Glide through some of the world’s most breathtaking and inspiring scenery from the comfort of your own own cozy cabin. With luxurious accommodation, elegant dining cars, lounge bars, libraries and in some cases spas, you can look forward to enjoying long lazy days spent reading, writing, or daydreaming, all as you watch the world go by. To help you decide which journey to take, here’s our pick of some of the best routes in the world.
Written by Charlotte Rivers
The Blue Train
This 27-hour journey is akin to traveling in a five star hotel on wheels. Pass by Victoria Falls and Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain sipping champagne in a luxury suite from your marble bathtub– butler included. The Blue Train travels through South Africa between Pretoria, or Jacaranda City as it is affectionately known, to the stunning coastal city of Cape Town. Depending on your departure, watch the wild Karoo desert fly by on your way to a stopover in the old diamond-mining town of Kimberly or the historic colonial outpost town of Matjiesfontein… decisions, decisions.
Eastern & Oriental Express
Get ready for an old-world Southeast Asia journey past villages and temples, through rainforests, paddy fields and banana plantations, traveling from Singapore up to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and all the way on to Thailand’s bustling capital, Bangkok. During the day each cabin is home to comfortable seating, but by night they are transformed into sumptuous sleeping berths. Enjoy three days and two nights relaxing in the reading room or the open-air observation car as sounds from the on-board piano bar take you far away.
Soiree on the Railway
Ever dreamed of traveling through American history? Soiree on the Railway set out to reinvent the charm of a real train route with an annual ride through the Catskills in Upstate New York. Once a busy commuter route, services were discontinued on the line in the mid 1950s. Organized by And North, this lavish evening gathering journeys through scenery only visible from the heritage tracks of the Ulster and Delaware line. Dress smart for a glamorous event with champagne on arrival followed by a roving Catskills-inspired small-plate meal. After dinner, continue the journey in an open-air car where the sun sets to live music.
Belmond Andean Explorer
Ride one of the highest train lines in the world from the capital of the Inca Empire through the Andean plains onward towards the white city of Arequipa, passing Lake Titicaca and Colca Canyon along the way. Modern and stylish cabins feature hand-woven fabrics and soft, Alpaca-style textures with linen covered walls, timber finishes and bathrooms made using local stone. Two elegant dining cars with serve meals atop crisp white table linen by creative chef and ambassador of Peruvian cuisine, Diego Muñoz. There’s a sophisticated Piano Bar car featuring ideal for a pre or post dinner drink, and if you’re in need of a little pampering there’s even an onboard spa.
Travel through the very heart of the Australian outback over four days and three nights, beginning in the far north city of Darwin. The train ventures down through the Red Centre to Alice Springs towards South Australia’s cosmopolitan coastal capital of Adelaide. Named after the pioneering 19th Century Afghan camel riders who arrived in Australia to explore the country’s remote interior, The Ghan rides through lush green tropics, dry rugged bushland, stunning wine country and rolling green hills. Regarded as one of the greatest train journeys in the world, the scenery on this historic route is spectacularly breathtaking.
Train Suite Shiki-Shima
This champagne-gold rider is one of the world’s most exclusive sleeper trains. Designed by Ken Kiyoyuki Okuyama, whose portfolio includes projects for Ferrari and Maserati, guests aboard Train Suite Shiki-Shima travel in ultimate style past rice fields, forests and the coastline of Eastern Japan, arriving to a red carpet welcome at Ueno Train Station in Tokyo. There’s a 24-hour butler, a forest-inspired piano bar and two futuristic glass-walled observatory cars. Visit museums, temples, ancient shrines, hot springs and mountain markets in-between meals prepared by Michelin-starred chef Katsuhiro Nakamura, all while riding in an award-winning vessel.
This day-long train journey through the Indian state of Rajasthan recreates the atmosphere of Jaipur’s Bar Palladio. Enjoy delicious champagne aperitifs and tiffin box-style food traveling from Jaipur to Jodhpur celebrating India’s iconic festival of light, Diwali, along the way. While much of what you will be doing is kept secret, arriving in Jodhpur in the evening you will alight the train ready to spend a few days in the historic fort city, enjoying afternoon picnics, candlelit feasts, rooftop drinks and late-night concerts.
The Flam, or Flåmsbana, is hands down one of the most scenic railway journeys in the world, and also one of the steepest. Running between the towns of Myrdal and Flåm, this iconic train treks the valley of Flåmsdalen with views of jagged cliffs, cascading waterfalls, deep blue fjords and snowcapped mountains, not forgetting all the pretty little clapboard houses along the way. Originally built in the 1920s, the dark green vintage carriages of The Flam pass through twenty tunnels–one of which is a horseshoe tunnel turning you 180 degrees inside a mountain. The journey only lasts an hour, but with so much to see you may find yourself doing it twice.