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Best Train Holidays: 16 of The Greatest Rail Journeys in The World

See the world from a different perspective on an iconic rail journey.  Sit back, relax and enjoy the ever-changing scenery, whether it’s the outstanding natural beauty of the Alps, a classic rail trip round Europe taking in the imperial cities of Vienna, Prague and Berlin, or following in the footsteps of Indian Maharajahs as you visit walled cities, magnificent palaces and hilltop forts.  Even if you’ve visited these places before, you’ll be rediscovering them through fresh eyes when you travel by rail…

Here’s our list of  the 16 Greatest Rail Journeys in the World you should try at least once in your life:

1.     Bernina Express, Switzerland

With extraordinary rail routes (picture tunnels through snow-covered mountains and bridges over steep-sided valleys), Switzerland is made for memorable train travel. This superb train journey takes you south, crossing the border to historic Tirano in Italy and passes mighty glaciers, rushing mountain streams and flower-filled Alpine meadows.. This remarkable route passes through no fewer than 55 tunnels and crosses 196 bridges and the famous circular viaduct of Brusio. It also climbs the 2,253-metre Bernina Pass and (after crossing into Italy) passes through the Valtellina Valley. The railway line is over 100 years old and has been rewarded with UNESCO World Heritage Status.

Fancy that? Try these:

Great Rail Journeys – Traditional Glacier Express

Titan Switzerland’s Spectacular Rail Journeys

Riviera Travel Lake Como, St Moritz & The Bernina Express

2.     The Rocky Mountaineer, Canada

A snapshot of the best of Western Canada, this legendary train journey embraces the wild majesty of the Canadian Rockies. As you go, take in panoramic views of the snow-capped mountains, dramatic ice fields, thunderous waterfalls and glacial lakes. From the comfort of your carriage you’ll see dramatic changes in scenery as you pass by winding river canyons, pristine forest and dramatic mountains. Follow the Fraser River, renowned as the home of British Columbia’s largest salmon fishing run – when salmon that have migrated from the ocean, swim to the upper reaches of the river to spawn – and keep your eyes peeled for grizzly bears trying to pluck a catch from the water.

Fancy that? Try these:

Great Rail Journeys – Canada & The Rocky Mountaineer

Just You Canada & The Rocky Mountaineer – Solo Tour

Titan Rocky Mountain Railtour

3.     The Trans-Siberian Railway, Russia

Step on board the Golden Eagle and be transported back to the romantic age of travel as you wend your way across Russia, Mongolia and Siberia in unprecedented luxury onboard the world-famous Trans-Siberian Railway. This rail adventure takes you on a journey of over 8,000 miles; a true odyssey to the other side of the world.

Fancy that? Try this:

Great Rail Journeys Premium Trans-Siberian Express

4.     The California Zephyr, USA

Long considered one of the most scenic routes in the United States, the California Zephyr takes you on a 2,300 miles train journey from the beautiful city of Chicago to the City by the Bay, San Francisco, by way of the spectacular Rockies and Sierras.

Fancy that? Try these:

Amtrak Grand National Parks With Yellowstone, Yosemite And The Grand Canyon

Amtrak Great American – Majestic Landscapes

Amtrak The All American

5.     TranzAlpine, New Zealand

In less than five hours, the journey renowned as one the world’s finest and most scenic one-day train rides spans very distinct microclimates in the South Island of New Zealand. Commence the TranzAlpine experience in Christchurch, before speeding along the Canterbury Plains and climbing quickly through the snow-capped mountains of the Southern Alps. After immersing yourself in some of the country’s more remote alpine scenery, descend through a thrilling tunnel to emerge among the lakes, streams and rainforests of the South Island’s West Coast.

Fancy that? Discover our New Zeland tours here.

6.     West Highland Line (Glasgow to Mallaig), Scotland

Taking passengers through some of Scotland’s most diverse scenery, the West Highland Line is an excellent way to experience the country’s wild, western coast. Once the train leaves Glasgow — Scotland’s biggest city — the urban landscape quickly succumbs to verdant glens and tranquil lochs. Heading northward, the West Highland Line passes through the remote wilderness of Rannoch Moor before skirting the towering Ben Nevis and touching down in Fort William. Switching direction and moving westward, the train traverses the Glenfinnan Viaduct (featured in the Harry Potter film series) before arriving at the bustling port of Mallaig.

Fancy that? Try these:

Great Rail Journeys Highland Adventure

Newmarket Scottish Highland Railways

7.     The Ghan, Australia

In 2019, The Ghan marks 90 years of outback crossings. Much has changed since 1929, and today The Ghan offers more than transit between Adelaide to Darwin and vice versa. The Ghan leaves from Adelaide and pauses at iconic outback destinations such as Alice Springs and Katherine, before arriving in Darwin, taking in an epic slice of the spectacular outback along the way.

Fancy that? Try these:

AAT Kings Outback Adventure

AAT Kings Untamed Kimberley

8.     Rovos Rails’ Namibia Safari, South Africa

A luxury train trek spanning some 2000 miles, Rovos Rail’s Namibia Safari passes some of the most stunning scenery the Southern African region has to offer. Departing from Pretoria in South Africa, the journey takes passengers into Kimberley — a former diamond-rush town and home to Big Hole, one of the world’s largest hand-dug mines. It then traverses the starkly beautiful landscape of the Northern Cape and Fish River Canyon. As it moves onward into the Kalahari Desert, the train visits Namibia’s lively capital, Windhoek, before crossing the Namib Desert and moving into its final destination at Swakopmund. This final stop is a perfectly preserved German Hansa town nestled along Namibia’s coast.

