Rail Journeys

Railways and Paradores of Galicia

8 Days – 6 to 13 April, 2024 or
11 Days – 5 to 15 April, 2024
Location: Spain

Join us for a 7 or 10 night tour of Galicia, the undiscovered province in the northwesternmost part of Spain. A region of spectacular mountains, fertile valleys and rugged coastlines, producing some of Europe’s finest shellfish. Visit historic cities of Santiago de Compostela, Vigo and A Coruña and the Cies Islands, one of Spain’s national parks.

The region’s railway lines take us through some of Spain’s most beautiful coastline and mountainous landscapes, taking us to places you can’t see by road. It’s made even more special because you’ll be staying in the luxurious Paradores, a historic building that has been converted into a luxury hotel.

It could be the last chance to ride on the “old lines” as they are being superseded by high speed lines leaving only a skeleton service on the historic lines. Rumour are that these original routes are to be closed.

Group size limited to 8 couples – so book early to avoid disappointment.

Tour Highlights

  • Pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela
  • Luxury Paradores (converted historic buildings)
  • Beautiful Cambados
  • Lugo and Pontevedra
  • Breakfast and most dinners included
  • Beautiful unspoilt region
  • Exclusive tour group of just 16 people (max)
  • Leisurely days. No early starts or late finishes.

Tour Itinerary

In the morning we will have an optional visit to the national railway museum in the fabulous old Madrid-Delicias station.

We'll take the 13:15 high-speed train from Madrid to Ourense arriving at 16:17 and have dinner at the parador. For those departing today, catch direct Vueling flights 13:15 from Gatwick to Santiago de Compostela and transfer to the parador for dinner.

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Parador de Santo Estevo (Alamy)

Set within the Ribiera Sacra region and by the Miño and Sil Rivers, this converted monastery boasts a fabulous spa and beautiful central courtyard. Enjoy regional cuisine in the fine dining room and relax in the gardens.

The listed Benedictine Monastery dates back to the 10th century and in true Parador fashion has been beautifully transformed into a chic and unique luxury hotel. Admire historic features such as stone archways, carved window frames, and the monastery’s 3 original Baroque, Romanesque and Renaissance cloisters.

Return to Ourense by tour bus and board the new high-speed line to pilgrim city of Santiago de Campostela. Take a guided walking tour of this beautiful city, the capital of Galicia. Visit the 11th and 13th century Baroque twin towers of the Cathedral in the heart of Santiago. In the Cathedral you can visit the tomb of St. James the Apostle. Then, walk through narrow cobbled streets and squares to see the beautiful granite buildings that surround the Cathedral. Afterwards, you are free to have lunch or explore at your leisure. We now catch the 17:25 train, along the old Iberia Gauge line to arrive back in Ourense at 18:06 for our tour bus transfer back to Santo Estevo parador for our dinner and second night at this wonderful location.

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Santiago de Compostela Cathedral (P.Spracklen)

After breakfast, take the bus to Ourense to catch the 09:26 train. It runs along the River Mino, the border between Spain and Portugal, through a very scenic area. In Salvatierra you can see the Portuguese town of Monção across the river. This town was severed by a Portugal Railways branch line (from Valença), which closed as late as 1990. The Spanish routes we travel today are still alive, but with only one train per route per day, its days as a passenger line are numbered, but might hang on with freight traffic. The destination is the port of Vigo (Guixar station), arriving at 12:05. Time to explore this town or maybe, if there is time, take a boat across to the Isles of Cies. These magical islands are located in the Atlantic and are beaten on the west side by the Atlantic breakers while protecting the waters to Vigo. On the east side are long stretches of white sandy beaches and crystal clear warm waters. Depart Vigo Urzaiz at 17:08 and take the fast train back to Ourense. Here the coach will be waiting and take us back to Santo Estevo for your third and final night.

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Train following the Minho River (Alamy)

Before we say goodbye to Ourense, we still have a few hours left this morning to explore the interesting regional capital. Ourense is another old Roman city with hot springs, and the 'Font as Burgas' still spouts water at a temperature of 150 degrees. In the old part of the town is Plaza Mayor, where you can see the Cathedral, which was rebuilt in the 12th and 13th centuries. On triple-arched doorway are carved figures reminiscent of the Portico de la Gloria at Santiago.

