There are some wonderful train holidays in the world which allow you to experience beautiful landscapes and reach places you might not be able to get to as easily by car or foot.
Travelling by train is one of our favourite ways to explore a new destination, as you can simply sit back, relax and watch the stunning scenery passing by your window.
Along with the Jacobite steam train in Scotland and the Bernina Express in Switzerland, France's Little Yellow Train is one of the loveliest tourist attractions to experience on a European getaway, especially when combined with walking and discovering the beaches of Spain's nearby Costa Brava.
Gliding high up in the Pyrenees, the small touristic train is painted yellow and red, the bold colours of the Catalan flag (Catalonia historically extended into France). This famous Little Yellow Train of the Pyrenees is known as 'Le Petit Train Jaune' in French.
The Little Yellow Train has been running for more than a century over the peaks of the Eastern Pyrenees. It’s a true emblem of the region and is famed as one of the most scenic train routes in Europe.
Nowadays it carries visitors in its wooden carriages as it winds its way along the Little Yellow Train route between Villefranche-de-Conflent and Latour-de-Carol, allowing you to absorb the Catalan charm.
It runs all year round with several journeys per day, travelling 63 kilometres and serving 22 stations. The entire journey from Villefranche-de-Conflent to Latour-de-Carol takes three hours (see the Little Yellow Train schedule here).
During the train ride, you can enjoy the mountainous scenery of the Pyrenees as it makes its ascent, passing through dozens of short tunnels and across bridges and viaducts. If you’re able to grab a seat in one of the train’s two open carriages you’ll be able to soak in the views as the fresh mountain air gushes past you. There are also modern trains that run along the route, which feature entirely closed carriages.
The train line is a feat of engineering, with 19 tunnels and two remarkable viaducts spanning wide valleys. The trains are powered by electricity, which comes from hydro-electric generators on the glistening River Têt, which you’ll be able to see winding along below you as you travel.
The Little Yellow Train serves the highest train station in France, Bolquère, which is nestled 1,592 metres high in the mountains, making it the highest railway station in France.
Bolquère is a picturesque little village with stone walls, narrow streets, and a magnificent church. There are plenty of other places to explore along the Little Yellow Train’s route, too. How about stopping off at the citadel in Mont-Louis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
All in all, a trip on the Little Yellow Train is a unique and relaxed way to experience the Pyrenees and one of the best ways to take in all the beauty and history that this incredible region has to offer.
Just be sure to pack a jumper or some layers for when the temperature drops while you're high up in the mountains, or sunscreen if visiting in the height of summer.
You can ride the Little Yellow Train on Country Living's eight-day tour of the Costa Brava and the Pyrenees this May, June and September.
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