By Lisa on Jul 17, 2013 with Comments 4
The best tour you can take on Mallorca is the Island Tour with No Frills Excursions, and I was lucky enough to go on it three weeks ago for the first time in years.
Working for No Frills Excursions has countless benefits, but it also has its drawbacks, one of which is that I am always working when our tours take place and though I sell them and organise them, I rarely get to go on them!
Luckily I had some friends joining our Island Tour three weeks ago and I was able to go with them…
Our Destination of the Month now in July is Mallorca with No Frills Excursions; the excursion company that I work for. During the whole of this month I will be showing you around the island of Mallorca by taking you on the different trips offered by No Frills Excursions.
Today’s post is about the Island Tour: the classic Mallorca tour, and without a doubt the most dramatically beautiful day out on Mallorca.
Here I’m going to tell you and show you how the Island Tour is, why the No Frills Excursions Island Tour is better than that of any other tour company, and I’ll be sharing with you my own experience from three weeks ago when I had the pleasure of joining the tour myself…
Step into my shoes; we are going on a tour… an Island Tour…
What is the Mallorca Island Tour?
The Island Tour is an excursion offered by most tour operators in Mallorca.
Despite the name, the Island Tour is not a tour of the whole island and it is not a boat trip right the way around the island, as some people believe.
The Island Tour takes in the dramatic west coast and mountain area and combines travel by coach, boat, tram and vintage train, as well as offering free time in Sa Calobra and Puerto Soller.
The circular route of the Mallorca Island Tour can be done both ways, either starting with a drive through the mountains to Sa Calobra, taking the boat from there to Puerto Soller, connecting with the tram from Puerto Soller to Soller and then transferring to the train to Palma where the coach waits to then drive back to the north. Or the tour can start with a drive down to the train station in Palma and doing the whole thing in reverse.
The way that we do the Island Tour at No Frills Excursions is the first way, starting with the drive through the dramatic mountain range and down to Sa Calobra from where we take the boat to Puerto Soller.
Elements of the Mallorca Island Tour
The tour is broken down into four sections representing the four modes of transport included in the day: coach, boat, tram and train.
The Drive to Sa Calobra
After picking up the clients in the resorts in the north of Mallorca, we start with a drive into the Serra de Tramuntana Mountains towards Lluc. The drive takes us past the vineyards of Mortitx and as we ascend higher into the mountains we can enjoy stunning views right across Pollensa Bay and of the countryside.
Then we reach Lluc. We do not stop there as you would need a full day to visit Lluc and its monastery and that would be a whole other excursion, but we do go nice and slow so that we can enjoy the wonderful view of the sacred monastery in its valley.
We continue through Escorca and round to the Entreforc, where the Torrent de Pareis gorge begins when water from two gorges belonging to the two reservoirs, Gorg Blau and Cuber, meet.
Continuing the drive we pass the Font des Teix water bottling plant and we have great views of the Puig Major, Mallorca’s highest mountain at 1,445m.
During the drive, our experienced driver goes slow and the humorous guide tells us well in advance when to get ready with our camera.
The day I went, our guide was Juan, a very good friend of mine and one of No Frills Excursions’ most dedicated guides. You might know Juan from Campanet, or you might have heard of him if you have read the many Trip Advisor reviews about No Frills Excursions.
In addition to the beautiful views and dramatic scenery, Juan’s information really made the trip; he told us about the Puig Major and the American military base there and he told us about Antoni Parietti who built the road we were driving on, designed to interfere as little as possible with the landscape and to follow the natural curve of the mountains.
Juan mixed the serious information with the fun information and pointed out the carps in a water deposit that we drove past, delighting the children by throwing bread in for them to all surge towards, and he pointed out the shapes in the rock formations.
We drove under the aquaduct and then joined the road-of-no-return to Sa Calobra. Almost immediately we made a rest stop at the Knot of the Tie, known locally as Nu de Sa Corbata, which is where the road makes a 360 degree turn and passes under itself.
There is a random little bar there in the middle of nowhere and we could get refreshments and use the bathroom for 15 minutes before continuing on our way.
Then we continued the dramatic drive down the mountain to Sa Calobra.
We held our breath as the expert driver took us around the sheer bends known as the “Marias”; the sharpest bends down the mountain road, especially as we could see all the scrape-marks left there from coaches previous. It was a breeze for our driver though.
We arrived at Sa Calobra ready to stretch our legs and go explore the gorge.
Sa Calobra is not only one of the most stunning places on the Island Tour; it is also one of the most stunning places on Mallorca.
When we got off the coach we walked through the passage in the rock to where the Torrent de Pareis Gorge ends.
The views in Sa Calobra were absolutely fantastic and we had over an hour to explore them.
As I have said, Juan, the guide is a good friend of mine, and he was celebrating 20 years as a guide, so he brought a bottle of cava for our little group of friends to share in the paradise of Sa Calobra.
The Island Tour with No Frills Excursions does not include any commercial stops, as is normally the case with most operators, meaning that we get to Sa Calobra much earlier than the others; while clients from other companies are killing time walking around a leather shop in Inca, our clients are already in Sa Calobra, enjoying having the views to themselves before the crowds arrive.
Boat from Sa Calobra to Puerto Soller
From Sa Calobra we take the boat to Puerto Soller.
The boat, which holds nearly 300 passengers, is just for our two coach loads of people – 110 in total. The boat is always just for us; that is one of the conditions No Frills has with the boat company. That means that everyone who wants to sit on the top deck can, and no one feels squashed or claustrophobic.
