Glide through some of the world’s most breathtaking and inspiring scenery from the comfort of your own own cozy cabin. With luxurious accommodation, elegant dining cars, lounge bars, libraries and in some cases spas, you can look forward to enjoying long lazy days spent reading, writing, or daydreaming, all as you watch the world go by. To help you decide which journey to take, here’s our pick of some of the best routes in the world.
Charlotte Rivers FOR TRAVEL DOSE
Belmond Andean Explorer, Peru
The route of Peru’s Belmond Andean Explorer follows one of the highest train lines in the world, taking you from Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire, through the Andean plains, and on to the white city of Arequipa, passing Lake Titicaca and Colca Canyon along the way. Accommodation on the Andean Explorer is modern and stylish. Cabins feature hand-woven fabrics and soft, Alpaca-style textures with linen covered walls, timber finishes, leather seating and bathrooms made using local stone. Two elegant dining cars feature wooden floors and crisp white table linen with menus designed by creative chef and ambassador of Peruvian cuisine, Diego Muñoz. There’s a sophisticated Piano Bar car featuring grey tweed sofas, ideal for a pre or post dinner drink, and if you’re in need of a little pampering there’s even an onboard spa.
The Flam, Norway
The Flam, or Flåmsbana, is hands down one of the most scenic railway journeys in the world, and also one of the steepest. Running between the towns of Myrdal and Flåm in the heart of Norway’s wild and dramatic mountains, this iconic train travels through the valley of Flåmsdalen with stunning views of endless green meadows, steep jagged cliffs, cascading waterfalls, deep blue fjords, and snow capped mountains, not forgetting all the pretty little clapboard houses along the route. Originally built in the 1920s, the dark green vintage carriages of The Flam add to the charm of this journey as you pass through twenty tunnels (one of which is a horseshoe tunnel turning you 180 degrees inside a mountain) and over breathtaking bridges with truly spectacular views. The journey only lasts an hour, but with so much to see you may find yourself doing it twice.
The Ghan, Australia
Over four days and three nights, The Ghan travels through the very heart of the Australian outback beginning its journey in the city of Darwin in the far north Northern Territory, before travelling down through the Red Centre to Alice Springs, and finishing its journey in South Australia’s cosmopolitan coastal capital of Adelaide. Named after the pioneering 19th Century Afghan camel riders who arrived in Australia to explore the country’s remote interior, The Ghan takes you through lush green tropics, dry rugged bushland, ancient mountain ranges, stunning wine country and rolling green hills. Regarded as one of the greatest train journeys in the world, the scenery as you pass through this unfathomably vast country on this historic route is spectacularly breathtaking.
Soiree on the Railway, USA
For something a little different book yourself on to the Soiree on the Railway, an annual event held in the Catskills in Upstate New York. Organised by And North, this lavish evening gathering takes place on a vintage train that journeys through scenery only visible from the heritage tracks of the Ulster and Delaware line. Once a busy commuter route, services were discontinued on the line in the mid 1950s and it now operates as a tourist railroad offering access to this very special part of the world to a new generation of visitors. Dress is smart for this glamorous event with guests being served champagne on arrival, followed by a roving Catskills-inspired small-plate meal served by famed local Bovina restaurant Brushland Eating House. After dinner, guests are invited to continue their journey in the open-air car where sunset cocktails are accompanied by live music.
Train Suite Shiki-Shima, Japan
The champagne-gold Train Suite Shiki-Shima is one of the world’s most exclusive sleeper trains. Designed by Ken Kiyoyuki Okuyama, who has also worked on projects for Ferrari and Maserati, guests on board Train Suite Shiki-Shima travel in the ultimate in style over two to four days past the rice fields, forests and coastline of Eastern Japan. Arriving to a red carpet welcome at Ueno Train Station in Tokyo, each guest stays in a luxurious five star suite and can look forward to eating from a menu devised by Michelin-starred chef Katsuhiro Nakamura. There’s a 24 hour butler, a forest-inspired piano bar and two bright white futuristic looking glass-walled observatory cars. Along the way there are opportunities to visit museums, temples, ancient shrines, hot springs, and mountain markets, as well as see Japanese master craftspeople at work.
Jodhpur Express, India
The brainchild of the founders of Jaipur’s Bar Palladio, the Jodhpur Express is a very special day-long train journey through the Indian state of Rajasthan that travels from Jaipur to Jodhpur celebrating India’s iconic festival of light, Diwali, along the way. Recreating the atmosphere of Bar Palladio, once onboard you are in for a treat as you are served delicious champagne aperitivos and tiffin box style food, all of which is accompanied by great music and an equally great group of people to meet and chat with. While much of what you will be doing is kept secret, arriving in Jodhpur in the evening you will alight the train ready to spend a few days in this historic fort city enjoying specially organised afternoon picnics, candlelit feasts, rooftop drinks and late night concerts.
Eastern & Oriental Express, South East Asia
Otherwise known as the E&O, this luxury sleeper train takes you on an old-worldly journey through the tropical landscape of Southeast Asia. Over three days and two nights it weaves its way through rainforests, paddy fields and banana plantations, passing villages and temples as it travels from Singapore up to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and all the way on to Thailand's bustling capital, Bangkok. Suites on the train feature beautiful interiors and luxurious finishes. During the day each cabin is home to comfortable seating, but by night they are transformed into sumptuous sleeping berths. As well as two smart dining cars, the E&O is also home to a piano bar, reading room and open air observation car.
The Blue Train, South Africa
The Blue Train travels through South Africa between Pretoria, or Jacaranda City as it is affectionately known, to the stunning coastal city of Cape Town. Meandering through rolling vineyards, national parks, vast mountain ranges, and the huge expanse of the wild Karoo desert, this 27 hour journey is akin to travelling in a five star hotel on wheels. Luxury suites include a personal butler, goose down and cotton bedding, plush leather seating and marble bathtubs. There’s an elegant dining car and two wood-panelled lounges where you can watch the ever-changing views out of the huge picture windows, drink in hand. Depending on your departure there are stopovers either in the old diamond-mining town of Kimberly, or the historic colonial outpost town of Matjiesfontein. You also pass the breathtaking Victoria Falls and Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain.