There’s something about train travel that inspires and excites from the moment you step aboard and hear that whistle blow. Whether it’s a long romantic journey with a surprise around every bend, or a fast train adventure where the landscape is a blur but the experience is exhilarating, it is a great way to travel.
On a green note, research shows trains consume 11 per cent less energy per passenger-mile compared to planes and 31 per cent less energy than automobiles. So book your ticket, take your seat, sit back and enjoy.
The Ghan and Indian Pacific, Australia
The epic trip on The Ghan from Adelaide to Darwin provides a great taste of the Outback with stops at Alice Springs and Katherine. It is named after the amazing Afghan cameleers who arrived in Australia in the late 19th century. The Indian Pacific from Sydney to Perth, is a three-night, four-day trans-continental journey stopping at Broken Hill, Adelaide, Cook and Kalgoorlie, covering 4,352 kilometres one way.
Zarengold Trans-Siberian, Eastern Europe
Window gazing is addictive on the Zarengold Tsar’s Private Trans-Siberian Train trip from Beijing to Moscow. It’s a 15-day journey with great guides, hosted sightseeing, onboard lectures and tasty Russian food.
Tren Crucero, Ecuador
Expect to hold your breath when you traverse the infamous steep zig-zagging Devil’s Nose, known as the world’s most difficult piece of railway. One- to four-day trips are available from Guayaquil and Quito, stopping at colourful markets and landmarks and staying at hotels overnight.
Venice Simplon-Orient Express, Europe
You may well expect Belgian detective Hercule Poirot to pop his head around the corner on this iconic train. There are lots of destination options available from day trips to journeys from Paris to Istanbul. Fabulous dining, the new 3674 Bar Car and cosy cabins trigger feelings of romantic train travel.
Eastern and Oriental Express, Asia
Complete with a piano bar and impeccable service, this luxury train chugs from Singapore to Thailand oozing style and comfort. Pack your evening wear for dinner, with the dining room car resembling a stylish club lounge.
The Blue Train and Rovos Rail, South Africa
A trip on the elegant Blue Train is the perfect way to see the country. It operates between Pretoria and Cape Town and features gourmet dining and deluxe suites that are a lounge
by day and a bedroom by night. Rovos Rail operates on various routes throughout Southern Africa, from South Africa to Namibia and Tanzania.
India’s luxury trains
India has many luxury trains with stand outs including The Maharajas’ Express with 22 carriages including an entire car taken up by the Presidential Suite. The Deccan Odyssey offers six great rail journeys across India including the Maharashtara, Rajasthan and Gujarat areas with gourmet dining, wonderful tours and great service.
Kyushu Seven Stars, Japan
The Kyushu Seven Stars is the first luxury sleeper train in Japan. It travels around Kyushu, Japan’s third largest island, known for its magnificent scenery. The exquisite suites include masterpieces of designer Sesigner Mitooka and other artisans. Passengers experience traditional Japanese hospitality.
Golden Eagle luxury trains offer grand tours weaving through Russia, Central and Eastern Europe, Mongolia, China, Central Asia and Iran, with excellent dining, service and tours.
Belmond offers a variety of train trips including the Royal Scotsman that heads to the heart of the Scottish highlands passing pine-clad mountains and lochs. The Belmond British Pullman and the Northern Belle travel throughout Britain with visits to magnificent castles, vibrant cities and major events.
The Flam Railway is a spectacular train journey with panoramic views of the Norwegian fjord landscape. It is one of the steepest train lines in the world and travels through 20 tunnels.
The Bergen Railway between Oslo and Bergen, a seven-hour journey, is also one of the world’s most scenic train rides.
The TranzAlpine traverses the Southern Alps and runs from Christchurch, stopping at Greymouth. It passes stunning scenery including the green farmlands of the Canterbury Plains and steep gorges alongside the ice-fed Waimakariri River.
