Jon Nicholson, director of operations and itinerary planning for Zegrahm Expeditions // © 2016 Zegrahm Expeditions
Feature image (above): Clients who book a rail trip with Zegrahm Expeditions can travel along the Silk Road and visit unique destinations such as Armenia. // © 2016 Zegrahm Expeditions
Zegrahm Expeditions has announced a trio of new rail products in Asia, offering travelers multiday train itineraries in India and Iran, as well as a voyage along the legendary Silk Road through Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
Jon Nicholson, director of operations and itinerary planning for Zegrahm, spoke to TravelAge West about the new offerings, which will run in October this year and November of 2017, describing some of the highlights of each new rail trip and why they might appeal to U.S. travelers.
Why did Zegrahm decided to launch these products?
Traveling by train allows guests to unpack once, yet enjoy a different location every day. The areas visited on all three trips can be logistically challenging at times. With the train, traffic and road conditions are non-issues. Like our small-ship cruises, the train offers a smooth ride, large windows to savor the passing scenery and the freedom to move around while en route — guests can grab a beverage in the bar car, play a game of cards or relax in their private staterooms.
Why might these new rail products appeal to U.S. consumers?
All three trips travel to some truly exotic locations and, for many U.S. consumers, would qualify as a trip of a lifetime. Zegrahm has been taking travelers to the ends of the earth for more than 25 years. All of our carefully planned, all-inclusive adventures provide peace of mind that everything will be taken care of — from flight arrangements and packing lists to recommended reading and gratuities.
What are some highlights of each of the three new tours?
A highlight for all three is that they are brand-new itineraries.
For Iran, getting to meet and interact with local people is a major highlight. The Iranians are considered to be some of the most hospitable people in the world.
In India, the sheer diversity — from medieval walled cities and luxurious palaces to lush forested landscapes and the colorful pageantry of the Hornbill Festival — really stand out. Photographers will especially enjoy the huge range of subjects and exotic scenes.
For the Silk Road tour in central Asia, the highlight is learning about the long and diverse history of these emerging nations. With their location at the crossroads of trade, religion, language and the arts, these countries are home to fascinating modern cultures as well as some of the world’s most ancient and timeless architecture.
Has there been a lot of interest in the Iran itinerary?
Yes, there has been quite a bit of interest in the Iran by Rail expedition. Our Iran: Wonders of Persia expedition is one of our longest-running itineraries, and we wanted to offer guests a new way to experience Iran — by rail.
Also, expedition leader Gary Wintz has been leading expeditions to Iran since 1978. His knowledge, experience and engaging personality will deepen guests’ understanding and appreciation of this enigmatic country and its people.
Tell us about traveling by train on these itineraries. What makes rail travel an appealing option in these destinations?
Traveling by train evokes the romantic feeling of a bygone era. The modern, en suite staterooms offer a comfortable retreat for relaxation, while a personal attendant looks after all your needs.
Gourmet meals prepared by expert chefs are complimented by stunning, ever-changing scenery, and the spacious public areas are perfect for socializing, catching up on reading or simply soaking in the sumptuous surroundings. Infrastructure is not very well-developed in some of the areas visited, so traveling by rail is the ideal way to get around.
What kind of traveler would be a good fit for the new products?
Experienced travelers who are looking to visit unique destinations in the utmost comfort. All three trips venture off the usual tourist track and take the adventurous traveler to areas that can be hard to reach on their own.
People who are interested in learning about the history, culture, and traditions of the areas visited will especially appreciate the strong educational component provided by Zegrahm’s expert leaders and local guides.