Scenic train routes: train jaune France

Lizet Wesselman - 06/01/2024

Scenic train routes: train jaune France

Lizet Wesselman - 06/01/2024

Board one of the most impressive train journeys in Europe, across the breathtaking landscapes of the French Pyrenees: the Yellow Train, or Train Jaune in French. Here’s everything you need to know to plan your trip!

Train jaune route and destinations

Train jaune starts in Latour-de-carol, a small village on the border between France and Spain. (Stop: Latour-de-Carol – Enveitg) You can get here by direct train from Toulouse, France, or from Barcelona, Spain. From here, the train winds through the French Pyrenees, passing small villages, ski resorts and through the mountains. You’ll be treated to some 3 hours of stunning views. Weather permitting, you can take a seat in one of the open compartments so you don’t miss anything of the beautiful scenery. The yellow train’s final destination is Villefranche-de-Conflent. (Stop: Villefranche Vernet-les-Bains)

Of course, you can also take the train from the other side. There’s a direct train from Perpignan, France, to Villefranche-de-Conflent. From Spain, you also have to go via Perpignan, as there is no other route through the Pyrenees. Train tickets for French trains can be booked through SNCF.

Slow travel train experience

Train jaune does what a scenic train does best, travel slowly. With only 30km per hour, and really takes its time on the route. And with the views you get, you should definitely want to! The train ride should really be your activity of the day, as it’s common for the trip to take longer than expected. Most of the route is single-track, which means you sometimes have to wait for the train from the other side. So it’s best to plan an overnight stay at the final destination or in one of the villages on the route, so you don’t risk missing a connecting train. (Yup, I speak from experience and had to climb a mountain for 1.5 hours to get to my B&B. Nice hike though, but not quite the plan).

21 Stops along the route

In total, the yellow train makes 21 stops, although not every ride stops everywhere. So it’s wise to check beforehand. The following stops are always included in the trip and are also the biggest locations with the most to do and the most hotel options:

Mont-Louis: A UNESCO World Heritage-listed town known for its fortifications, perched high on a hill and offering stunning views of the surrounding mountains. This is the place to be for history buffs. The town was built in 1679 as the last in the line of defence from the Mediterranean Sea.

Font-Romeu: A popular ski resort and an excellent stopover for those who enjoy winter activities. Note that it is a bit of a walk from the station to the centre. But you’ll find everything you’re looking for here, from hiking trails to a more advanced canyon tour, spa hotels or wine tasting.

Bolquère-Eyne: This is the highest station in all of France, at an altitude of 1593 m. Logically, you can hike incredibly well here and enjoy impressive views from this station. The village of Bolquère is about 1.2 km from the station. You will also find plenty of spa hotels in this town.

Villefranche-de-Conflent (pictured): The terminus (or departure point) of the yellow train, known for its well-preserved medieval fortifications that are on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The entire town lies within the still standing city walls. From the surrounding hills, you will have great views of the town and the surrounding countryside, where you will also find impressive caves, among other things.

Just be careful where you get off. The whole route of the yellow train has beauty to offer. I absolutely recommend that you travel the whole route! So, do you stop somewhere in the middle? Then I’d recommend you to finish the rest of the route the next day.

Train tickets train jaune

Tickets for the yellow train can be booked simply through the French railways SNCF and are amazingly cheap. I myself paid just under €40 for a return ticket at the end of August 2023! I got lucky with an offer, but they are regular and otherwise prices are between €25 and €35 for a single ticket.

It is really advisable to buy tickets in advance, though. This does not have to be done weeks in advance, but a few days ahead I would recommend. My outward journey was very quiet, I think there were only 10 people on the train. But the return journey was really packed and I think there had been no more tickets that day. Since both start and end points are small villages, where you probably weren’t already staying, it’s a bit of a waste if you travel the whole route and there are no more tickets available.

Travel schedule and best travel time train jaune

The yellow train’s schedule varies depending on the season and timetable. But usually there are only 2 or 3 trains a day in the same direction, often 1 in the morning and 1 in the afternoon. It is wise to check the times in advance and also check immediately if you can make it to the station at that time, if you are coming from Toulouse or Barcelona, for example.

The difference between the summer and winter seasons in the Pyrenees can be significant. In summer, the region offers beautiful green valleys, flowering flora and bright, sunny days. This is the perfect season for hiking, cycling and exploring the natural beauty of the mountains.

In the winter months, the region transforms into a snow wonderland, especially at higher altitudes. This attracts skiers and snowboarders to the popular ski resorts along the route.

So the best time to travel depends mainly on your favourite mountain activities: winter sports or sunny walks. In summer, you do have the option of sitting in an open compartment to enjoy the view, in winter it is too cold for that. Do bear in mind that you are high up in the mountains and in a moving vehicle, even if it is warm outside, it can get chilly in the open compartment. So bring layers of clothing!

Would you rather sit inside anyway? The other compartments are covered, but have windows that open quite a bit, allowing you to look outside. Some compartments also have a part where you can stand outside, allowing you to switch between inside and outside.

A full trip around train jaune

As I mentioned, the start and end points of train jaune are both in the mountains, not exactly locations you would quickly go to. I therefore recommend you organise a nice trip around it. You could do a tour of southeast France, with the Yellow Train being a part of it. To help you plan this train trip, I have mapped out a travel route Southern France for you, with exact information on travel times, average prices and links to where you can book. Of course, I also explain to you why I chose these stops.