Dressed in stained-glass windows and polished wood, the original 1920s carriages of the El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo offer some of the most luxurious experiences on rails. Think live bar-car music, nights in one of the world’s largest train suites, and full-board multi-course dining paired with complimentary fine wines. Your route sees you link San Sebastián’s Art Nouveau with Santiago’s cathedral wonder, taking in the likes of medieval towns, quaint fishing villages and Bilbao’s modernist treasures. While you’ll map sandy coastal sweeps and plunge into verdant interiors, you’ll also stop off for a full range of included touring, enjoying everything from spas and national parks to casino evenings and Neolithic cave paintings.
Following your complimentary UK lounge access, you'll fly out to Bilbao where you'll be met for a private transfer to glamorous San Sebastián. Along the way, you will pass by Gernika with its tragic civil war past, which inspired one of Picasso's greatest works. Then, on arrival in San Sebastián, you'll check into your hotel. Along with its cutting-edge architecture and bold works of art, it's also perfectly positioned for exploring the sights.
Stay: Hotel de Londres, San Sebastián
After a relaxing morning, you’ll be treated to an included lunch inspired by the town’s famous pintxo tapas. It’s then time to begin your programme of excursions, with an expert-led tour of San Sebastián itself, taking in its golden beaches, ornate bridges and Art-Nouveau beauty.
An included transfer will then see you to the train in Bilbao for a welcome drink as you wind through hilly countryside. Before your first gourmet, wine-paired dinner, you’ll also settle in to your wood-panelled, climate-controlled suite. Expect a regency sofa, a lavish double bed and an en-suite massage shower-cum-sauna. The train will overnight in Carranza.
As with each day, you’ll start with a delicious buffet and à la carte breakfast, with just-baked tortillas and pies paired with the likes of cheeses and cold cuts. The train will then meander back through the hills to Bilbao. As the Basque Country’s largest city, your guided tour will take you beyond its faded neo-baroque old town to its gleaming icon – the Guggenheim Museum. Its titanium shimmer is just as impressive as its world-class exhibits.
You’ll then take lunch as the train continues along the coast to Santander, where your touring will showcase its modernist architecture and pretty marina. After dinner, you’ll also enjoy entrance to the glitz and glam of the city’s El Gran Casino.
Dipping inland, the train will sweep on to Unquera, where you’ll be brought through the scenic gorge of La Hermida to arrive at Potes. You’ll have some time to take in its medieval towers and churches before indulging with an included spa visit. Back on board, you’ll settle down for lunch, served among the stained glass and extravagant armchairs of the restaurant carriages.
In the afternoon visit El Capricho, in Comillas, the great and colourful 19th century palace of Antonio Gaudi, you will enjoy dinner and overnight on the train in Cabezon de la Sal.
You’ll begin today with a visit to the beautifully preserved medieval town of Santillana del Mar, before continuing for a tour of Altamira Cave. It’s often considered to be the finest example of Upper Palaeolithic cave art. After lunch, you’ll then rejoin the train for the trip into Asturian territory.
And, you’ll be welcomed to the region by Ribadesella’s charming promenade and stunning historic mansions. You’ll end the day with another sumptuous dinner, as always informed by the train’s route. Expect everything from Galician seafood to desserts of local frixuelos crepes.
Disembarking today, you’ll be brought into the region’s green heart – the Picos de Europa National Park. Your first stop is pretty Lake Enol before you continue to the Shrine of Covadonga, a thousand-year-old sacred jewel hidden away in a cragged cave. Your expert guide will bring its legends to life. Then, back on the train, you’ll wind on through verdant-green hills to Oviedo.
Known as the epicentre for Asturian Romanesque art, your guided tour will take in its tumble of old-town streets, spectacular cathedral and the 9th-century severity of the San Julián de los Prados basilica.
You’ll begin today with Avilés, a historic town blessed with colonnaded streets and a plaza fronted by fine 17th-century buildings. It’s a quiet counterpoint to your next stop Gijón, where a lively dining scene plays out over a pedestrianised streets and seafront walks take in its great industrial history. You’ll then end the day in Luarca, a charming port town backed by a steep valley and fronted by colourful fishing boats.
In between, be sure to take the time to rest up in the train’s tea room, take in the views from the panoramic lounge or enjoy the live music in the bar car. Each carriage is dressed in curated artwork and rich fabrics. Otherwise, for some intimacy, opt to take your dinner in your private suite.
Having passed over into Galicia, the train arrives into the historic town of Ribadeo. Alongside the chance to relax on the golden sands of Las Catedrales Beach, your sightseeing will showcase the handsome mix of plazas, harbour charm and galleried stone houses. Then, while you will have enjoyed the likes of show cooking and live dances throughout the journey, your final meal will offer a last special dining occasion.
Of course, the complimentary fine wines and liquor served with each dinner don’t hurt, either. You’ll also end the day in Viveiro, offering the chance to explore its 15th-century bridge and stone-paved coastal setting.
After a final breakfast on board, you’ll roll into seaside Ferrol where you’ll be brought on to Santiago de Compostela. Your touring here will focus on its world-wonder cathedral – a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s attracted pilgrims to its Gothic splendour for some 800 years. However, the city is much more than its crown jewel, with the chance to take in everything from its cobblestone plazas to its Baroque monasteries.
After it all concludes, you'll head to your nearby accommodation – a former 15th-century royal hospital converted to a luxury hotel, complete with imposing stone cloisters and a superb restaurant serving traditional Galician cuisine.
Stay: Parador de Santiago de Compostela
After a delicious breakfast at your hotel. you’ll be brought to the airport for your flight back to the UK.
"The El Transcantabrico Gran Lujo traverses the Atlantic-facing part of Spain known as España Verde, Green Spain, and its hinterland; dine on regional specialities and visit the best local monuments and countryside. Every suite has a private bathroom, some of the best on any European train (equalled only by sister train Al Andalus & the Grand Suites on Venice Simplon Orient Express). "
Low Season from: £9,365 pp
High Season from: £9,475 pp
The El Transcantabrico Gram Lujo operates between San Sebastian and Santiago de Compostela April to October 2024
Santiago de Compostela to San Sebastian: 06, 20 Apr / 04, 18 May / 01, 15, 29 Jun / 13, 27 Jul / 10, 24 Aug / 07, 21 Sep / 05, 19 Oct 2024
San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela: 30 Mar / 13, 27 Apr / 11, 25 May / 08, 22 Jun / 06, 20 Jul / 03, 17, 31 Aug / 14, 28 Sep / 12, 26 Oct 2024
This itinerary also operates in reverse, starting in Santiago de Compostela and finishing in San Sebastian