On this compulsively fly-drive, time-crunched period it could appear implausible to journey by rail to the southern extremity of Europe – however the craziest journeys are generally the very best. You may overlook about ferries, car-hire rip-offs, driver fatigue, visitors jams and parking issues; and luxuriate in as a substitute a wide range of surroundings and serendipitous conversations on platforms.
This journey makes use of quick trains to succeed in Andalucía and sluggish(er) ones to get round as soon as there. The minimal size for this journey is 10 days (4 attending to Andalucía and again) however it’s higher unfold over two or three weeks, particularly in case you additionally wish to go to Barcelona and Madrid.

{Photograph}: Guardian Graphics
To get to Spain from London, take the Eurostar to Paris and switch from the Gare du Nord to the Gare de Lyon. Right here, catch the high-speed Franco-Spanish prepare that streaks by means of the Rhone valley to Perpignan earlier than slipping by means of the japanese Pyrenees. Within the Rhone valley, the prepare passes by means of Lyon and reaches the western fringe of Provence. The road follows the Mediterranean coast (vineyards, lagoons, roman ruins) into French Catalonia and throughout the final of the Pyrenees (timber and pastures) into Spanish Catalonia. As soon as throughout the frontier the prepare passes Figueres (birthplace of Dalí) and medieval Girona earlier than arriving in Barcelona.
Even when your time in Barcelona is brief, go to the Gothic Quarter, together with the cathedral, and the Gaudí monuments of the Eixample. Spend the evening at Acta Metropolis 47 resort (from round €69 room-only), simply 5 minute’s stroll from Barcelona Sants station.

The greenhouse on the concourse of Madrid’s Atocha station. {Photograph}: Luis Castaneda/Getty Photos
The following morning proceed the journey on the super-fast AVE to Madrid by way of the austere badlands of Aragón to monumental Zaragoza. The road then cuts south-west by way of Calatayud within the Jalón valley to get to Madrid’s Atocha station. Take a second to take pleasure in a espresso, a minimum of, within the station’s singular concourse (an enormous greenhouse) or on the Reina Sofia Artwork Centre (containing Picasso’s Guernica), which is throughout the highway from the station. If staying in a single day or longer, City Sea Atocha 113 (doubles from €72 room-only) is lower than 5 minute’s stroll away.
Heading south from Madrid, the AVE line runs throughout La Mancha, leaving the magnificent metropolis of Toledo to at least one aspect and passing the phantom Ciudad Actual airport (opened in 2009 however closed three years later as a result of monetary difficulties), featured in Pedro Almodóvar’s 2013 movie, I’m So Excited! The land is flat and sparsely populated; a few of it’s below vines for La Mancha wines.
As soon as throughout the distant Sierra Morena, with its pasture and wild vegetation, the prepare descends into the fertile Guadalquivir valley with its olive and citrus timber, earlier than getting into Córdoba. It’s about 40 minutes’ stroll from the station to the town’s well-known mosque and Jewish quarter. As there aren’t any good, low-cost lodges close to the station, the historic a part of the town can be the very best place to remain; attempt Pensión Los Arcos (doubles from €60, it’s a well-liked bolthole so ebook forward).

View of Málaga cathedral seen from the Alcazaba. {Photograph}: Sergdid/Getty Photos
The southbound line sweeps spherical to the west of Córdoba and travels by means of farmland and olive groves. Most trains cease at Antequera’s Santa Ana station which, for track-surveying causes, stands in the midst of nowhere. It requires a bus trip to go to the town’s prehistoric dolmens, however it’s well worth the detour. (In regular occasions, there’s a rail line linking Antequera with Granada and its Alhambra, however that is presently closed for upkeep.)
Lastly, the high-speed mainline runs out within the port metropolis of Málaga, well-known for its Alcazaba (citadel) and because the birthplace of Picasso. To get to the cathedral, citadel and Picasso museum means a bus or taxi trip. The town centre has a number of boutique lodges however in case you simply want a spot to crash close to the station, Hostal Tilos (doubles from €50) matches the invoice.
Take the native prepare on the scenic line from Málaga up the Guadalhorce valley, with its arable land, woods of evergreen oaks and blue lakes, to El Chorro, which serves maybe the spotlight of this journey: El Caminito del Rey (which must be booked prematurely, in accordance with the prepare timetable), a walkway, pinned to the steep partitions of a dramatic gorge. Get off right here and catch the shuttle bus to the beginning of a sensational stroll by means of two gorges culminating in a vertiginous suspension bridge. A number of hours later, weary however exhilarated, you’ll be again at El Chorro. Both get again on the afternoon prepare out of city or keep the evening in La Garganta (from €95 room-only).

El Caminito del Rey’ (King’s Little Path). {Photograph}: David Ramos/Getty Photos
Proceed on the identical line in direction of Seville throughout the under-populated plains of central Andalucía, with their fields of cereals, carob and olive timber, and cease at Osuna, 1½ hours from El Chorro. A good-looking small city usually neglected by vacationers dashing between the cities of Andalucía, Osuna was as soon as a ducal fiefdom and has greater than its share of mansions and church buildings, in addition to a 16th-century college. The place to remain is the Resort Palacio Marqués de la Gomera (from €62 room-only).
From Osuna proceed on this department line to Seville – after which permit loads of time to discover it. Santa Justa station is north of the town centre. The gap to the cathedral, riverside and beautiful Santa Cruz quarter within the centre is nearly walkable – permit 40 minutes – or you may take a bus. You’ll be spoiled for selection with lodging in Seville: the very best inside shouting distance of the station is Virgin de los Reyes (from €83 room-only).
When you’re achieved with flamenco, tiles, flowerpots, window grilles and tapas bars, head again to Santa Justa and board the northbound AVE to retrace your journey by means of Madrid, Barcelona and Paris.
How you can do it
A one-way ticket from London to Córdoba on the route described above begins at £250 every means, excluding the price of crossing Paris, if booked prematurely with loco2.com. In Spain, discounted rail tickets can be found for the over 60s and younger folks between 14 and 26. In case you are unable to ebook native trains forward of your journey, it’s simple to get a ticket on the spot. A Spain Interrail cross is legitimate for 3 to eight days of journey inside one month; costs begin at €170 grownup/€148 youth (12-27) for 3 days to €281/€243 for eight days; free journey for accompanied children below 12.
Nick Inman is co-author of the brand new version of Nice Railway Journeys of Europe
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