Travelling by rail holds a certain air of romance and old-fashioned charm that can’t be denied. While it may not be the fastest route, it is by far the most scenic, spanning lands and cultures that are impossible to glimpse from a plane or bus. Unpack once, relax in gorgeous purpose-built carriages and enjoy the scenery as it unravels outside your window. All those who climb aboard quickly discover the true beauty of rail travel: the journey is the destination. Here’s our pick of the world’s greatest rail journeys spanning every intriguing corner of the globe.
Canada’s famous Rocky Mountaineer offers a range of routes, but the Banff to Vancouver passage is no doubt the favourite. Winding and weaving through the Canadian Rockies over two days, you’ll discover dry deserts, soaring snow-capped peaks, pristine glacially-fed lakes and staggeringly steep gorges right outside your carriage window. Iconic stops along the way include beautiful Lake Louise and the modern prairie city of Calgary. With different levels of comfort on board, if you splurge on GoldLeaf Service, you’ll enjoy panoramic views from inside a glass-domed carriage, gourmet meals and impeccable service on board.
This classic journey is perfect for the classic ride: the restored 1920s, 30s and 50s vintage cars of the Venice Simplon Orient-Express. A train made famous by Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, it is commonly touted as the world’s most authentic luxury train. While there are a number of routes across Europe, the six-day Paris to Istanbul route is a must. Take in castles, remote landscapes, and historic river cities such as Budapest and Bucharest along the way. On board, expect a Michelin-grade menu and crystal glassware in the dining cart, and everything from silk lampshades to polished mahogany interiors in your private cabin. Guided tours along the way guarantee a five-star journey from start to finish.
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The longest railway in the world, the Trans-Siberian Railway passes through some of the most unique and undiscovered parts of the globe. While there are various routes and trains to choose from, our favourite is the Moscow to Vladivostok route aboard the luxurious Golden Eagle, which includes a short detour into fascinating Mongolia. A five-star train that guarantees the utmost in comfort, service and style, there’s nowhere better from which to admire the dramatic landscapes outside – as you sip vodka to the sound of a pianist channelling Tchaikovsky. Over 15 days you’ll witness rugged mountains, vast dry plains and the world’s largest lake, as well as get many chances to hop off and explore everything from museums and monasteries to traditional Russian villages.
Just as the name suggests, expect to be treated like absolute royalty as you experience northern India aboard the Royal Rajasthan on Wheels. An eight-day circuit from Delhi that takes in the fascinating desert region of Rajasthan, with extra stops in Varanasi and Agra, exotic excursions along the way combine off-train cultural immersion with all that on-board luxury. Explore decadent palaces, medieval forts and sacred temples, and enjoy wildlife encounters and a boat ride down the holy river Ganges. Back on board, indulgent Indian interiors, an onboard spa and two dining carts make the perfect home to come back to each day for pampering and that special royal treatment.
For a true adventure through Australia’s red centre, The Ghan is the perfect way to take in the wild beauty of the outback, all from the comfort of air-conditioned carriages. While the three-day journey runs both ways between Adelaide and Darwin, we love the four-day Darwin to Adelaide itinerary that incorporates more off-train excursions (though it’s only on offer during peak season). Dine under the stars in the magnificent surrounds of the MacDonnell Ranges, take a full day to explore the underground town of Coober Pedy and see even more of Katherine and Alice Springs along the way. With three travel styles on offer, regionally-inspired dining and a never-ending view of Australia’s unique landscapes as you pass by, The Ghan is a must for every Aussie.
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