As we sail away we see coaches from different companies coming to a stop and the passengers spilling out, where we had alighted one hour and a half before. There are more coaches driving down the mountain and we are reminded of how lucky we are to be travelling with No Frills and to have had all of Sa Calobra to ourselves.
The views during the 45 minute boat trip are absolutely spectacular: we see the wild goats strolling around the sheer cliffs as though they were walking on asphalt, we see the same 15th century defensive tower we had seen from the coach but now from the boat and we see Queen Victoria’s face in the rock!
As we arrive at Puerto Soller, we see the new super-luxurious Jumierah Hotel looming atop it’s privileged cliff-top position and the natural horse-shoe shaped port.
We disembark and stroll through the pretty Puerto Soller. It’s a small but bustling town with its port facing the mainland and the dramatic backdrop of Soller Valley and the Serra de Tramuntana Mountains. It is typically Mallorquin but has a quaint holiday village feel.
Many of the clients have opted for the set menu lunch, consisting of main course, dessert and drink for 10€ each at the Marisol restaurant, right on the seafront.
Our small group went for a stroll through the port and then met up with Juan to share some celebratory cake for his 20 years as a guide.
Tram from Puerto Soller to Soller
When the tram stopped outside the Marisol, all the clients piled onboard leaving only standing room for us at the end of the carriage.
The tram trundled so close to the seafront that we could almost reach out and touch the sand, and then headed inland towards Soller town, passing charming orange and lemon orchards which form part of people’s back gardens in that part of the island.
After the 25 minute tram ride, we found ourselves right in the centre of Soller; one of the most stunning towns of Mallorca, with its eclectic architecture, representing traditional Mallorcan, French Art Nouveau and Spanish Modernism styles.
There wasn’t time for much but there was time for a heaven-flavoured ice cream (chocolate and orange liqueur from Soller).
Then we walked back through the pretty square and back to the train station.
Soller Train Station
The station itself is even older than the train and is full of charm and character, from the wrought iron gates to the conductor with his whistle.
In the train station there is a free art exhibition with sculptures from Miro and Picasso; if you have time to visit just walk through the grand archway into the room at the side.
Tren de Soller
Next was the part of the Mallorca Island Tour that many people look forward to the most: journey on the wooden carriage Soller Train.
Our group was the last to board the train and instead of going inside the carriage and sitting down as all the clients did, we stood outside on the balcony of the last carriage so that we had amazing views of Soller, which became a tiny speck as we departed.
We had another bottle of cava to drink on the train (well we were celebrating), which was a bit awkward as we were all squashed into the small space trying not to spill the cava on our cameras, iphones and other gadgets.
The Tren de Soller was 100 years old last year and has not changed much during its centenary: we went to visit the engine sheds during the winter and the head mechanic there showed us how they care for the train and the trams and how the skills that they apply today have been learnt over years from the first mechanics of the Soller Train.
We went through the tunnels; the longest of which is two miles long. These tunnels are actually carved straight through the mountains so that the train is able to go in a straight line. Having said that; there is one tunnel where the track curves 180 degrees: when you enter the tunnel the town of Soller is on your right and when you exit it is on your left. This baffles many people as it doesn’t feel like you have turned at all.
The views from the train of the valley of Soller, the mountains and the countryside are absolutely breath-taking. It’s a journey that I could never get tired of even if I had done it a million times.
After the 50 minute ride we found ourselves just outside Bunyola at Son Reus Train Station and our coaches were waiting to take us back to the north.
Juan let us rest for the first part of the journey but then woke everyone up when we were going past his village, so that he could show us where he lives. He told us a little about rural life in Campanet, his finca and his donkey. He then gave us all an almond from his own orchard to take as a souvenir of the day.
It was a brilliant tour and there is good reason that the Island Tour, No Frills Excursions and Juan himself are rated so highly on Trip Advisor.
How is the Island Tour with No Frills Excursions different to that of other tour companies?
Once everyone is onboard the No Frills Excursions orange bus, the tour begins and we head into the mountains. Most other companies get everyone onboard and then drive down the motorway to Inca, where they stop at a leather outlet and clients have to kill time for 40 minutes.
Many companies now charge a fortune for the Island Tour and every year offer less; for example, some companies do not include the boat trip anymore, which means no visit to Sa Calobra, one of the main highlights of the tour. Thomson is one of these companies.
No Frills Excursions has maintained its price from last year for the Island Tour, charging 59€ for adults and 29€ for children (special offer for children in low season – just 17€). These are the resort prices; online it is even cheaper:
No Frills online price: 56€ for adults
Thomson online price: 63€ for adults (no boat trip or visit to Sa Calobra)
Viator online price: 72€ for adults
In resort some companies are charging even more.
What’s in a Name?
Island Tour is the classic name given to this excursion because it is the tour in which most of the island is covered. There have been many different variations of the name over the years from tour companies who wish to revamp it a bit, like Mountain Delights, Mountain Express and West Coast Wonderers. Regardless of the name, it’s the same tour or a variation of it.
The strangest name by far is the current name given to the tour by Thomson: Orange Blossom Trail. Are the orange trees in blossom in the summer when they operate this excursion? No!
How to book the Island Tour
So do you fancy it? Book your tickets now. Just click here.
If you are not staying in the north of Mallorca then you can’t do the tour with No Frills Excursions, but you can book with Click-Mallorca. Click here for options.
Don’t forget to check out the other fantastic tours that No Frills Excursions offers in Mallorca.
About the Author: Lisa, born and grew up in England, live in Mallorca, Spain... Have visited more than 20 countries, have twice as many to yet visit, love sharing experiences....