How to travel overland from the UK to Formentera, Spain
Green Traveller's Guide to travelling overland by train and ferry from the UK to the island of Formentera, Spain. Formentera doesn't have an airport, so in fact the only way to reach it is by boat. There are direct ferries to Formentera from Barcelona and Denia, or you can take a ferry from Barcelona, Valencia or Denia to Ibiza from where you catch the 30-minute inter-island ferry to Formentera.
Journey Time from London: approx 24-36 hours
Sample timetable: Depart London St Pancras early morning, arrive Barcelona in late afternoon, catch overnight ferry to arrive the following morning in Formentera
Transfer: Paris Gare du Nord to Paris Gare de Lyon, then Barcelona Sants railway station to Port de Barcelona
Carbon emissions: 62.4kg for train and ferry (flight would be 242.1kg)*
Train tickets provided by Trainline:
Ferry tickets provided by Direct Ferries:
What's the journey like?
Thanks to the new high speed line in Spain, it is possible to travel from London down to Barcelona in a day by train. You have to change stations in Paris from Gare du Nord to Gare de Lyon, which can take about half an hour on the Paris RER line (it's only two stops, though we recommend you leave at least 50 minutes for the entire transfer - you have about an hour and a half to get the connection, though you could get an earlier train and spent a bit more time in Paris, e.g. have lunch at the wonderful Train Bleu Restaurant in Gare de Lyon). See our guide to How to transfer between train stations across Paris. At Gare de Lyon, you board a TGV high speed train to 'Barcelona Sants' station.
Stopover hotels to break the journey in Paris
If you want to break the journey and stay overnight to see a bit more of Paris while you're travelling through, there are lots of lovely places to stay near both Gare du Nord and Gare de Lyon. Here are some examples of hotels that are conveniently near these stations:
Miss your connection in Paris?
Don’t panic. Railteam’s ‘Hop on the Next Available Train’ service means that if you have missed your connection between high speed trains because of a delay on the preceding leg of your journey, you’ll automatically be put on the next available high-speed train. NB Remember to get your ticket stamped by your Train Manager. Whenever you’re connecting, always remember to validate your onward train ticket at the machine on the platform before departing (these are often coloured yellow).
Option 1: Direct Ferry from Barcelona to Formentera
Benvingut a Barcelona! Bienvenido a Barcelona! Barcelona-Sants station is to the south-west of Barcelona's city centre, which is on lines 3 and 5 of the metro, as well as suburban train routes. There are plenty of hotels close to Barcelona Sants station, see below.
NB There are two other train stations in Barcelona: Barcelona- Estació de França, on the edge of the old town, to the east of the centre, which is on line four of the metro, and is a terminus for some suburban train lines; and Barcelona-Passeig de Gràcia, just north of the centre, on the main Passeig de Gràcia boulevard, which is on lines two, three, and four of the metro, plus suburban rail lines. Bus services are available from all three train termini.
Hotels near Barcelona Sants Train Station
Transfer from Barcelona Sants to Port de Barcelona
It's about 2.5 miles (4k) from Barcelona Sants railway station to the port, about 10-12 minutes in a taxi but you can get there easily by metro in about 15 minutes, taking the L3 (green) line from the metro station at the station (known as 'Sants Estació') to Drassanes from where it's a couple of minutes walk to the ferry's check-in desk.
More on getting around Barcelona
The easiest mode of transport for visitors in Barcelona is the metro, which consists of eight colour coded lines – take a look at the Barcelona metro network map. The metro is supplemented by three suburban rail lines, part of the wider Catalan rail network (FGC), they are of limited use to visitors unless you are making trips outside of the city; the city also boasts two modern tram lines. In addition, there is of course a network of buses covering both the city and metropolitan area of Barcelona – like the metro, they are run by TMB (Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona), you can access a map and bus route timetables on the TMB website (information in English).
A range of different fares and passes for the public transport network is available; the TMB information offers full Barcelona transport ticket and fare information. Additionally, Hola BCN travel cards give unlimited travel for periods of between one and five days across Barcelona; and the Barcelona card offers unlimited travel plus free entry and discounts at many major attractions in the city.
If you prefer to stay out in the open air, you could travel around Barcelona by bike – the city has a network of segregated cycle lanes, and the official tourism website recommends bike rental providers. As with many major European cities, Barcelona has a bike sharing scheme, where you can pick up a bike at a docking station near the start of your journey and return it to another station at your destination.
A bit more about Barcelona
Barcelona is the largest city and capital of Catalonia. The Catalans are a proud people. Proud of their language, history, cuisine, wine, their natural and cultural heritage. It’s no surprise: there’s so much to be proud of in this extraordinarily diverse land. That love of the region translates not just into a warm welcome for visitors, encouraged to explore the sights, smells, tastes and sounds of the cities, mountains and coasts. It’s also reflected in a respect for the environment: Catalonia has been designated the first whole-region Unesco Biosphere Destination, reflecting its dedication to sustainable tourism, along with sites including Barcelona, Sitges and the Terres de l’Ebre. From the Pyrenees in the north to bird-bustling wetlands in the south, dramatic gorges and vine-striped highlands and sandy shores, the range of activities, culture and cuisine is astonishing. For information about where to travel in Catalonia, see our Green Traveller's Guide to Catalonia.
Departing from Barcelona to Formentera
The direct ferry service from Barcelona to Formentera is an overnight service (it takes about 11.5 hours), departing late evening (usually about 22:00) and arriving in to Formentera at a very civilised time the following morning, about 09.30. There are cabins on board so you can have a decent night's sleep, and there's no weight limit on baggage.
Option 2: Direct Ferry from Denia to Formentera
Denia is about 290 miles (460 km) south of Barcelona (it's between Valencia and Alicante and takes 6–7 hours by train from Barcelona), but can be a good option if you prefer a shorter ferry journey to Formentera - the crossing is just 2-3 hours.
Option 3: Ferry via Ibiza from Barcelona, Valencia or Denia
There are ferry services from the Spanish mainland – from Barcelona, Valencia and Denia – to Ibiza from where you can then take the 30-minute inter-island ferry across to Formentera. The ferry from Barcelona is an overnight service and takes 8-9 hours. The ferry from Valencia is about 5 hours (Valencia is about 220 miles (350km) south of Barcelona and takes 3-4 hours by train). The ferry from Denia is just 2-3 hours (Denia is 6–7 hours by train from Barcelona).
Inter-island ferry between Ibiza and Formentera
The crossing from Ibiza to Formentera takes just 30 minutes on the inter-island Aquabus ferry. It departs once every 30 minutes throughout the day, with the first leaving at 7am and the last at 8.30pm. For the return journey, the first ferry is also at 7:00 and the last departure is at 10pm so you can make the most of our final day on the island. The ferry departs from the Port of Ibiza in Ibiza Town (where the ferries from Barcelona, Denia and Valencia arrive, so it's an easy transfer to the inter-island ferry) and arrives in Formentera at La Savina. For more information about the ferry, including the schedule, see aquabusferryboats.com
For more overland routes to Spain, see Green Traveller's Flight-Free Train/Ferry Journey Planner