you've just travelled through to get there.
The tram makes its way along the shoreline. There's 2 stops before the end station which has a loop to swap the motor car around when needed. The trams then tirelessly work their way back up to Soller.
Every so often there'll be consists trailing each other, especially after the train has arrived. There's a lot of juggling in the sidings all the way along the tracks!
Exploring the rest of Palma
After you've spent enough time at the beach, you'll find the tram/train service convenient enough to get you either back to your hotel (I stayed in Port de Soller overnight, totally worth it!) or all the way back to Palma. I ventured onto the Metro in Palma the next day to check out the area. There's a nice outlet mall called Festival Park accessible from Es Caullis Station.
On the way you'll pass Marraxti and, if you're looking out the north side of the train, you'll spot a miniature railway just before a highway overpass. Here's a map of the area. I didn't have time to check it out... but it looked to be in operating condition.
The metro itself has a good mix of new and old stock and can take you all the way out to Inca and further. You can get to San Sardina and see the Sóller train pass. Otherwise, I had an early evening flight and heavy bags, so didn't venture far.
Take note of the information signs on the network. They're very good at time estimation, to the point where they tell you if the service has left the start-point or not. Very handy!
And that was that. Amazing island. Highly recommended. Spend a few days out at the remote areas and enjoy the transport in between.