An organised island tour of Mallorca? Is that even necessary with the excellent infrastructure on the Balearic Island? We asked ourselves this question when we were perusing the excursion brochures at the TUI BLUE Rocador hotel. We were interested in a trip where you can see the highlights of Mallorca by boat, tram, old-fashioned train, and bus. My travel companion Dirk and I don’t like to travel by bus, and were discussing whether we could organise the tour ourselves with our rental car. It turns out, that wasn’t as easy as we’d hoped. Find out why, and why it sometimes pays to take an organised trip (even for a dedicated individualist) here.
On the bus: listening or sleeping
So, we booked our tour, and the next morning were picked up by a large bus for our island tour of Mallorca. Much too early for our liking. The drive from Cala d’Or on Mallorca’s east coast towards the Tramuntana Mountains takes a long time. The tour guide told us a lot of interesting things about Mallorca, for example, about the construction masterpiece of the serpentine mountain road that leads down to the Torrent de Pareis. We drove past typical Mallorcan country estates surrounded by almond and olive groves, and through sleepy towns. We were also sleepy thanks to the early pickup, and so the journey nevertheless passed pretty quickly thanks to our drowsiness.
Sanctuary of Mallorca: Lluc Monastery
Our first stop was the most famous monastery in Mallorca, Lluc Monastery. This is included in virtually every Mallorca island tour and is the island’s main pilgrimage site. The monastery consists of a Baroque church, several courtyards and buildings, and is located in the Tramuntana Mountains. Actually, it is not technically a monastery, but a “Santuari”, or sanctuary. Long lines formed in front of the Black Madonna, and pious visitors crossed themselves in front of the small statue. The environment of Lluc is beautiful and a great starting point for hikes. On another day we saw how beautiful the remote mountain valleys of the Serra de Tramuntana are with our own eyes while on a jeep safari.
Over spectacular roads to Mallorca’s most beautiful bay
The programme was tight; after all, we wanted to see all the major attractions of the island in one day on our tour of Mallorca. The journey continued into the mountains until we reached the serpentine switchbacks, which led down to Sa Calobra and the Torrent de Pareis. The road was built as early as 1932 and carved into the rock by hand. Respect! Our bus slowly wound its way along the hairpin bends and passes through the famous tie knot. I had driven the same distance by car before. But from the bus, the view was much better and none of the passengers needed to concentrate on the road. The canyon landscapes of Mallorca were simply terrific, and we couldn’t tell if the road, the bay of Sa Calobra, or the rocks were more exciting.
Food or Torrent de Pareis?
Once we arrived in Sa Calobra, we came back down to earth. The tiny village seemed to consist entirely of restaurants and souvenir shops, and even though the summer holidays were over in mid-September, it was teeming with other tourists. We were glad that we didn’t have to look for a parking space for the rental car on a self-led Mallorca island tour. All tourists seemed to have the same destination in mind: the Torrent de Pareis. Our tour guide explained how long we had before we met at the landing to board a boat to Port de Soller. Either we could use the time to eat lunch individually, or we could look at the gorge. In a wise foresight, we stocked up on the fish we bought at the supermarket in Cala d’Or and made our way to the Torrent de Pareis. The path leads along one of, if not the, most beautiful bay of Mallorca.
Torrent de Pareis: concentrated power and beauty of nature
Through two sparsely lit tunnels and after a hard walk, we reached the gorge, through which the mountain river Pareis has made its way for millennia, flowing into the sea after heavy rains. At this time of year, the water was only up to our knees and did not reach the ocean beach. Shoes off, we waded through the water and admired the steep, overgrown rocks. How I would have liked to continue through the river into the gorge to see what lies behind the next river bend! But we couldn’t miss our ship to Port de Soller, and returned to Sa Calobra.
Hypnotised by Mallorca’s west coast
Our Mallorca island tour continued with the ship. It was a pretty big ship and not a small romantic boat ride, as I had imagined. We stood by the railing and watched in awe. Clear azure water, bright green trees on craggy ridges, small inhabited coves that seemed to be accessible only from the sea, and the unexpectedly high mountains of the spectacular Serra da Tramuntana. Oh, Mallorca! Every time I begin to think this island is totally crowded and bled dry, it surprises me with another untouched treasure. I could hardly believe that the trip took 40 minutes. It felt like ten minutes.
100-year-old wooden tram
Upon arriving in Port de Soller on Mallorca’s west coast, we spent a few minutes with an ice cream before we got on an historic tram. The wooden tram was rustic and sent us a hundred years into the past. The tram passed leisurely along the promenade, winding through narrow streets, and drove within a few centimetres of private gardens and courtyards away from Port de Soller to Soller. And it has since 1913!
Nostalgic journey through dreamy landscapes
In Soller, we had a few minutes before our train journey began with the “Red Lightning”. Soller’s lanes looked inviting and we would have liked to have a look around in the small gift and pastry shops. But the train to Palma de Mallorca would have left without us, and our Mallorca island tour would have been cut unintentionally short. The station of Soller alone seems as though it has fallen out of time. When the nostalgic wooden train entered, the journey through time officially began. Sitting on wooden benches and driving with open windows, a breathtaking landscape passed by: mountain landscapes and untouched green valleys, until finally more and more villages started to rush by. We jumped from left to right and back to catch the most beautiful view behind the next tunnel. We drove through 13 tunnels, crossed a viaduct, gained almost 500 metres in altitude, and travelled nearly 30 kilometres of track. Today, the Red Lightning is a tourist attraction, though originally the train was built to transport oranges from remote valleys to Palma de Mallorca. As we drove through one of the long dark tunnels, we were lulled by the monotonous clanking of the rails. The exact opposite of the hypermodern high-speed trains of our day. We modernity-plagued city dwellers found it completely rustic and romantic. In the tunnel, the wind was quite cold, so take a sweater or scarf with you.
Conclusion: Organised island tour, yes or no?
After almost an hour, which really flew, and with disheveled hair, we arrived in a suburb of Palma de Mallorca, where our bus back to Mallorca’s east coast awaited us and heralded the end of our Mallorca island tour. If we had chosen to tour the island ourselves, we would have had to see how to get to our rental car in Sa Calobra, where the ship left off. On the way back we thought again how exactly this excursion might have played out with the rental car or public transport. We found it impossible – at least not in this combination and order. Either you would have to pick up the car again in a very different corner of Mallorca or laboriously orientate to bus schedules. With the tight schedule, this would be impossible. Plus, if you’re unlucky, all tickets for the next ship, the tram or the train might be sold out. Tired and satisfied, we fell into our seats and reviewed our Mallorca island tour again with a critical eye. Sure, we didn’t have much time to look around intensively. But now I know the places that I really want to explore more closely. For someone who has little time in Mallorca or prefers to relax in the hotel rather than having to organise a different trip every day, the organised Mallorca island tour is a good choice. Actually, we have really gotten a taste of exploration on this always-surprising island, and we can’t wait to find more.
Information: We booked the Mallorca island tour with the tour guide at the hotel TUI BLUE Rocador in Cala d’Or. Many providers offer similarly designed island tours. The prices do not vary greatly, but for the others, the Lluc Monastery is usually missing. The excursion can also be booked online.