The World’s Greatest Train Journeys
What is your favourite way to travel? Taking a plane to a faraway land? Going on a road trip with your friends? Hiking through stunning mountain ranges? No matter your preference, most people don’t consider a journey by train.
But why is that? Some would argue it is slow and outdated, providing bad service and uncomfortable. But these people obviously haven’t taken any of these train journeys.
Tren a las Nubes – Argentina
The Andes are the longest mountain range in the world, and the highest outside of Asia! You can even take a train to the clouds of the Andes in Argentina.
The Tren a las Nubes is a tourist train service in the Salta Province of Argentina. The service runs along the eastern part of the Salta–Antofagasta railway line of the Belgrano Railway that connects the Argentine Northwest with the Chilean border in the Andes mountain range.
A major Argentinean attraction, this railroad, reaching almost 14,000 feet above sea level, is one of the three highest in the world.
The experience combines routes by bus and train in which you can enjoy the Andean landscapes and culture, while at the same time, benefitting the local and tourist development of the regions of the Quebrada and Puna. The the train journey is an exclusive attraction from San Antonio de los Cobres to the famous La Polvorilla viaduct.
Alishan Forest Railway – Taiwan
If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, why not explore the stunning Alishan Forests through their intricate railway network?
The Alishan Forest Railway is an 86km network of narrow gauge railways running up to and throughout the popular mountain resort of Alishan in Chiayi County, Taiwan. The railway, originally constructed for logging, is itself a tourist attraction with unique Z-shaped switchbacks, 50 tunnels, and over 77 wooden bridges.
This is definitely one of the best ways to revel in the magnificence of the Alishan forests. There are two parts to this Alishan Forest Railway. Firstly, a two-and-a-half-hour journey from Chiayi station up to Alishan, which is going from near the base of the mountain to almost the top. And secondly, three lines within the preserved forest itself and the summit of the Alishan.
For most people, taking the three lines within the preserved forest is sufficient. The journey on each line is less than 10 minutes and the trains are small, just two carriages of around 50-seater each. The trip is said to be most stunning when the cherry blossoms of the Alishan forests are in full bloom.
Belmond Hiram Bingham – Peru
Some say, a journey by train is the only true way to experience the wonder of Macchu Picchu.
Belmond Hiram Bingham is a luxury train operating day trips from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, the station for Machu Picchu in Peru. The train, named after Hiram Bingham, who rediscovered the largely forgotten Inca city of Machu Picchu, travels from the high Andes down the Sacred Valley, and runs alongside the Urubamba River.
It consists of two dining cars, a bar car and an observation car with an open deck. Passengers have brunch on the outbound journey and dinner on the return. The train also offers local Peruvian pisco drink in the bar car for you to sample and the music of a Peruvian live band to enjoy.
Rovos Rail – South Africa
Rovos Rail’s offers a different kind of Safari. The annual trip traverses diverse landscapes on a 9 day long journey from the open lands of South Africa’s Highveld, to the Atlantic Ocean in Namibia.
Enjoy an excursion to the famed Fish River Canyon (second only in size to the Grand Canyon) and Namibias capital Windhoek. From Windhoek, you are transferred to the famed dunes of Sossusvlei, in the world’s oldest Desert – the Namib. Enjoy a night in the desert, including wilderness drives and a bush dinner.
From there you continue to the coastal town of Swakopmund much of which still shows the 19th Century German influences (including the cuisine!). It is where your fascinating journey ends.
Trans-Siberian Railway – Russia
Not only railway fans know: This is THE train journey, the longest and most famous railway line in the world, and arguably the most diverse one.
The Trans-Siberian Railway is a network of railways connecting Moscow with the Russian Far East. There are also connecting branch lines into Mongolia, China and even North Korea. It has connected Moscow with Vladivostok since 1916, and is still being expanded.
Even before it had been completed, it attracted travellers who wrote of their adventures.
The longest of the three trans-Siberian routes, between Moscow and Vladivostok, covers 9,258km and takes seven days to travel. Along the way you experience the diverse Russian landscape and meet adventurers from all over the world.
The Ghan – Australia
When you think Australia, you think coral reefs and surfing, dangerous animals and of course: the barren lands of the Outback.
The Ghan railway takes you deep into the heart of Australia, a hostile environment mostly ignored by tourists and usually only seen overhead from passing airplanes.
