The villages of Fornalutx and Soller, located within the dramatic Traumatana mountains are perfect places to base yourselves for a family holiday in Mallorca. Only a 40 minute taxi journey – or wonderfully scenic train – from Palma, this area has been protected from the atrocities that rampant package holiday-making and it’s associated rubbishness have inflicted on some parts of the island; the mountains have been its saviour, functioning literally and figuratively to preserve the beauty of this part of the island. Before the tunnel to Soller was built, people wanting to visit this area would face a perilous voyage through the mountains, navigating endless hair-raising hairpin bends as they tried in vain to avoid driving themselves and their families off the edge of a cliff and into the sea below. Now you just pay 5 euros and drive a few kilometres through a tunnel.Fornalutx
On our first family trip we stayed in Fornalutx. In fact, we first came here on our honeymoon in 2005 and loved it so much, we’ve gone on about it endlessly, returning several times with our kids. The village is framed by the Sierra Traumatana and is surrounded by olive groves and orange orchards in the hills. The place smells of olives and citrus and jasmine. It’s a beautifully preserved village within a UNESCO World Heritage Site; think stone houses, green shutters, and cobbled streets, steps confettied with pink bougainvillea leaves, the distant tinkling of goat bells in the mountains and the occasional wild braying of a local donkey. And remember it smells of deliciousness. It’s sensual and intoxicating and quite frankly, too lovely for anyone to visit. It should be put in a cabinet forever like Woody when he’s found by the toy collector in Toy Story 2 and we should have to pay to look at it.
We rented a two bedroomed, traditional Mallorcan house – Can Guitarrer – which had everything we needed as well as a little private pool and an orange tree in the garden. Staying in Fornalutx means you can achieve the holy holiday grail of villa, pool and walk into a village for dinner, and there are plenty of places to eat, shop and sit around. We loved the restaurant, Can Nantuna, which has tables overlooking the mountains so ask for one of these when you book. If you want to eat in – there is a small supermarket in Fornalutx and a larger one in Soller, only a short drive away. For families, eating out in this area of Mallorca can be expensive so we ate in a lot; stock up on local marmalade, fresh bread, cartons of gazpacho, local meats and cheese and lots of Mallorcan rose.
Soller is a short drive or a thirty minute walk through the countryside from Fornalutx, but the prettiest and most exciting way to get there is to take the old, wooden train that runs between Palma and Soller. Climbing its way through the mountains, stopping once for a photo opportunity once you get into the really scenic part, it’s not the cheapest or quickest way to get to Soller from Palma, but it’s definitely the best.
Once in Soller the first stop should be the Art Deco station itself, which has small (and free) Miro and Picasso galleries. I’m not in the habit of hanging out in train stations but I’ll make an exception for the one at Soller.The village square is dominated by the huge church of St Barthelomew, and is surrounded by cafes and restaurants. The main shopping street has lots of little independent boutiques, cafes and some souvenir shops. We ate at Hotel La Vila which has tables on the square and serves a decent tapas plate. To get to the beach at Port de Soller – where we based ourselves for a few days on our most recent trip to Mallorca – take the tourist tram from Soller. Again, this isn’t the cheapest way of getting from a – b, but definitely fun to do once – lots of leisurely tootling and inexplicable waving at strangers. If you are staying in Port de Soller and want to visit Soller frequently then I’d advise hiring a car or getting a taxi rather than using the tram as public transport as it’s pricey. Port de Soller is a bay and fishing port with a small, sandy beach (the only one on this part of the island) and still, shallow water making it perfect for paddling toddlers and footballing tweens alike. On our most recent trip we stayed at the Hotel Eden which has good sized family rooms overlooking the sea, and a great swimming pool and lounging area.
Port de Soller has plenty of cafes and restaurants located along the promenade that hugs the horseshoe harbour – we liked the Cafe on the Beach for lunch, No Name for Peruvian, Greek or Japanese tapas sharing plates and Can Ribes for its awesome suckling pig paella. A short walk past the restaurants will take to you a viewpoint where you can watch the sun set over the sea before heading out to dinner, which in Port de Soller is best served next to the twinkling lights of the harbour.
Day Trip: Deia
If you can cope with the anxiety inducing drive (or bus journey) through the mountains to Deia you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the Mediterranean. This beautiful mountain village is most famous for being loved by the poet Robert Graves who used to swim naked in the sea every morning, a tradition still observed to this very day. Cala Deia – the shingle cove with crystal clear water- is magical and perfect for some easy snorkelling/naked swimming/non-naked swimming. There are two restaurants right by the sea here, go for the fresh sardines at Cas Patro March.
Day Trip: Palma
Palma is worth far more than a day trip of course, it’s like a mini Barcelona with some amazing places to stay and eat and is a destination in itself. We did stay overnight on our most recent trip in the very funky and trendy Innside Palma Bosque Hotel which, although slightly out of town (walkable apparently – although we took taxis) has an excellent indoor and outdoor pool, so would be great for families. We ate at La Parada del Mar which was one of the best food experiences I’ve ever had – you order your uncooked (and impossible to identify what it is unless you have a Spanish friend helping you) fish at the counter, they grill or fry or batter it or serve it raw and still jumping and then bring it to you with some bread and wine as part of a set menu. We ate cuttlefish and mussels and fried anchovies and giant prawns and mini squid and tiny fried fish. My youngest son enjoyed it so much he went feral, crushing the shells of the the mussels with his hands, shellfish juice dripping off his chin and on to his sleeves. On previous visits we have spent the day wandering round the markets and shops, visiting round the cathedral and eating modern tapas at La Botana. I’d also recommend a visit to the Arab Baths for an insight into life in Palma under the Moors. The baths also have a lovely courtyard garden for your children to play in.