Let yourself be lulled by the gentle movement of the train on the tracks, admire the landscape through the window and feel far away even before you reach your destination: this is what awaits you when you go on a train adventure. Discover in this article 3 ideas for train vacations in France and Europe! For a few days, 2 weeks or longer, get away from it all! The key is to have an eco-friendly trip with lots of twists and turns to explore the riches of the Old Continent.
Train vacations of less than a week: Clermont-Ferrand and the Auvergne volcanoes
Go for a short stay and discover a little-known region of France: the surroundings of Clermont-Ferrand. Live an iconic adventure without leaving the borders of France!
What to do during your stay in the country of the Auvergne volcanoes?
Make Clermont-Ferrand your base camp for the duration of your getaway and be sure to explore the city! Let yourself be surprised by its amazing architectural heritage, including the Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption cathedral, the highest volcanic stone cathedral in France.
- The Place de Jaude, central point of the medieval city, on which a statue of Vercingetorix is enthroned;
- The flea market of Salins, to hunt for new treasures every Sunday morning;
- The basilica Notre-Dame-du-Port, a UNESCO World Heritage Site;
- The many museums of the city, which will delight art and history lovers
Then hop on the shuttle bus to the Panoramique des Dômes train station, which runs several times a day between April and November and leaves from downtown Clermont-Ferrand. It is here that you can wear out your hiking boots on the many trails that crisscross the Puys chain. Why not take a tour like the Boucle des Dômes, an easy 2 or 3 day trip to explore the volcanic chain?
If you are not a hiker, take the Panoramique des Dômes cogwheel train. Climb to the top of the Puy de Dôme to admire the breathtaking view of the 80 volcanoes of the Puys chain and the city of Clermont-Ferrand.
To extend your stay, go to the Sancy massif. Discover new hikes and new breathtaking panoramas on the region. It is here that you will find the Puy de Sancy, the highest volcano in France. To reach the massif, buses to Super-Besse and Le Mont-Dore leave from Clermont-Ferrand.
How to get to Clermont-Ferrand
Clermont-Ferrand is accessible by train from several cities in France. You can expect a journey time of :
2 h 30 from Lyon;3 h 30 from Paris;4 h 30 from Dijon.
Where to sleep in Clermont-Ferrand ?
Discover the Hôtel Littéraire Alexandre Vialatte, a charming hotel in Clermont-Ferrand, located in the heart of the city center. Stay in a comfortable and personalized room in the image of the author and translator of the 20th century, Alexandre Vialatte. Perhaps you will be tempted by the 60 m² apartment that can accommodate up to 6 travelers? Take advantage of the terrace on the 6th floor to relax and admire an exceptional panorama of the Puys chain and the cathedral. Some say it is the most beautiful view of Clermont-Ferrand !
Ethik & Trips offers ecological accommodation around the world. Discover our catalog of committed tourist addresses.
One to two weeks train vacations : the Italian Great Lakes
The lake district in Italy is made up of 20 iconic lakes spread over 4 regions: Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto and Trentino.
What to do around the Great Lakes in Italy?
Each of the 3 great lakes has its own atmosphere:
- Lake Como is surrounded by beautiful villages perched on the side of the mountains. Renowned as one of the most beautiful in Italy, there is no shortage of magnificent villas and lush gardens on its shores;
- Lake Maggiore, the largest lake in Italy, offers beautiful escapades on its small islands. Isola Bella is a former fishing village, which today houses a baroque palace and a lush garden. Isola Madre is home to beautiful royal peacocks.
- Finally, on the shores of Lake Garda, don't miss the charming villages with many surprises. Discover for example Malcesine and take the cable car to the top of Monte Baldo to enjoy a beautiful view of the lake and the surrounding majestic alpine peaks.
Lakes Maggiore, Como and Garda are the best known, but not the only ones worth a visit.
- Lake Orta, for example, is quiet and peaceful and offers a beautiful romantic atmosphere. This is especially the case during the Flower Festival held every year in the villages.
- Lake Lugano, which straddles the border between Lombardy and Switzerland, is a glacial lake nestled between majestic Alpine peaks, the highest of which is 1700 meters high. Several lifts allow you to climb the mountains that surround the lake to go on an adventure and enjoy beautiful views of the surroundings.
Reaching the Great Lakes in Italy
The easiest way to reach the Italian Great Lakes is to arrive at the Milan train station, accessible in 7 hours by direct train from Paris, in 4 hours 30 minutes by train from Lyon or in 3 hours from Chambéry.