It’s scenery overload on the fabulous Glacier Express, a seven-hour trip between St Moritz and Zermatt passing through more than 90 tunnels and across 291 bridges. The Bernina Express that connects Chur in Switzerland to Poschiavo and Tirano in Italy, also passes through incredible alpine landscapes.
The Snowdon Mountain Railway, that is celebrating its 120th anniversary this year, traverses the rooftop of northwest Wales. It travels eight kilometres from Llanberis to the summit of Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales.
A 10-hour train trip from Cusco to Puno on Peru Rail’s luxurious Andean Explorer travels through a range of landscapes from lofty mountains to sweeping plains, big cities to tiny towns and farm lands. The open-air Observatory car is perfect for photos.
Belmond Hiram Bingham
The gleaming Hiram Bingham takes 3.5-hours between Cusco and Machu Picchu with passengers able to enjoy excellent Peruvian specialties in the dining car en route. Or just sit and enjoy the views from the observation car.
The Canadian is VIA Rail Canada’s flagship train. It offers a four-day, cross-continent journey between Toronto and Vancouver passing lakes, forests and cloud-topped prairies.
One of the standout train journeys is Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, which travels between Los Angeles and Seattle, passing through Santa Barbara, the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento and Portland with stunning coastal scenery on the way. The Empire Builder is another long-distance train, journeying from Portland or Seattle to Chicago.
High Speed Trains
China is now the home of fast trains with more than 2,000 high speed trains running daily to/from almost every large city and most tourism destinations. The high-speed services link Beijing to Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tianjin and Xian. The Shanghai Maglav that operates to Pudong airport has a top speed of 430 kilometres per hour.
Japan is also a leader when it comes to fast trains. Its Shinkansen bullet trains include the famed Tokyo-Kyoto run past Mount Fuji.
Others include the Eurostar that traverses the Channel Tunnel between the United Kingdom and France and the TGV that operates all over France and beyond.
The Belmond Grand Hibernian that’s just launched in Dublin is the first luxury rail experience in Ireland and has accommodation for up to 40 guests.
A new Belmond Luxury Sleeper Train will launch in Peru from May 2017, from Cusco to Lake Titicaca and Arequipa. It will be one of the highest train routes on earth.
Two more luxury trains will debut in Japan in 2017 including Twilight Express Mizukaze that will travel through West Japan and the Train Suite Shiki-Shima from Tokyo’s Ueno Station through the north-eastern region of Tohoku and up into Hokkaido. •
• The Ghan & Indian Pacific: greatsouthernrail.com.au
• Zarengold Tsar’s Private Trans-Siberian Train: transsiberian.com
• Tren Crucero: trenecuador.com
• Venice Simplon-Orient Express & Eastern and Oriental Express: belmond.com; railplus.com.au
• The Blue Train: bluetrain.co.za
• Rovos Rail: rovos.com
• The Maharajas’ Express: themaharajaexpress.org
• Deccan Odyssey: deccan-odyssey-india.com
• Kyushu Seven Stars: cruisetrain-sevenstars.com
• Golden Eagle: goldeneagleluxurytrains.com
• Royal Scotsman, Belmond British Pullman, Northern Belle: belmond.com
• Flamsbana-Flam: fjordtours.com
• Bergen Railway: en.visitbergen.com
• Glacier Express: glacierexpress.ch/en
• Bernina Express: myswissalps.com/berninaexpress
• TranzAlpine: kiwirailscenic.co.nz/tranzalpine
• Snowdon Mountain Railway: snowdonrailway.co.uk
• Andean Explorer: perurail.com/trains/andean-explorer
• The Canadian: viarail.ca
• Amtrak: amtrak.com
• Rail Plus: railplus.com.au
This article was published in the Oct/Nov/Dec 2016 edition of Vacations & Travel magazine. If you would like to subscribe to receive Vacations & Travel magazine by mail and save A$29.45 off the cover price, please visit vacationstravel.com/subscribe