Explore the world without leaving your seat on these scenic train routes. // © 2015 Creative Commons user 28101583@N07
Feature image (above): The Glacier Express in the Swiss Alps // © 2015 Creative Commons user 74331437@N05
Travel by train isn’t just the stuff of old novels. Train travel is alive and well, continuing to deliver the romantic experiences and picturesque settings that have always made it popular for clients. The following routes offer train travel at its best and most scenic — all you have to do is settle into your seat and enjoy the ride.
Belmond Eastern & Oriental Express
The Eastern & Oriental Express crosses Southeast Asia to give clients a taste of Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. Its view of Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Butterworth, Malaysia, are all worth the ticket, as is its luxurious interior. The trip also offers fun off-the-train excursions such as a boat ride to Hat Wanakon Beach.
Belmond Hiram Bingham
Belmond Hiram Bingham’s “Essential Peru” package takes you on an awe-inspiring journey to Machu Picchu while you sit comfortably in a 1920s Pullman carriage, surrounded by amazing views of the Andes shrouded in fog and the Urubamba River Valley backlit by the setting sun. The route begins in Cusco, the ancient capital city of Peru, and runs through Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley of the Incas before finally passing by the world-famous Machu Picchu for a truly once-in-a-lifetime trip steeped in history.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
If there’s one word to describe the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in India, it’s “cute.” The tiny train looks like something out of a children’s book, but make no mistake: This route offers some serious sightseeing. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway travels through India’s valleys, offering clients a close-up look at India’s natural landscape. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is so integral to India’s culture that UNESCO even made it a World Heritage Site in 1999.
The hills are alive with the sound of the Glacier Express, which takes clients past the snow-capped Alps and through the bright green pastures of Switzerland. The route starts of in Zermatt, a spa town located at the foot of the Matterhorn, and ends up in glamorous St. Moritz. Travelers will see the beginnings of the Rhone and the Rhine rivers and traverse the Gotthard Pass on this scenic route.
Golden Eagle Danube Express
The Danube Express is committed to giving travelers a taste of the most underrated European countries and cities. Different routes allow for glimpses of the Royal Palace in Budapest, the Italian port of Trieste and the Carpathian Mountains. One route even stops in Sighisoara, where Dracula was supposedly born. If your client can’t decide which European city they’d like to see, why not recommend them all?
Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express
The Trans-Siberian Express is not one specific train, but a whole group of routes that crisscross Russia and China. The Golden Eagle Ulaan Baatar Express route, for instance, delivers you from Moscow to Beijing by way of Lake Baikal, a rift lake in Siberia that’s considered the oldest and clearest lake in the world, and the grasslands of the Mongolian-Manchurian steppes. Other routes cross the Urals, a mountain range that runs through Russia, and edge around the Gobi Desert before finally entering China. For the most extreme changes in scenery, the Trans-Siberian Express is your best bet.
Grand Canyon Railway
Besides an amazing view of the Grand Canyon, the Grand Canyon Railway’s “Canyon Discovery” route is interesting due in large part to its historical factors. Stops along the way promise a glimpse into the past, whether it’s a rail line depot from the 20th century or the train’s own Cafe Cars built in the 1950s. The train winds its way from Williams, Ariz., to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park in just a little over two hours, which is enough time to let you experience the Grand Canyon as well as the Native American reservations along the way.
Linha do Douro
Built in 1887, the Linha do Douro (or Douro Line) lets travelers wind their way around the Douro River, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Linha do Douro embarks from the Regua Station, located in Portugal’s port wine country, and sprawling vineyards, farmlands and the beautiful almond trees dotting the countryside are just some of the sights clients will see during their journey.
Rocky Mountaineer offers a plethora of routes, but it’s the train company’s First Passage to the West route that always scores top marks with travelers. This route takes clients through the Canadian Rockies with stops at the picturesque mountain town of Banff and the urbane city of Vancouver. In addition to the route, Rocky Mountaineer also allows passengers to take a tour of Lake Louise, right next to Banff. Certain packages also provide a good look at other Canadian landmarks such as Castle Mountain and the famous Stoney Creek Bridge.
Also known as the “Pride of Africa,” Rovos Rail offers several routes throughout the continent. Its Cape Town Journey offers views of the Highveld grasslands and mountain ranges of the Cape, as well as stunning sights of Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head. The Victoria Falls route lets clients take in the Tropic of Cancer and the beautiful Hwange National Park. Another route to take note of is the Namibia Safari journey, which allows travelers to traverse the vistas of the Northern Cape and view the stunning Fish River Canyon, second in size only to the Grand Canyon.
The Ghan has been running since 1929 and has never lost popularity. The train dives into the heart of Australia with stops to let travelers explore Adelaide, the Northern Territory and Alice Springs on various routes. The view from outside your window includes the pastoral lands and mallee scrub of South Australia, the stars over the outback in Manguri and the sandstone cliffs of the Katherine River. Once you board The Ghan, you’ll see why it’s remained popular all these years.