Toulouse – Transpyreneen train – Pyrenees – Le Train Jaune – Perpignan
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 Toulouse, to the top of The Pyrenees, and then travelling on to Perpignan on board the magical “Petit Train Jaune” (“Little Yellow Train”). For journeys starting from Perpignan, to Toulouse, simply reverse these instructions.
1. Toulouse-Blagnac Airport (TLS) to Toulouse city centre.
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:
Official Toulouse Tourism website (English version): www.toulouse-visit.com
2. Toulouse to Ax-les-Thermes (or Foix).
Take the SNCF train from Toulouse-Matabiau station to Latour-de-Carol, but only go as far as Ax-les-Thermes (or Foix).
Train journey duration: 2 hours 20 minutes (to Ax-les-Thermes).
Train timetable (PDF): https://cdn.ter.sncf.com/.. PDF
Official Ax Tourism website (English version): http://www.vallees-ax.com/en
3. Ax-les-Thermes (or Foix) to Latour-de-Carol.
Continue on this same magical line through the Pyrenees Mountains to the end of the line at Latour-de-Carol.
Train journey duration: 1 hour (from Ax Les Thermes).
Train timetable (PDF): http://cdn.ter.sncf.com/..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.
4. Latour-de-Carol to Villefranche Vernet-les-Bains.
Le Petit Train Jaune (the Little Yellow Train).
The Yellow Train (it is actually yellow and red, reflecting the colours of both the regional and Catalan flags), leaves from the exact same station, Latour-de-Carol, that you arrived at from Barcelona/Ribes de Freser.
Train journey duration: 3 hours 21 minutes.
Train timetable: www.tourisme-pyreneesorientales.com/.. PDF
(Commentary in French, but an excellent view of what you can expect)
NOTE: There is NO toilet on this train. And each carriage is independent of the rest of the train, so there is no way to move between carriages while the train is in motion. Also, there is no food/drink on sale – so braing a snack/drink.
5. Villefranche Vernet-les-Bains to Perpignan (train).
When Le Train Jaune arrives at Villefranche Vernet-les-Bains, you have to change trains (onto the regular train service to Perpignan). The same train station at Villefranche Vernet-les-Bains serves both trains (possibly even the same platform).
Train journey duration: 48 minutes.
Train timetable: http://www.tourisme-pyreneesorientales.com/.. PDF
Official Perpignan Tourism website: www.perpignantourisme.com/gb
6. Perpignan city centre to Perpignan Airport.
So. How long does all of this take?
Well, how long have you got?
At a very minimum, the entire Toulouse to the Pyrenees to Perpigan by train journey could be done in just two days and one night.
An early morning flight to Toulouse-Blagnac Airport (TLS); the airport bus into the centre of Toulouse; a quick stroll around the centre of Toulouse, followed by a late breakfast (or early lunch) in a Toulouse cafe; then take the train from Toulouse-Matabiau Train Station to either Foix, Ax-les-Thermes (or even to the end of the line at Latour-de-Carol); where you would spend the late afternoon/evening/night.
Then on the morning of Day 2, travel on to the very first train to the end of the line at Latour-de-Carol (if you didn’t stay there); and take the next Train Jaune down the valley to Villefranche Vernet-Les-Bains. [If you didn’t spend the night at Latour-de-Carol then there is no point in hanging around there in the morning – there just isn’t time to see anything – if you do want to see Latour-de-Carol then you must spend the night there].
When you arrive at Villefranche Vernet-Les-Bains you will have time for a quick look around, and a coffee, before continuing to Perpignan. Spend the afternoon wandering around Perpignan before heading out to Perpignan Airport for your late evening flight.
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:
First. A word about the food in southwest France. France, in general, is famous for its cuisine. But even the French consider the food from southwest France to be something even more special!
So. My trip:
An early morning flight to Toulouse-Blagnac Airport, and then the T2 tram ride into central Toulouse, where I would enjoy a very leisurely late breakfast; followed by a whole day spent looking around Toulouse. My first night would therefore be spent in a Toulouse hotel.
On the morning of Day 2, after yet another leisurely French breakfast, I would make my way to Toulouse-Matabia Train Station, where I would take the Latour-de-Carol train, but only as far as Ax-les-Thermes. Arriving in time to enjoy a late lunch. My second afternoon/evening/night would be spent in Ax-les-Thermes.
On Day 3, again after an unhurried French breakfast, I would continue to the end of the line at Latour-de-Carol, and as there is not much around the train station, I would take the first available Train Jaune train down the Pyrenees to Villefranche Vernet-Les-Bains (but possibly splitting the journey at Font Romeu, where I would arrive in time for a good French lunch). I would spend the night, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, in a Villefranche Vernet-Les-Bains hotel.
On Day 4, probably in the late morning again, I would take the regular SNCF train to Perpignan. And that would be my travelling over for the day. The whole day would be spent wandering around Perpignan, and the night would be spent in a Perpignan hotel.
Day 5 would be another day spent wandering around Perpignan city centre, before heading out to Perpignan Airport for my evening flight back home.
So. A very leisurely, 5-day journey. Which would allow me to see everything on this Toulouse to Pyrenees to Perpignan journey, 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).
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.