Our train leaves at 12:30 and arrives in Lugo at 14:16. There are only four trains a day to Lugo, a guided tour of this charming Old Town is not to be missed. Located on a hill on the banks of the river Miño, the city of Lugo preserves important vestiges of its Roman past, including its ancient walls, which have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Inside the city walls, quiet pedestrian streets, wide squares and extensive gardens, marked by buildings such as the Cathedral, the Archiepiscopal Palace, and the City Hall. After about four hours of exploration, our tour bus is waiting to take us to the Parador de Vilalba where we will be staying for two nights. This impressive medieval Galician tower, now converted into a hotel, dominates the cityscape. It is at the center of the "Terra Chá" area, which originated from this fortress, home of the Andrades, the counts of Vilalba. The hotel offers cosy, welcoming spaces with a medieval air; in the tower, 6 bedrooms share this medieval style with the Salón de los Andrade, with frescos and coats of arms. In the shadow of the tower is a new pazo style stone building, a Galician country house, housing the remaining 42 bedrooms, a restaurant and a bar.

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Lugo Old Town (Alamy)

Our only early start of this holiday this morning as we have to catch the 08:15 train north from Lugo in order to complete our journey over this line. If we miss it there is not a train until 21:48! Our destination is A Coruña. When we arrive, there will be a transfer by our tour bus along the coast to the Torres de Hercules, the oldest working lighthouse in Europe. The Tower of Hercules has served as a lighthouse and landmark at the entrance of La Coruña harbour in north-western Spain since the late 1st century A.D. when the Romans built the Farum Brigantium. After our visit we take our tour bus back to the centre for our guided walk through this city, sometimes known as the city of glass because of the glass enclosed balconies, built as protection against the strong winds. At 17:20 we take a train north along the branch line to the porto of Ferrol. Another fine coastal line with great views. Our tour bus will return us to the Parador de Vilalba for our dinner and second night here.

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Tower of Hercules, A Coruna (Alamy)

Another leisurely day, at 11:00, the coach returns us to A Coruna for a train journey south to Pontevedra (arriving 13:04). Pontevedra is north of Vigo, inland at the head of the Ria de Pontevedra. Founded by Teucer of Troy, the city was a very busy city until the mid 17th century, with its own mint and fueros (local law code) given by Saint Ferdinand III, King of Leon and Castile . Pontevedra has beautiful historical buildings and you can explore this quintessential Galician old town. Take a guided walk through the cobbled alleys and tiny squares with their granite buildings, as well as the arcades and balconies adorned with many flowers of this ancient town and medieval port. After time for lunch and a couple of hours for exploration, our tour bus will take us on to the Parador on the coast at Cambados for our two night stay.

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Parador de Pontevedra (P.Spracklen)

Today is a free day to relax and enjoy the parador and the town. Cambados is located in the Rias Baixas on the banks of the Arousa estuary on the west coast of Galicia. The city has a historic site declared an Asset of Cultural Interest that was created from the merger of three old villages that still retain their original character. Fifinans with a decidedly noble character. Cambados with its beautiful squares, streets, and the ruins of the cemetery and the sacred monument of Santa Marina Dozo; and the eminently seafaring character of San Tomé. Cambados is known for its seafood, with large groups of seafood collectors gathering clams and cockles during low tide. The town is also known for its Albarino wine, and you'll explore the town before sampling this local, slightly sparkling wine. The evening is free for you to enjoy one of the local restaurants or relax in the Parador by the pool before exploring for yourselves the beauty of this lovely coastal town.

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Cambados (Alamy)

For railway enthusiasts, you may want to complete the final section of Galician railway line and the crossing into Portugal. This does mean an early start as we will arrange for the tour bus (or taxi if less than 4 want to go) to take you to Vigo to pick up the morning south bound International train (one of only two a day) at 08:58 which arrives into Valença (Portugal) at 08:35! Yes, you arrive before you left as Portugal is on the same time as the UK, so one hour behind Spain. You have a break at Valenca until 09:57 before catching the morning north bound International train to Vigo and then back to Pontevedra (arriving 13:01) where tour bus (or taxi) will return you to the parador. There is a small railway museum at Valenca which now only seems to open “on request” and we can request this for you with our contacts in CP (Portugal Railways).

Today we start our journey back to Madrid but again at a leisurely time. We will take the 13:36* train back to Ourense and the onward to the junction station at Monforte de Lemos (arriving 17:20) where our tour bus will be waiting to whisk us to the Parador de Monforte for dinner and overnight stay. Housed in a 17th-century Benedictine Monastery, this Parador sits on the highest point of the town of Monforte de Lemos, in northern Galicia. Enjoy locally-caught game in the elegant restaurant.

