For the perfect Pyrenean adventure, take a voyage on the ‘petit train jaune’ and explore one of the most beautiful regions on Europe.

Charlotte Daniels recently went to visit the Pyrenees when she was working in France. To ‘summit’ up, it was a real ‘high’ of her gap year in Europe.

In this article Charlotte shares her experience of visiting the French Pyrenees and her top tips how to enjoy the ultimate experience.


Travelling on the Little Yellow Train

Pyrenees Yellow Train Travel

The adventure will take you through the beautiful Languedoc Roussillon region, along a historic, metre-gauge electric railway in the French Pyrenees, dating back to 1909 and is still going strong today.

The ‘Little Yellow Train’ commences its journey at Villefranche de Conflent, 50km from Perpignan, and ends up in Latour de Carol, near the Spanish town of Puigcerda. The line consists of several tunnels, small viaducts and famous bridges such as the Pont Gisclard and Pont de Cassagne (the only railway suspension bridge in France).

The line is almost 39 miles long in total and reaches the impressive height of 1592 metres. 

And all this doesn’t have to break the bank… ‘The Little Yellow Train’ is part of the French state rail network, run by the French train operator SNCF, meaning that tickets come at standard French train rates and can be reserved via regular websites.

Top tip; for young people between the ages of 18-27 SNCF offer a discounted rail card called a ‘Carte Jeune’, this gave us 30% off travel throughout the year. This is perfect if you are keen to visit France on a budget

It is also really important to note that when travelling by train around France you must always validate your train tickets in one of the yellow validation machines at the station before boarding the train. As we unfortunately discovered for ourselves, failure to do so can result in a hefty fine on the train!


Key Sights

These are some of the essential places to see:

1. Perpignan

This is where the journey begins!

A beautiful city in the South of France – well-worth exploring if you have time. It’s the last big city before the Spanish border and the capital of the Pyrenees Orientales department in the region.

With Catalan influence evident all around the city, this university town, charmed with Mediterranean culture, winding medieval and palm-tree lined streets is the perfect starting place for this Pyrenean adventure.

From here, take the SNCF to Villefranche de Conflent where you will pick up the ‘Little Yellow Train’. 


2. Villfranche-de-Conflent

The first stop on The Yellow Train. A historic walled city and a UNESCO heritage site. This is one of the little known destinations in the south of France which is well worth seeing.


3. Odeillo- Font-Romeu

A small Pyrenean mountain village, most famously known for its power station (one of the world’s very first) opened in 1970.

There is also a famous hiking trail (Sentier de Randonnée) that leaves from the village of Via, just below the Odeillo train station and is an easy 9KM hike back to the station at Cabanasse- Mont louis.

Font Romeu is also one of the most popular ski resorts in the Pyrenees attracting countless visitors every year.


4. Latour du Carol 

The only railway station in Europe to serve three different “normal” railway lines operating with three different gauges. The metre-gauge Train Jaune, the European standard gauge SNCF line to Toulouse and the Spanish broad-gauge line to Barcelona. 


5. Bourg Madame 

A quaint town, very close to the Spanish town of Puigcerda. Travelers who decide to come up on a morning train and head back on one later in the afternoon even have time to make a quick voyage to Spain! 

Conveniently, the line terminates a few kilometres further on in the small town of Latour de Carol which connects directly to the French railway line from Toulouse, and the RENFE Spanish line for Barcelona. Meaning you’re well-connected to continue on your journey- wherever your next destination!


You Really Need to See the Pyrenees

French Pyrenees Day Trip Tips

... So what a unique experience! One I cannot recommend enough! Whether you want to stay on board for the whole journey or get off and explore each of the sights, this is definitely a novel compact journey you don’t want to miss! 

A final note, in order to have a smooth, enjoyable trip along this stunning part of the world, it’s really key that you research first and make sure you’re fully up to date with the travel advice and guidance. 

To be the real ‘savvy traveller’ you’ve got to know all the inside tips but must also be very well aware and informed of the risks and necessary precautions when travelling.  Check out travel advice pages for France before you make your journey up the Pyrenees or otherwise!

So now you have the ‘savoir faire’, you’ve got no excuse! Check out the those breath-taking views, get yourself prepared and well-informed, pack your suitcase and get on the next ‘yellow train’ out to see the beautiful sights of the French Pyrenees! 


By Charlotte Daniels