Enjoy the luxury of taking the time to truly experience a magical part of the world by enjoying the leisurely pace of travel by train. There are some extraordinary trains that let you explore the world from this unique perspective. Here are a few of our favorites:
“As the shining domes of 21st-century downtown Bangkok receded into the distance we passed tiny shacks, families tucking into rice and vegetables and groups of waving children so close we could almost touch them. Quite what they made of us – champagne glasses in hand – was anyone’s guess. Later on, in the piano bar, as the sights, sounds and scents of south-east Asia flashed by, one of the female passengers delivered a splendid rendition of Lady in Red. Ties were loosened, inhibitions shed; the train’s general manager revealed that these carriages had been the setting for proposals, a wedding, and ‘lots and lots of indiscretions’. I had a feeling that there had already been one or two on this journey.” – London Telegraph
The classic route for this train, which was inspired by Shanghai Express, the 1932 film starring Marlene Dietrich, is the 1,255-mile journey from Bangkok to Singapore (or vice versa), with stops at the Bridge on the River Kwai and Penang (the jewel of the Orient).
Luxury Train Journeys through Africa
Take an epic 14-day journey through South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania, on one of the most famous train journeys in the world. Recapture the romance and atmosphere of a bygone era as you step aboard Rovos Rail’s wood-paneled coaches and enjoy fine cuisine in five-star luxury.
Travel in luxury through South Africa’s beautiful landscape on the Blue Train. An all-inclusive luxury train, the Blue Train has overnight suites with private bathrooms, and a personal butler to attend to any requests that may arise during your ride. The large windows of the Blue Train allow enjoyment of the passing scenery either from the comfort of your suite or within the elegant lounge car. Meals on board the Blue Train highlight local flavors that are matched with the award-winning, vibrant wines of the Cape Winelands.
The Rovos Rail journey covers 3,500 miles between Cape Town and Dar es Salaam over 14 days, with a two-night stay at five-star Tau Game Lodge with four game drives. Highlights include stops at the Kimberley Diamond Mine, Victoria Falls, a Zambezi River sunset cruise, a bush walk at Chisimba Falls and a descent into the Rift Valley and through the Udzungwa Mountains negotiating tunnels, switchbacks and viaducts of the escarpment.
The Blue Train route covers the 994 miles between Cape Town and Pretoria in 27 hours, with one stop in each direction – the fashionable old town of Matjiesfontein in the Karoo on the northbound journey, and the historic diamond-mining town of Kimberley on the journey back.
India’s Palace on Wheels
Journey through North India in the style of the Maharajas. Starting in New Delhi, enter Rajasthan through Jaipur and wind through the desert to Udaipur, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur. Then the journey heads east to visit Agra and the magnificent Taj Mahal before returning to Delhi. Though the era of Maharajas has passed, enjoy the same level of luxury while traveling through some of the most storied destinations in India.
The concept of the Palace on Wheels was derived from the royal background of the coaches, which were originally meant to be the personal railway coaches of the erstwhile rulers of the princely states of Rajputana, Gujarat, the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Viceroy of British India. Each saloon highlights the cultural ethos of the state, represented through the use of furniture, handicrafts, painting and furnishings.
The train has a 7 nights & 8 days itinerary departing from New Delhi (Day 1), and covers Jaipur (Day 2), Sawai Madhopur and Chittaurgarh (Day 3), Udaipur (Day 4), Jaisalmer (Day 5), Jodhpur (Day 6), Bharatpur and Agra (Day 7), return to New Delhi (Day 8).
Hiram Bingham train to Machu Picchu
For many, a trip to Machu Picchu is a once in a lifetime experience. The Belmond Hiram Bingham assures a magical journey, never to be forgotten. Take a spectacular journey from Cusco to Machu Picchu at a leisurely pace through a changing landscape – deep gorges, rushing rivers, luscious forests, and rugged mountain backdrops. Pass through the Sacred Valley and its lush fields and colorful villages in the foothills of the Andes. The journey is highlighted by wonderful vistas of the mountains and the beautiful Urubamba River which runs through the Sacred Valley.
“All this while being served Pisco sours and a three-course lunch involving dishes such as mashed fava beans, hen breast with yellow chilli pepper and the ‘Sacred Valley Corn Cheese Cake’. Proceedings are enlivened by a three-piece band belting out popular classics such as ba-ra-rumba (cue spontaneous dancing in the carriage next to the observation deck).” – Adrian Bridge, and Mark Smith
The Train to the Clouds
Argentina still preserves its original train locomotives and passenger wagons from colonial times. Ride through the beautiful Argentine landscape in these majestic works of art, and feel like you travel back in time to the glorious Argentine past. Built between 1921 and 1948, the railway stretches from Salta city across the Andes to the Chilean port of Antofagasta. This ” train through the clouds” covers 219 km of curves, zigzags and viaducts. Cross El Toro gorge, the Colorama Mountain, the Abra de Munano pass, the mining town of San Antonio de los Cobes mining village and the Viaducto La Polvorilla, known for its incredible construction and amazing views.
The Tren a las Nubes ( Train to the Clouds ) climbs more than 3,000 meters ( 10,000 feet ) to an altitude of 4,200 meters ( 13,800 feet ) above sea level during its 7- hour journey through dramatic mountain scenery. It is also the world’s fifth-highest train journey and the highest for a traction system that is not rack-and-pinion.
The railway line has 29 bridges, 21 tunnels, 13 viaducts, 2 spirals and 2 zigzags. The train has 8 coaches, one with special views, a restaurant and a buffet service.
Ecuador’s “Devils Nose” Train Ride
The Devil’s Nose Route is, without a doubt, the most impressive section of Ecuador’s railway: a hair-raising trip down the rocky slopes of the Andes departing form the town of Alausi to the town of Simbambe on the way down to the Coastal Region. Over a dozen volcanoes, some active, most dormant or effectively extinct, line the route and their mainly lush, cultivated slopes are typically capped by jagged cloud-swept craters.
“For most passengers, the journey’s climax is navigating the Devil’s Nose. It was this pronounced wall of rock in the Chanchan Valley that proved the greatest obstacle to the railway’s builders. In this short stretch the train climbs around 500 vertical metres. Reversing spurs of track proved the only effective solution, but it’s the narrowness and steepness of the valley ‒ which the locomotive tackles almost gingerly ‒ that lend it drama and put the verve into vertiginous.” – Lonely Planet
Copper Canyon, Mexico
Ride the Chihuahua-Pacifico train, better known as “Chepe,” or the “train ride in the sky” for an unforgettable experience on the way to magnificent Copper Canyon. This is actually a group of six distinct canyons in the Sierra Tarahumara in Mexico’s state of Chihuahua. Parts of it are larger and are deeper than the Grand Canyon in the neighboring United States. Take in beautiful landscapes traveling through coastal shrub, fertile valleys, pine forests, high desert, and next to towering canyon walls, incredible vistas, sheer drop-offs, flowing waterfalls, and over bridges and through tunnels numerous times from Creel on.
Traverse through a beautiful and rugged series of canyons that have led some to call this the most scenic railroad trip on the continent. Taking the “Chepe” train affords the opportunity to get in touch with the Raramuri culture, one of the most ancient and well preserved in Mexico.
The tracks pass over 37 bridges and through 86 tunnels, rising as high as 2,400 m (7,900 ft) above sea level near Divisadero (the continental divide), a popular lookout spot over the canyons. Each one-way trip takes roughly 16 hours.