Every rail buff needs to ride aboard one of these 23 train rides at least once.
1. Hiram Bingham Orient Express
Start Point: Cuzco, Peru
End Point: Machu Picchu
Machu Pichu and Cuzco are the two most visited tourist destinations in Peru, and the best way to visit them is aboard the luxurious Hiram Bingham Orient Express.
As the train winds its way from the colonial city of Cuzco up the Andes mountains to Machu Pichu, you’ll see rugged mountains shrouded in fog, vast step farms cut into the mountain side, and, on a sunny day, even the fabled ruins of Machu Picchu in the distance.
2. Talyllyn Railway
Start Point: Tywyn, Wales
End Point: Nant Gwernol, Wales
Talyllyn Railway doesn’t promise sweeping vistas of vast mountains, or continent-spanning day long journeys. What it does promise is history, charm and oodles of adorableness. This little railway line runs for just 7.25 miles through deep forest and craggy Welsh cliffs. What makes it a journey worth taking is its status as the world’s first preserved train and the steam engine that plies up the 2’3” narrow gauge. It’s adorably charming and will make you fall in love with trains all over again.
Start Point: Settle, England
End Point: Carlisle, England
England has a lot of scenic train routes, but none come even close to the views on the Settle and Carlisle Line. The train crosses the Yorkshire Dales and Northern Pennines and weaves its way straight into the heart of England’s craggy northern hills and cliffs. Make sure to take a nap before you hop aboard – you wouldn’t want to miss a second of this nearly 2.5 hour journey!
4. Rocky Mountaineer
Start Point: Banff, Canada
End Point: Vancouver, Canada
Banff National Park is the closest you’ll get to paradise on Earth. This line runs from just outside the park to Vancouver on the west coast, cutting through the Canadian Rockies. The views are spectacular and the in-car dining service delightfully delicious.
5. The Sunset Limited
Start Point: Los Angeles, USA
End Point: New Orleans, USA
Tourists far too often skip America’s south-western states, which is a shame, really, because the vast cacti-ridden deserts down below make for some spectacular sights. The Sunset Limited runs largely parallel to the US-Mexico border, crossing the states of California, New Mexico, and Texas before heading into the scenic wetlands of Louisiana. It’s a great way to learn about America’s south-western states, and sample some great Tex-Mex cuisine along the way.
6. Grand Canyon Railway
Start Point: Williams, Arizona, USA
End Point: Grand Canyon National Park South Rim, USA
There’s no sight more breathtaking within continental United States than the deep gorges of the Grand Canyon, and there’s no better way to reach the Grand Canyon than a ride aboard the Grand Canyon Railway. This is as much a ride through Arizona’s wilderness as it is a ride through history. The train engine runs on steam, the coach car is vintage 1923 Pullmans, and the first class cars date back to the 1950s.
7. Rovos Rail “Pride of Africa”
Start Point: Varies
End Point: Varies
There’s no better way to experience South Africa than a trip aboard Rovos Rail’s trains. This heritage rail line consists of luxurious coaches and cabins that hark back to the 1920s. Routes include Pretoria to Cape Town, Pretoria to Durban, Pretoria to Victoria Falls and Cape Town to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Besides old world charm and gorgeous views of the South African countryside, the Rovos line also boasts some exquisite dining options and a lengthy wine list. Easy to see why it ranks among the 25 finest railway lines in the world.
8. The Amtrak Adirondack
Distance: 381 miles
Start Point: New York City, NY, USA
End Point: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Sure, it has a reputation for being slower than a wheeled wagon on the Oregon Trail, but the breathtaking vistas of the Hudson river valley and Adirondack mountains more than makes up for the delay. If you can look past the general tardiness, you’ll see why this train features regularly among the world’s 10 most scenic train routes.
9. The California Zephyr
Start Point: Chicago, MI, USA
End Point: Emeryville, CA, USA
The California Zephyr charts an epic journey across the American Midwest to the West Coast. Much of the trip cuts through endless corn fields – not exactly the most exciting scenery. That is, until you hit Denver. From Denver to San Francisco, the Zephyr runs along the Colorado river and crosses the Rocky Mountains and Ruby Canyon. The scenery is dramatic and at the leisurely pace of 55mph, makes for one journey you’ll never forget.
10. Trans-Harz Railway and Brocken Railway
Start Point: Wernigerode, Germany (both Trans-Harz and Brocken Railway)
End Point: Nordhausen Nord, Germany (Trans-Harz), Brocken, Germany (Brocken Railway)
The Trans-Harz and Brocken Railway together serve the Harz Mountain region and Harz National Park in Germany. Both these railways still run on steam locomotives. Sitting aboard the train and watching these locomotives huff and puff up the highest peak in the Harz Mountains (Brocken) is a sight to behold.
11. Glacier Express
Start Point: St. Moritz/ Davos/ Chur in Switzerland
End Point: Zermatt, Switzerland
Mention the words “Glacier Express” to any train aficionado and watch his eyes light up like a child. This is arguably the most beautiful train route in the world, twisting and turning through 91 tunnels and 291 bridges as it makes its way from St. Moritz to Zermatt. The craggy Alps in the background and green rolling pastures in the foreground make this one epic trip you’ll never forget.
