Travel the World
The World’s 10 Best Train Journeys
Travelling by rail holds a romantic and old-fashioned appeal that can’t be matched by flying or driving. By taking the slow route, you get to experience and interact with an area in a completely different way. Here are 10 must-do-before-you-die train journeys.
10 Best Train Trips in the World
Key to cost of rail trip (airfares & extra accommodations not included)
$ = less than $500
$$ = between $500 and $1000
$$$ = between $1000 and $2000
$$$$ = between $2000 and $3000
$$$$$ = more than $3000
1. The Royal Scotsman
Where: Around the Scottish Highlands or all the way around Great Britain.
When: Warmer weather and up to 20 hours of daylight in June make it the perfect time to watch ospreys soaring over mirror-like lochs, or come in October for fall colours and the rather vocal stag rutting season.
Duration: Trips into the Highlands can be as short as two days or as long as five. Seven days will get you all the way around Great Britain in the most stylish mode possible.
Highlights: Possibly the most expensive train journey in the world, you’ll be treated like a member of the monarchy. Indulgent cuisine, fine wines, and cabins that look like guestrooms at Balmoral await those willing to part with a minimum of $3600 (approximately) for a two-night trip.
Photo: Vladimir Nenezic/ShutterStock
2. The Chepe
Where: Mexico, starting in the mountains of Chihuahua and finishing on the Sinaloa coast.
When: In the rainy season, from June to October, you’ll get lush vegetation and blooming cacti, although mid-summer temperatures can reach 44°c.
Duration: Doing the route straight through takes fourteen hours, but you’ll want to stop off overnight and explore the very traditional towns along the way.
Highlights: The train winds its way down through 656km of the spectacularly beautiful Copper Canyon (which is deeper than the Grand Canyon), over 37 precarious-looking bridges and through 86 tunnels. The local indigenous peoples, the Tarahumara, sell their crafts and foods along the railway route.
3. The Ghan
Where: Australia. from Adelaide to Darwin via Alice Springs.
When: Going during the wet season (the Australian summer) will allow you to see more wildlife and tropical splendour in the North, though peak season is usually the Australian Winter.
Cost: $$$ – $$$$$
Duration: Going straight through takes 52 hours. There are disembarkation points throughout from which you can take tours.
Highlights: Going through Australia’s “Red Centre,” with cobalt-blue skies, red earth and not much else-a hauntingly beautiful and serene experience.
4. The Blue Train
Where: South Africa, from Pretoria to Cape Town.
When: From May to August you’ll be more likely to observe big game from the train.
Cost: $$$ – $$$$
Duration: 27 hours on the train, with several stops and excursions along the way.
Highlights: You’ll be traveling through 1600k of diverse and naturally awesome African landscape in the utmost style, with stays on game reserves optional.
5. The Rocky Mountaineer
Where: Canada, from Vancouver to Banff, Jasper and Calgary.
When: In June, which is springtime in the Rockies, complete with blooming flowers and abundant wildlife.
Cost: $$ – $$$$$
Duration: Between two and eight days, traveling only in daylight, staying in deluxe hotels.
Highlights: Unparalleled views of the Rocky Mountains, incredible luxury at every stage of the trip, onboard traditional native storytelling, wine appreciation classes, and natural history workshops.
6. Eastern and Oriental Express
Where: From Thailand, through Malaysia, to Singapore.
When: April and May, for the least humid weather and lesser chance of monsoons.
Cost: $$$ – $$$$$
Duration: Trips vary from two to eight days.
Highlights: You’ll travel through the heart of Southeast Asia. From golden temples and paddy fields to cosmopolitan cities, this luxurious train showcases the best of the countries it passes through.
7. Royal Rajasthan on Wheels
Where: India, a circuit through the Rajasthan region, from Delhi.
When: October-the weather is cool enough to be bearable and you’ll see the most wildlife from the train.
Duration: Eight days, which includes excursions throughout the route.
Highlights: You’ll be treated like royalty as you tour the majestic states and houses of this region. The train is decked out in indulgent Indian style, with décor and even an onboard spa.
8. The Ocean
Where: Canada, from Montreal to Halifax.
When: In early October, when you’ll travel through glorious fall colours and still be able to ride the Sleeper Touring Class train before it is taken off the route for the off-season.
Duration: 22 hours, overnight on the train in a sleeper cabin.
Highlights: The train passes through rural communities in Quebec, along beaches as it goes down through New Brunswick and through Nova Scotian countryside. There’s no prettier way to travel to the Maritimes.
9. The Hiram Bingham
Where: Peru, from Cusco to Machu Picchu.
When: May-you’ll miss both the rainy season and the crowds that come in the high season, which runs from June to September.
Duration: The trip takes one day. Brunch is served on the way to Machu Picchu, guests receive a guided tour of the ancient citadel, and then dinner is served on the return journey.
Highlights: The train winds its way through the Andes, crossing the wild Urubamba River, giving unsurpassed views of this region.
10. The Bergen Railway
Where: Norway, from Oslo to Stavanger.
When: This train runs from May to September. In late June/early July you’ll experience the midnight sun.
Duration: Between three and five days, depending on how many overnights you wish to do.
Highlights: The biggest cities in Norway, plus majestic Lysefjord and wild Norwegian coastline. You’ll also get to look down over the fjords from the Pulpit Rock, a shelf towering 604 metres above the glassy waters.