Tour Date: 4 to 15 March, 2022Location: Spain

The PTG slogan is “rail and culture” and that is exactly what this tour sets out to achieve, with a combination of trains, historic towns and sights, beautiful scenery and stunning hotels and Paradors.

With options to travel out from the UK by rail or air, we gather together in Madrid before setting out on our rail tour of historic South-West Spain, taking in the passenger railways from Madrid down to Zafra and visiting some of Spain’s most important historic locations, including some that are off the beaten track.

As you would expect from an “In style” tour, we stay at top quality hotels, including the Paradors in Mérida (a former 18th century convent), Zafra (a majestic castle, formerly the palace of the Dukes of Feria) and Plasencia (the stunning 15th century Santo Domingo Monastery) and in Caceres at the 16th century Oquendo Palace. In Madrid we stay at the excellent Weare Chamartín, conveniently located above Chamartín railway station. We will have dinner in our hotels or good local restaurants each night.

During the tour, we will visit several historic locations, including Mérida, Zafra, Caceres, Trujillo, Alcántara Roman Bridge and Plasencia. Full details of our activities in each location are below.

For rail fans we cover the passenger lines between Madrid and Zafra, using the high-speed line south from Madrid to Puertollano where catch a broad-gauge train along the sparsely served line westwards to Mérida. As well as the other main lines from Mérida south to Zafra and north to Plasencia and eventually back to Madrid on this classic route, we have the opportunity to take in the branches from Mérida to Badajoz and from Caceres to Valencia de Alcántara (though at the time of going to print there were some questions over this branch line’s future). A new high-speed line, Spain’s first broad-gauge high-speed line, is being built alongside the classic line, and is particularly visible on the Caceres – Mérida – Badajoz route, so this may be a last chance to travel on the classic lines if the new line hasn’t already opened. We also include a visit to the Rio Tinto Mine museum, south of Zafra, with its own railway which of course we will travel on.

At this time of year, the weather should be comfortably warm but without the excessive heat experienced in the summer months.

Your Tour Manager for this trip is David. Should you have any queries about the itinerary or if you wish to have a chat with him about the trip, please feel free to e-mail him on david@ptg.co.uk.

Availability

Tour Highlights


  • Half-board – dinner included each evening
  • First class train travel where possible
  • Historic towns
  • Staying in Paradores
  • Local guides
  • Very little coach travel
  • Tour Itinerary
  • Prices & Options
  • Booking
  • Gallery
  • Transport & Accommodation

Day 1 Friday 4 March, 2022 (D)

We will be offering both flight and rail options for travelling to Madrid. We will meet up at our hotel for the first night, the Weare Chamartín, conveniently located above Chamartín station. We will have dinner in the hotel.

Day 2 Saturday 5 March  (B,D)

Leaving Madrid, we head south on the high-speed line to the town of Puertollano. Here we join a train on the very scenic, but sparsely served, classic line heading westwards to our base for the next two nights, the UNESCO listed town of Mérida. This line meanders through rolling countryside with few settlements of any great size, so it is easy to understand why the eastern end of the line has only two trains per day. We soon find ourselves following the River Guadiana into Mérida, and have a brief view of the Roman Circus, one of many Roman remains in Mérida, a town founded by the Romans in the 1st century B.C. We arrive at the Parador mid-afternoon, so you will have free time to enjoy the facilities in the parador or begin exploring the town. On arrival, David will buy a “Monuments Pass” for everyone, allowing entry to most of Mérida’s principal Roman remains. The Parador is very well-located for the historic centre. Over the course of its history, the building that now houses Mérida Parador has had different uses, including as a convent, a hospital, an asylum and even a jail. Today it still houses historical remains dating back 2000 years. The interior cloister and Jardín de Antigüedades (Garden of Antiquities), a collection of Mudejar, Roman and Visigothic archaeological pieces, are both truly fascinating locations. The Parador stands in a peaceful square decorated with orange trees. Dinner in the Parador.

