There’s something magical about a journey by train. Sometimes the magic is inside – on a train you can meet people, and eat and sleep with the sound of steel wheel swishing on steel rail beneath you. Sometimes the magic is outside, in the landscape the train traverses – an adventure, an experience, an insight into the heart of a nation.
“Slow travellers” are drawn to this glamorous, old-world mode of exploration, but there’s also something to be said about the perspective found onboard a train–you’re really experiencing a landscape in a way that you can’t experience any other way. A train trip often brings you where everyday roads cannot, whether it’s through untouched Malaysian jungles or high into the Canadian Rockies. Nothing tops the romanticism and window-side sightseeing opportunities of a train ride. Interest piqued? These are some of the greatest train journeys around the world.
Rocky Mountaineer, Canada - After scaling some of the most jaw-dropping heights and difficult terrains across Canada, the Rocky Mountaineer covers the best of Western Canada. Vancouver, Seattle, Banff are some of the prominent destinations falling in the route of the Rocky Mountaineer. Lofty mountains and rocky surroundings make the surroundings even more appealing as you plan to take this exciting journey. Canada is a nature lover’s fancy and this train journey explains why it is called so!
Xining to Lhasa - Mountain climbers and locomotive lovers should set their sights on the Qinghai-Tibet railway. Scaling up the mountainside to around 5,000m (16,404ft) above sea level, this route is home to the highest section of railway in the world. Passengers shouldn’t be surprised if they are left breathless by the temples, wildlife and snow-capped mountain tops – thankfully, purified oxygen is pumped into each train compartment to help with any altitude sickness.
Palace on Wheels, India - India’s best-known train, the Palace on Wheels, offers a number of trips that range from a couple days to week-long excursions. Embarking from New Delhi through the Land of Kings, trips take you through the famed Pink City of Jaipur, in Rajasthan, where guests are greeted by majestic UNESCO sites like the Amer Fort as well as 16th century palaces. You can also visit Agra, home to the Taj Mahal and the perfect stop for a tour of some of the country's most iconic sites. Along the way, enjoy regional cuisine in well-appointed, colourful carriages decked out in Indian textiles.
Trans Siberian Rail, Russia - The Trans-Siberian Railway is among the longest rail routes in the world, running for 9,289km (5,772mi). Starting at the westward terminus in Moscow, the Trans-Siberian crosses over the Ural Mountains and through dense Siberian forest. It spans the entire width of Russia and connects the capital with Vladivostok in the east. The seven-day journey takes passengers by landmarks including the magnificent 984m (3,227ft) bridge that crosses the River Ob at Novosibirsk (the third-largest city in Russia) and the incredible blue waters of Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake by volume in the world.
Perurail’s Lake Titicaca Railway, Peru - Traversing the Altiplano, from the shores of Lake Titicaca to the beating heart of the Inca capital, the railway from Puno to Cuzco cuts a ponderous but picturesque path through the snow-dusted peaks and voluptuous valleys of the Andes. Between drinks in the bar and enjoying entertainment and fine food in the restaurant, passengers aboard Perurail’s Lake Titicaca train can ogle the vista from an open-air observatory car, as they rumble across the epic Peruvian plains, passing hardy bowler-hatted llama farmers and traveling through remote towns and villages.
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Colorado, USA - The coal-fired Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is the one for history buffs. It was originally constructed as a means of hauling silver and gold from the San Juan Mountains in Colorado, and has been in continuous operation since it was completed in 1882. Now, the railroad allows passengers to enjoy the same incredible journey taken by Old West miners and settlers more than a century ago. The 72km (45mi) route moves alongside the Animas River, winding through the remote wilderness and fabulous canyons of San Juan National Forest.
Rail journeys are special for many reasons, not least for their romantic, relaxing nature but also for their kinder impact on the environment when compared to other forms of travel. Transporting guests to the golden era of rail travel, these glamorous and not so glamorous but scenic and adventurous train rides make the journey the destination.