By Emma Marshall
“Shall I pick one?” I thought as the open window of the Soller railway train – or “Orange Express Majorca” – moved slowly past a dense copse of orange trees. They were within arm’s reach, the trees buckling under the weight of the brightly coloured fruit.
The sight of these were no surprise. We were after all, riding the Tren de Soller in Majorca, its construction in 1912 funded by the orange and lemon trade. But it was still a sight to see the bright colours and fruit as we made our way through the Majorcan countryside.
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The Soller railway and Orange Express, Majorca
We were on the second leg of the Soller railway (or Tren de Soller) Orange Express journey. This comprises a 32 km journey on a narrow-gauge railway that is divided into two stages.
The first stage takes you from Palma, Majorca (or Mallorca), to the country town of Soller. This is then followed by a tram to the quiet and unassuming seaside resort of Port de Soller (according to the website, when this opened in 1913, this was Majorca’s first electrified tram line).
It’s a perfect day out from Majorca’s capital Majorca, and a must for any railway buffs.
Stage 1 of the Soller railway journey
The first leg of the Soller railway journey takes around an hour. You board the vintage train at Palma’s Bunyola station and then set off.
It moves out of the station and rattles through the back streets of Palma. It goes past flats, shops and petrol stations, before reaching the city outskirts.
The train itself is a delight – an old fashioned wooden construction with carriages linked by wrought iron. It really feels quite special. And as we sat in the rickety old coach it was clear that this day out was as much about the journey as the destination.
The train gathers speed a few minutes out of the city. It then starts clanking noisily through valleys and orchards framed by dark, imposing mountains.
And then, ten minutes in, we caught sight of the orange and lemon trees we had been eagerly awaiting. Unfortunately the speed of the train meant that I was unable to snap any good pictures of the fruit. But I can assure you, you see plenty of these!
The air became cooler, the mountains started closing in and you pass through tunnels (there are apparently 13 of these in total). You emerge to see deep gorges and the first glimpse of the sea on the distant horizon.
The first stage of the Orange Express Majorca journey comes to an end at the small terminus, Destino Son Reus.
Once you’ve disembarked, you only need to walk a short distance into the town to catch the connecting tram to the sea.
Stage 2 of the Soller railway journey
The small town of Soller is worth stopping off at and exploring if you have time. When we were there, there were market stalls and plenty of locals taking morning coffee in the sun. The town was generally buzzing with life.
Once on the tram and we’d set off on the second leg of the Orange Express Majorca, we got a close-up view of the more residential parts of the town.
It’s pretty impossible not to, as the tram literally squeezes, (almost scraping walls at times it was so close), through the small back streets. It then snakes towards the coast.
As the tram wound on we couldn’t help but notice the English St George and Turkish flags hanging from what seemed every balcony. They were even flying from the surrounding hillside.
As we moved on, we also passed yet more orange and lemon trees and large colourful outcrops of bougainvillea.
The Orange Express, Majorca: Port de Soller
The second leg of the tram takes around 30 minutes, and so before you realise it, you’ve reached the sea.
The tram follows the sweeping bay around to the marina and as we disembarked, we were struck by the calm and tranquillity here. The sea splashes onto the sandy beach, which was almost entirely deserted when we were there, but for a few lone sunbathers and battered, redundant, pedals. (Early May when we visited is clearly just the start of the tourist season here).
It was obvious that if you are looking for a party, you’re unlikely to find it here. But as we weren’t, we decided we loved this place and mentally noted it for a future getaway.
A stroll around the marina is also a great way to stretch your legs after your journey. The bay has a fair few cafes, bars and restaurants to choose from. There’s also some souvenir shops to peruse.
If you’re only here on a day trip, or to experience the Soller Railway, there’s definitely enough to do to fill the time you have before boarding the tram back towards Palma.
We chose to while away our time sitting overlooking the water in one of the lovely seafood restaurants. This gave us the opportunity to try to find out why the area was sporting all of those English and Turkish flags.
And so over lunch we quizzed our waitress. “Ah”, she said “you need to stay tonight, and then you will find out”. It turned out we had timed our trip with the festival in May every year of “Fira and Firo”.
This is a celebration of the 1561 Christian victory over the invading Moors. There was apparently going to be parades, fireworks and partying into the early hours.
So we were wrong about Soller and parties. The residents celebrate in style and we were sorry to miss it: we had to dash for our return train back to Palma.
Buying tickets for the Orange Express, Majorca
If a ride on the Orange Express, Majorca is definitely something you want to experience, then you need to get to the station early. You cannot buy advance tickets for the journey or reserve tickets.
When we arrived on the day, there was also a long queue. So turn up early to avoid disappointment.
Tickets for the Orange Express train in Majorca are unfortunately not cheap. A one way ticket is 25 euros. However, if you buy a ticket for both legs of the journey, you can purchase a return ticket for 32 euros.
Note also that you cannot pay for your ticket by debit or credit card.
Alternatively, you could experience the Soller railway during this tour, which also includes a boat trip in the Majorcan waters.
For other trips you might enjoy during a trip to Palma, Majorca, click here.
If short breaks are your thing, you might also be interested in other trips I have written about. See my website for further inspirational ideas!