All Aboard: 6 Best Scenic Train Rides You Must Experience

byVictor Yeo
  • Jun 20, 2024
  • 1 mins
Glacier Express

The world is home to many iconic train journeys - from the luxury of the Orient Express, which offers a glimpse into the romance of early 20th-century European rail travel, to the scenic Trans-Siberian Railway stretching across Russia's landscapes, these experiences highlight the allure of rail travel.

The emphasis is often on the destination rather than the journey. But train travel redefines this dynamic; this makes it strikingly different from other modes of transport. When you travel by train, you're invited to fully engage with the journey. Large panoramic windows frame landscapes, serving up sumptuous uninterrupted views. The journey is turned into a rich, sensory experience.

They represent nostalgia and adventure – providing a refreshing vantage point from which to view the world. Unlike the rapid, isolated travel of aeroplanes or the demanding navigation required by cars, trains offer a more immersive and contemplative experience. They strike an ideal balance in the world of travel: faster than cars yet more engaging than planes, making them perfect for those who want to cover long distances efficiently while still soaking in the scenery.

Ready to discover some of the best train journeys on the planet? Here’s our guide to the best train vacations, offering everything from serene scenic rides to epic cross-country adventures.

Board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express for a luxurious journey from London to Venice. This contemporary version of the Orient Express provides a nostalgic travel experience, keeping the spirit of the legendary Orient Express train alive. The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train features Art Deco interiors that bring the glamour of the Roaring Twenties into modern luxury travel.

1920s and 1930s Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits carriages have been restored to maintain historical authenticity while offering contemporary comfort.

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express’ route takes you through some of Europe’s most iconic cities, including Paris and the scenic Swiss Alps. For quieter travel and beautiful scenery, consider booking during the shoulder seasons of spring or autumn.

Indulge in gourmet meals at any time of day. Whether it's a sumptuous breakfast, a lavish lunch, a refined afternoon tea, or a decadent dinner, each dining experience is designed to delight your palate. Enjoy a rotating menu that showcases the best of European cuisine, with dishes that reflect the regions through which you travel.

In the dining car, savour your meals to the accompaniment of live music, enhancing the atmosphere of sophistication and enjoyment.

Take a journey across Australia aboard The Ghan, an iconic train service that has been operating for 95 years. The Ghan Expedition is a 4-day, 3-night journey that starts in the lush, tropical surroundings of Darwin in the north, and ends in the vibrant, rugged landscapes of Adelaide in the south. You will be treated to views of Australia’s remote beauty, from arid deserts to sprawling vineyards and ancient rock formations.

Travelling during the cooler months from May to September is highly recommended. Temperatures are more moderate during this time, making it ideal for venturing outdoors and fully appreciating the stunning landscapes.

The cooler weather is perfect for participating in the various Off Train Experiences offered along the route, like guided walks, helicopter tours, and cultural experiences that connect you with the rich history and traditions of Indigenous Australian communities.

The Ghan provides opportunities to stop and explore significant outback locations. These include key historic towns like Alice Springs, known for its key role in Australia's pioneering history, and Katherine, where you can explore the natural wonder of the Nitmiluk Gorge through a boat tour or a scenic flight.

The Rocky Mountaineer

The Rocky Mountaineer offers a daylight travel experience designed to bring Western Canada's grandest vistas right to your seat. Its First Passage to the West rail route brings you from the coastal city of Vancouver to the peaks of the Rockies near Banff. It is the only passenger rail service on this historic route, connecting Canada from East to West.

Travel through the iconic Spiral Tunnels and traverse the Continental Divide. Prepare to be awed as you wind through mountain passes and dramatic canyons. You’re guaranteed a continuous reel of postcard-perfect scenes.
If you prefer staying in hotels, The Rocky Mountaineer is perfect for you. It offers the options of overnight stops in charming towns so you enjoy the breathtaking views during the day and rest in comfort at night.

Opt for adventure-laden packages that mix scenic rail travel with guided hikes, letting you explore the rugged landscapes on foot. Elevate your experience with a gondola ride, soaring over the craggy cliffs for a bird's-eye view of the mountain majesty.

Prefer to linger a little longer? Extend your stay in the quaint mountain towns of Jasper or Lake Louise.

These picturesque towns offer a range of activities, from exploring local shops and restaurants to more adventurous pursuits like kayaking, mountain biking, or skiing, depending on the season. Staying in these towns provides a deeper connection to the natural beauty and tranquillity of the Canadian Rockies.

Rocky Mountaineer’s GoldLeaf Service, its premier seating options, offer additional comforts and enhanced viewing experiences, such as glass-domed ceilings that allow for panoramic viewing, ensuring that not a single sight is missed.

