Sóller, the largest village in the Tramuntana Mountains with its approximately 14 000 inhabitants, is beautifully embedded in an orange scented valley with thousand meters high peaks all around.
The village is the end station for the popular orange train that crosses the mountains from Palma. The railway that was built in the early 19th century to transport oranges faster from the mountains down to the port, is today one of Mallorca's main tourist attractions.
The train journey to Soller takes you slowly through some of the most beautiful parts of Tramuntana, through tunnels, over ancient vault bridges, past olive groves, romantic gardens and orange trees.
Soller has been inhabited by people since 5 200 BC. The location of the village deep in the midst of the mountains has meant that the village was isolated from the rest of Mallorca and therefore survived a big part of the Roman occupation.
Pirates and other seafarers have always been a danger to the residents of Soller. During the 15th century, the village was hit by repeated attacks by Moroccan pirates from Algeria.
During the French Revolution, many French emigrated to Soller. These immigrants made use of their contacts in France to create new trade relations. During the 18th century, Soller became a major exporter of olives and citrus fruits.
With the commerce came prosperity and many impressive mansions and public buildings were built in the area, giving Soller an impression of greatness, different from other cities in Majorca.
Many of the beautiful houses in Sóller were built in the early 18th century by rich returning emigrants. Particularly beautiful are the houses of french art nouveau along Gran Via.
In 1865 the orange groves in the valley were affected by plague. Exports decreased, finances were affected and many people chose to travel back to France or to seek fortune in South America.
Fruit crops recovered gradually and gained a boost when researchers discovered the benefits of vitamin C for human health, which created a huge demand for oranges and lemons.
It was not until 1912, when the railway link to Palma was built, as Soller began to trade with the rest of Mallorca. The tram line between Soller and Port de Soller was built in 1914 to facilitate the transport of oranges for export.
In 1997, the four-kilometer Sollertunnel through the mountains was opened. This meant that transports to and from other parts of Mallorca were also significantly facilitated.
Today's Sóller revolves around the square, Plaça Constitucio, with its outdoor cafés and the beautiful Saint Bartomeu church from the early 12th century. The church can be seen from many parts of the valley.
The picturesque square is shaded by the large leafy trees in the middle and of the old houses around.
Saturday is the big market day in Soller. Then Plaça Constitucio and the streets around are all closed from traffic.
The famous botanical garden, Jardí Botanic, in the outskirts of the village is definitely worth a visit. Here you can see plants from the Balearic Islands and other islands in the Mediterranean
Soller celebrates many fiestas:
- In May, the most notable, Es Firo occurs (see below).
- June 23, Sant Joan is celebrated with fires and dancing.
- On June 29, Sant Pere is celebrated - the guardian of the fishermen.
- Every second year, in July, an international folk dance festival is held.
- Fiesta Sant Bartomeu takes place during the week around August 24th.
- During September and October, a classical music festival takes place in Port de Soller.
... and a few more.
If you want to buy something local from the village, I recommend a visit at Fet á Soller. Their olive oil is amazing. Shops are available in Soller and in Port de Soller.
Having visited the area without eating ice cream or sorbet from Fet á Soller is a pity! Forty divine flavors made of natural ingredients.
Soller has many cozy restaurants, but our aboslute favorite is Cán Boqueta on Gran Via 43.The restaurant does not have many tables, so you must order in advance by phone +34 971 63 83 98.
Can Boqueta only serves tasting menus. The menus are affordable and are exchanged frequently and are absolutely amazing creations for both mind and taste.
For lunch, a three course menu is served for about 15€ (2016) and in the evening a dinner menu is available for around 30€. If you select a wine menu, you will end up close to 50€ (2017). The wines are of course also selected with great care.
Every year, Monday after the second Sunday of May, the festival of the "Moors and Christians", also known as "Es Firo", is celebrated in Soller and in Port de Soller,
The fiestas is in remembrance of the historic event of May 11, 1561, when an armada of twenty-two Turkish and Algerian galleons landed in Sóller.
Before reaching Mallorca the armada sailed to Ibiza for resupply Thanks to this move, the Mallorcan people was warned that an attack against the island was being prepared and that the enemy would begin the invasion of landing in Port de Sóller.
The captain of Soller, Joan Ange, had then time to prepare his men and demand reinforcements from the neighboring towns, Bunyola and Alaro. Overall, the defense of Soller consisted of about 600 men.
When the warning came that the enemy's ships were close, the Mallorcan people went down to the port of Sóller. The intruders, about 1,700 Arab soldiers, had been divided into two groups.
While one group advanced directly to the city, the other went round and attacked the unprotected city from the north.
They caused great destruction, robbed the church and the bank and caught many women and children whom they intended to keep as slaves.
The Soller inhabitants averted the first group of moors halfway between the harbor and the city. They waited for the other group to return. A bunch of outlaw men hiding in the hills came down to the city to help fighting against the moors. These men were later reprieved by the king.
The people of Soller fought against the retiring moors and finally they won the battle. By the end of the day 211 moors and 6 Soller inhabitants has died.
Some historical anecdotes are celebrated with special affection during the celebration, such as "Ses Valentines Dones (the brave women) in Can Tamany".
The sisters Catalina and Franciska Casesnoves invited the captain of the moors to their house and then killed him.
It is told that one of the sisters was hid behind the door and when the captain entered the house he was hit in the head of the big metal bar that the old-fashioned doors have to keep them closed.
This metal bar is still preserved and is included in the celebration of the event.
Each year, two girls from the Soller area receive the honors mission to play the brave sisters.
The "sisters" are freed from the moors when they enter the port at the final battle on Repic beach.
Nearly 1,500 people from Soller and Port de Soller are involved in the battle; Men, women, farmers and pirates.
The gunpowder is flowing and the risk that you get black on the face and on your clothes is big, so do not wear clothes that you care of.
Firon comprises three main strides; Two on the beaches in the harbor and one in Llorta (halfway between the harbor and the square) and then ending on the square in Soller, where the moors may see themselves defeated. The city is reclaimed and finally the party ends with fireworks, victory singing and dancing the night long.