As a child, a train journey held the promise of something magical. If you got a window seat, the journey was off to a good start. Not only did different landscapes roll past your window, but one also looked forward to the food. It wasn’t just what you brought with you – tiffins full of homemade savoury snacks – but also what was available during your train travel, and what other passengers generously shared with you!
As an adult, train journeys are equally attractive. In Ireland, I often take the Dart from Dun Laoghaire to Greystones and Bray – just for the pleasure of getting a window seat and to have the coastal landscape accompany me all the way like it were a dear old friend.
If you’re looking for some of the best train journeys from across the world, we’ve got a list ready. I would love to pack a few of my favourite reads, a sketching pad and a camera and just hop on!
The Glacier Express, Switzerland
I have put the Glacier Express on the top of my wish list because it may as well as be the world’s most well-known train journey. Now, here’s something interesting about this ‘Express’ voyage. It’s one of the world’s slowest express trains, and its gentle pace allows you to take in all the beauty of the Alps. At a leisurely, happy momentum that fills you with joy!
Happy holidayers can get ‘all aboard’ on the Glacier Express from St. Moritz. Once they do, they’re in for a singularly magnificent journey – up on the mountains, over viaducts, through tunnels… The route includes, among other things, taking in the ascent of the Oberalp Pass, the marvellous Rhine Gorge through which the train travels alongside the river. You also get to see the Landwasser Viaduct. It’s a vast and curving limestone structure of six arches. Any Harry Potter fans here? Going over the Landwasser Viaduct should be an absolute treat, whether you’re a Potter fan or not. I, for one would feel like I’m on the Hogwarts Express and wheeling down a dreamy landscape!
Palace on Wheels, India
A cousin who was visiting India with her daughters booked the Palace on Wheels experience and came back very happy and wowed by this decadent train journey.
Introduced to promote tourism in the state of Rajasthan, this train contains 14 passenger coaches, each named after a famous place in the state. Everything is absolutely regal and luxurious on this train journey – carpeted floors, intricately patterned walls, comfortable but traditional décor and there’s even a spa and gym!
Imagine a train journey with air conditioned cabins, authentic delicious cuisine, breath taking destinations, and two restaurant cars. Called the Maharaja and the Maharani, they come equipped with a bar and you could explore local delicacies of Rajasthan as well as a wide number of items from the larger Indian cuisine. Not to forget the iconic Indian hospitality that escorts every moment of your voyage!
The Palace on Wheels is a palatial train journey that takes you to Jaipur (the Pink City), Jaisalmer (the Golden City), Jodhpur (the Blue City), Udaipur (the City of Lakes), as well as the state’s wildlife-rich Ranthambore National Park and its world-famed Bharatpur bird sanctuary. You will also visit Agra, before returning to New Delhi.
The Trans Mongolian Express, Mongolia to Beijing China
The Trans-Mongolian Railway is an epic train journey. You may almost feel like a time traveller as the voyage takes you through the route of ancient tea caravans. The Express snakes its way from Russia to China via the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar.
Again, the inspiration and yearning for this particular train journey comes from two things. The beautifully illustrated Russian folk tales that I read as a child, and the stunning photographs a friend shared of Ulaanbaatar.
On the Trans Siberian Express you can travel east to west, or vice versa. Whatever route you choose, how gorgeous it would be to take in the landscape of Mongolia, China and Russia? Trusted tales from seasoned travellers speak of friendly passengers who invite you to play card games, share a drink and the joys of getting down at stations where you can buy local produce and handicrafts.
The Ghan, Australia
It may as well be the best way to explore Australia. The Ghan Expedition takes you on a train journey between Darwin and Adelaide, exploring one coast to another.
Promising to be a unique experience, it provides a most vivacious slice of Australia for all of its passengers. This epic four-day train journey covers 2,979 km and takes you to some of the most remote and captivating parts of the country. You will travel in great comfort on this all-inclusive train journey, with a great selection of regionally-inspired menu paired with amazing local wines. Among other things, you will also be treated to a spectacular dinner under the stars at the historic Telegraph Station, Alice Springs!
