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Spain’s Iconic El Transcantábrico

2 October 2015

Step aboard the El Transcantábrico and you will find yourself on an unforgettable journey, travelling along the picturesque Atlantic coastline of Northern Spain. The vintage 5-star hotel on wheels has been transporting customers from Santander to Santiago de Compostela, through Basque Country to Galicia, in regal elegance for the best part of 40 years. The saloon cars are original 1920's Pullman carriages and the interior matches the antiquated quality of their coaches. Each room is bedecked in true vintage splendor and the train boasts a lounge car, a tea room, a bar, a fantastic authentic Spanish restaurant which offers gastronomic delights from the varying Spanish regions on route, and a breath-taking panoramic carriage that delivers wonderfully scenic views. The train's route is packed full with fantastic excursions and each evening is brimming with live performances and events.

El Transcantábrico cuts an exciting path across northern Spain, taking in some of the country's finest countryside and most diverse cities. From Basque Country and the Galician Coast, to bustling Léon and historic Santiago de Compostela; the final stop on the Way of St. James pilgrimage and our tours final destination. The first stop on board this iconic train is the traditional town of Santillana del Mar, a beautifully preserved medieval town dominated by an impressive Romanesque monastery. From here the train rolls on past coastal villages and fishing ports and into the Picos de Europa National Park. Set in the mist-shrouded peaks of the Cantabrian Mountains, Picos is one of Europe's premier parks and has a stunning array of wildlife including Brown Bears, Wolves and Lynx. The Park landscape is best experienced through the grandeur of El Transcantábrico's panoramic carriage. The train then passes the glacial lakes of Covadonga before arriving in Oviedo, Romanesque capital of the Asturias region. This historic city is home to the 9th century Holy Chamber, a pre-Romanesque church that boasts UNESCO Heritage status.

From Oviedo, we carry on in the lap of luxury, past the enchanting Old Town of Avilés and into the city of Gijón, on the beautiful Bay of Biscay. From charming Gijón, the train rolls into pretty Luarca. Known as 'the white town on the green coast', the town's harbour is surrounded by row upon row of quaint white-washed houses. El Transcantábrico then skirts the cliffs of the Galician coastline, stopping off at Las Catedrales, heralded as one of Europe's most stunning beaches. We then head westwards, through idyllic countryside until we arrive at our own stop-off point near Santiago de Compostela.

The historic city is the final destination on the popular Way of St. James pilgrimage. The 'Camino de Santiago' tradition stretches as far back as the 9th century, with the city Cathedral said to be the final resting place of the apostle James, son of Zebedee. It was James who supposedly brought Christianity to the Iberian Peninsula and was the first of Jesus' apostles to be martyred following his execution. Today, thousands of people walk here from all over the world to wander the narrow alleys of Old Town and step foot inside the fabled Cathedral. Having left the glamour of El Transcantábrico behind, the tour continues to the capital of Madrid by local service, with two further days spent in the Spanish capital.

Experience all of the style and elegance of El Transcantábrico and more on Great Rail Journeys' fantastic 'Spain's Iconic El Transcantábrico' escorted rail holiday.