I’ve traveled by train all over the world for thirty years, through rural China, the Swiss Alps, and the jungles of Latin America, and I still get a rush from a traditional rail excursion. Take The Canadian, a glass-domed train that travels from Toronto to Vancouver and allows tourists to spend several days taking in the rural surroundings. It’s one of the most spectacular routes in the entire globe, passing through wheat fields, the rugged Rockies, and the heavily forested Coast Mountains.
An enticing substitute for the inconveniences of flying and driving is taking the train. The journey is just as delightful as the destination when you are traveling through stunning landscapes, sometimes with all the amenities of a hotel on wheels. Families can spend quality time together without interruptions and worry when they travel by train.
There are numerous fantastic rides in every country in the world, from Zimbabwe to Australia. Here are nine excellent rail excursions that you shouldn’t pass up.
One of Canada’s best rail experiences is one that passengers on The Canadian experience firsthand for four days. The nicest views are along the 2,775-mile route from Toronto to Vancouver, which skirts the Canadian Shield.
Passengers observe the shifting scenery from the original stainless steel cars from the 1950s: Ontario’s lakes transform into Saskatchewan and Alberta’s plains, which then change into the towering Canadian Rockies, before the scene spreads onto Vancouver’s sparkling west coast.
The Canadian travels once weekly round trip during pandemics. Sit-down meals are included with sleeper car reservations, and the Prestige Class offers hotel-style lodging with private toilets.
(The top family-friendly rail journeys in North America are listed here.)
Between Christchurch and Greymouth, 139 miles along the Waimakariri River and up through the Southern Alps, the TranzAlpine cuts across the South Island of New Zealand.
Since the train began operating as a passenger service in 1987, the nine-hour journey has enjoyed popularity. Today, a variety of classes provide different ways to enjoy the outdoors. Scenic Class boasts panoramic windows, skylights, and greater seat spacing, all of which contribute to improved sightlines throughout the carriage and live up to its name.
The open-air car, which is uncommon for passenger trains, allows passengers to take in the crisp Alpine air or feel the mist across steep valleys. The vast open spaces that are speeding by are given more depth and history by an audio tour.
Los Angeles Zephyr
The California Zephyr travels 2,447 miles across the middle of America, from Chicago to San Francisco, climbing the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada before dropping to the Pacific.
Amtrak brought back the California Zephyr in 1983 after it had previously operated from 1949 to 1970. This picturesque route connecting well-known resort communities with America’s railroad and gold rush history has been well-liked ever since.
Six of Amtrak’s sleeper trains once again featured traditional dining starting in the summer of 2021. With the purchase of overnight accommodations, California Zephyr travelers can now enjoy a three-course meal on tables covered in white while cruising through the American West. Passengers can choose Superliner vehicles for a more immersive experience because of the glass-domed decks that maximize views of the Colorado River and the imposing rock cliffs.
(A writer travels across America by train for 72 hours and finds tranquility.)
To the Clouds by Train
For a trip on the Train to the Clouds in northern Argentina, bring altitude sickness medication. A stunning vista of the valley below is shown as the third-highest rail line in the world soars to a height of 13,800 feet into the untamed Andes Mountains.
Only 11 miles, or from the settlement of San Antonio de Los Cobres to the Polvorilla Viaduct, are covered by the tour train. However, many tourists extend their vacation by starting in the Salta province, which is dotted with vineyards, and then taking a bus to San Antonio de Los Cobres. The antique line then navigates 13 viaducts, 29 bridges, and 21 tunnels, all set against the picturesque Andean scenery.
The Glacier Express in Switzerland travels at a leisurely 24 miles per hour, despite its name. Between the posh resort cities of Zermatt and St. Moritz, this slower speed helps condense the Alpine experience into eight hours of snow-capped peaks, mountain meadows, and picture-perfect villages.
The train meanders across three mountain passes, 291 bridges, and 91 tunnels along the 186-mile track. The Landwasser Viaduct cuts over stunning limestone cliffs, the Rhine Gorge, sometimes referred to as the Grand Canyon of Switzerland, where visitors may catch a glimpse of the aquamarine Rhine River, and the Oberalp Pass near Andermatt are among the must-see attractions.
Although there isn’t a bad seat in the house, Excellence Class offers single window seats with expansive views and white-glove care for the duration of the flight for an additional cost.
East Coast Express
The Orient Express is one of the most well-known luxury trains in the world thanks to books and motion pictures. However, the service was terminated in the 1990s due to several economic ups and downs, and the train—then known as the Nostalgie-Instanbul Orient Express—was left at a station in Poland. The famous locomotive is now coming to life 141 years after its introduction in 1883, just in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
17 cars make up the revived Orient Express, the majority of which were on the original Nostalgie-Istanbul train. The cars have been brought back to its former Art Deco splendor, complete with the train’s signature midnight blue exterior lined in gold, mahogany marquetry woodwork, Lalique glass panels, and hotel-like interiors.
Although itineraries have not yet been released, they are anticipated to cover some of the old Paris–Istanbul itinerary. Until then, travelers can experience the luxurious interiors on La Dolce Vita, an 11-car train owned by the same business, Accor, that will begin traveling around Italy in the manner of the 1960s in 2023.
(Discover how the Orient Express came to be associated with glitz and mystery.)
The Shongololo Express, so named after a local word for millipede, combines luxurious train travel with safari excursions as it makes its way through some of Africa’s most renowned national parks, wetlands, and historic towns.
The private Rovos Rail Station in Pretoria, South Africa, is the starting point for three multiday routes that continue with stops in Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Eswatini, and Zimbabwe.
Passengers board the train and take their seats in classy dark wood coaches that were updated in 2016 with new drapes, carpets, and artwork adorning the cabins. An observation car in the back has a balcony and three sides of floor to ceiling glass.
Palace on Wheels, adorned in silk and opulent embellishments, travels through Rajasthan, one of India’s most famous states, and provides a look into the lifestyles of old royal kings.
The seven-day trip, which follows a figure-eight circuit through nine cities, including Jodhpur, Udaipur, and Agra, starts and concludes in New Delhi. Travelers can disembark at various stops along the route for sightseeing excursions at old temples, forts, national parks, and World Heritage sites like the Taj Mahal.
(A husband’s love for his wife lost him an empire, but it constructed the Taj Mahal.)
The region, formerly known as Rajputana, was formed of 23 princely states, some of which are represented by the 14 luxury automobiles on board. The types of lodging available to passengers are deluxe and super deluxe, with twin or double beds, respectively.
The Ghan is undoubtedly the best way to see Australia’s Outback. This historic railway travels through Australia’s “Red Centre” from Darwin in the semi-arid Northern Territory to urban Adelaide in the south. It is named for the Afghan camel drivers who assisted in exploring the extensive bushland in the late 19th century. The Ghan travels 1,850 kilometers in total, taking about 54 hours, stopping in Katherine, Alice Springs, and Cooper Pedy.
While it may be tempting to stay inside The Ghan’s opulent accommodations, included side trips like treks through Katherine’s desert parks are hard to resist. Travelers can upgrade to private experiences for an additional cost. Is there a standout choice? a helicopter tour over Alice Springs’s rust-colored sandstone monument, Uluru.
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