As the travel industry and travellers alike become more conscious of their carbon footprint, the romantic elegance of replacing an internal flight with an epic train journey is a temptation hard to resist. These are the world’s most epic train journeys for 2023.
The view above the clouds can be magical but swap your air miles for cross-country train miles and you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking scenery and an ever-changing landscape you would 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 2023 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 awe-inspiring landscapes in the world. Stretching some 3,000 miles from British Columbia and Alberta all the way to New Mexico, the Canadian Rockies conjure up postcard-perfect turquoise lakes, Alpine meadows, and snow-capped peaks. The Rocky Mountaineer’s glass-domed coaches offer unrivalled views, passing through the magnificent Banff and Jasper National Parks, while spotting Canadian wildlife in the shadow of such majestic peaks. Maximise your surroundings 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 through the outback, covering nearly 3,000 kilometres from Adelaide to Alice Springs and Darwin. Sleeper cabins feature a lounge that transforms into sleeping berths and a compact private en suite. 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 an 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.
The Maharajas' Express
Embrace a journey from the past as you trundle through 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; the train affords guests the opportunity to explore several of the country’s much-fabled destinations as well as the hidden riches of this fascinating terroir. The train is steeped in nostalgia, with 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. 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.
Amtrak’s Coast Starlight
America may be known for its epic road trips 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 nonetheless 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 US. Crossing through at least three bucket-list destinations, this is epic journey 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. These are 36 hours that will 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 your daydreams had a rather stylish rendering, 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, 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 looks particularly charming from the comfort of the Glacier Express. A country composed of soaring peaks, glittering glaciers, and shimmering crystal-clear lakes, it’s romantic stuff. The newly launched 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. The rail journey offers the rare opportunity to combine one of the most spectacular train journeys in the world with stopovers at some of the most iconic Swiss ski resorts.
The Blue Train
South Africa’s The 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, complete with butler service in their private suite. Keen to take in a safari? The Blue Train offer a round-trip safari package, departing from Pretoria and journeying to the Kruger National Park for a dawn game drive, before heading back to Pretoria after nightfall.
The Mont Blanc Express
Enhance your European summer travels by hopping on board the timeless Mont Blanc Express. En route to Chamonix, passengers are afforded the luxury of witnessing the stunningly scenic border connecting Switzerland and France. Studded with whimsical alpine villages that resemble that of a picture book, you will spend the journey in awe of the traditionally beautiful surroundings as you travel from Gervais-Les-Bains, exploring the rocky Trient Valley along the way. Having existed for over a century, it is clear to see how this has been hailed as one of Europe’s most picturesque rail lines yet.
The most visually memorable way to experience the charming island of Corsica is via rail. Affectionately known as ‘u trinichellu’, meaning ‘little trains’, this railway network exudes uniqueness in that it circles around the island, including stopovers at the sun-soaked beaches of Balagne and Instagrammable honey-toned villages and towns along the French Rivera. Much like a gondola on rails, the train is assembled by small wagons that allow you a close-up of island life. Board a ferry from Paris to Nice for a coastline excursion that you will remember fondly.
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