Published April 07, 2012
Once considered the world’s premiere means of transportation, the train seems to have lost its way in recent years. Undercut by low-fare airlines and too few routes in North America, the railway is now regarded as a less practical means of transport and more like a novel or antiquated way to travel.Though markedly slower than an airplane, steam engines and cutting-edge bullet trains alike offer travelers a unique glimpse at some of the most remote and beautiful landscapes in the world. While they may not appeal to everyone, the following five train journeys will surely satisfy those who live as much for the journey as the destination.
The grandest of all train journeys, this epic 19-day voyage crosses seven time zones as it travels 6,000 miles from Moscow to Vladivostok. The Trans-Siberian Railway trains barely reach a trot as they traverse two continents through some of the harshest environments on the planet, providing passengers with truly memorable views. Far from the typical stuffy train journey, passengers are treated to luxury accommodation with cabins containing two bedrooms, a bathroom and a living and dining room complete with private chef.
Eastern and Oriental Express
The Eastern and Oriental Express straddles 1,200 miles of lush and scenic countryside to link three of Asia’s greatest metropolises: Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. En route, passengers are treated to sumptuous views of the Malaysian and Thai landscapes, passing scenic coasts, rubber plantations and rice paddies. As one would expect from a brand and prestigious as the Orient Express, the train’s carriages are immaculate, designed in a 1920s style with luxurious fixtures and silks, tasteful lighting and – of course – air conditioning. Onboard cuisine features an impressive fusion of Asian and international fare, while the charming piano bar contains a wide variety of spirits and wines.
There’s no greater way to navigate the towering peaks of the Canadian Rockies than onboard the world-famous Rocky Mountaineer. Where else can you experience the majesty of such incredible sights as Fraser Canyon and the Hell’s Gate waterfall while sipping cocktails and enjoying fine cuisine in the comfort of a luxury train car? Large windows and glass ceilings allow passengers panoramic views of the surrounding peaks on this epic two-day journey from Vancouver to Calgary.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
Once a summer retreat for the wealthy denizens of Calcutta, the “Toy Train” to Darjeeling transports passengers on a splendid journey from scorched plains to cool hill stations as it whizzes past lush tea fields and the soaring peaks of the Himalayas. Built in the mid-19th century, the railway gained its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site after painstaking efforts were made to retain its old-world charm.
Blue Train South Africa
Launched in 1998, South Africa’s Blue Train is the most contemporary and luxurious train journey on this list. The train’s capacity is limited to just 84 passengers, who are tended to be a staggering 27 staff. On your way from Pretoria to Cape Town, you’ll pass by idyllic countryside, colorful sunflower fields and glistening waterfalls as a 24-hour personal butler caters to your every whim. The carriages are remarkably decedent, complete with an observation deck and first-rate restaurants and bars.