The journey matters as much as the destination on these ultimate rail adventures.
The Glacier Express distills the Alpine experience into eight hours of snowy peaks, mountain meadows, and storybook villages between Zermatt and St. Moritz, Switzerland.
After three decades of riding trains all over the world—rural China, the Swiss Alps, Latin American jungles—I am still thrilled by a classic rail journey. Take The Canadian, where passengers can spend three days watching the countryside scenery from Toronto to Vancouver via dome cars. From the wheat fields to the jagged Rockies to the thickly forested Coast Mountains, it’s one of the world’s most amazing routes. Here are 15 more of my favorite journeys by rail.
National Geographic Expeditions offers a 16-day excursion through Russia, from Vladivostok to Moscow, aboard the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian,which rolls by Lake Baikal, the deepest lake on Earth.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY GOLDEN EAGLE TRANS-SIBERIAN
In New Zealand, the TranzAlpine runs between Christchurch and Greymouth, racing alongside the Waimakariri River and through the Southern Alps on a nine-hour round-trip route.
PHOTOGRAPH BY AGE FOTOSTOCK/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
Pack hiking boots and binoculars to explore Alice Springs on The Ghan, which runs north to south in the “Red Centre” of Australia from Darwin to Adelaide.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY THE GHAN
Rolling from the Windy City to San Francisco, the California Zephyr climbs both the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada before descending to the Pacific coast on its 2,447-mile traverse across the heartland of America.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY MARC GLUCKSMAN, AMTRAK
Take The Canadian, where passengers can spend three days watching the countryside scenery from Toronto to Vancouver via dome cars.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY VIA RAIL CANADA
The Train to the Clouds climbs to 13,800 feet in the rugged Andes on its way from Salta, Argentina, to the Chilean border on one of the highest train journeys in the world.
PHOTOGRAPH BY MARCO GUOLI
Black-tie glamour still rules on the century-old Orient Express from London to Venice, which passes through Paris while you’re having dinner and brings aboard fresh-baked croissants when the train stops in Switzerland.
PHOTOGRAPH BY HUBERT FANTHOMME, PARIS MATCH/GETTY IMAGES)
The Shongololo Express pairs a safari with deluxe rail travel in Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY ROVOS RAIL
Japan’s Train Suite Shiki-shima has just 10 cabins and serves up kaiseki cuisine created by Katsuhiro Nakamura, the country’s first Michelin-starred chef.
PHOTOGRAPH BY KYODO NEWS/GETTY IMAGES
The overnight Blue Train from Pretoria to Cape Town showcases South African scenery and includes a station stop at the diamond mining town of Kimberley.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY THE BLUE TRAIN
A mobile palace complete with onboard spa, Royal Rajasthan on Wheelshighlights India’s temples, forts, and Taj Mahal on a seven-night passage.
PHOTOGRAPH BY VIJAY MATHUR, REUTERS
On Belgrade to Bar, riders experience 254 tunnels and 435 bridges on a 296-mile trip from Serbia’s capital to the shores of the Adriatic, at a bargain price.
PHOTOGRAPH BY NICK COTTMAN, ALAMY STOCK PHOTO
Travelers on the Gotthard Panorama Express begin with a steamship crossing of Lake Lucerne; then they board a train that winds along the Alps to Lugano, Switzerland.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY GOTTHARD PANORAMA EXPRESS
Rooms on the Belmond Grand Hibernian look like Georgian-era hotel suites, while cushy observation cars are ideal for viewing green fields and sheep on the way to Cork or Belfast from Dublin.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY BELMOND GRAND HIBERNIAN
Depart from London in the evening on the Caledonian Sleeper in the dining car, adjourn to a cabin, and awaken to the mountains and lochs of the Scottish Highlands, arriving midmorning in Fort William.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY CALEDONIAN SLEEPER