Exploring Spanish regions by train

Exploring Spanish regions by train

23 August 2018

With some of the finest rail travel in Europe, exploring Spain by train is highly recommended.

Spain offers some of the finest rail travel in Europe and it is now easier than ever to explore the country by train - whether from England, France or elsewhere in western and central Europe.

Besides the classic trips to Madrid and Barcelona, Spain has a vast regional diversity.

Rail in the Basque Region

Taking the train to the north of Spain from the UK is easier than ever. TGV Atlantique trains, which run daily from Paris to Irun and take under 5 hours, have revolutionised travel between the French capital and the Basque region. From the important rail hub of Irun, it’s a short 15-minute hop to San Sebastian. San Sebastian is rightly regarded as a top destination to see in Spain. The town on the Basque coast of northern Spain enjoys an incomparable position overlooking the curved beach of the Bahía de la Concha. Relax in the Old Town (Casco Viejo), explore the wooded slopes of Monte Urgell, and take a swim in the calm summer waters of La Concha.

The Basque Region is well worth exploring in depth, you’ll find world-class food; starting with a local variety of tapas - Pintxos. Basque Pintxos are bite-sized appetizers. Compared to tapas, Pintxos are smaller, and served on a small bread with a toothpick pierced through the middle. As well as food, you can visit the world famous La Rioja wine region, in under 4 hours by rail from San Sebastian. Take time to explore the vineyards and sample some of the best red wines in the world at the source.

Trips from Madrid 

When taking the train to central Spain, it’s tempting to only have eyes for Madrid. However, Toledo is one of Spain’s most striking cities and should not be missed! Set on a rocky promontory by the River Tajo, the city is a jumble of superb buildings dominated by the imposing Alcázar fortress. The city is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. See Toledo as part of a day trip from Madrid - the train journey only takes 30 minutes - or as a stand-alone stopping point on your Spanish rail odyssey.

For a longer journey from the capital, travel north from Madrid to Oviedo - on the shores of the Bay of Biscay. This route will give you first-rate views of the mountainous landscapes as you take in a large chunk of Spain during the 5-hour trip.

Andalucia by train 

If you’re taking the train to southern Spain, Andalucia holidays are highly recommended. Seville, the capital of the region, is quite rightly one of the most popular cities to visit in western Europe. However, there’s a lot more to see when exploring Andalucia by train.

An Andalucia train tour can easily connect the many wonderful cities in the region. Trains from Seville to Cordoba take just 41 minutes. Cordoba has its roots in history and culture. The city was a major and eclectic religious centre in medieval times. Today it is a laid-back Andalucían city with a relaxed atmosphere, quite different from the passion and flamboyance of Seville.

From Cordoba, it’s a quick 48 minute trip to Malaga. The narrow streets of Malaga, are well worth taking the time to see and explore. The city is widely regarded to have the best seafood and wine throughout Andalucia. Some top local dishes to try include, Tarta Malagueña - this cake, made with almonds and Malaga sweet wine, as well as apricot jam.
Of Malaga’s wine, perhaps their sweet white wine is most famous,  "Dulce Natural" and "Vino Naturalmente Dulce" - naturally sweet wines produced from an over-ripe Pedro Ximénez or Moscatel grape.

Each May, Malaga hosts its annual ‘Gastronomy Festival’ where the region’s finest food is showcased throughout the city. In October, ‘Fiesta Andalucía’ is celebrated passionately by locals bringing a unique carnival atmosphere to the city.

From Malaga, there is a dramatic rail journey to the picturesque Ronda. The once-daily train to Ronda at 10:05 takes a different route from all other departures following the old El Chorro Gorge line.

This breathtaking line offers travellers outstanding views as you weave through the mountains en route to Ronda. The town is a lovely spot in the hills of rural Andalucía. Ronda is tiny, yet justifiably renowned for its dramatic mountain scenery. The town is virtually split in two by the great gorge of the El Tajo river, and there's a fine mix of Moorish and Renaissance architecture.

From Ronda, a short 25-kilometre bus ride will see you arrive in the truly unique town of Júzcar. Since 2011, the buildings of Juzcar have been painted in ‘Smurf Blue’. Initially, planned as a short-term action to celebrate the premiere of the Smurf movie, the sudden influx of tourists compelled the town’s residents to vote to retain the smurf-like features indefinitely! If you’re up for something whacky, Júzcar is worth seeing!

Useful Info 

  • Loco2 offers bookings for all Spanish train tickets at the same price as booking direct with the local rail operator, Renfe - with no booking fee.
  • Print-at-home tickets available for every train, with plain English explanations and your Renfe ticket translated, as we do with other operators.
  • Round-the-clock customer support from Loco2’s travel geeks
  • Booking tickets for 'Preferente' Class offers great value giving you roomier seats and access to the Sala Club (First Class lounges) in major Spanish rail stations.

Photo credits top to bottom: La Concha beach and Igueldo mount, San Sebastian, Basque country iStock ©herraez, Old Bridge of Toledo city in Spain Dreamstime ©David Moras Sarabia, Oviedo city aerial panoramic view ©saiko3p, Andalusian landscape at sunset with olive trees in Spain iStock ©Joel Carillet, Patios de Cordoba iStock ©feradz,  Malaga city iStock, ©WillSelarep, The gorge of Los Gaitanes, in Caminito del Rey iStock  ©juanorihuela, Júzcar, el Pueblo Pitufo Flickr commons ©DonatellaD

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