Vacations by train from New Zealand to Norway.
Vacations by train are the opposite of traveling by plane, which might be convenient but there’s nothing more charming than a long train journey through beautiful landscapes. Train rides allow you to embrace the beauty of slow travel and they are also one of the most environmentally-friendly ways of traveling.
On scenic train rides, it’s the whole journey that matters, not only the destination. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the panoramic views from the comfort of your seat. From spectacular mountain routes in Europe and North America to adventures across the desert plains of Africa and Australia, you can find amazing train trips all over the globe.
Here is Traveltalk´s selection of the best vacations by train.
The Ghan in Australia
The Ghan offers an incredibly beautiful and luxurious train ride across the continent of Australia. Starting in Adelaide in Southern Australia, the train takes you all the way to Darwin on the country’s northern coast in two days. Along the 2,800-kilometer journey, you’ll travel across fertile plains in the south, the awe-inspiring desert landscapes in the Outback of Australia as well as the lush tropical scenery of the north. Onboard the train, you can enjoy comfortable private sleeper cabin accommodation, world-class dining and excellent service.
The trip also includes several off-train excursions, such as a boat tour to the First Gorge, a nature walk through the magnificent Simpson Gap, a camelback riding tour and more. Instead of the included excursions, you can also choose to upgrade your experience and take an unforgettable helicopter flight over the spectacular red desert.
Belmond Royal Scotsman
A journey aboard the glamorous Belmond Royal Scotsman is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Featuring elegant Edwardian-inspired carriages with mahogany interiors, this train gives you the opportunity to experience the dramatic landscapes of the Scottish Highlands in utmost luxury. Just sit back and enjoy a glass of Scotch as you glide past castles, misty mountains and fields full of wildflowers. There’s even an onboard spa in one of the carriages where you can spoil yourself with rejuvenating treatments.
Various routes ranging from 3 to 8 days are available and they all start and end in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. Some of the most iconic sights you’ll see along the way include the Isle of Skye, the Ben Nevis Mountain and the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which you might recognize from the Harry Potter movies.
Guests can choose from a wide array of off-train excursions that they can incorporate into their journeys. From dolphin-spotting, whitewater rafting and hot air balloon flights to whiskey distillery visits and cooking classes, there are options to appeal to all interests.
Palace on Wheels in India, a royal affair
The Palace on Wheels is the most famous and the most luxurious train in India. Embarking from New Delhi, it follows a carefully crafted itinerary and traverses the fascinating Rajasthan state, also known as the Land of Kings. The lavishly decorated train offers you a royal experience with state-of-the-art facilities, spacious rooms and world-class service.
During the 8-day journey, you will visit a variety of exciting destinations including the iconic Pink City of Jaipur, the Blue City of Jodhpur and the Ranthambore National Park home to tigers, crocodiles and other exotic wildlife. The train ride culminates with a trip to the breathtaking Taj Mahal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the 7 Wonders of the World. It is easy to see why a journey aboard the Palace on Wheels is considered one of the best train rides in the world.
Rocky Mountaineer takes through one of the most beautiful nature
Rocky Mountaineer offers several fantastic train routes in Canada but the most scenic of them is arguably the one between Vancouver and Banff. It’s a 2-day journey with an overnight stay in the lakeside city of Kamloops. This train ride takes you through the spectacular landscape of British Columbia and offers incredible views of the Canadian Rockies.
You’ll witness dramatic changes in scenery as you travel across lush green fields, river canyons, rocky lakeshores and mountain passes. If you’re lucky, you might even see some wildlife such as grizzly bears, black bears, elk or bighorn sheep along the way.
Rocky Mountaineer’s luxurious carriages feature huge glass dome windows allowing you to enjoy panoramic views of the surroundings. With reclining chairs, impeccable service, and delicious meals that are delivered right to your seat, traveling aboard Rocky Mountaineer is a truly luxurious experience.
The Glacier Express for an exclusive and historic train ride
The Glacier Express in Switzerland offers much more than just transit between the towns of Zermatt and St. Moritz, and is considered one of the most picturesque train rides in the world. It is also famous for being one of the slowest express trains in the world. During the 8-hour trip, the train crosses hundreds of bridges and travels through dozens of tunnels carved into the mountains.
A journey onboard the Glacier Express is definitely the most relaxing way to see the wonderful landscapes of Switzerland. The train ride offers jaw-dropping views of the Swiss Alps, which you can enjoy through panoramic windows from the comfort of your chair. With alpine meadows, rocky gorges, snow-capped peaks and charming villages, the scenery along the way is an absolute feast for the eyes. To make the experience even better, freshly prepared traditional meals and regional wines are also served on board.
Rovos Rail, is this the most luxurious train trip in the world?
Rovos Rail is a South African railway company that is internationally recognized for having the most luxurious trains in the world. The company offers nine different train journeys lasting from 2 to 15 days and spanning across several Southern African countries, such as South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania and others.
The most popular Rovos Rail route is the 3-day trip from Cape Town to Pretoria. The train ride takes you through grassy highlands, vast desert-like plains, wonderful mountain ranges and picturesque winelands. The trip also includes several off-train excursions, such as a visit to a quirky Victorian-era village and to the Diamond Mine Museum.
The extravagant train boasts authentically preserved 1920s-style carriages that reflect the elegance of the colonial era. From the moment you step onboard, you’ll be surrounded by old-world charm and luxury. With lavishly decorated wood-panelled coaches, five star facilities and fine dining, Rovos Rail offers a world-class travel experience.
