Spain: Renfe rail cruises
Spain is the European country where rail cruises and luxury train tours are the most developed. This is undoubtedly due to something unique about Spain: all the country's luxury trains and major tourist trains are owned by the national railway company, RENFE. It's the only example of its kind in Europe. In France, for example, The Grand Tour France, the only luxury train is owned by a private company called by Puy du Fou. In Scotland (Royal Scotsman) or Italy (VSOE), they belong to the Belmond company...
In Spain, all the special trains belong to the national company.
Spanish luxury train tours : North and South
The best-known of these luxury trains in the north of Spain is called El Transcantabrico. It runs along the north coast of Spain, from the Spanish Basque Country to the holy city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.
But there's another luxury train in the news these days. This is the Al Andalus, known as the luxury train of Andalusia. Up until a few years ago, this train from the south was content to run loop routes around Seville. Recently, it has changed its route to Seville-Malaga. And the big news is that the Al Andalus train can also be taken on a completely different rail cruise: one that links the south and the north, from Seville to Santiago de Compostela, an intinerary known as "The Spanish Symphony".
Rail cruise and pilgrimage in northern Spain
If you're not tempted by these mythical trains, or if their price is holding you back, you should know that rail cruising in Spain is not the exclusive preserve of luxury trains. On the same route as the famous El Transcantabrico luxury train, there is another special train in the north of Spain. It's called El Expreso de la Robla, and it goes to Santiago de Compostela. It offers a tour that includes several nights on board, BUT it's not a luxury train and its fares are very reasonable.
This special spanish train is sometimes referred to as the "Pilgrims' Train". In fact, if you travel on it, you can choose between a sightseeing tour with bus excursions, a walking tour along the Pilgrim's Way to Santiago de Compostela, or a combination of the two!
(Please note that the El Expreso de la Robla train will not be running in 2023! We hope it will be back on the rails in 2024).
spanish luxury train tours (ref.)