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Parador de Monforte de Lemos (Alamy)

Built around the property’s main cloister, the Parador de Monforte de Lemos’s bedrooms are luxurious, spacious and well-lit. Admire careful decor which is in harmony with the Monforte de Lemos’s neoclassical style. You can enjoy a stroll around the pretty gardens of the property and take a dip in the outdoor swimming pool in the summer. Sit down with a good book in the pleasant setting of the Monforte’s covered terrace – with garden views.

For those leaving us today, our tour bus will take you to Santiago de Compostela airport (one hour journey) for the 18:15 flight back to London Gatwick (arriving 19:15 BST)

After breakfast, take the tour bus back to the railway station and board the 10:35 Monforte de Lemos to León service. This is the only train of the day on this amazing rail journey, listed as one of the most scenic railways in Spain (and Europe). Leon is an amazing city with stunning historical architecture and charming energy. Its distinctive attraction is the cathedral, one of the finest in Spain, with some of the finest cut glass windows you'll find anywhere. Stay at the parador in the Parador de Turismo de León , an impressive 16th-century San Marcos Monastery, decorated with antique furniture and tapestries. All rooms are located in the original building. It is a 10-minute walk from the centre of León with its cathedral and the Palacio de los Guzmanes.

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Parador de Leon (Alamy)

We take the 09:51 train to Madrid (arriving 12:01) for transfer to the airport for return flights to the UK. Alternatively, if you want to return by rail, alight from this train at Palencia (10:34) and take the 12:29 train from Palencia to Irun (arr 17:35) for overnight stay in Irun/Hendaye. Tuesday 25 April (B) take the 09:36 TGV from Hendaye to Paris Montparnasse (arriving 14:26) and then depart Paris Nord Eurostar at 16:13, arriving into London St Pancras at 17:30.

Tour Bus: Our luxury 24 seater bus will be with us for the whole time in Galicia and will take our luggage between the paradores for us. Our longest journey is 1 hour. We will need to take our luggage on the train from Madrid to Ourense and from Leon to Madrid – for those on the full 11-day trip.

Prices & Options

Holiday Prices (per person)

Holiday Prices (per person)

  • Full 11-day holiday including flight from UK: £2,350*
  • Full 13-day holiday overland by rail via Eurostar: £2,625
  • Full 11-day holiday joining in Madrid: £2,090*
  • 8-day holiday (Saturday-Saturday) with flights from UK: £2,050
  • 8-day holiday (Saturday-Saturday) joining in Santiago: £1,750


  • Single room Supplement: £440 (10 nights), £330 (7 nights)
  • Upgrade to Superior rooms at Paradores, where available: £POA and earlier you book the lower the price is likely to be.


  • Travelling by air: £1,000
  • Own travel: £750

Price includes

  • All travel and excursions as outlined in the itinerary
  • Accommodation in luxury “Paradores”
  • Meals as shown in the itinerary; B = Breakfast, D = Dinner
  • Services of our tour manager. Holiday is fully escorted from London

* with flight price confirmed at time of booking. Supplement applies to some of the Heathrow flights.

Transport & Accommodation

Travel from UK

Direct flights to Madrid from most major UK airports

For 7 night Option

VK7109 13:45 London Gatwick to Santiago de Compostela
VK7108 12:00 Santiago de Compostela to London Gatwick

Overland from London St Pancras

4th April

  • Eurostar 10:26 London St Pancras to Paris Nord (arr 13:50)
  • TGV at 16:08 from Paris Mont. To Hendaye (arr 20:47)
  • Overnight at Hotel Restauarant Santiago in Hendaye (a very short taxi ride from Hendaye Station)

5th April

  • Short taxi ride from the hotel to Irun Station – Hendaye (France) and Irun (Spain) are only around 500m from each other.
  • RENFE 08:45 Irun to Madrid (arr 13:56)

15th April

  • You are with the main group on train from Leon to Palencia
  • RENFE 12:29 Palencia to Irun (arr 17:35)
  • Overnight at Hotel Restauarant Santiago in Hendaye

16th April

  • TGV 09:36 Hendaye to Paris Mont. (arr 14:21)
  • 16:13 Paris Nord to London St Pancras (arr 17:30)