Agatha Christie once said: “Trains are wonderful … to travel by train is to see nature and human beings, cities, churches and rivers, indeed, to see life.”
She was right. Here we gather some of the most spectacular attractions in the world.
Going, going, GHAN
The Ghan’s gleaming stainless steel carriages, pictured, wind through Australia’s vast red-dirt dusty plains.
The 54-hour, 1,851-mile drive between Darwin and Adelaide, or vice versa, on The Ghan, is magnificent. Gleaming stainless steel carriages wind through vast dusty red earth plains and stop at Alice Springs, which is a stepping stone to the famous sandstone monolith of Uluru. The Ghan is an abbreviation for The Afghan Express, the name given to the Afghan camel herders who crossed the Outback in the 19th century.
Reserve: 12-night trips with two all-inclusive nights at The Ghan and a tour of Australia from £ 4,249 per person in November 2022, flights included (trailfinders.com, 020 7368 1200).
India’s Shimla service from Kalka is nicknamed the ‘toy train’, with a 60-mile winding route through 107 tunnels.
There are more than 110,000 kilometers of railway in India, which makes it a wonderful country to explore by train.
Some of the best walks are along narrow gauge lines to the former hill stations of British colonial rule in Darjeeling and Shimla, both in the foothills of the Himalayas.
Kalka’s Shimla service is nicknamed the “toy train,” with a 60-mile winding route through 107 tunnels.
Reserve: 17-day tours covering Shimla, Darjeeling, Agra, Varanasi and Kolkata from £ 2,874 pp B&B, with flights, hotels, train tickets and some meals (transindus.co.uk).
Russia without rush
Getting ready to dine in luxury on the Trans-Siberian Express. Traveling by train gives you an idea of the enormous enormity of Russia
Crossing from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Trans-Siberian railway, you get an idea of the sheer enormity of Russia – the journey covers 5,752 miles. Service also runs from Moscow to Beijing, either through Mongolia (4,735 miles) or Manchuria (5,623 miles). In Siberia, vast pine forests stretch, interrupted by cities with large chimneys and villages with simple dwellings.
Reserve: Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express – Classic route from Moscow to Vladivostok, costs from £ 13,395 per person all-inclusive, including 12 nights in a Silver Class ensuite cabin on the Golden Eagle and two nights in a five-star hotel.
ON A SWISS ROLL
The Glacier Express carriages (pictured) have panoramic windows so you can see all the peaks
Join the Glacier Express in winter to see the snow-capped mountains of the Swiss Alps rising all around. The route covers 181 miles from Zermatt to St Moritz. The carriages have panoramic windows so you can see all the peaks.
Reserve: Five-day ‘Glacier Express Winter Magic’ tours from £ 1,195 per person on a bed and breakfast basis, with Eurostar trains, hotels and train tickets (arenarailholidays.co.uk).
SPEED IN JAPAN
Glide along the coasts and between mountains on Japan’s Shinkansen trains. Above, the bullet train passes Mount Fuji.
Japan’s Shinkansen (bullet) trains hit 186 mph and are famous for their punctuality. Glide along the coasts and between mountains. Many tours start in Sapporo in the north and end in Hakata in the south.
Reserve: 16-day trips through ancient history and timeless traditions of Sapporo-Hakata from £ 5,795 pp B&B, with train tickets, hotels, some meals and flights (greatrail.com).
Hop aboard the red train (pictured above) for a 38-mile journey between Rivesaltes and Axat
Glide down the narrow gauge tracks of the French Pyrenees aboard the Little Yellow Train, which rises from an altitude of 427 meters in Villefranche de Conflent to Bolquere-Eyne, the highest train station in France at 1,592 meters. The 39-mile route passes through 22 stations. In good weather, passengers can sit in open-sided carriages.
Then join the Little Red Train for a 38-mile journey between Rivesaltes and Axat, enjoying views of vineyards and castles.
Reserve: Eight-day trips from £ 949 per person on half board, including Eurostar from London, hotels and train tickets (raildiscoveries.com).
Sip champagne at Northern Belle as you pass through the Pennines and the Yorkshire Dales, with the impressive Ribblehead Viaduct, pictured, one of the highlights
Enjoy a ride on the Northern Belle train along the 73-mile Settle-Carlisle line. The route takes you through the Pennines and the Yorkshire Dales, with highlights such as the impressive Ribblehead Viaduct. Expect a Pullman dining car, champagne, and good food.
Reserve: The day trip returns from £ 395 per person, including brunch and a five-course dinner with wine (northernbelle.co.uk).
Ten-day ‘Peru by train’ trips on the Belmond Andean Explorer and Hiram Bingham trains start at £ 6,529 per person and breakfast
Inside the five-star Belmond Andean Explorer, which is a great sleeper train
Travel between the ancient Inca capital of Cusco and Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, before continuing to the whitewashed city of Arequipa on the five-star Belmond Andean Explorer, a sleeper train.
This three-day trip includes magnificent mountainous landscapes, including the El Misti volcano that rises near Arequipa. From Cusco, a day trip on the Hiram Bingham train takes you to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.
Reserve: 10-day ‘Peru by train’ trips from £ 6,529 pp B&B with Belmond Andean Explorer and Hiram Bingham trains, hotels, some meals and flights (viajelatinamerica.co.uk).
Enjoy an odyssey across the great plains of Africa on the ‘Coast to Coast – African Kingdoms’ tour, pictured, with the possibility of stopping for safaris
Passengers travel in comfortable vintage carriages from the 1950s on the luxury train ‘Rovos Rail – Pride of Africa’
How about a coast-to-coast trip through Africa? Join a luxury train ‘Rovos Rail – Pride of Africa’ on the Katanga-Benguela route through Angola to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The route links with tracks in Zambia and Tanzania on a 2,650-mile odyssey through great plains, remote valleys and mighty rivers, with the possibility of stopping for safaris. You’ll travel in comfortable vintage carriages from the 1950s, plus a stylish dining car.
Reserve: 22 Day Coast to Coast Guided Train Tours – African Kingdoms from £ 13,595 per person including train tickets, most meals, onboard accommodation and flights (vjv.com).
Take the tracks between Denver in Colorado and Moab in Utah on a new two-day Rocky Mountaineer service. Following the turbulent waters of the Colorado River, the train enters the canyons and passes through a desert landscape. Some cars have panoramic glass roofs. It goes slow so you will be sure to get plenty of super snapshots.
Reserve: Six-night ‘Rocky Mountaineer Rockies to Red Rocks Explorer’ trips from £ 3,299 pp with train tickets, hotels, some meals and flights (americansky.co.uk).
TOP TIPS FOR TRAVELING BY TRAIN
- Read about the places where you will pass; adds to the enjoyment.
- Always research the dining carriage, you may meet interesting people.
- Look at the scenery (not a smartphone screen).
- Enjoy a sunset if you travel on a sleeper train.
- Bring a deck of cards (and / or Scrabble or your favorite game) for the evenings.
- Dress up for dinner on fancy trains – it all adds to the Agatha Christie atmosphere (minus the murders, hopefully).