As the cost of living bites, Spain launches FREE train tickets for journeys under 188 miles – and here we reveal some of the country’s lesser-known glories you can visit by rail

  • The free tickets are available on commuter services and medium-distance trains offered by Renfe
  • Train passes can be arranged at stations after registering for a Mas Renfe card online at renfe.com 
  • Many journeys longer than 188 miles will be half-price, but high-speed trains are excluded from any deals

The Spanish government is keen to ease the pressure on household budgets — so from tomorrow rides on trains covering less than 188 miles in Spain won’t cost anything at all.

Tickets are available to tourists as well as Spanish residents for bookings on cercanias (commuter service) or media distancia (medium-distance) trains offered by Renfe, the national operator. The country’s AVE high-speed rides, however, are excluded.

The new arrangement is for ‘multi-journey’ tickets and can be spread over several days. They are not for single rides.

The Spanish government is keen to ease the pressure on household budgets — so from tomorrow rides on trains covering less than 188 miles in Spain won’t cost anything at all

Ticket passes can be arranged at stations after registering for a Mas Renfe card online at renfe.com, which provides you with a QR code to show station staff. A refundable deposit of £8.45 is required.

For journeys longer than 188 miles, tickets will be half-price on many routes. Travelling by train round Spain’s off-the-beaten-track spots can be deeply rewarding. But where to go? Here’s our guide to some great lesser-known rides — for no charge.

INTO CATALONIA

Montserrat to Manresa

Make the Benedictine monastery at Montserrat (above) the first stop of a rail exploration from Barcelona, then travel inland between crimson-hued mountains to Manresa

The Benedictine monastery at Montserrat is tucked away in the mountains 50 miles north-east of Barcelona and is home to a famous abbey and Black Virgin icon.

Make this the first stop of a rail exploration from Barcelona, then travel inland between crimson-hued mountains to Manresa, home to ancient churches, squares and the cave in which St Ignatius experienced revelations in 1522. From there, the rest of Catalonia opens up.

Journey: 37 minutes, 13 miles.

Start from: Barcelona.

Possible regional stops: Tarragona, Vilanova i la Geltru, Lleida, Figueres.

GALICIAN DREAM

Oviedo to Ferrol

This cathedral city of Oviedo is famous for its medieval centre, Museo de Belles Artes and jolly sidrerias (cider bars)

Renfe runs fantastic narrow-gauge trains across the north coast from the French border to Ferrol, a naval port on the Atlantic.

One of the finest rides is along the stretch from Oviedo. This old cathedral city is famous for its medieval centre, Museo de Belles Artes and jolly sidrerias (cider bars). The ride to Ferrol in the region of Galicia cuts through undulating hills before hugging the dramatic coastline.

Journey: 6h 14m, 157 miles.

Start from: Oviedo.

Possible regional stops: Ribadeo, A Coruna, Santiago de Compostela, Leon.

ROMAN RIDE

Badajoz to Merida

The journey to Merida (above) rattles across parched landscape, arriving by a splendid Roman aqueduct 

The region of Extremadura is tucked away in the south-west of Spain and this ride from Badajoz rattles through sparsely populated countryside to the ancient Roman city of Merida.

Badajoz has a fine cathedral and Moorish castle. The journey to Merida rattles across parched landscape, arriving by a splendid Roman aqueduct.

Journey: 45 minutes, 39 miles.

Start from: Seville.

Possible nearby stops: Llerena, Caceres, Almaden, Cordoba.

ROYAL TOUR

Aranjuez to Cuenca

At Cuenca, the old quarter is on a clifftop with ‘hanging houses’ teetering above a gorge

Aranjuez, 35 miles south of Madrid, is renowned for its royal estate dating from 1560, with quaint palace gardens and peaceful squares. The slow train to Cuenca, 90 miles east, crosses beautiful, remote countryside with wheat fields and fruit orchards before entering craggy mountains. At Cuenca, the old quarter is on a clifftop with ‘hanging houses’ teetering above a gorge, plus art galleries aplenty and a medieval cathedral.

Journey: 2h 14m, 91 miles.

Start from: Madrid.

Possible nearby stops: Alcazar de San Juan, Albacete, Ciudad Real, Valencia.

MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE

Xativa to Alcoy

From Xativa (above), a railway weaves between peaks to reach the hidden-away city of Alcoy 

The town of Xativa, 40 miles south of Valencia, is dominated by a hilltop castle with views to the Alicante mountains. From Xativa, a railway weaves between peaks to reach the hidden-away city of Alcoy. The old quarter, poised on a mountain ridge, has a museum explaining the fascinating history of 19th-century worker rebellions and ornate houses of former factory owners.

Journey: 1h 32m, 32 miles.

Start from: Valencia.

Possible nearby stops: Gandia, Alicante, Benidorm, Murcia.

DOWN SOUTH

Bobadilla to Algeciras

Bobadilla (above)  is home to an old-fashioned station cafe where locals exchange gossip and watch train passengers (and trains) come and go

Bobadilla is a little village that acts as a stop-off on lines connecting Malaga, Seville and Algeciras. It is home to an old-fashioned station cafe where locals exchange gossip and watch train passengers (and trains) come and go.

The relaxing ride south from here traverses a tomato-red landscape dotted with cacti, winding between hills and along rivers. Algeciras is an interesting port with a Moroccan feel (it’s only 30 miles by ferry to Tangier).

Locals smoke shisha pipes at cafes, with Gibraltar and Africa on the horizon.

Journey: 2h 38m, 104 miles.

Start from: Seville.

Possible nearby stops: Ronda, Cadiz, Granada.

Tom Chesshyre is author of Slow Trains Around Spain: A 3,000-Mile Adventure On 52 Rides.

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