Al-Andalus: Palace On Wheels Rides Again
Story written by Regina Winkle-Bryan
In Spain, and especially in Southern Spain, citizens understand that “good things come to those who wait.” Time seems to move without hurry on the Iberian Peninsula, where patience is a virtue and a survival skill. We’ve been waiting for eight years for the Al-Andalus train to make an appearance on the rails once more, and spring of 2012 marks the end of its hiatus. Now managed by FEVE and Renfe, the renovated Al-Andalus will be presented in Cadiz March 17, 2012, at the bicentennial celebration of the 1812 Spanish Constitution. Following this official launch, the Al-Andalus will begin touring on May 6, and will make several trips each month until early December.
Dubbed a “Palace on Wheels,” the luxurious Al-Andalus is outfitted with a bar, tearoom, and two dining cars, all decorated in ‘Belle Epoque’ style. Up to 64 guests may lodge in the train’s 20 Superior and 12 Standard all en-suite cabins. The Al-Andalus cuts through some of the country’s most celebrated landscapes and visits a history-rich area of Spain where Judaism, Islam and Christianity collided. This is heart of the robust Spain we know from books and postcards, the Spain of hand-held fans, sunshine, flamenco, siestas, tapas and macho bullfighters in elaborate dress.
Once on board the Al-Andalus, everything is included in the rate, from your evening glass of dry Jerez sherry to the many village tours offered during the six-day expedition. Riders set out from Seville, the largest metropolis in the south of Spain, popular for its vibrant Feria de Abril festival and Royal Alcázar. From Seville, the Al-Andalus proceeds to Córdoba where guests are offered a city tour taking in the Mosque, Cathedral and Jewish Quarter, followed by dinner in a typical Cordobés eatery.
The following five days on Al-Andalus provide similar opportunities in the towns of Baeza, Úbeda, Granada, Ronda, Cádiz, Jerez, Sanlúcar and Doñana Park. Click here for the full itinerary. Highlights include a stopover at Jerez’s Real Escuela Andaluza de Arte Ecuestre for a dressage show as well as a tour of Granada’s mind-blowing Alhambra, one of the country’s most legendary monuments.
Al-Andalus is the newest of Spain’s numerous tourist trains. High-end lines such as El Transcantábrico Gran Lujo, and El Transcantábrico Clasico, tour Spain’s rugged northern coast and Basque Country. However, Al-Andalus is the only train of its kind in the south.
Getting There: Fly to the Spanish capital of Madrid on Delta or Iberia. From here you could fly on Iberia to Seville, but taking Renfe’s high-speed train AVE will get you there in two and a half hours while allowing you to glimpse more Spanish scenery. AVE leaves from central Madrid’s Atocha station dropping you off in downtown Seville.
The Society of International Railway Travelers can take care of all details for your trip — from train reservations to hotels. For a full itinerary, along with dates and pricing, visit The Society of International Railway Travelers’ website.