Day 3 Sunday 6 March (B,D)

This morning we will meet our local guide Javier, who will also be joining us on certain other days. Our guided tour will begin inside the Parador, as it is an important historic building in its own right. From here Javier will lead us on a walk around Mérida’s historic sights which you will be able to visit later in your free time, but the highlight of the tour is the visit to the Roman theatre and amphitheatre. We can also find a 792-metre-long Roman bridge over the River Guadiana, the Temple of Diana and the Aqueduct of Los Milagros. The National Museum of Roman Art, with over 36,000 exhibits from the local area, is well-work visiting. Another highlight is the Alcazaba, a 9th century Muslim fortification, the best-preserved example in Spain. We will visit the theatre and amphitheatre as part of the morning guided walk, and the afternoon will be free so that you can visit the other historic sites at your own pace. Dinner in the Parador.

Day 4 Monday 7 March (B,D)

Today we have a morning trip to Badajoz using the line heading westwards, which eventually reaches Portugal, one of only three cross-border rail routes still open. Badajoz doesn’t have the same high-profile as Mérida, but it still has an attractive historic centre and a number of important constructions, including the 9th century Alcazaba, or Moorish citadel, the Vauban military fort dating from the 17th century, the 16th century Puerta de Palmas and the 10th century Jardines de la Galera. We will have a little time here to see the main sights and then return to Mérida in time for lunch and later catch another train south to Zafra. Zafra Parador will be our home for the next two nights. The building was originally a majestic castle dating from the 15th century, and in itself is one of the highlights of the holiday, with spacious rooms, a swimming pool and a beautifully maintained garden. Many of the rooms face onto an attractive inside courtyard, as being a former castle, the outer walls do not have many windows! Dinner in the Parador.

Day 5 Tuesday 8 March (B,D)

We head south from Zafra by coach to visit the Rio Tinto Mining Park. While the park has a number of attractions, the most important one for PTG is of course the 19th century train that runs through incredible landscapes, a river unique in the world for colour and composition of its waters, a territory that shows the traces of 5,000 years of mining activity, a museum full of cultural heritage jewels, a house that transports us to Victorian England … even a walk on another planet, Mars, without leaving Earth! A different kind of history today, but still very interesting. Today is a public holiday in Spain, so the park could be busier than normal, but they will have more trains than usual in operation! Dinner in the Parador.

Day 6 Wednesday 9 March (B,D)

We have a free morning to explore Zafra. Look out for the attractive Plaza Grande and the Plaza Chica. After lunch we return to Zafra station for our train to Caceres. On the way we pass through Mérida where the train will reverse. Once again, north of Mérida you will see the on-going construction of the new high-speed line. On arrival in Caceres, we transfer to our hotel, and after time to settle, we will have a guided walk with Javier. With sunset at around 7 pm, the old town is illuminated, and looks quite splendid. Though it was founded by the Romans, we can still see architecture of many other cultures that occupied the city, including the Moorish city walls and Renaissance and Gothic architecture. The town can really be divided into three – the ancient walled town, the old town just outside the wall and centred on the Plaza Mayor with the typical narrow, winding streets, and the modern town that has grown over the years. Dinner in the Parador.

Day 7 Thursday 10 March (B,D)

Today we visit Trujillo by coach, on the Route of the Conquistadors, and once again accompanied by Javier. Highlight is Trujillo Castle, built in the 13th century on the site of an Arab fortress at the highest part of the town. It also boasts an important group of churches and manor houses near the central Plaza Mayor. This part of Spain is famous for its wine and Iberian ham, and we will stop off at a local winery for a visit and the chance to taste some of their wine. Tonight, we will have diner at a local restaurant.

