Once isolated by mountains, now linked by two tunels
As little as 120 years ago the lovely town of Soller and its port, nestling in the folds of the spectacularly beautiful Tramuntana mountains, were almost cut off from the rest of Mallorca because of those very mountains.
The tortuous, switchback road with steep climbs, hairpin bends and often cut by bad weather conditions made travel so long and arduous to Palma, that Soller looked more to Barcelona – a sea journey away – for its trade and prosperity. Remember, at that time, carts pulled by donkeys were the main mode of transport and the poor animals really struggled with the road.
However things began to change in the 20th Century when entrepreneurs and business men constructed the Palma to Soller Railway, a magnificent feat of engineering requiring a tunnel around 2,800 metres long cut through the rock of the Coll de Soller mountain. The rail tunnel was officially opened on 16th April 1912, though didn't make the headlines as the newspapers of the world were full of the news of the sinking of The Titanic.
In modern times, motorists still had to test their driving skills and mettle on the climbs and bends of the old road, now called the MA 11a, and more and more calls were made for an alternative ie quicker and easier route. In 1997 the Soller road tunnel was opened, a direct, almost flat route, which shaves just a few kilometres off the journey but saves about 25 minutes of your time and nerves!
It is, however, the most expensive stretch of toll road in Spain, costing €5.05 to use its just over 3 kilometre length, a rate of around €1.65 per kilometre. Is it worth it? Many people say not, and are protesting about the high charges. Personally, I think it is. It's quick, convenient and easy – unlike the road which is completely the opposite and full of racing cyclists nearly every day of the year. Just take a look at the map with the long straight tunnel road on the right and old road looking like Arabic calligraphy on the left, bit of a diference, isn't there?
A trip from Palma airport to Puerto Soller will take one hour and eleven minutes on the old road, and 45 minutes via the tunnel. No comparison, is there? On a side note, residents of Soller get a discount on the tunnel toll, and if the old road is closed for any reason, the tunnel is free!
Happy motoring and see you in Soller.