Fancy that? Discover our Wildlife & Safari tours here.

9.     Belmond Hiram Bingham, Peru

If you’ve no time or permit to hike the classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, then this is a fine second choice. Do the ride in opulent style aboard the Belmond Hiram Bingham, named after the explorer who rediscovered the ‘lost’ city in 1911. The train (which leaves from Poroy, just outside Cusco) slices through the mountains, passing Andean villages, the raging Urubamba River and the Inca fortress of Ollantaytambo. It terminates at the hot-springs town of Aguas Calientes, from where the mist-swirled ruins of Machu Picchu teeter just above.

Fancy that? Try these:

Cox & Kings Train To Machu Picchu

Intrepid Inca Trail Express

Great Rail Journeys – Machu Picchu & The Andes

10.  Golden Eagle Danube Express, Central Europe & Transylvania

An epic, 14-day journey, the Golden Eagle Danube Express’s Central Europe and Transylvania route traverses a 2000-mile passage between Istanbul, Turkey, to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. Crossing an incredible eight countries, the Golden Eagle Danube Express is the best way to see Europe in style and includes stops in some of the continent’s most beautiful cities. From Istanbul, the train travels north via the Carpathian Mountains and into Transylvania, past Bran Castle — also known as ‘Dracula’s Castle’. It then travels through Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Poland before arriving in beautiful Prague.

Fancy that? Try these:

Rail Discoveries Imperial Capital Cities

Rail Discoveries Vienna, Prague & Berlin

Cosmos Treasures Of The Balkans & Transylvania

11.  Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, Europe

In its early 20th-century heyday, royalty, diplomats and the odd spy mingled on this legendary train, immortalised in movies and murder mysteries. Elegance, old-world charm and impeccable service still provide railway romance as you’re whisked to cities such as Paris, Venice, Vienna and Budapest.

Fancy that? Try this:

Great Rail Journeys Venice Simplon-Orient Express

12.  Maharaja Express, India

The Maharajas’ Express is one of only a handful of luxury trains operating in India. The 19-car train service provides an unparalleled way of seeing some of the best-known sites in the north and west of the country in comfort and style. Your highpoint could be marvelling at the Taj Mahal, getting close to a tiger in Ranthambore or enjoying local cultural performances The time spent travelling passes in a whirl of princely estates, palaces and forts, learning about the style of those who lived in them and rubbing shoulders with their descendants.

Fancy that? Discover our India tours here.

13.  Sagano Scenic Railway, Japan

The Sagano Scenic Railway (also known as the Sagano Romantic Train or Sagano Torokko) is a sightseeing train line that runs along the Hozugawa River between Arashiyama and Kameoka. Cherry blossoms in spring, lush greens in summer,Japanese maple in fall, and perhaps a dusting of snow in winter – all four seasons are delightful. Its charming, old fashioned trains wind their way through the mountains at a relatively slow pace, taking about 25 minutes to make the seven kilometer journey and giving passengers a pleasant view of the scenery as they travel from Arashiyama through the forested ravine and into rural Kameoka.

Fancy that? Try these:

Great Rail Journeys Discovering Japan

Rail Discoveries: Adventures Through Japan

Wendy Wu Cherry Blossom Tours

14.  Old Patagonia Express, Argentina

The Old Patagonian Express, in southern Argentina, gives travellers the sense of being at the end of the world. Better known as “La Trochita”, the historic rambler travels at only 45 km/hr from the majestic city of Esquel to Ingeniero, passing through towns and villages so small they are not even a dot on the map. Peer through the small wooden windows of your cabin (circa 1920) to take in the valleys and plateaus of mystic Patagonia and the Chilean Andes.

Fancy that? Try these:

Saga Patagonia: Ends Of The Earth Tour

Just You Chile – The Atacama To Patagonia– Solo Tour

Cox & Kings Patagonia Untouched Wilderness

15.  Eastern & Oriental Express : Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand

A quarter of a mile in length, the Eastern & Oriental Express recaptures the glory days of rail travel through beautiful and exotic South East Asia. Gleaming green carriages, five-star cuisine, cabins panelled in cherrywood and 24-hour butler service: this is a considerably stylish way to travel past the jungles, rice paddies and sluggish brown rivers of Malaysia and Thailand. The signature four-day journey links Singapore and Bangkok. A new seven-day itinerary stops in the Cameron Highlands and Huay Yang. A new two-night trip now runs between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

Fancy that? Discover our ThailandSingapore & Malaysia tours.

16.  Mombasa to Nairobi Train, Kenya

If you’re up for adventure, take in the exotic African countryside on this overnight safari journey from the seaside city of Mombasa to the inland capital of Nairobi. The Jumbo Kenya Deluxe offers breakfast and dinner as well as a glimpse of local wildlife including impala, giraffe and ostrich.

Fancy that? Discover our Kenya tours here.

Feeling inspired? Browse our wonderful collection of Rail Tours & Holidays here or call free our Rail Holidays specialists on 0800 707 6229 for the latest deals &  exclusive savings.

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