Board the Glacier Express for a serene journey through the Swiss Alps, connecting Zermatt and St. Moritz over eight hours of scenic splendour. Known as the world’s slowest express train, it offers nothing short of a visual feast.

This route takes you through the three cantons of Valais, Uri, and Graubünden, offering breathtaking and varied panoramic views. From the elegance of St. Moritz to the alpine charm of Zermatt at the base of the Matterhorn, this journey features stunning landscapes.

The Glacier Express’ ultra-modern panoramic cars are designed to maximise your viewing pleasure, featuring expansive windows that sweep up to the ceiling. This design ensures unobstructed views of the dramatic Swiss Alps, from the towering, snow-capped peaks to the lush, deep valleys dotted with quaint villages.

You will travel on the impressive Solis and Landwasser viaducts and enter the spiral tunnels of the Albula Line. Pass through the dramatic Rhine Gorge, known as the "Grand Canyon of Switzerland," and ascend to the Oberalp Pass at 2,033 metres. Each provides a new angle of Switzerland’s rugged terrain.

To experience the landscape up close, opt for stops that offer alpine hiking or cable car rides to mountain summits. The winter season transforms the route into a snowy wonderland, ideal for combining the trip with winter sports at either end.

Inca Rail

The Inca Rail offers a memorable way to approach Machu Picchu, one of the world’s most spectacular archaeological sites. Located 110 kilometres northeast of Cusco in the province of Urubamba, this architectural jewel is surrounded by temples, platforms, and water channels, offering a glimpse into the ingenuity of the Inca civilization.

Inca Rail’s Must-See Cusco Trip offers a 4-day Itinerary that allows you to explore the Andean landscape and top tourist destinations in and around Cusco, including the Sacred Valley, and Cusco City.

In Cusco, you can visit Koricancha Temple, dedicated to the Sun God, followed by the vibrant Plaza de Armas surrounded by colonial architecture and gardens. Discover the Cusco Cathedral with its vast collection of art and artefacts, and end the tour at the majestic Sacsayhuaman Fortress, offering panoramic views of the city.

Explore the ancient Incan town of Ollantaytambo and its impressive fortress, and visit the Maras salt mines and the Moray agricultural terraces.

The Inca Rail train features wider and taller panoramic windows and an outdoor observation carriage, complete with a bar, providing unparalleled views and a luxurious travel experience. Plus, it is the only train in Peru equipped with an entertainment app on board, allowing you to learn more about the journey and the Inca civilization.

Choose from four classes of service, from comfortable economy cars to opulent observatory lounge cars that provide panoramic views and gourmet refreshment.

South Africa's Blue Train is synonymous with luxury. It links two of the nation's key cities, Pretoria and Cape Town, via a 54-hour train journey of 1,600 kilometres. Enjoy front-row seats to some of South Africa’s most stunning landscapes, from the dramatic vistas of the Karoo to the rolling vineyards of the Cape Winelands.

You can also choose the route from Pretoria to South Africa's Limpopo Province, home to the renowned Kruger National Park, habitat for Africa’s Big Five. These exclusive one-way, 19-hour journeys are available only in selected months of the year. These packages integrate the luxury train experience with stays at various private safari lodges in the Greater Kruger and Sabi Sands areas, offering an unforgettable adventure in the heart of South Africa’s wilderness.

Referred to sometimes as a "moving five-star hotel," the Blue Train is a full immersion in comfort. Each suite on the train features full-sized beds and private baths, complete with plush linens and elegant decor.

The train’s observation car is also perfect for sipping a cocktail while the sun sets over the African bush. The attention to detail extends to personalised service that anticipates the needs of each guest, ensuring a restful and pampered journey across the South African countryside.

So why not hop aboard and see where the rails can take you? Whether it’s across snow-capped peaks, through arid deserts, or into lush forests, the best train vacations are waiting to transform your travel experience into something truly magical.

To ensure peace of mind during your adventures, consider exploring Income Insurance’s comprehensive travel insurance plans. These plans are designed to cover common travel inconveniences, allowing you to enjoy the breathtaking landscapes worry-free. Benefits include:

  • Up to $2,0001 travel delay coverage
  • Up to $2,0001 baggage delay coverage
  • Up to $8,0001 coverage for loss of travel documents
  • Enjoy coverage for adventurous activities2 such as skiing, bungee jumping, skydiving and more!

Visit Income Insurance online to learn more about travel insurance and take the first step toward securing your journey. Ensure peace of mind as you explore the world.

Victor is a passionate writer dedicated to guiding readers through the complexities of life with well-informed and actionable insights. With a strong focus on travel and health management, he aims to empower individuals by providing the knowledge needed to make informed decisions. From exploring new destinations to understanding health options, Victor's articles are designed to inspire and inform, helping readers navigate life's…
Tags: Travel

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