Day 8 Friday 11 March (B,D)

Joined by Javier again, our coach will take us westwards towards the Portuguese border to see the Roman Bridge of Alcántara. It is recognised as a Roman bridge even though parts of it have been destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries by the Moors, the Spanish (so that the Portuguese couldn’t cross the river) and by Wellington (to stop the French armies). It is still an impressive structure in an otherwise barren landscape. High above the bridge is the town of Alcántara which we will also visit. We then head south to Valencia de Alcántara railway station. Up until August 2012, this was the border station for international trains between Spain and Portugal. Latterly only the Lusitania overnight train between Lisbon and Madrid used the line, but it was here the two services passed and swapped their locos. After the Portuguese closed the line on their side of the border, the Lusitania was diverted via another line, and Valencia de Alcántara was left with no trains. However, RENFE now run a once daily out and back service from Caceres, and so we will travel back to Caceres by train along what is a surprisingly scenic line. Note, at the time of going to print, there were doubts over the future of this line. Tonight, we will have dinner in another local restaurant.

Day 9 Saturday 12 March (B,D)

After a free morning in Caceres, we head north to our final historic town, Plasencia, a walled market town. It is best known for the 12th century double line of walls, including 68 towers and six gates. We can also see the remains of a Roman aqueduct, and, in the old quarter, palaces, ancestral homes and magnificent cathedrals. Our home for the next two nights is Plasencia Parador, located in an old convent and renowned for its excellent food. The building is quite stunning, and it is a fitting location to end our tour of Historic South-West Spain. After arriving, you will have time to relax and enjoy the Parador or explore the small historic centre. Dinner in the Parador.

Day 10 Sunday 13 March (B,D)

A more relaxing day to finish, but we will still explore some of the area’s history. Joined by Javier for the last time, our coach will take us first to Yuste Monastery. This Hieronymite monastery was founded in 1408-1414 under the patronage of the Infante Ferdinand, brother to Henry III. It has one gothic and one renaissance cloister, both still standing since the church was built in 1508-1525. Under the Confiscation Law of 1836, the complex was sold and began to fall into disrepair until it was purchased in 1857 by the Marquis of Mirabel who began to restore it and opened a new church on the site. We then move on to the charming village of Garganta de Olla, to see very well-preserved examples of popular architecture and some buildings that date back to the days of the emperor, such as the brothel used by his soldiers. We return to Plasencia to give you time to explore the historic centre a little more or simply enjoy the ambience and facilities of this stunning Parador. Farewell Dinner in the Parador.

Day 11 Monday 14 March (B,D)

This morning our coach will take us to Mirabel station to catch the diesel loco hauled TALGO train directly to Madrid Chamartín. Depending on your flight arrangements you will either continue to the airport using the frequent suburban rail service from Chamartín station or spend a final night in the Weare Chamartín in Madrid. Dinner is included for this option.

Day 12 Tuesday 15 March (B)

If you spent the extra night in Madrid, then you will transfer to the airport at your leisure in time to catch your flight home. Alternatively, if you are travelling back by rail, your journey will begin here at Chamartín station.

By its nature, on this trip you need to be able to walk around locations with steep hills, stairs and cobbled streets, and be able to lift your luggage on and off trains.

Holiday Prices (per person) – FROM HOME SERVICE

  • From Heathrow (BA 11:30): £2,275
  • From Gatwick (Iberia 10:40): £2,275
  • From Stansted (Ryanair 12:45): £2,260
  • From Luton (Easyjet 13:10): £2,250
  • From Manchester (Ryanair 10:15): £2,295
  • From Edinburgh (Easyjet 12:00): £2,295
  • From St Pancras (Eurostar): POA

Options

  • Single use room Supplement: £490
  • No “From Home” service: deduct £75 from with flight prices
  • Joining in Madrid: £2,045

Deposit

  • Travelling by air: £500
  • Overland by rail: £800
  • Own travel: £300

Online Booking

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We recommend you also check the FCO website for the latest travel advice https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

Travel from UK

in 2022 it is expected that there will be direct flights, to Madrid, from Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Bristol, Manchester and Edinburgh. Also travel by rail from London St Pancras.

Hotels

  • Hotel Weare Chamartín, Madrid (1 night at the start of the holiday and 1 night at the end, if required)
  • Mérida Parador, Mérida (2 nights)
  • Zafra Parador, Zafra (2 nights)
  • Hotel NH Collection Palacio de Oquendo, Caceres (3 nights)
  • Plasencia Parador, Plasencia (2 nights)