If you wish, reserve 2 days of your stay to discover the city of Milan, a lively modern metropolis and Italian cultural center. Visit famous points of interest such as the Duomo of Milan or the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie which houses the fresco of the Last Supper.
From Milan, the easiest way is to rent a car to explore Lake Maggiore, Lake Como, Lake Orta or Lake Lugano.
For Lake Garda, located further east, hop on a train and allow 1.5 hours from Milan to reach the station of Desenzano del Garda on the southern shore of the lake.
Where to sleep in the Great Lakes region in Italy?
2 Ethik'Hotels are waiting for you not far from Lake Garda:
- The Ambassador Suite Hotel, a charming hotel in Riva del Garda. Stay in a room or apartment facing the lake in this 3-star hotel. Just 200 meters from the beach for swimming in Lake Garda, with a pool and jacuzzi, enjoy a relaxing vacation on Lake Garda. For those who like a more sporty getaway, there are many mountain bike, trekking, canyoning and hiking tours in the area;
- B&B Anna Maria, a quiet bed and breakfast nestled in the Ledro Valley. Settle down in an old hayloft completely restored with ecological and natural materials. Enjoy a stay in the middle of nature, off the beaten track in a cosy and authentic cocoon, 30 minutes drive from the shores of Lake Garda.
Vacations by train of more than 2 weeks: direction Morocco via Spain
Discover the natural and cultural riches of Morocco by planning an unforgettable stopover in Madrid, Spain.
What to do in Madrid?
During your train journey to Morocco, you will surely pass through Madrid, the bustling Spanish capital!
Plan to make an extended stopover there on your way to or from Morocco. Discover there in particular:
- The 3 great museums of the city that form the Art Triangle : Reina Sofia, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Prado;
- The cultural district Las Letras, to stroll through the bookstores or art galleries, in the footsteps of famous authors such as Cerventes or Quevedo;
- The Madrid nightlife between tapas bars, live music venues and discos;
- The botanical garden and El Retiro Park, charming green spaces conducive to relaxation.
Where to sleep in Madrid?
Located in the city center of the Spanish capital, just a few steps from the Atocha train station, discover Sleep'n Atocha. This hotel combines comfort, durability and an ideal location for your railroad trip to Morocco. Enjoy the unique common areas such as the mini-cinema or the rooftop with bar and breathtaking views of Madrid.
What to see in Morocco ?
After crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, you are in Morocco! How to enjoy your stay in this country with its rich culture and numerous exceptional natural sites?
For a highly exotic getaway, head to the south of Morocco via Marrakech. Explore the Draa Valley, home to the Biosphere Reserve of the Oases of Southern Morocco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Let the splendid kasbahs, the steep desert mountains in total contrast with the lush oasis vegetation give you a change of scene. Then head to the Valley of the Roses to admire its splendid rose gardens before exploring the Dades Valley, which looks like a Grand Canyon.
Does the Moroccan adventure tempt you? Discover our complete guide to organize your road trip in southern Morocco!
Where to sleep in Morocco ?
Discover 3 Ethik'Hotels addresses, ideally located to explore southern Morocco:
- Morocco of Wonders in the Valley of the Roses, a guest house with an impeccable welcome to immerse yourself in the Berber culture;
- Bab El Oued, a human-sized accommodation offering 7 lodges built in raw earth. Stay in an exotic and refined atmosphere. Escape in the blink of an eye thanks to the solar-heated swimming pool, the terrace facing nature or the delicious Franco-Moroccan inspired cuisine;
- Kasbah Azul, a Berber ecolodge offering charm and comfort. Rejuvenate in this accommodation set in a private oasis, surrounded by century-old palm trees, fragrant flowers and a permaculture vegetable garden.
How to reach Morocco by train?
If you leave from Perpignan, Montpellier or Marseille, Madrid is accessible by direct train. It takes about 7 hours and 45 minutes by train. If you are coming from Paris, you will have to stop in Barcelona or in one of the cities in the south of France. It takes 7 hours by train from Paris to Barcelona.
From Madrid, you have 5.5 hours of direct train time to Algeciras, the port where you can board a ferry to Tangier Med. Then take a cab to the train station and downtown Tangier before boarding a train to Marrakech to start your road trip in southern Morocco. Count on 5 hours of direct train between Tangier and Marrakech.
So, are you tempted by one of these train vacation ideas?
For more train inspiration, check out our other articles on travelling by train, an ecological and comfortable mode of transport:
- 7 mythical train travel ideas;
- 6 sleeper train epics in Europe;
- A complete guide to where to travel by train in Europe.