Do you enjoy the rumbling of the rails? Rail journeys combine the contemplation of slow overland travel with the pleasures of getting somewhere, letting you take environmentally-friendly trains instead of carbon-spewing flights.
Whether you’re grandparents contemplating a multigenerational adventure or adults traveling with grown kids, there’s a great train trip in your future. Our thanks to the International Rail Travel Society for sharing their selection of the world’s top 25 train journeys for us to aspire to.
The Golden Eagle crosses Siberia on the Trans-Siberian route from Moscow to Vladivostock and also does custom tours of the Silk Road, Russian Arctic, Iran and the Caspian Sea region.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE)
Pure luxury in steel, these restored 1920s-era passenger wagons ply the rails between Paris and Istanbul. New for 2020 are three Grand Suites which will have personal 24-hour cabin stewards. The company also does luxury tours to some of Europe’s great capitals.
Rovos Rail Pride of Africa
Although the pedigree of luxury South African rail travel dates to the 1920s, the Rovos Rail train outdoes that tradition with the finest dining and service on the tracks and is a train buff’s favorite.
Golden Eagle Danube Express
Passengers on the small Danube Express appreciate the comfortable seating in the train’s lounge car and two dining cars (trips are all-inclusive of meals and drinks) for sightseeing among Eastern and Western European capitals.
Belmond Royal Scotsman
This refurbished Edwardian style train comprises equipment from the 1960s accommodating 40 passengers. Fans appreciate how they’ve been dolled up with ornate woodwork, shiny brass and plush fabrics and love the fine service, gourmet meals with wine pairings and glamorous style.
El Transcantabrico Gran Lujo
This is new luxury. The Gran Lujo began service in 2011 with half-car length suites of about 130 square feet that sleep up to three and has quickly become a favorite for train travel in Spain.
Belmond Grand Hibernian
Picture another grand Belmond Hotel on wheels, this one running through the beautiful Irish countryside, into major cities and along the coast of both Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Eastern & Oriental Express
The E&O Express is owned by Orient-Express and brings luxury and classy service to the Bangkok to Singapore route via Malaysia, a 1,262-mile journey.
Travel Andalusia in a luxury rail car befitting the British Royal family. This broad gauge 1920s train was restored in 2012. Today it treats 64 passengers to dining and lounging in Art Deco splendor.
Running between April and October, this service is celebrating 30 years of showing families and train fans Western Canada. Three-day journeys run three routes between Vancouver and Lake Louise, Banff or Jasper, riding through Kamloops, Whistler or Quesnel. Fine service, gourmet dining (think Pacific salmon and prime Alberta beef) and a lively, informed narration are available to all passengers on the modern, double decker trains, which also have an outside deck for photo opportunities. Enjoy the full glass domed coaches to take in the views and reconnect with loved ones. Each night the train stops so passengers can stay at local hotels.
Belmond Andean Explorer
This luxury sleeper train began service in 2017 and runs through the Peruvian Andes from Cusco to Lake Titicaca and Arequipa on two- and three-day journeys. Tour operators note that the full service train even carries bottled oxygen if needed by passengers.
Another vintage train, this one Victorian style, has been crafted from powerful 1960s cars and engines to recreate the Raj era in India, when Brits traveled the Asian subcontinent by train. Think lace curtains, ornate wood paneling, brocades and butlers who arrive with fresh tea at regular intervals. Itineraries change throughout the year, featuring Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. Read our review of this amazing train journey.
This private Shangri-La Express train services China with modern cars and sleepers with two lower twins or a double sized bed. The IRTS says they selected it as the best of what was then available.
One of the gems of Switzerland (a country known for its adoration of trains), this proudly slow train takes 8 hours en oute between Zermatt and St. Moritz to cross a part of the Alps packed with glaciers.
Kyushu Seven Stars
Japan’s first luxury train debuted in 2013 featuring 14 cabins with their own bathrooms. Known as the ‘cruise train’ for its elegant design that combines Japanese and Western touches, the Kyushu Seven Stars also boasts finely crafted woodwork, dinner service, flatware and fabrics. As it runs through the island of Kyushu, cuisine from the region is served.
Dating to 1909, the Oslo-Bergen line runs 300 miles between Norway’s largest cities. An engineering marvel, this train enters 200 tunnels and runs over 300 bridges as it crosses the wildly scenic Hardanger plateau.
All 22 cars, from passenger suites to dining cars serving the finest Indian and continental cuisine, have been custom built for what many say in India’s most luxurious train. Modcons include WiFi, LCD TVs and personal air-conditioning units.
Since 1910, this train, known for its views more than its luxury, has coursed past the Bernina Glacier enroute between Chur, St. Moritz and Davos to Italy. Able to climb grades of 7%, it is the highest railway train in the Alps.
Golden Pass Panoramic Express
Another marvel of Swiss engineering, these Panoramic Express trains treat passengers to views from their vista-dome cars or, on some, from the eight-passenger gallery above the driver. The route is through gorgeous mountain scenery between Montreux and Zweisimmen.
Belmond Hiram Bingham
If you’re Macchu Picchu bound, catch a ride on the Belmond Hiram Bingham which runs between Cusco and Machu Picchu daily except Sunday. They serve delicious Peruvian fare on the ride up and return to the city at dusk.
When it began operating in 2014, this train’s exciting outdoor viewing platform was a rare thrill. Today, this cruise train – known for its sustainable development work in the towns through which it passes — operates between Quito and Guayaquil on a four-day trip, with nights spent in local hotels.
The Blue Train
Even more than Rovos Rail, South Africa’s Blue Train is one of the world’s most luxurious rail travel events, with butlers on call for every cabin. Travel between Pretoria and Cape Town or two or three-day trips with sightseeing stops en route.
Belmond British Pullman
For the last leg of the Orient-Express from Paris to London, passengers board the British Pullman in Calais for a time warp trip through the futuristic Eurotunnel in a vintage train car. This train does many luxury daytrips. Imagine the scenery, exquisitely restored train cars and delightful meals to understand why train fans will spend a day on it.
VIA Rail Canada’s flagship train, which features the most deluxe Prestige Class cabins, runs between Toronto and Vancouver in three days. Meals, drinks, all-suite cabins and butlers round out the great package and the domed cars make the ride past the Canadian Rockies, which go on for hours, a treat.
The Sweet Train
Last but not least in the tiny Sweet Train which also runs through Kyushu, Japan and serves a lunch feast followed by several courses of sweets. The friendly staff and scenic ride add to the pleasure.
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