KWBreaks: Barcelona – Pyrenees – Perpignan – Girona : Circuit.

Barcelona – Vall du Nuria – El Cremallera – Pyrenees – Le Train Jaune – Perpignan – Girona – Barcelona

This is a circular route.

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 Perpignan (Perpignan-Rivesaltes Airport).

This circular route can be made in either direction, and there is no difference in which direction you travel (it will all depend on your own itinerary). And normally, I would use Barcelona as the start/end point – as Barcelona is the most popular entry-point by air. However, Girona is often overlooked by visitors rushing to get to Barcelona as soon as possible. Which is a huge mistake in my view. Girona is a fantastic little town. Complete with its own “Ramblas”. And as Girona Airport is a common entry-point for visitors from the UK, I have started from there, and have travelled in a clockwise direction.

1. Girona-Costa Brava Airport (GRO) to Girona city centre.

You have two options to reach central Girona. 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/

2. 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/

Official Barcelona Tourism website (English version): www.barcelonaturisme.com

3. 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).

4. 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.

5. 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/

6. 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 R£ 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!

7. 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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCMHx5Jk918
(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.

8. 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

9. Perpignan to Portbou (train).

It seems like a tricky connection at Portbou, but it’s not really. Officially, the last stop on this line is Cerbere. Which is still in France, just short of the border with Spain. However, a handful of trains continue on to Portbou (which is actually the first train station that you come to in Spain). So when you buy your train ticket, ensure that it is to Portbou (also known as Port-Bou).

To get this straight in your head: Other than for highspeed trains, the track gauges in France and Spain are different. So you have to change at the border. In fact, at the first station on the other side of the border. So, if travelling from France to Spain (as we are), then you need to change trains at Portbou.

Train journey duration: 45 minutes.

Train timetable: cdn.ter.sncf.com/.. PDF

Official Costa Brava Tourism website: en.costabrava.org

10. Portbou to Girona (train).

There are actually two different train networks servicing this route. The Rodalies de Catalunya (Line 11), which is actaully a suburban train, and Renfe, the national train operator of Spain. The Renfe timetable also includes the R11 times, so I would look there first. [Confusingly, Renfe owns the Rodalies de Catalunya].

Train journey duration: 1 hour 3 minutes.

Train timetable (R11): http://rodalies.gencat.cat/web/.content/pdf/horaris/R11.pdf

Train timetable (Renfe): www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros/

Official Girona Tourism website: www.girona.cat/turisme/eng/

11. Girona city centre to Girona Airport (GRO).

This is simply the reverse of the bus journey that you started with. Except that, in this direction, the 607 leaves from Girona Bus Station (next to Girona Train Station), every hour during the day, on the 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/


So. How long does all of this take?

Well, how long have you got?

At a very minimum, the entire Barcelona-Pyrenees-Perpignan-Portbou-Girona circuit could be done in just three days (two nights).

An early morning flight to Girona Airport (GRO); followed by a 29-minute bus ride to central Girona; a wander around Girona and an early lunch; then take the train to Barcelona (if your Barcelona hotel is not next to Barcelona-Sants Railway Station, then I would definitely recommend that you take the slower regional train from Girona, and stop at the Barcelona station that is closest to your hotel); spend the first afternoon/evening/night in Barcelona.

Then on the morning of Day 2, 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, followed by a spot of lunch; then in the afternoon travel down to Villefranche Vernet-les-Bains on the Little Yellow Train, before continuing from there to Perpignan; spend the second evening/night in Perpignan.

On the morning of Day 3, tavel by train to Girona (including a necessary change of trains at Portbou). Grab a late lunch in Girona (near the train station will be easiest), before catching the 607 bus back to Girona 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 three days.

But if it was me:

An early morning flight to Girona Airport, and then the 29-minute bus ride into central Girona, where I would enjoy a very leisurely day and night. My first morning/afternoon/evening/night would be spent in Girona.

On the morning of Day 2, after yet another leisurely Catalan breakfast, I would continue to Barcelona by train. Arriving in Barcelona in time to enjoy an early lunch. My second afternoon/evening/night would be spent in Barcelona.

On Day 3, 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 4, probably in the late morning again (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.

Day 5 would again start in a leisurely fashion. After another rather late start, I would take the Little Yellow Train to Villefranche Vernet-les-Bains, where I would enjoy a late lunch, before continuing on to Perpignan. I would spend the fifth evening/night in Perpignan.

Day 6 would be another leisurely late start. I would take the train to Portbou, and then continue to Figueres. The birthplace of Salvador Dali. The afternoon/evening/night of Day 6 would be spent in Figueres (taking in the Dali Theatre-Museum).

On Day 7, I would return to Girona by train. And enjoy a final open-air lunch, before taking the bus back to Girona Airport.

So. A very leisurely, week-long journey. Which would allow me to see everything on this circular rail route around Barcelona and the Pyrenees, and in a very unhurried way.

You could easily extend your visit by spending some extra time anywhere along the route (it would be very easy to fill a whole fortnight).


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:

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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.

Slàinte Mhath!