Barcelona – Vall du Nuria – El Cremallera – Pyrenees – Transpyreneen train – Foix – Toulouse
There are three different airports which serve Barcelona (Barcelona El Prat Airport, Reus Airport and Girona Airport), and an additional airport on this route in France, at Toulouse (Toulouse-Blagnac Airport).
This route can be travelled in either direction, and there is no difference in which direction you travel (it will all depend on your own itinerary). This guide is for a journey starting from Barcelona, travelling north to Toulouse. For journeys starting from Toulouse, and heading south to Barcelona, simply reverse these instructions.
1. Barcelona Airport (any of the three) to central Barcelona.
> Barcelona El Prat Airport (BCN) to central Barcelona:
This is a very simple decision. Take the metro (it’s quicker than even taking a taxi!). Metro Line 9.
There is a bus which will be a few Euros cheaper, but how valuable is your “Barcelona-time”?
Line 9 will take you to the centre of Barcelona (various stations) in around 30 minutes.
NOTE: You cannot use a standard single metro ticket to go to the airport you need a special Metro airport ticket called Billete Aeropuerto.
> Barcelona Girona Airport (GRO) to central Barcelona:
At Barcelona Girona Airport, you do have a choice.
The easiest way is simply to take the coach from the airport to central Barcelona.
However, I’m a big fan of Girona. So would head there first, by bus, and some time later, take the train to Barcelona city centre.
You have two options to reach central Girona from the airport. Bus or taxi.
Bus number 607 will take you directly to Girona Bus Station, which is directly in front of Girona Railway Station (the railway station is actually where the bus terminates, so it will be very obvious when to get off of the bus). The bus leaves Girona Airport hourly (on the half hour).
Bus 607 timetable: http://www.sagales.com/.. (PDF)
Bus journey duration: 29 minutes.
There is another bus which also serves this route (bus number 605). However, it is much more infrequent.
Girona-Costa Brava Airport website (English version): www.aena.es/en/girona-costa-brava-airport/
Official Girona Tourism website (English version): www.girona.cat/turisme/eng/
And then from Girona to Barcelona by train:
Girona Train Station is very easy to find (it is where the bus from Girona Airport dropped you off).
Train journey duration: 38 minutes (to Barcelona-Sants Railway Station, on the superfast highspeed AVE train); 1 hour 30 minutes on the slower (and cheaper) regional train. The regional train also stops at additional railway stations in Barcelona, which might be closer to your Barcelona hotel.
Tickets for the highspeed AVE train must be reserved, online, in advance. However, regional train tickets can simply be bought at Girona Train Station (either from the English-speaking staff, or from any ticket machine – all have an English-language facility).
Train timetable and tickets (English version): www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros/
> Barcelona Reus Airport (REU) to central Barcelona:
Again, you have a choice. Take the airport bus directly to Barcelona city centre. Or visit Reus or Tarragona first. However, having been to both cities a couple of times before, I wouldn’t bother. Just take the bus directly from Reus Airport to central Barcelona.
2. Barcelona to Ribes de Freser by train.
This is not a regular train, but a suburban Barcelona train (the Rodalies de Catalunya).
Rodalies line R3 will take you from various stations in central Barcelona to “La Tor de Querol” station in France (see the explanation below of the various different names this station has, depending on the language used). However, I will only be going as far as Ribes de Freser Railway Station on this leg, and changing there for the Vall du Nuria Rack Railway (El Cremallera).
Train journey duration (between Barcelona Sants and Ribes de Freser): 2 hours 25 minutes.
Train timetable (PDF): rodalies.gencat.cat/web/.content/pdf/horaris/R3.pdf
Train tickets can simply be bought at your nearest Barcelona Train Station (either from the English-speaking staff, or from any ticket machine – all have an English-language facility).
3. Ribes de Freser Mainline Station (Renfe) to Ribes de Freser (Vall du Nuria) Station.
Both trains leave from the same place (or a few steps apart). So there is no chance of getting lost. Check the map above for exact directions.
4. Ribes de Freser to Nuria (Vall du Nuria Rack Railway / “El Cremallera”).
The Vall du Nuria is absolutely breathtaking. Busier, with skiers, in the Winter. Stunningly beautiful in the Summer. The train timetables change with the season.
Train journey duration: 40 minutes.
Train timetable (Summer): www.valldenuria.cat/en/summer/rack-railway/
Train timetable (Winter): www.valldenuria.cat/en/winter/rack-railway/
Simply buy your ticket in advance, at the website above (10% discount when buying online), or at Ribes de Freser train station when you arrive.
Official Vall du Nuria Tourism website: www.valldenuria.cat/en/
5. Ribes de Freser to La Tor de Querol (back on the R3).
After returning to Ribes de Freser, take the next Rodalies de Catalunya R3 train to the end of the line at La Tor de Querol.
Train journey duration: 55 minutes.