Bernina Express, from Tirano to Chur with pure beauty and well being on many, many wheels
Bernina Express extends across two countries, connecting the Italian city Tirano to the town of Chur in the Swiss Alps. Often regarded as one of the most beautiful train rides in the world, Bernina Express traverses amazing alpine landscapes with views of glistening glaciers, snowy mountain tops, lakes and meadows. It is a comfortable 4-hour trip in modern carriages with huge panoramic windows.
For the majority of its journey, the train runs along the Rhaetian Railway, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it represents an outstanding architectural and engineering achievement. Climbing up to 2,253 meters above sea level, it is the highest railway across the Alps. During the 4-hour ride onboard Bernina Express, you’ll cross 55 tunnels and 196 bridges, including an impressive spiral viaduct. Along the way, you can stop at Ospizio Bernina to explore the idyllic alpine scenery or visit the charming mountain village Poschiavo.
Kyushu Seven Stars, 4 days of train adventure in Japan
Kyushu Seven Stars is the very first luxury train in Japan. Showcasing the beauty of Kyushu Island, the train travels at a leisurely pace along scenic coastal routes and spectacular green landscapes. This journey takes you far from the typical tourist trails and allows you to experience the more authentic side of Japan.
Over the course of 4 days, the train circuits around Kyushu island, making stops at the region’s most important attractions along the way. Guests are offered various off-train excursions, such as visiting shrines, hot spring resorts, lush gardens and architectural sights. You will also have the chance to mingle with locals who warmly welcome the guests at each stop.
Aboard the train, you’ll discover an elegant and spacious interior combining modern design elements with traditional Japanese features. All the intricate wooden decorations, as well as the exquisite porcelain onboard, have been created by local artisans.
Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express. The adventure of a lifetime
The luxurious Golden Eagle train travels along the famous Trans-Siberian Railway route in Russia. Connecting Moscow and Vladivostok, it is one of the longest train rides in the world with a total distance of 9,289 km. The two-week journey takes you across the entire width of Russia, crossing the Ural Mountains, vast plains and dense Siberian forests. The trip includes excursions in several Russian cities like Moscow, Novosibirsk, and Kazan, as well as a visit to the iconic Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake by volume. You will also travel across the endless green grasslands of Mongolia and visit the country’s capital Ulaan Baatar.
A journey aboard the Golden Eagle is definitely the most comfortable way to explore the mysterious landscapes of Siberia. With private en-suite sleeping cabins, state-of-the-art facilities and fine dining, you can be sure to have an unforgettable experience traveling across the largest country in the world.
Belmond Hiram Bingham, if you would rather see Peru by train than by foot?
The Belmond Hiram Bingham train provides a luxurious way to see the world-famous Inca citadel Machu Picchu in Peru. Named after the US explorer who supposedly discovered the ruins of Machu Picchu, the train takes you on a 3.5-hour journey through some of the most beautiful landscapes of Peru. The train ride starts in the historical city of Cusco and travels through the Sacred Valley of the Incas before reaching Machu Picchu. Passing through the Andes Mountains, it’s a high altitude route with sweeping views of green valleys, agricultural terraces and towering peaks.
Traveling aboard the enchanting 1920s-style train feels like taking a journey back in time. Featuring elegant antique furniture, wooden surfaces and brass details, the train itself is a work of art. During the ride, guests are pampered with onboard gourmet lunch, live music shows and traditional Peruvian dance performances.
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, now that is a heritage experience
Located in the US state of Colorado, the Durango and Silverton Railroad is known as one of the world’s best-preserved heritage railroads. It was constructed in 1882 and has been operational ever since. On this journey, you’ll have the chance to travel along the same route that was used by miners, settlers and cowboys a century ago. The railway was originally built for transporting gold and silver ore mined from the San Juan Mountains but is now used only for tourism.
Attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists every year, Durango and Silverton Railroad is often regarded as one of the most beautiful train rides in the USA and in the world. Along its 72 km route, the train climbs 850 meters and offers exceptional views of tranquil mountains, dense forests, deep canyons and gushing rivers.
Bergen Railway, from Oslo to Bergen this time not by ship
The Bergen Railway in Norway connects the country’s capital Oslo to the beautiful town of Bergen. It is the highest railway in Northern Europe and reaches 1,222 meters above sea level. Several magazines and newspapers across the globe have voted the Bergen Railway as one of the best train rides in the world.
The 7-hour trip allows you to take in the extraordinary views of Norway’s nature from the comfort of your seat. After leaving behind the urban landscape of Oslo, the journey takes you across a huge mountain plateau, past breathtaking fjords and valleys covered with forests. If luck is on your side, you might even spot some wild animals like foxes, moose or reindeer from the train window.
TranzAlpine, New Zealand, Vacations by train taken to a new level
New Zealand is home to some of the most amazing scenery on the planet and the TranzAlpine train gives travelers the opportunity to enjoy this landscape in a comfortable way. In just under five hours, the train crosses New Zealand’s South Island, taking you from Christchurch on the east coast to Greymouth on the west coast.
The TranzAlpine starts its journey by traveling across vast fertile plains before climbing up the magnificent Southern Alps. Along the way, you can enjoy panoramic views of alpine rivers, dramatic gorges and snow-capped peaks. It’s a thrilling route with multiple tall viaducts and tunnels carved through the mountains. Towards the end of the journey, the nature changes significantly as you arrive at the lush rainforest-covered west coast.
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