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Sóller - Charming town in the Tramuntana mountains

Sóller is a town of 13,800 inhabitants located in the northwest of Mallorca in the Tramuntana Mountains. About three kilometres from the coast, the mountains open to a shallow basin, in the centre of which lies the small town. Wooded hillsides form the backdrop and fertile soils allow the cultivation of citrus fruits, almond trees and figs.

Soller in Mallorca

Sóller is surrounded by orange groves, which are supplemented by plantations of almond and olive trees. The almond trees bud glow red and white in February, while the ripe oranges in late summer give the entire valley a soft orange tone. However, the name "Valley of Gold" owes more to the olive oil or "liquid gold" of the Moors than it does to the bright citrus fruits.

The history of Sóller
Little is known about the settlement in the lands around Sóller, before the Romans landed on Mallorca's shores in 123 BC. They brought with them grapevines and planted the first olive trees in the "Valley of Gold". Sóller is located on the northwestern edge of the Tramuntana Mountains and unlike the drier south of Mallorca, rainfall is spread fairly evenly throughout the year in this mountainous region.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 6th century, Mallorca underwent several changes in rulers. At the beginning of the 10th century, the Moors occupied Mallorca and subsequently expanded olive cultivation in the fertile valleys. According to ancient sources, the term "valley of gold" is derived from the ‘liquid gold’ of the Moors. The precious nectar itself had never been farmed on Mallorca beforehand. In 1229, the Muslim Moors were expelled by the troops of King Jaume I and Mallorca became part of the Kingdom of Aragón

With the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, a new chapter in contemporary history began for Sóller. The turmoil of the revolution led many French winemakers, farmers and traders to leave their homeland. Many came to the fertile valley in northwestern Tramuntana and started growing citrus fruits on a grand scale. The oranges were shipped to France via the port of Port de Sóller, which enabled the city to prosper.

Port De Soller

In 1860, most of the citrus trees were killed by a blight that deprived farmers of their livelihood. A wave of emigration began, resulting in most of the settlers starting new lives in South America, Puerto Rico and Cuba. Those who later returned had ambitions of colonial grandeur and and built city palaces with elaborate ornaments, wrought-iron balconies and ornate façades.

Attractions in central Sóller
The centre of Sóller greets you with an exciting blend of architecture that reflects the spirit of its history. The town's heartbeat seems to come from the Plaza Constitución. The central square is an excellent starting point for a stroll through the old town streets. Most of the Caribbean-colonial buildings can be found in Gran Via. Picture perfect palaces with intricately decorated façades and wrought-iron balustrades straddle the main street. Settlers from the Spanish mainland, who settled in Sóller at the beginning of the 20th century, brought the architectural style of Catalan Modernism, the Spanish variant of Art Nouveau, to the island. Numerous town villas from this period are now in the centre of the town. Probably the most impressive example of Catalan modernism is the façade of the Banco de Sóller, designed in 1889.

Church Sant Bartomeu in Soller

The old town is dominated by the church of Sant Bartomeu, which stands directly on the Plaza Constitución. The church was built in 1236 after the expulsion of the Moors. Numerous expansion and alteration projects followed in subsequent centuries, so that today design elements of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque can be found in the façade.

The town's ethnological museum is housed in the Casal de Cultura, a building dating from 1740. In addition to archaeological finds and historical items of clothing, a painting by Picasso is on display in the exhibition rooms. The Botanical Garden in the south of the city is also worth seeing. It was opened in 1992 and is home to more than 400 plant species that thrive in the Balearic Islands.

The Sóller Train and "Red Lightning": The main attractions of the city
The Sóller Train (Tren de Sóller) is the main attraction in the "Valley of the Gold". The narrow-gauge railway connects the island's capital Palma de Mallorca with the small town of Sóller. The route was opened in 1912. The aim was to create a speedy transport link through the olives and oranges from the Tramuntana mountains to Palma. Today, the historic railway is a tourist attraction.

The journey continues through 13 tunnels and the spectacular Cinc-Ponts viaduct. Until the opening of the railway line, the transporting the harvest was done by donkey carts on old mule tracks, which had been used for centuries as trader routes. Another attraction is the tram known affectionately as "Red Lightning", which connects the old town of Sóller with the harbour at Port de Sóller.

Hiking trail in the Tramuntana mountains

Activities in Sóller
Due to its location in the Tramuntana mountains, Sóller is an ideal starting point for hiking and mountain biking. Four mountains with a height of over 1,000 m form the backdrop of the "Valley of Gold". The mountain villages of Bunyola and Deja are popular with hikers. The GR 221, which is the most famous hiking trail on the island runs through the municipality of Sóller.

Hikers know the route as the dry wall way. The GR 221 trail leads through holm oak forests, olive groves, dreamy mountain villages and rocky summits in the Tramuntana.

Ambitious cyclists love the challenge of crossing the Coll de Sóller. The mountain pass is located between the Alfabia and Teix massifs and the highest point is 497 metres above sea level.

Until the opening of the car tunnel in the 1990s, the old pass road was the only connection to the "Valley of Gold". The crisp climb is almost seven kilometres long and has gradients of 17% in places. The winding road features 36 turns and hairpin bends before you finally roll down into the valley after the pass. Numerous active holiday-makers use the parking lot at the pass as a starting point for hikes.

Shopping in Sóller
Sóller is not generally known as a shopping metropolis. However the town draws its charm from its narrow streets, in which buildings of different architectural styles are pieced together which include  some fashion boutiques and souvenir shops offering some retail therapy in the area surrounding the central Plaza Constitución, . In addition to current fashion collections from Paris and inexpensive vintage fashions, it also offers leather goods such as shoes, bags, belts and accessories. Art-loving tourists should pay a visit to the Art Sóller studio on Calle de la Lluna, where the artist Miquel Angel Bernat Busquets offers his works for sale.

Every Saturday is market day in Sóller. Local farmers, artisan producers, bakers and fishermen offer fresh local produce. The market is a hotbed of local specialties. Among the best things is, along with freshly squeezed orange juice, the liqueur called Angel d'Or, which is made from citrus fruits. At the weekly market and in specialised shops, you can buy other local products such as cold-pressed olive oil, marmalade, orange balsamic vinegar from the Ca'n Det oil mill and delicious ice cream from the Sa Fábrica ice cream factory. While the weekly market takes place only k on Saturdays, the market hall of Sóller is open every day except Sunday from 9:00 to 13:00.

We hope that this article has given you a small taste of the tranquil town of Sóller. If you are interested, why not choose the city in the "Valley of Gold" as your destination for your next holiday in Mallorca?