It is an Australian passenger train service between Adelaide, Coober Pedy, Alice Springs, Katherine and Darwin on the Adelaide–Darwin railway. It takes about 54 hours to travel the 2,979 kilometres with a four-hour stopover in Alice Springs.
At every stop, a number of off-board excursions are offered to passengers. Most are included in the cost of the ticket, while some – such as scenic flights and helicopter rides – are optional extras.
The Rocky Mountaineer Train – Canada
Canada has one of the most beautifully diverse landscapes to offer, and with the Rocky Mountaineer Train you get to experience them all in the most comfortable way possible.
Rocky Mountaineer has been awarded the “World’s Leading Travel Experience by Train” at the World Travel Awards seven times for its GoldLeaf service and was recognized by National Geographic Magazine as one of the “World’s Best Journeys” in 2007.
The Rocky Mountaineer season runs from late April to mid-October with multiple departures every week going both eastbound and westbound. Coastal Passage runs southbound and northbound on select weekends throughout the season, and to allow for the best views, the train operates exclusively during the day.
On the First Passage to the West and on Journey Through the Clouds routes an overnight stop is made in Kamloops, whilst on the Rainforest to Gold Rush route, there are two overnight stops; in Whistler and Quesnel. On your journey you travel through the Coastal Mountain Range and the desert-like Fraser Canyon, you can see the highest peaks of the Canadian Rockies and you for sure will think about this trip for years to come.
Tokaido Shinkansen – Japan
Reach incredible speeds on this train and marvel at how quick you reach your destination.
The Tōkaidō Shinkansen is a Japanese high-speed Shinkansen line, opened in 1964 between Tokyo and Shin-Ōsaka.
It is the most heavily travelled high-speed rail route in the world by far. The most popular Shinkansen in Japan is the Tokaido Shinkansen. This bullet train, named for the road that took travelers in centuries past between the new and old capitals, goes from Tokyo to Osaka. There are three trains that travel on the Tokaido Shinkansen line: the Nozomi, the Hikari, and the Kodama.
They connect Japan’s three largest metropolitan areas (Tokyo/Yokohama, Nagoya and Osaka/Kyoto) with each other.
The Tokaido Shikansen offers incredible views of Mount Fuji and the stunning nature surrounding it.
Jungfraubahn Railway – Switzerland
Gorgeous views, blinding white snow, sunshine, a chance to walk on a glacier, waterfalls and of course the old trains make this train journey a must-do in Switzerland.
In 2012 the Jungfraubahn turned a hundred years old and on the railway you can’t help but marvel at the effort made by the builders without the tools we have to today. The cogwheel railway takes passengers from Kleine Scheidegg to the Jungfraujoch-Top of Europe, which at 3,454 metres is Europe’s highest-altitude railway station in a world of rock, ice and snow.
The journey to Europe’s highest railway station leads through a tunnel hewn in the rock of the Eiger and Mönch and. At the station Eismeer (See of Ice) the train stops for five minutes so passengers can marvel at the breath-taking mountain range through panorama windows.
After 35 minutes you reach the peak of the Jungfrau and get to see Switzerland from a completely different perspective.
A trip on the Jungfraubahn doesn’t come cheap though. The regular adult fare is around 180€, but the view is worth every penny!
TranzAlpine – New Zealand
New Zealand is widely known for being the set of the hugely popular Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies, but one can’t possibly hope to take in all of the beautiful scenery portrayed in these films in one day.
But you can get close: The TranzAlpine is a passenger train operated by The Great Journeys of New Zealand in the South Island of New Zealand over the Midland Line. The journey is 223 kilometres one-way, taking almost five hours.
A journey with the TranzAlpine begins in the vast farmsteads of the Canterbury Plains and continues on to the beautiful gorges and valleys of the Waimakariri River. After the ascend into the Southern Alps to Arthurs Pass National Park, the journey continues on to the West Coast town of Greymouth.
The train has become increasingly popular with tourists and natives alike. By 2016, passenger numbers were approximately 130,000 a year, and are still rising.
Unlike normal passenger trains, the TranzAlpine is designed to get the best view of the surrounding scenery with large reclined seating and huge panoramic windows. Other services include GPS triggered at-seat commentary, a fully licensed cafe, toilets, and open air viewing decks.
By Catherina Arndt