The reality of Majorca belies its reputation as a high-rise hell of commercialized tourism. Apart from the narrow coastal strip along the Bay of Palma and the grim east coast resorts, the island is startlingly beautiful, particularly in the Serra de Tramuntana, the rugged mountains of the north-west. Here are soaring peaks interspersed with valleys of olive and citrus groves, sheer cliffs plunging into the sea, and charming mountain villages tucked away in the hills. By far the most enjoyable way of travelling to the mountains is to catch the quaint little antique train from Palma to Sóller, originally built for the orange merchants of Sóller who needed a more efficient means of getting to the island capital than the long circuitous haul across the mountains by horse and cart.
The train has been running since 1912 and its mahogany panelled, brass-fitted wooden carriages take you a step back in time as you make the 28 km (17.5 mi) journey along a narrow gauge track through staggeringly beautiful countryside. The train winds its way northwards across the plain of Pahna and climbs into the mountains across enchanting valleys thick with citrus groves. It stops at villages along the way and there are some astounding views as well as scarily long sections of turmel that only end after you've begun to think they're never going to.
Sóller is a lovely mountain town, built on a slope around a main square with several cafés and bars. The town has miraculously retained a genuine, un-touristy atmosphere about it and you stroll through sleepy narrow streets of 18th and 19th century stone houses with huge wooden doors and wrought iron rejas (screens). It is a brilliant base for hiking expeditions or you can take an old-fashioned tram down to the coast.
WHEN TO GO
April to May or September
TIME IT TAKES
1 hour 20 minutes
Picturesque antique railway carriages
Sóller - Plaça Consitució
YOU SHOULD KNOW
The Serra de Tramuntana is brilliant walking country with well-marked trails to suit all levels of ability.