Could this be the dawn of a second golden era of train travel? With flight shame the latest dinner party topic and the woke traveller becoming conscious of their personal carbon footprint, the romantic elegance of replacing an internal flight with an epic train journey is a temptation hard to resist.
While the view above the clouds can be magical, swap your air miles for cross country train miles and you’ll no doubt be rewarded with breathtaking scenery and an ever-changing landscape you would surely miss out on from up high. The Orient Express might be the gold standard of a bygone era, but we’ve dreamt up a list of our favourite train journeys for 2020 to take you across the globe in style.
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The Rocky Mountaineer
The Rocky Mountains have to be one of the most breathtakingly awe-inspiring landscapes in the world. Stretching some 3,000 miles from British Columbia and Alberta all the way to New Mexico, it’s the Canadian Rockies that conjure up postcard-perfect turquoise lakes, alpine meadows and snow-capped peaks. Quote simply, these are mountains how children would draw them.
The Rocky Mountaineer’s glass-domed coaches give you unrivalled panoramic views as you take in one of North America’s most dramatic landscapes, passing through the magnificent Banff and Jasper National Parks, spotting Canadian wildlife in the shadow of those majestic peaks. Make the most of both worlds with train journeys by daylight and nights spent in local hotels along the route.
Australia’s legendary train cuts through the heart of the continent on an epic 47 hour journey, covering nearly 3,000 kilometres from Adelaide to Alice Springs and Darwin, en route travelling past spectacular outback scenery transported from another world.
Sleeper cabins feature a lounge that transforms into sleeping berths and a compact private en suite, while for the ultimate in comfort, the Platinum Service offers an all-inclusive spacious private cabin. The journey will take you via some of Australia’s most magical sights, including and excursion to Uluru and the opportunity to dine beneath a canopy of stars at an authentic Outback Barbecue dinner at the historic Telegraph Station, with live Australian music. This is one bucket list adventure not to be missed.Freedom Destinations run a four day/three night rail adventure on board The Ghan allowing for additional time in Katherine, Alice Springs and Coober Pedy from £1,714.
The Maharajas Express
A country so rich in jewelled history deserves to be seen in style, so embrace a journey from the past as you trundle through the dusty heat of India. The Maharajas’ Express has been blessed with the accolade of ‘World’s Leading Luxury Train’ at the World Travel Awards no less than five times and it’s easy to see why; as the train affords guests the opportunity to explore several of the country’s much-fabled destinations and the hidden riches of this fascinating land.
The train is steeped in nostalgia, with the 14 guest carriages – all named after precious stones from Here (diamond) to Pukhraj (sapphire) – housing rooms and suites adorned with rich tapestry, linen and upholstery inspired by the personal carriages of the Maharajas. This is one journey that feels like travelling with the royalty of days gone by, redefining luxury and comfort. Routes take in India’s breathtaking temples and palaces, centuries old Hindu monuments steeped in history and of course the iconic Taj Mahal in all its glory, past stunning landscapes and unforgettable sights along the way.
Amtrak’s Coast Starlight
America may be the land of the road trip, but with views from Amtrak’s west coast service rivalling those in the movies you may be convinced to take to the rails for your next journey. It may not have the stars of the Orient Express or the old school glamour of The Blue Train, but what this journey may lack in luxury it more than makes up for in vistas.
The 36 hour route from Seattle to Los Angeles, via Portland, Sacramento and Santa Barbara, takes in some of the most epic views in the USA. Crossing through at least three bucket list destinations, this is one epic journey that covers lush waterfalls, rugged coastlines, snowy mountain ranges and the sun-kissed California coastline. Anyone who has seen the opening credits of Big Little Lies will bear witness to the glory of those sweeping Pacific views. It might take 36 hours, but it’s 36 hours of your life that will certainly be resigned to the memory book.
The Belmond Andean Explorer
If you’ve ever dreamt of scaling the heights of Peru en route to the iconic Inca ruins of Macchu Pichu, but doing it in style, The Belmond Andean Explorer could be your train. Granted, it’s not the most wallet-friendly way of seeing the ancient ruins, but if your explorative style is more royalty than roughing it do read on.
Travelling along the highest rail route in the world, the first luxury sleeper train in South America is as stunning as the Andean plains it crosses. Indulge in a colourful menu of seasonal dishes with fresh, local ingredients, sip Pisco sours to the tinkling of ivory in the lounge car or retreat to the spa car for a massage. Contrary to other Belmond trains, the Andean Explorer’s design is distinctly more modern, though no less luxurious, with vibrant colours and materials including textured leather and alpaca wool.
The Glacier Express
Switzerland’s chocolate box scenery never looks better than from the comfort of the Glacier Express. This is a country with so much more to offer that just fresh powder; with its dramatic panoramas of soaring peaks, glittering glaciers and shimmering crystal clear lakes, it’s the stuff great romances are made of. These are undoubtedly some of the most dazzling views in the world.
The newly-launch Excellence Class is a throwback to the golden age of travel with passengers enjoying window seats, a five-course lunch of regional delicacies and concierge services. Passengers will pass through the 2,033m high Oberalp Pass and over 291 bridges on an unforgettable eight-hour journey from Zermatt to St Moritz via Andermatt, offering the rare opportunity to combine one of the most spectacular train journeys in the world with the most iconic Swiss ski resorts.
The Blue Train
South Africa’s Blue Train, linking Cape Town with Pretoria, invites guests to “surrender to the luxury of slow travel” with a two night experience taking in some of the Rainbow Nation’s most spectacular scenery, from the verdant Cape winelands to the Karoo desert.
A step back to a bygone era, guests will relish dressing up for dinner in the luxurious dining car, the butler service in their private suite and the private views from their own picture window. New for 2020 The Blue Train will also be offering a round trip safari departure, departing from Pretoria before arriving in the Kruger National Park for a dawn game drive, before heading back to Pretoria after nightfall.
The Trans-Siberian Railway
Saving possibly the most epic of them all for our grand finale, the Trans-Siberian route from Moscow to Beijing is not for the faint-hearted; this is a train journey like no other.
Trains have travelled this route for a century, soaring past the Gobi Desert, Lake Baikal and historic towns like Yekaterinburg; there really is nothing like it. Crossing near enough a third of the globe, you’ll experience myriad cultures, ever-changing landscapes, and incredible architecture from Russian palaces to the tents of Mongolia and finally the hutongs of Beijing. At one end of the scale are domestic trains, full of fascinating characters getting from A to B. At the other is the Golden Eagle, a private train offering a different level of luxury. How to experience this mind-boggling route is up to you.