The sound of waves slapping against the shore outside our hotel window in Mallorca was lulling but the warm October sun was shining and the ancient trails of the Valley of the Oranges beckoned. It was time to explore the Mallorca walking holiday options from Port Soller!
The area around the old town of Soller is called the Valley of the Oranges and citrus fruit was long the source of the region’s prosperity. A sheltered location and proximity to the sea meant good growing conditions and ease of export. The valley is like an amphitheatre with long arms reaching up to the surrounding cliffs.
Nearby on the coast Port Soller is a good base with plenty of hotels, restaurants and of course the beach, where you can swim even in October. This region is on my list of the top 10 things to do in Mallorca.
The mountain villages of Binibassi and Fornalutx are among the prettiest in Mallorca and they spread tentacle-like orchards up towards the Serra de Tramuntana – as far as you can imagine it would be possible to grow olives, figs and of course citrus.
There are a multitude of walking route variations in this region. The recently updated Cicerone guide to walking in Mallorca is useful and we put together our own routes using that and a map. You want to get high enough for great views, do a bit of village hopping and enjoy the lovely, valley and coastal walking.
Smell the orange blossom
Leaving our hotel on the seafront of Port Soller, we took the narrow road up from the roundabout and in minutes the resort was out of sight and out of mind. This peaceful valley takes you through the gardens and plantations of citrus, olives and almond, and past the farmhouses of Sa Figuera.
Then we turned onto the historic Cami Vell des Port Soller, climbing up and up over the cobbled paths, with carob seedpods crunching underfoot and regular viewpoints down to the sea and the port. The views get better and better as you climb higher.
We continued on a stretch of the Cami de sa Figuera then turned left up the Cami vel de Balitx before dropping down to the Mirador de Ses Barques. Stop to smell the coffee or wave at the daytrippers in their cars.
There are two paths down to Fornalutx from here. We took the Cami d’en Nico and enjoyed a picnic lunch in the Placa Espanya. From Fornalutx we traversed across through the orchards to the hamlet of Binibassi and hence to a quiet road that leads back to Soller past lush gardens spilling over golden walls.
From Soller we caught the tram back to Port Soller. If you haven’t had your ensaimada fix since the breakfast buffet, Soller has many good panatterias, particularly in the streets around the Placa Constitutio.
Follow the stars to Deia
The next day we walked along the waterfront of Port Soller looking out for walking signposts for the village of Deia. We were soon climbing up to join the Cami de Castello. This ancient pathway hovers between the mountains of the sea and enjoys views of both.
Look out for the 13th-century Posada del Rei Jaume I and the picturesque settlement of Llucalcari.
The village of Deia sits on its hill, crowned by an ancient church and surrounded by its groves and irrigated crops. For many years it has been known as much for its literary and musical residents as for its beauty.
Poet and novelist Robert Graves settled here after the war and was visited by stars of stage and page. You can visit his house, which is now a museum, and his grave in the churchyard. More recently the presence of Richard Branson and friends have lent a different kind of glamour.
We were advised that the coastal walk from Port Soller to Deia is currently unstable and would recommend the higher pathway, which has wonderful views out to sea.
From Deia there is a regular bus service back to Soller and Port Soller (ask at your hotel for a timetable).
A day trip to Palma
You’ve got to expect some inclement weather on a walking holiday and Mallorca has plenty of options for wet weather days. Port Soller is only a 30 minute drive from the capital Palma but a much more charming way to get there is on the vintage Tren de Soller.
The 27km narrow-gauge railway was originally built in 1912 to transport Soller’s famous oranges to market. It takes about an hour and passes through the mountains, as well as many typical old Mallorcan farms. In February these valleys are white with almond blossom.
Once you’re there don’t miss the cathedral – as made over by Antonio Gaudi – and the Arab Baths, the last Moorish building in Palma. This little city is not the sleepy place it once was and there are plenty of sophisticated options for eating, drinking and shopping.
For lunch we wandered into Simply Fosh, a new venture by Marc Fosh and based on his years of experience living and working here in Palma. He was first ever British Michelin star chef in Spain and his sleekly modern Mediterranean restaurant is, paradoxically, in the heart of an old convent building.
The food looked like a painter’s palette with intense colours but tastes infinitely better. The 18 euro menu del dia is fine dining in the middle of the day. Blackest cuttlefish risotto with saffron aioli and rocket. They also have a la carte at lunchtime, as well as in the evening.
Where to stay in Port Soller
After each day’s walking in the hills we came back to the stylish but delightfully chilled atmosphere of Hotel Esplendido. This grand old 1950s lady of the waterfront underwent a complete refurbishment by the new, Swedish, owners in 2004. It certainly reflects its name, retaining some beautiful 50s period features while inspired modern design ensures everything works perfectly.
In fact if there weren’t so many wonderful outdoors activities on the doorstep it would be tempting to spend a lot of your holiday in the hotel. There are two swimming pools, including an infinity pool with views out across the harbour. There’s a lounge with computers, a library with a large vinyl collection, and an extensive library of films and music available in your room.
But I’m tempted to say the best thing was the breakfast. With a huge selection of favourites from home and Mallorcan fare and maybe even your favourite newspaper, this is hard to beat for a good start to the day.
Eating out in Port Soller
Try Ribes, an unassuming restaurant perched above the marina with good portions of local fare including bacalau, sardines and delicious lamb (C/Santa Catalina 22, Port de Soller Tel +34 971 63 84 93).
Down nearer to the shiny yachts, El Pirate serves up a wide selection of delicious Mediterranean food with good service and it’s nice to sit outside.
Hotel Esplendido has a fine bistro with the same high standards apparent throughout the hotel.
And just a few doors from Esplendido, Los Olas has the best paella in town – make sure to book in the weekend.
I could have sat on our balcony at Hotel Esplendido for hours, watching the fishing boats, swarmed by gulls, returning between the two headland lighthouses (another walk). The little antique tram regularly putters along the waterfront, conductor hanging off the back and waving to my daughter sitting on my knee. What could be nicer after a day of walking in Mallorca?
By Natasha von Geldern