These days we tend to see the train as a way for getting from A to B, but there are some glorious railway trips that will take you on an experience redolent of the days when this really was the way to travel in style. There’s something romantic about a luxurious train carriage, being looked after by waiters in the dining car, and having your bed turned down by a porter while the most magnificent scenery is all viewed through the huge windows. These railways journeys don’t come cheap, but you are guaranteed the most sumptuous refurbished or brand new carriages and top-notch service as you traverse some of the most-favored routes from yesteryear. Here are some iconic railway trips I’d love to take.
No matter the competition, the Orient Express will always stand out as the most iconic and romantic of railway trips and indeed has been immortalized in the movies. Today’s journey follows the same route from Paris to Istanbul but shorter trips are available connecting London to Paris to Venice to Prague to Budapest and Bucharest – some of the most fantabulous cities in Europe. The coaches are vintage, and although these days are pulled by electric locomotives rather than steam engines, it’s the interiors that matter and the sites you see outside.
Running between Cape Town and Pretoria, South Africa’s Blue Train is one of the more expensive luxury railway journeys value-for-money-wise because it is also one of the shortest, taking about 30 hours. Best described as a mobile 5 star hotel, the Blue Train has hosted kings and presidents. The on-board suites are known for their magnificence and luxury, and the service is impeccable. This world of grace and elegance deserves you to pack your Louis Vuitton luggage,wear your finest Chanel LBD and slip into your Louboutins. (Oh dear, I’m dreaming again!)
Some of the best railway trips are through mountains, and what better way than to see the Canadian Rockies. Running between Calgary and Vancouver, the Mountaineer runs on Canadian Pacific tracks passing through the most amazing scenery and through the legendary resorts of Banff and Lake Louise. Unlike the other luxury rail trips, there is no accommodation on the Mountaineer which only runs in the daytime (so you don’t miss any of the scenery) and overnight stops are spent in a hotel in Kamloops.
Unlike the Simplon-Orient where orient means Turkey, the Eastern and Oriental Express does actually provide one of the best trips by train in South East Asia. Running between Bangkok in Thailand all the way to Singapore, the train and its Pullman carriages are just as luxurious as its European sister train, as is the immaculate service. The journey takes either 2 or 3 days depending on the itinerary because there are sightseeing stops along the way, including an excursion to the infamous bridge on the River Kwai.
If you like your railway journeys to be luxurious but also lengthy, this is the one to pick. As you might imagine, the Golden-Eagle Trans-Siberian Express has a hefty price tag because after all, it does take 15 days to traverse the Russian expanse between Moscow and Vladivostok. The trains may be modern, but the standards and services all hark back to yesteryear when the whim of every customer was king. Side excursions and mini tours are also available en route.
Traversing the heart of Australia, the Ghan is just one of the iconic railway trips offered by Great Southern Rail (another is the Indian Pacific which runs from Sydney to Perth, through the Snowy Mountains and over the Nullarbor Plain). Running between Adelaide and Darwin, the Ghan spends 3 days transporting you across the Adelaide Plains, through the Flinders Ranges, and the truly magnificent and wondrous Red Center. Sink back into luxury, and see Australia’s true gorgeousness and variety in comfort and style.
Voted the World’s Most Luxurious Train in 2012, this is the best among a clutch of Indian luxury trains. The Maharaja’s Express offers a number of routes, and rather than these being railways trips designed to showcase the best scenery, they connect the most iconic destinations in India. For example, The Gems of India route is Delhi – Agra-Ranthanbor-Jaipur. If your credit card can afford it, there is a presidential suite that is a dedicated carriage. If you have to settle for bog standard 5 star luxury, rest assured you’ll be cosseted and pampered just like the Maharajas of old (although I’m not sure they had Wi-Fi and Plasma TV!).
Anyone of these magnificent railway trips would enthral me – I wouldn’t turn any of them down. What’s your dream trip by train?
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