“Spanish flair, Spanish sun, Spanish rides… and Spanish operations”
PortAventura World is a huge entertainment complex in Salou, not far from Barcelona. The resort offers Spain’s biggest theme park and a water park, while a European version of Ferrari Land was under construction during this visit. The park is flooded by foreign tourists in summer and locals mostly fill up the other seasons. As a result, PortAventura Park is quite busy year round. It’s well worth facing the crowds, though. PortAventura offers some of the best roller coasters in Spain and the theming level is impressive.
PortAventura Park’s two largest roller coasters can be found in the Asian area, at the back of the park. Dragon Khan and Shambhala make up the park’s iconic B&M knot. Believe me: both rides are superb. Dragon Khan was the first roller coaster on Earth to feature 8 inversions and it’s still one of the most intense coasters in Europe. Some parts are a little rougher than you might expect from a B&M sit down coaster, but it’s still great fun. Shambhala is even better. This clear white Mega Coaster soars 76 metres above the ground and the trains reach speeds of up to 134 kilometres per hour. Shambhala offers an amazing first drop, an unusual turnaround element and a few great moments full of airtime. This is definitely one of Europe’s very best roller coasters and the Himalaya theme looks quite good.
Unfortunately, not every coaster at PortAventura feels like it was designed by the gods. Furius Baco, for example, is just awful. This Intamin Accelerator is one of Europe’s fastest roller coasters, but that’s the only interesting thing about it. The layout is boring and the ride is extremely painful. Please avoid it, unless you really need the credit. The same goes for Stampida, a duelling wooden coaster manufactured by CCI. The ride looks beautiful and the racing aspect delivers great fun, but the experience is painful nonetheless.
PortAventura lies in Spain, so it can get scorching hot during summer time. That’s why the park offers three great water rides. The most refreshing ride is Tutuki Splash, a shoot-the-chutes in the Polynesian section of the park. The tropical ambience is nice, but the ride isn’t themed that elaborately. The same goes for Silver River Flume: this log flume is wet and surprisingly long, but there’s hardly any theming during the actual ride. Luckily, the third water attraction boasts a quite impressive theme: Grand Canyon Rapids is beautiful to look at and it’s fun to ride. This is a fast (but rather short) rapid river, hidden in the red canyons of the park’s Far West section. Great ride.
Overall, PortAventura feels like a very complete theme park. You will find lots of kiddie rides (especially in the Sesame Street themed area), there’s a good variety of shows and thrill seekers will adore PortAventura’s large selection of roller coasters and flat rides. A classic dark ride was missed for many years, though. Fortunately, the park recently opened an interactive dark ride with a Sesame Street theme. It’s called Street Mission and I like the ride a lot. It may not be the most challenging laser-shooting dark ride on Earth, but it’s elaborately themed and it combines screens and real scenes in a stunning way. By the way: be sure to visit Templo Del Fuego, my favourite attraction here. This continuously running show is set within an ancient Mexican temple and it features fire. Lots of fire, actually. Templo Del Fuego’s major downside is the fact that it doesn’t open very often. This show is expensive to perform, so PortAventura decided to run it on a very limited basis.
BEAT THE CROWDS
PortAventura Park attracts approximately 3.5 million visitors each year. This is definitely the most successful theme park in southern Europe. Especially in July and August, you will face big crowds while heading to the park. That’s why we enhanced our 4-day visit with an Ultimate Express Pass, which allows unlimited riding through the Express entrance. While some big attractions had wait times of up to 3 hours, we never queued longer than 15 minutes to ride Dragon Khan, Shambhala or Furius Baco. If you visit PortAventura during a school holiday or weekend, I strongly recommend buying Express Passes. Sure, I know these passes come with a hefty price tag, but it really is the only option to enjoy PortAventura during busy times. Operations are usually slow and many attractions don’t open at park opening time. This also means that early birds don’t necessarily have an advantage at PortAventura Park.
WORTH A VISIT?
Yes, this park is worth a visit. PortAventura World is a famous holiday destination and I can clearly see why. We filled three full days at PortAventura Park and we weren’t bored for a single minute. However, if you’re visiting during the peak of European school holidays, you’d better prepare for long lines. Unfortunately, operations are poor and queue-jumping seems a national sport here in Spain. So if you don’t like slow-moving lines and if you get easily agitated by these line-cutting people, the purchase of an Express Pass might be your best bet. PortAventura is an awesome place, so don’t let these disturbing theme park habits ruin your stay.
Have you experienced Furius Baco’s painful rattle? Interested in Shambhala, one of Europe’s very best roller coasters? Is Templo del Fuego really the best attraction this park has to offer? Share your opinion in the comments section at the bottom of this page.