Train timetable (PDF): rodalies.gencat.cat/web/.content/pdf/horaris/R3.pdf
Official French Pyrenees Tourism website (English version): www.tourism-occitania.co.uk
What’s in a name?
La Tor de Querol (Spanish), Latour-de-Carol (French), and even with “-Enveitg” added to either station name?
Don’t be confused, or worry. They are all the same place.
However. Certain websites may mention Puigcerda (in fact, the official R3 timetable lists Puigcerda as the end point). Ignore this. Puigcerda is actually the last station on the Spanish side of the border, but it is not the last stop on the R3 line (it is the second-last stop – most daytime trains continue into France – check the timetable), and is not where the three different trains meet.
La Tor de Querol/Latour-de-Carol/Enveitg is the station you want!
6. Latour-de-Carol to Ax-les-Thermes (or Foix).
Rather than head staright down the mountainside to Toulouse, make a stop on the way at one of the delightful little Pyrenean towns. The choice of which should depend on any local events that are happening when you plan to travel.
Train journey duration: 1 hour (to Ax Les Thermes).
Train timetable (PDF): http://cdn.ter.sncf.com/..PDF
Official Ax Tourism website (English version): http://www.vallees-ax.com/en
7. Ax-les-Thermes (or Foix) to Toulouse.
Continue down the Pyrenees on the same line.
Train journey duration: 2 hours 20 minutes (from Ax-les-Thermes).
Train timetable (PDF): https://cdn.ter.sncf.com/.. PDF
Official Toulouse Tourism website (English version): www.toulouse-visit.com
8. Toulouse city centre to Toulouse-Blagnac Airport.
There are two ways to travel betwwen Toulouse city centre and Toulouse Airport using public transport. Tram and bus.
Tram T2 takes just 32 minutes from its starting point at Palais de Justice.
A shuttle bus also runs from central Toulouse to Toulouse-Blagnac Airport. Taking just 20-ish minutes.
All options for public transport between cebtral Toulouse and Toulouse-Blagnac Airport:
So. How long does all of this take?
Well, how long have you got?
At a very minimum, the journey from Barcelona to The Pyrenees to Toulouse by Train could be done in just two days and one night.
An early morning flight to either of the Barcelona Airports; the first morning/early-aftenoon spent in Barcelona; then on the afternoon of Day 1, travel directly to La Tor de Querol (missing out the optional stop for the Vall du Nuria train); wander around the top of The Pyrenees; spend the first evening/night in La Tor de Querol.
Then on the morning of Day 2, travel directly to Toulouse (Toulouse-Matabiau railway station); wander around Toulouse, before travelling on to Toulouse-Blagnac Airport.
But that would be really pushing it.
True, it would be a magical trip. And, as the train would always be taking the strain, it would be a very leisurely two days.
But if it was me:
An early morning flight to either of the Barcelona Airports; the first morning/afternoon/evening and night spent in Barcelona.
On the morning of Day 2, after a leisurely Spanish/Catalan breakfast, I would travel as far as Ribes de Freser on the R3 train from Barcelona, and change there for the Vall du Nuria train to Nuria. I would spend the afternoon/evening/night in Nuria.
On Day 3, probably in the late morning (travel is supposed to be fun – and for me, this means no rushing around), I would return to Ribes de Freser on the Vall du Nuria train. And after having lunch there, would continue to La Tor de Querol on the R3 train. I would spend the afternoon/evening/night in La Tor de Querol.
On Day 4, probably in the late morning again, I would take the Toulouse train, but would only travel as far as Ax-les-Thermes where I would spend the afternoon, evening and night.
Day 5 would be another day for not going very far. After yet another late start, I would continue on the Toulouse train all the way to Toulouse (Toulouse-Matabiau Railway Station). Aiming to arrive in Toulouse in time for lunch. I would spend the afternoon, evening and night in Toulouse.
On Day 6, after spending a very leisurely day further exploring this wonderful city, I would make my way to Toulouse-Blagnac Airport for the flight back home.
So. A very leisurely, 6-day journey. Which would allow me to see everything on this rail route from Barcelona to The Pyrenees to Toulouse, and in a very unhurried way.
You could easily extend your visit by spending some extra time at any of the stops along the route (it would be very easy to fill a whole week – or two!).
These “virtual” journeys are just my way of continuing to see the world, now that the progression of my ataxia means that lengthy travel is no longer a possibility for me. Hence the detail. By planning the journey in such detail, I end up knowing the route so well that I feel like I have been on it myself. Although in this case, I have.
So if this article has inspired you, saved you some valuable time (or even just saved you a few pounds/euros/dollars), please show your appreciation by making a donation to Ataxia UK (registered charity), by following this link:
100% of your donation goes directly, and immediately, to Ataxia UK (plus an additional 25% if you are a UK-taxpayer and have ticked the “Gift Aid” box).
And a personal request?
Share a photograph, that you take at some point on your journey, with me on Twitter. Not necessarily your “best” photograph, but the one photograph that will forever remind you of your journey.
That way I can live a little piece of the journey through your eyes.