Traveling by train can be a much more peaceful and relaxing travel option than flying. It may not be as fast, but the scenery is certainly more interesting. It's a time-honoured tradition, too. The first passenger railway service - the Oystermouth Railway in Swansea, Wales - dates all the way back to 1807. The precursor to the railway, the wagon way, was in use as far back as 600 BC in Ancient Greece. When the steam locomotive was introduced in the 1800s, the Industrial revolution shifted into full gear.
The importance of trains in our society is evident, but today the humble railway is often taken for granted. While many of us use subways and light rail systems on a daily basis, traveling long distances on scenic passenger train rides has become a novelty and almost a thing of the past. But for those open minded travellers looking for an alternative vacation, the romantic nature of traveling in comfort and style while viewing a picturesque landscape is a truly memorable experience.
Train travel is one of the most environmentally friendly options for tourists and it's often more affordable than most other options. Then, of course, there are those truly luxurious train rides which hark back to the elegance of yesteryear - for an obscene price. Whether you're first or third class, though, you'll always get to take more luggage on a train than a plane! The trips on this list offer unparalleled scenic views, world-class service and luxurious amenities. Here, we've compiled the world's 10 most beautiful and truly breathtaking train rides, which are a must for any train enthusiast and an aspiration for any adventurous world traveller.
10. California to Chicago on the California Zephyr
A trip on Amtrak’s longest railway aboard the California Zephyr offers passengers a glimpse at the vast and varied scenery that the United States has to offer. The Sierra Nevada, Colorado River and Rocky Mountains are all in full display on this epic route. In 2012 alone the train carried an estimated 376,000 passengers, proving traveling the old way is still in favor with many people. This is a unique slice of Americana and a great way to explore the vast openness of the middle of the USA many people take for granted when visiting the Land of the Free.
9. Vancouver to Banff on the Rocky Mountaineer
This trip will let you experience the majesty of the towering Rocky Mountains in western Canada. This historical route retraces the path traversed by 19th century explorers, and passengers will travel over the spot where the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed. Three levels of service are offered aboard the Rocky Mountaineer: Goldleaf Service, SilverLeaf Service and Redleaf Service. Goldleaf Service includes meals by award-winning chefs and the best view of the awe-inspiring scenery. This is how you cross the continental divide in style.
8. Zermatt to St. Moritz on the Glacier Express
The Glacier Express is the premier way to travel through Switzerland. The seven hour trip from Zermatt to either St. Moritz or Davos offers passengers spellbinding view of the Swiss Alps and charming vistas. It’s the slowest express train in the world so you’ll have plenty of time to take in the panoramic sights. Travelers can be pampered with a three-course meal aboard the train as well. The train goes through 91 tunnels and over 291 bridges on the journey.
7. Oslo to Bergen on The Bergen Line
The breathtaking views offered on this nearly 500 kilometer journey across the Norwegian tundra are truly spectacular. The Flam Line, which is a branch of the Bergen Line, is a tourist route that slopes through the valley of Flamsdalen and offers passengers the opportunity to witness the beauty of the Norwegian fjord landscape. Flamsbana, as it is known in Norway, has one of the steepest train lines on normal tracks in the entire world.
1 Moscow to Vladivostok on the Trans-Siberian Railway
This iconic train trip will take you through almost the entirety of Russia. From Moscow on the European side of Russia to Vladivostok on the Asian side, this is the longest railway in the world. Travelers can also extend their trip by traveling on the Trans-Mongolian (Moscow to Beijing) or the Trans Manchurian (through Manchuria to Beijing). The trip will take between 16 and 21 days.
5. Venice to London aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
The historic Simplon-Orient-Express is a luxury train that traces its roots back to the 1920s and 30s, and it's offering passengers a uniquely European taste of class to this day. With grandiose cabins and a staff to cater to your every need, this is how the rich and famous travel across Europe by train - panoramic views of the Italian countryside go perfectly with a glass of champagne. Passengers on this trip take the Bellmond British Pullman, another elegant historic train, on the final leg of the journey into London.
4. Singapore to Bangkok aboard the Eastern and Oriental Express
This luxury train travels through the exotic countryside of Southeast Asia on epic journeys throughout Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Laos. The lavish train offers passengers a choice of three cabin types with ascending opulence: the Pullman, the State and the Presidential. Entertainment like music and dancing and world-class cuisine from renowned chefs are also offered while traveling from one stop to the next.
3. The Indian Golden Triangle on the Maharaja Express
As passengers on the Maharaja Express, guests are treated to stunning service and first-class accommodation. The trip starts at New Delhi and travels around the Golden Triangle through Agra, Jaipur and back to New Delhi. Champagne is served aboard the train and the trip wouldn't be complete without a stop at the iconic and astonishing Taj Mahal. The extremely luxurious train features two high-end restaurants as well as two bars.
2. Adelaide to Darwin, Australia on the Ghan
The Ghan is an iconic Australian train that has been traversing the continent for a staggering 80 years. This is the way to explore Australia’s interior while sitting comfortably in a glamorous train and avoiding the sweltering heat. The three-day journey stops right in the middle of the Outback at Alice Springs, and you'll get to take in the wonder of Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park. The perfect way to end your day is sipping a bevvy while watching the blazing sun dip below the horizon.
1. Cape Town to Dar es Salaam aboard the Pride of Africa
The lengthy but posh journey across Africa takes passengers through many countries including Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania and South Africa on a two week expedition through the heart of the continent. Passengers will traverse through the Selous Game Reserve in south Tanzania, which is one of the largest nature reserves in the world. Passengers on this route can stop and enjoy the scenery at Victoria Falls and Chishimba Falls, too.