All aboard: Spain is on the horizon
You're reading while being served a coffee or a delicious dinner, listening to a piano play in the background, and then suddenly you look out of the window of a historic carriage and see the sun set on the horizon, and everything seems perfect. This scene, or something similar, is what you can expect to experience on several tourist trains around Spain, and these trains mean the journey is as exciting as the destination. You can go on luxury week-long journeys that hark back to the long railway journeys of the past and day trips that are brought to life by actors. Travelling by train is one of the greatest pleasures a traveller can experience, especially if it comes with a buffet breakfast, product tastings, exclusive tours, and so on.
The Transcantábrico is the oldest and most quintessential luxury tourist train. This route is a dream: travel around the north of Spain, known as Green Spain for its stunning landscapes, on board a train that preserves the romanticism of the great trains of the early 20th century but also has modern facilities. The most glamorous version is the Transcantábrico Gran Lujo, which takes 8 days to travel from San Sebastián to Santiago de Compostela. Travellers can try the cuisine of Castilla y Leon, the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia, while enjoying gala evenings, live music on board and tickets to museums and monuments with a multilingual guide.
The Al Andalus
People say the Al-Andalus Train is like a palace on wheels. In fact, the carriage-suites are part of the very series constructed to transport the British Royal family between Calais and the Côte d'Azure. Passengers on this train will visit Andalusia over seven days, ending in Seville. The experience of travelling on one of the world's most spacious trains is combined with the chance to try dishes by prestigious chefs and discover cities such as Cadiz, Ronda, Cordoba, Úbeda and Baeza and sights like the Alhambra.
Santiago de Compostela can be reached on foot, by bicycle and now also by railway. The Pilgrim Train follows a variation of the famous Way of St James. It lasts five days, departs from Madrid towards Santiago de Compostela and passes through places such as Vigo, Pontevedra and Vilagarcía de Arousa. The train offers breakfast and dinner and includes sightseeing trips and culinary tastings. Bicycles are permitted on board, and so travellers can also complete stages by bicycle or on foot to reach Compostela.
Galicia's tourist trains
Did the previous idea tempt you to visit Galicia? Then you will be happy to hear that every year in Galicia, they run various themed tourist trains. They usually run between May and October and travel the most beautiful routes, such as the Lighthouses Route, the Mansions and Historic Gardens Route, the Roman Lugo Route, the Ourense Spa and Shopping Route, etc. Galician wine has become very famous and one of the most original ways to try it is on board one of these trains, on routes such as the Rías Baixas Wine Route and the Ribeira Sacra Wine Route. Get ready to see landscapes of valleys and vineyards, monasteries hidden among the mountains and incredible scenery along the Sil and Miño rivers.
La Robla Express
Still in the north of Spain, for three days and nights this train offers a journey through the nature and culture of the area, for the most part following the Camino de Santiago or St James' Way. The Bilbao and León itinerary is a journey usually offered in July, September and October. Inside, you can expect classic decoration and outside you will see the natural landscape of the north of Spain. And fine dining is an important part of this route.
Tren dels Llacs
The landscape on this route is equally stunning. We are going to the province of Lleida (in Catalonia) to travel on the Lakes Train. It offers two options: a journey in vintage carriages, which have been lovingly restored, or on board modern, panoramic trains. The route takes you to a multitude of locations and has plenty of activities to take part in. For example, there are stops arranged at one of the oldest liquor factories in Catalonia, a lunch of traditional local dishes, trips to the Gerri de la Sal salt flats, the Castell de Mur, artisan cheesemakers, the Aigüestortes y Estany de Sant Maurici National Park and much more. You can enjoy a trip on this historic train most Saturdays from April to October. The panoramic trains are also available some Saturdays in July and August.
The Cervantes Train
As well as trips over several days there are also interesting day trips. The Cervantes Train departs from Madrid and arrives in the historic city of Alcalá de Henares, the birthplace of the most famous Spanish writer of all time: Miguel de Cervantes. Even the journey itself is interesting as various actors in 17th-century costume accompany the travellers. When you arrive you can visit iconic places in Alcalá such as the Calle Mayor, the University, the Cathedral and, of course, the home of the author of Don Quixote.
Sigüenza Medieval Train
Sigüenza, known as the “City of the Young Knight”, lies just 130 kilometres from Madrid. It is one of the few places that still has three city walls and a surprisingly medieval feel. The train journey, which departs from Madrid, is brought to life by folk singers, knights and princesses through music and theatre, and it also offers a selection of cakes. Upon arriving in Sigüenza, a tour guide will accompany you to the most important spots in the city: the Castle, the Cathedral, the Plaza Mayor square and the Casa del Doncel. You will also be able to try typical dishes such as migas, Castilian soup and the delicious Yemas del Doncel sweets. It normally runs between April and November.
The Strawberry Train
This is a great idea for the weekends in Spring and Autumn. The route? From Madrid to Aranjuez, a location famous for its delicious strawberries and whose Cultural Landscape is listed as World Heritage. Aranjuez is primarily known for the Royal Palace of Aranjuez and its stunning gardens that are great for walking around. During the journey, you will travel in wooden carriages constructed between 1914 and 1930, and will be offered strawberries to try. Once you arrive in Aranjuez, depending on which itinerary you have chosen, you can visit places such as the Palace or the gardens, or climb aboard a boat or sightseeing bus-train.
Philip II Train
Passengers are taken to San Lorenzo de El Escorial, just over 50 kilometres from Madrid, in a 20th-century locomotive. Once the train arrives, and depending on the ticket type, the trip includes a guided tour of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. This amazing monument was built by Philip II in the 16th century and was considered the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. It houses the Royal Pantheon, the Basilica, the Library, the Hapsburg Palace, etc. That is why walking around inside is an experience worthy of kings. The tour can also include a panoramic route through La Herrería forest or the Casita del Infante gardens.
Climbing aboard this period train with wooden carriages is one of the best experiences on the island of Mallorca. The railway itself is very pretty, but what you can see out of the windows is even better: depart from the city of Palma, pass through the Sierra de Alfàbia, climb 200 metres and go through 13 tunnels, over several bridges and the “Dels cinc-pont” viaduct. Once the train reaches the beautiful village of Sóller, the smell of orange blossom mixes with that of the sea and having a coffee outside with the mountainous landscape in the background is a truly delightful experience.
Campos de Castilla Train
We recommend travelling to Soria from Madrid and spending the weekend surrounded by poetry and local cuisine. Taking this train means following in the footsteps of the famous poet Antonio Machado, who lived there more than 100 years ago. Before the train arrives in Soria, some “special” passengers will climb aboard in Sigüenza: actors who bring the journey to life with anecdotes about Machado. Once you reach Soria you can visit the Baroque San Saturio Chapel, the splendid San Juan de Duero monastery, the ancient city of Numantia and the enigmatic, captivating Black Lagoon. You can take this trip some weekends between May and November.