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The most beautiful railway lines in the world: Le Train des Pignes

The most beautiful railway lines in the world: Le Train des Pignes
photo: Train des Pignes
11 / 12 / 2021

Another of the most beautiful railway experiences is the Côte d'Azur, offering around 150 kilometers of narrow-gauge track and the nostalgic Le Train des Pignes. The line runs from Nice to Digne-les-Bains, the administrative center of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department, which lets passengers travel in one go from the seashore through the numerous villages in the foothills of the Alps to an altitude of over 1,000 meters.

The trains get started at the small Gare des Chemins de Fer de Provence station. From there, the train continues through the so-called Russian Quarter, with the biggest Orthodox church in Western Europe, and makes its way through the suburbs into the mountainous hinterland. Away from the station, the Provençal mood, scented with thyme and lavender, swells with glimpses of the charming villages, towns, and olive groves typical of the region between the Alps and the Mediterranean. From the various stops, there is the opportunity to set off on marked roads for hikers. A small handbook of the railway company shows dozen of them. For example, from the station in Puget-Théniers, passengers can travel to the picturesque village of La Croix-Sur-Roudoule, while a path leads to the chestnut forests a short distance from the highest point of the line. And if you have time limits, you can get off at the Le Chaudan stop and walk up a steep winding slope to a road with unforgettable scenic views of the Alps.

Le Train des Pignes translates as the pine cone train because, in the 1930s, pine cones from the local forests got used to heat steam locomotives.