If you’re staying in Palma and make only one foray out of the city, make it a journey on the Ferrocarril de Sóller (Sóller Railway). You’ll be hard-pressed to find a local aboard this toytown-style service and, in truth, it’s very unlikely it would still be operational were it not for the tourist trade, but this in no way detracts from what is a hugely enjoyable hour-long journey through the mountains.
This 27-kilometre (17 mile) length of track (with one of the narrowest gauges in the world at 914 millimetres / 36 inches) opened in 1912, connecting the capital with Sóller on the west coast, and cutting journey times down from a day to just an hour and a quarter, thus allowing the citrus growers of Sóller to get to the Palma markets and back in a day.
Little has changed since then: the tiny station (marooned in the soulless expanse of the Plaça Espanya) is reached through a wrought-iron gate; the ticket office still dispenses old-fashioned paper tickets and the carriages are largely constructed from wood with banquette-style seats, brass fittings and gaslights.
The first part of the journey is not spectacular, and for the first ten minutes the track runs along the road like a city tram, before reaching the outskirts of Palma and Tramuntana as a spectacular backdrop.
As you approach the first stop at Bunyola, olive fields give way to pine forests. Beyond the village the train enters the first of 12 tunnels, which become progressively longer, until it breaks through the mountains and emerges on the west side of the island. The views here are superb as the train wends its way over precarious bridges and across dry torrentes, high above a valley rutted with terraces and dotted with old farmhouses. In the distance you can spot Sóller and the villages of Biniaraix and Fornalutx.
The last part of the journey, the approach to Sóller, is delightful: citrus groves crowd round the carriages, close enough to pull off a ripe lemon or orange. From the station, you can jump on the equally atmospheric tram down to the sea at Port de Sóller.