MADRID – Spain is a country full of charm with varied landscapes. From wine regions and picturesque towns and villages to beautiful beaches or mountain ranges. All that and more makes it an excellent destination for adventurous train journeys.
Perhaps the train is not the first mode of transport that comes to mind when planning a holiday to Spain. Yet there is an extensive network of railways in the country. Spain has the longest high-speed network in Europe and one of the most extensive in the world. In addition, there are regional and local trains. The rail system is operated by Spain’s national rail company, Renfe, and connects cities and regions across Spain.
Among all the possible journeys you can make in Spain by train, there are a few gems worth noting. Routes that are worth taking for various reasons. They have a special destination, the train in itself is already quite an experience to travel with or the journey takes you through beautiful landscapes. In this article, we will highlight a few for you.
The seven most beautiful train journeys through Spain
El Transcantábrico is the most luxurious train in Spain – and perhaps in the world – which also takes the traveller through the enchanting landscape of the northwest of the country. The train is not called a ‘palace on wheels’ for nothing. Enjoy gastronomic delights or live music along the way in luxurious cabins complete with marble bathrooms and an impressive collection of antiques and works of art.
On board the train, one of two meals a day is generally served as an à la carte breakfast. The other meal of the day is enjoyed in the most renowned restaurants in the areas the train passes through. At night the Transcantábrico stops at one of the stations along the route. This offers passengers the opportunity to go out in the evening and at night. The advantage is that stations are always close to the city centres.
La Robla is another wonderful train journey that introduces you to the northwest of Spain. In the vintage train, you travel from the historic city of León to modern Bilbao. Along the way, you will be treated to the beautiful landscapes of Castilla y León, Asturias and Cantabria.
Enjoy scenic sights while tucking into delicious regional snacks and wines. The train also stops at key points where you can enjoy more delicious, local food at popular restaurants. For example, in the coastal town of Santillana del Mar or the spectacular Picos de Europa.
One of the highlights of the trip is the visit to the old iron mines of Las Médulas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site for their historical and geological value. While the experience is similar to Transcantabrico, La Robla is a bit kinder on your wallet.
Tren de la Fresa
The unconventional Tren de la Fresa (literally: the strawberry train) runs between Madrid and the beautiful city of Aranjuez. This city is known for its sweet and flavourful strawberries, which you can also enjoy during the train journey in season. In the past, those strawberries were specially grown for the royal family. The city itself has also been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Aranjuez is located on the banks of the Tagus and has a beautiful castle.
Board the vintage train with an old locomotive from the 1920s and travel in style in the wooden carriages as you take in the breathtaking scenery.
Tren dels Llacs
The Tren dels Llacs (the train of the lakes) is an extraordinarily beautiful tourist route from the city of Lleida to La Pobla de Segur. This journey takes you through the Catalan Pyrenees along numerous beautiful cliffs, ravines and mountain lakes, from which the train has taken its name. The railway was built in 1924 and the train follows the course of the Noguera Pallaresa waterway. Through the large windows, you can take in the landscape unobstructed.
Along the way, the train stops at small villages and historic towns where travellers can enjoy the local culture and cuisine. Stops are made in the medieval town of Balaguer, known for its castle and in Sort, beautifully situated on the Noguera Pallaresa River.
From Barcelona to Montserrat
The Montserrat mountain is located 50 km northwest of Barcelona and is one of the most popular mountains in Spain. The steep high rocks form the spiritual heart of the province of Barcelona because high at the peaks is the monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat with the Black Madonna, ‘La Moreneta’, which is visited by tens of thousands of pilgrims every year. Tourists also flock here to the singing of the world-famous Gregorian boys’ choir.
The best way to get to Montserrat is by train, and the journey takes less than an hour. Once in Montserrat, travellers can take a cable car to the top of the mountain to visit the basilica. It’s a perfect day trip from Barcelona for nature and music lovers alike.
From Bilbao to San Sebastián
The Basque rail company Euskotren connects numerous villages and towns in this special Spanish region. The most beautiful route for a tourist who wants to see more of Spain is the one between the cities of Bilbao and San Sebastian. This scenic journey offers beautiful views of the coastline and green interior of the Basque Country. There are picturesque towns and villages along the route.
The journey takes about two hours and offers unparalleled views of the Pyrenees, the Atlantic Ocean and rolling mountain scenery. Lovers of special food will get their money’s worth here: the Basque Country is known for its series of restaurants with Michelin stars. Leave the packed lunch at home and enjoy the local specialities that have put this food-obsessed region on the culinary map.
El Andalus is a luxury train that runs through the southernmost of Spain’s regions. The journey offers a lush, nostalgic experience of the Moorish civilization that once dominated this part of the Iberian Peninsula.
The seven carriages of the Al Andalus are beautifully decorated with rich fabrics and elegant furnishings and offer every comfort. During the journey of El Andalus, guests will have the chance to explore the most beautiful cities of Andalucia, including Seville, Granada, Córdoba, Jerez de la Frontera and Cádiz. The route runs through the heart of the region and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, vineyards and olive groves.
Guests of the El Andalus train are treated to gastronomic delights and local specialities of Andalusia, served with a selection of excellent wines. And entertainment abounds on board, including live music and flamenco performances.
For on the road
Good preparation is essential if you plan to travel through Spain by train. It is important to know which train you want to take, which sights you want to see and what time you need to be at which train station. It is also useful to take into account the luggage you are taking with you. Although the trains in Spain generally offer a lot of storage space, it is still wise to take a small suitcase with you. This ensures that you can easily navigate through the busy train stations and that you do not have to lift too much.
In addition, it is important to book on time, especially if you are travelling in high season. This prevents you from missing the train or that there are no more seats available. Also, don’t forget to print or download your train tickets before you leave so you always have them to hand. That way you can start your train journey relaxed and enjoy all the beauty that Spain has to offer.