Reliving the exploits of adventurers who set out centuries ago for the New World is now within reach of anyone who cares to visit Isla Mágica, the new look Isla de la Cartuja, previously the site of Expo 92 in Seville.
This new theme park, which covers an extension of 350,000 square metres, is the only one in the world to be located in the historical centre of a town.
Fun and history, realism and fantasy all find a place in this commercial adventure which is the most ambitious of its type in Andalucía with an investment of in excess of 13,000 million pesetas. Isla Mágica’s official opening ceremony took place on June 28th and was presided over by King Juan Carlos of Spain. The following day the park opened its gates to the public and it is expected that it will turn into one of the most popular entertainment centres not only in Andalucía but the whole of Spain. It is estimated that 75 per cent of the visitors will come from within Andalucía, while the remaining 25 per cent will be tourists from the other parts of Spain and abroad.
Isla Mágica, which is situated in the very heart of the Andalusian capital, offers fun and excitement that will be sure to tempt even the most timid. The attractions include a big dipper ride that soars to dizzy heights (Anaconda), a hanging dipper ride which rotates people a full 360 degrees (Jaguar), and riding the rapids of the Amazon jungle in a rubber dinghy (Iguazú). There is no age limit to the park since it has been created so that the whole family can have fun with a choice of twelve different attractions that are able to handle 12,020 visitors per hour.
The starter’s gun for this expedition goes off at 11 a.m. when the doors to the park are opened and the public can enter and take part in an adventure which consists of six routes combining the most technologically advanced attractions, with the atmosphere of the 16th century. Once inside the park visitors are met by different characters dressed in period costume who introduce them into the story.
The starting point is the Puerto de Indias where a dwarf poet, carrying a book as big as himself, strolls through the park asking the visitors their names so as to be able to dedicate them tercets and quatrains, the style of poetry of the day.
Culture doesn’t have to be at odds with entertainment especially when it serves as an encouragement to have fun. The exotic Puerta de América provides both the excuse and the setting for celebrating tropical festivals in El Fuerte, the park’s fortress, which also keeps the civilian population occupied watching the comings and goings of the soldiers who go about their duties and who are on guard in case the pirates should come out of their secret lairs which would start a battle for the booty.
The children’s play area is called “La Fuente de la Juventud” and includes a Gnomes’ Maze, the Storytelling Frog, the Chrysalis, toboggans, big wheels and a host of other attractions. Closeby you’ll find another children’s attraction, the Magic Carrousel, whose charm is hard for grown-ups to resist too.
Those with a romantic spirit will be enchanted by legends that will transport them to the world of Eldorado. But if it is new technologies that fascinate you then a visit to the park’s dynamic cinema, which is located in the former Spanish pavilion, is recommended. The virtual reality cinema has a collective simulator and gigantic screen which projects “El Tiempo Perdido”, created by Iwerks Entertainment, one of the foremost companies in the world in this field. During the ten minutes of the film the spectator follows the exploits of an explorer who has to face the greatest adventure of his life…
Probably the most exciting attraction in Isla Mágica is Jaguar. Trying to reach the New World in this adventure becomes a real challenge which requires a certain amount of bravery when confronted with this hanging dipper ride, the only one of its kind in Spain, in which you turn 360 degree pirouettes in the sky at scaringly fast speed. The twelve principal attractions in Isla Mágica are the real highlights of the park. It is a good idea to start with the “Travesía” where visitors sail along the river Guadalquivir in boats that can accommodate 30 people and which provides the opportunity to observe all the park has to offer and discover how and where to go. Amongst the other attractions visitors shouldn’t miss the Potosí train (a dipper ride for all the family to enjoy) and Los Toneles (a recreation of a pirates’ lair).
Throughout the adventure, which easily fills a whole day, the visitor comes across shops, markets and stalls which offer a variety of souvenirs from the cultures and towns that are represented in the park. There are also a total of 26 restaurants distributed throughout the park.
During the Spanish Golden Age comedies staged in playhouses were an important part of the culture and the park’s designers have recreated their own version of a playhouse which stages a spectacle representing the typical themes of the period: love and travel. There are eight areas in all reserved for live performances of different types (ethnic, flamenco) and throughout the day there are performances in which characters of all types will be on hand to keep up the pace of the entertainment.
In summer Isla Mágica will be open until midnight or 1 a.m. when the park’s activities come to a climax with a multimedia show by the lake featuring fireworks and a laser show. The final show combines music and colour, fusing them together to recreate that same magic that characterized the evenings of Expo ‘92.
During eight months of the year the park will be offering fun and adventure for the whole family with a variety of attractions and sets that in their own way serve as a homage to Seville’s association with Latin America. But one thing is certain, the majority of the park’s attractions mean getting wet but that’s something that will probably be welcome at this time of the year. The more wary, meanwhile, could always take a raincoat with them.
Going to Seville without visiting the Santa Cruz, Triana and Macarena quarters is like eating a cake and forgetting the cherry on the top. These are spots where the people of Seville meet up. People begin to arrive at midday and in the late afternoon the “tapas” bars in the Santa Cruz and Triana quarters are still full of atmosphere. The “tapas” in the city bars are highly recommended: marinated fish, little shrimp pancakes, ham stuffed with cheese and many other specialities in spots such as Los Golondrinas and El Quiosco de las Flores. At nightfall the numerous establishments with open air terraces are alive with people.
A stroll around the old Jewish quarter with its preserved Andalusian white houses and interior patios is an absolute must even though getting lost is almost inevitable.
Also not to be missed is Holy Week in Seville, a traditional occasion, that peaks in the early hours of the morning of the night between Maundy Thursday and Good Friday when the images that create the greatest enthusiasm are brought out. And of course there is the spring fair, normally two weeks after Holy Week, currently held at the far end of the Los Remedios quarter. The fair is a great opportunity to experience first hand the famous “Sevillanas” dancing and take in the array of traditional costumes.
How to get there
Seville has its own international airport and is easily reached by road or by rail from Madrid and northern Spain or Malaga and the Costa del Sol.