12. Venice-Simplon Orient Express
Start Point: Varies
End Point: Varies
There’s no two questions about it: the Orient Express is the world’s most famous train. It’s featured in movies, TV shows and countless novels. Sadly, the original train ceased operations in 2009, citing rising costs and stiff competition from high-speed trains. Fortunately for train lovers, hotel chain Belmond bought the rights to the train and now runs a number of luxury rail services on various routes, including the original, iconic Paris-Istanbul line.
13. Alaska Railroad
Start Point: Seward and Whittier, USA
End Point: Fairbanks, USA
America’s least populated state is filled with verdant forests, towering mountains, and virgin beaches. The best way to see the stunning natural beauty of Alaska is a six-day trip aboard Alaska Railroad. You’ll run past the Denali and Kenai Fjords National Park, swing your way from the heart of the Yukon wilderness to the verdant coast near Anchorage , and cross dozens of bridges as you journey up to Fairbanks. The landscapes are so beautiful that you’ll even forget the generally poor condition of the train itself.
14. The Golden Chariot
Start Point: Bangalore, India
End Point: Goa/Kochi
As the longest railway network in the world (some 71,000 miles and counting), the Indian Railways is crucial to the country’s infrastructure. Most trains in the network are cheap with limited facilities and tons of crowds. You really wouldn’t want to get aboard one of them unless you really know what you are doing.
However, a range of new trains, such as Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, Palace on Wheels, and especially The Golden Chariot are changing this perception. Painted in brilliant shades of purple and blue, this train travels through the major tourist destinations in South India. You get gorgeous views, impeccable service, and great food.
If you must take any train through India, let it be this one.
15. The Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Railway
Start Point: Moscow, Russia
End Point: Vladivostok, Russia
The Golden Eagle traces the famous Trans-Siberian Railway line, traveling from the western end of Russia to its eastern coast, crossing 8 time zones and two continents. At 6,000 miles, it is the longest train journey in the world. Besides the Moscow-Vladivostok route, it also offers routes through the Silk Road towns along Russia’s borders, and routes that run through Russia’s arctic region.
16. The Empire Builder
Start Point: Chicago, USA
End Point: Portland/Seattle, USA
For much of the journey, you’ll barely stifle yawns as the train lumbers through cornfields and flatlands. Then it enters Montana and the cornfields give way to hills and vast wilderness. You perk up a little, maybe hoping for the fabled landscapes you’ve heard so much about. You glimpse a few peaks, the forest grows thicker, and before you know it, you’re right in the middle of the most beautiful place in the two Americas: Glacier National Park. This stretch through the million acres of the park alone makes the entire trip worth it.
17. The Flam Line
Start Point: Myrdal, Norway
End Point: Flam, Norway
This tiny train winds through deep fjords and dramatic mountains as it makes its way up from Myrdal to Flam. The scenic beauty of the Flam Line has helped turn it into the third most visited tourist attraction in the country.
18. The Ghan
Start Point: Darwin, Australia
End Point: Adelaide, Australia
The Ghan luxury train covers 1,851 miles as it crosses the heart of the Australia continent, windings its way from Darwin to Adelaide. It’s easily the most comfortable way to witness the scenic beauty of the Australian outback and experience life in the country’s remotest towns.
19. Eastern and Orient Express
Start Point: Singapore
End Point: Bangkok, Thailand
The Eastern and Orient Express covers South-East Asia ‘s most beautiful landscapes and tourist spots as it winds its way from Singapore to Bangkok. Along the way, it stops at Kuala Lumpur, Butterworth (Malaysia) and Kanchanaburi (Thailand), covering a total of 1,262 miles. With its stunning natural beauty, excellent Thai/Malaysian food, and luxurious interiors, you can see why it ranks among the 25 best train journeys in the world.
20. The Royal Scotsman
Start Point: Edinburgh, Scotland
End Point: Varies
This tourist favorite carries 36 passengers (yup, just 36) through some of Scotland’s most dramatic landscapes. You’ll cover Scotland’s famous “lochs”, highlands and craggy cliffs with regular stops at tiny Scottish villages. Best of all, you’ll do it at a pace that barely excess 20mph at any given time.
21. The Blue Train
Start Point: Cape Town, South Africa
End Point: Pretoria, South Africa
At over $2,000 per head, a ride aboard the Blue Train isn’t cheap. But the stunning views, 5-star hotel-worthy facilities and decor, and excellent service more than makes up for it. You’ll journey over a 1,000 miles as you cross the South African countryside from Cape Town to Pretoria, covering forests, grasslands, hills, valleys and endless wilderness.
Start Point: Christchurch, New Zealand
End Point: Greymouth, New Zealand
Ask any seasoned traveler what the most beautiful country in the world is, and you’ll get a unanimous response: New Zealand.
The popular Tranzalpine line runs through the prettiest parts of New Zealand’s South Island, covering a total of 139 miles in just over four hours. You’ll cross the verdant Canterbury Plains, cross the Waimakariri River, and pass through the beautiful Southern Alps as you make your way to Greymouth.
23. Maharaja Express
Start Point: Delhi / Mumbai
End Point: Mumbai / Delhi
The Maharaja Express is arguably the most luxurious train in the world. Modeled on the opulent private trains and cabins of Indian Maharajas of old, this train runs between India’s two largest cities, Delhi and Mumbai. It boasts the single largest private cabin of any train in the world – a carriage-encompassing Presidential Suite spanning 448 square feet – along with impeccably appointed interiors and excellent dining options. Little wonder that it’s consistently ranked among the most luxurious trains in the world. The beautiful views of the Indian state of Rajasthan are just the right kind of cherry on top.