This picture was taken inside a train in December 2017 on my way back from my grandma’s. After the rush of departure had settled down, and our tickets were marked off, I put my earphones on and relaxed into my seat. It was just like old times- the steady, nearly harmonic chugging of the train, people reading newspapers, drinking tea and having conversations of all sorts, and a wind that reminded me of its presence every time I dared to look out. The picture I took was during a very sunny, bright day and my phone’s camera clearly failed to do justice to the contrasts my eyes were seeing. It also failed to keep up with the speed of the scenery, leaving me with a blurred shot. But perhaps, that is what made it such an apt representation of what makes train journeys so beautiful for me. Stories being told in the backdrop of breezing sceneries and a gentle sway lulling you into a disconnected sense of tranquility.
It made me think about what sets train journeys apart from other modes of travel and how train journeys are sometimes not the means to an end but ends by themselves. They are the travel experience. Unlike flying, which requires luxurious amenities and a constant infotainment system to keep passengers occupied after the appeal of clouds inevitably dies down, train tracks take you right through the heart of cities, because that’s exactly what they were built for in the first place! Having been built a long time ago in most cases, train routes often remain unchanged for generations- ensuring that every trip is an authentic introspection into the culture of a region. But the unchanging nature of train tracks also allows for ventures into places you would never have visited otherwise, making train journeys well and truly unique. But wouldn’t it be nice if you could do all those things while enjoying some Crème Brûlée and Coffee with your loved one while you’re on-call butler is attending to your every need? Well, that’s exactly what we are here for.
Presenting to you some of the most luxurious train journeys in the world: from the rocky vistas of Canada to the mercurial landscapes of Cape Town, these trains can take you through some of the most magical places on Earth, and do so in the most luxurious way possible.
- The Rocky Mountaineer https://www.rockymountaineer.com/
The Rocky Mountaineer is a luxury train that takes you on a ride through some of the most breath-taking mountain ranges in the world. The train takes you through lakes, coasts, mountains and so much more, all at the comfort of your seat under a see-through roof. Routes are fittingly named using phrases like “through the clouds” and “golden rush” to highlight the opulence that this train journey entails. Packages are different but all of them have at least 2-3 days on any one of the three routes they offer, including stay in a midpoint hotel and gourmet meals. Prices vary from shy of CAD $2000 to upwards of CAD $10,000 for 2 and service is offered either in “Silverleaf” or “Gold-leaf” levels. Winner of multiple awards including the 2019 TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence, the Rocky Mountaineer is such an incredible train journey that it leaves you wondering why you haven’t heard of it before.
- GOLDEN EAGLE TRANS-SIBERIAN EXPRESS https://www.goldeneagleluxurytrains.com/journeys/trans-siberian-express/
Dubbed by many as the “greatest train journey” on earth, the Train-Siberian railway is on the bucket-list of anyone who loves travelling but is simply tired of the hustle and bustle that it involves. Nearly 10,000 kilometers long and across 5 time zones, this world-famous route takes you from Moscow to Vladivostok across the largest country in the world on an itinerary that would be impossible otherwise. Prices are anywhere from USD $17,000 to nearly USD $80,000 across “Silver Class,” “Gold Class” or “Imperial Suite.” All of these packages include mid-point hotel accommodation at landmarks, arrival and departure transfers, meals from the executive chef on-board and many more. Let the sirens blow and let the train do all the work!
- The Blue Train http://www.bluetrain.co.za/
In wood-paneled cabins that perfectly complement the rustic landscape it goes through, the Blue train takes you on a either 19-hour or 31-hour journey through South-Africa. With suites that would fit right in a 5-star hotel and elegance that doesn’t get in the way of the scenery, the blue train is well and truly the most comfortable way to tour that part of the region. 10-time winner of “Africa’s Leading Luxury train” award and “8-time World’s Leading Luxury train” award, the blue train offers service that is comparable to even the most extravagant first-class seat on an airliner. But where the blue train takes the lead is in its ability to take you through the “wide open farmlands, rugged mountains, semi-arid desert, dams pink with flamingoes, Cape Winelands, gold and diamond mining landscapes, an abundance of wildflowers and of course Table Mountain.” En-suite bathroom with Italian marble and gold-plated fittings, an on-call butler and Wi-Fi connectivity take this hotel-on-wheels one step further. Bookings cost around S$5000 for 2.
- The Glacier Express https://www.glacierexpress.ch/
Next up on the list is the Glacier Express. This 8-hour train is certainly one of the shorter train journeys in the luxury category- but that might just be what you’re looking for! If you don’t have too much time and all you want for now is a panoramic tour through the scenic Swiss Alps and have 3 course meals at the same time, then the Glacier Express is the train for you. Going for as little as CHF 72, passengers can choose either 2nd class, 1st class or Excellence class, which will cost CHF 420. Meals will be of additional cost. Large windows and a partially transparent roof make for a view that is as un-interrupted as can be. The train goes through the beautiful village of Zermatt through to The Rhine George, also known as the “Grand Canyon of Switzerland.”
The list above is by no means exhaustive. These are just some of the best train journeys. And, it’s surprising how many there are to pick from. In an era when air travel is booming, these trains remind us that travelling need not be this rush from point A to point B. It can simply be staring out the window of a train; it can simply be sitting across someone and having a conversation; it can simply be reading a book with a new landscape every time you turn the page.