The Toy Train, India
Train journeys are also about slow travel, unless of course you’re taking a bullet train! There’s something beautiful about being on a train, and watching the world go by… Life seems simpler as you sit by a window and the train gently meanders through a pretty landscape. There is no rush, no urgent meetings, nothing is as important as the view from your window.
If this is your idea of how travel should be, then this 96-km train journey through a narrow-gauge track through the Shivalik foothills of India is certainly your cup of tea. A remnant of the British colonial era, this line goes through 102 tunnels, 864 plus bridges and around 919 curves! The train stops by at 18 stations, and at each stop, you can get down and try some of the local delicacies and produce on offer. Not to forget the chai! For how can you have a train journey in India without giving in to the charms of the tea vendors? Chai-chai, chai-chai they go chiming in their melodious voice, bringing you cups of tea flavoured with ginger, lemongrass or cardamom.
Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
Who hasn’t heard of Machu Picchu and its many charms? Machu Picchu is considered to be Peru’s most important tourist destination and one of the most-visited sites worldwide. Situated at 2,360 meters above sea level, in the Urubamba River Valley, Machu Picchu dazzles all who visit it with its beauty and mystery.
And one of the best ways to travel to Machu Picchu is by a train journey. PeruRail offers many options, and most of these are very comfortable and tourist-friendly. The train journey from Cusco to the famed Inca sanctuary is a little over four hours. During your time on the train, you will be treated to some magnificent views making the journey as beautiful and appealing as the destination itself.
The Jungfrau, Switzerland
We’re back to Switzerland with the Jungfrau Railway. I’ve always heard glowing reviews from friends about taking the Jungfrau Railway; after all this two-hour train journey takes you from Interlaken Ost to Europe’s highest station at 3454 m above sea level, with a spectacular midway stop at Eismeer station.
It’s comforting to note that the Jungfrau Railway operates year-round. All the photographs that I’ve seen — taken from summer, springtime to winter trips – have been gorgeous to say the list. If you put this train journey on your bucket list, you will certainly feel that you’re transported to another world once you experience it!
The Amtrak, United States
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to explore a vast country like the US in a comfortable long-distance train/s? That’s what Amtrak journeys across the US are all about.
With more than 21,000 miles of track serving the United States and Canada and more than 500 station stops in 46 states, you can truly get a sense of the scale and diversity of the country. Amtrak’s USA Rail Passes lets you explore the USA at your leisure, hopping on and off the train at the cities and destinations of your choice. Now, if you’re to choose a trip for 2023, where would you want to take the Amtrak to? Any favourite destinations in the US that you want to try via an Amtrak train journey?
The West Highland Line, Scotland
When we lived in the UK, Scotland was one of our favourite destinations. My husband would travel to Scotland a lot for work (we lived in Reading), and sometimes I’d accompany him. I would only stay for the weekend and on my way back, take a train. And during that time, I would be glued to the window, all eyes on the landscape that seemed like it had leapt straight out of a painting!
The West Highland line is considered to be one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world. Again, it is a double treat for Harry Potter fans. If you take the West Highland Line to Mallaig – you go across the Glenfinnan Viaduct, and viola, you’re on the Hogwarts Express route! But there’s more. You go along the west coast, through the famed Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Further on, the line splits at Crianlarich, carrying you either past Loch Awe to Oban, or high up to Rannoch Moor, through remote wilderness and on to Fort William and Mallaig.
If you’re anything like me, you would be so enthralled. Shunning all conversations to simply ooh and aah over the magnificent landscapes that seem to wave at you via the window!
The Venice Simplon Orient Express
The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is known for its grand interiors and a truly exceptional way to tour Europe and its finest cities. You will certainly recall the movies and Agatha Christie’s novel on which they are based —Murder on the Orient Express. The crime novelist was said to be inspired by her journey aboard this luxurious train in 1928.
Maybe a train journey aboard the Orient Express will also inspire the novelist-in-hiding in you. For it has plenty of history. Famed for hosting amazing parties and intriguing guests, among them spies, authors, ambassadors and royalty, journeys with the Orient Express are full of grandeur and magic. Perhaps you may want to look up the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express yourself and book a seat.
Do drop in a comment please if any of these journeys make it to your list.