Spanish trains are the most inexpensive in Europe. Because of the mountainous regions, especially in inland Spain, many places are still inaccessible by train, although with the introduction of the Alta Velocidad España, this should be a thing of the past.
Traveling by train is a wonderful relaxing way to see Spain and the trains are extremely well run. Most of the 15,000km of rail in Spain is run by RENFE, which runs fast, modern trains on its intercity routes.
One of the most scenic routes is the run from Alicante to Denia. The FGV Rail was built by a French company in 1914 to transport fresh produce to Alicante through Calpe and Altea.
The scenic run between Benidorm and Gata de Gorgos, travels along the golden beaches with a restored fleet of 1930’s coaches known as the Limon Express. One of the quaint stations doubles as a beach bar in the summer. When the train arrives at Gata, passengers are given a tour of a guitar factory and are shown typical wicker work of the area. Wine is served on the train as passengers enjoy the fantastic views of the coastline.
The Spanish love their trains and they have restored numerous steam trains, the best being the Tren de la Fresa that runs from Madrid to the palace at Aranjuez. As the name suggests, the train was used to transport strawberries to the Spanish capital and even today, strawberries are handed out to passengers on the train. There is the famous rail museum in Madrid called the Museo de Ferrocarril, which was opened in 1967. It was the first museum of its kind in Spain and it users four lengths of track to display 31 trains.
If you want the ultimate train journey, there are various luxurious trips to experience. The Transcantabrico follows the north coast of Spain from San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela. This trip takes eight days and the four coaches include a bar with resident DJ and passengers can sleep well at night as the train stops at different stations at night.
Another outstanding route is the Al Andalus Express, which departs from Seville each week and travels to Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Malaga and Jerez de la Frontera. The price of the ticket includes visits to each city, meals at the finest restaurants, “fiestas” and shows, plus dinner and sleeping compartments on fabulous trains that have discos, video rooms, bars and rooms that are on a par with top hotels.
Spain has plans to construct more high speed trains with money contributed by the EU. There is a budget of 12,365 million euros to complete a network of these trains throughout Spain connecting all major cities to Madrid and Barcelona, taking no more than four hours to Madrid and six and a half to Barcelona. The connection from Madrid to Alicante is currently under construction, but there have been a few problems with the unearthing of 8,000 fossils dating back 80 million years and a Roman villa. This route will eventually continue through Elche and on to Murcia, but the final route has yet to be decided.
There are different rates for tickets on the different railways including the Tarjeta Joven for those aged between 12 and 25 to be used on special “Blue Days” and the Tarjeta Turistica, reserved for non-residents of Spain, which allows unrestricted travel on any RENFE line. For more information and prices, please contact RENFE on (91) 530 0202 or (93) 490 0202 or look at www.renfe.com (bookings can be made in English).