Travel

The world’s greatest train journeys

We've rounded up the world's greatest train trips, including a chocolate-themed journey through the Swiss Alps and a luxurious adventure aboard Japan's first luxury train service.

Words: Tamara Hinson

  • Tren Crucero, Quito to Guayaquil, Ecuador

    This epic adventure starts in Cotopaxi National Park before heading through the Avenue of Volcanoes onto Riobamba and Ecuador's beautiful cloud forest. The four-day journey finishes in Guayaquil - Ecuador's largest city, 280 miles from the starting point.

    ecuadorbytrain.com

  • Andean Explorer, Cuzco to Lake Titicaca, Peru

    If you're heading to Lake Titicaca from Cuzco, skip the trauma of the overnight bus and hop on the Andean Explorer instead. Expect silver service, a spectacular, open-air carriage and plenty of Cusqueña - a malty, Peruvian beer. You'll be travelling through some of Peru's most spectacular landscapes, including the Grand Canyon of the Urubamba and La Raya. At 4321 metres above sea level, this is the highest point of the trip.

    perurail.com

  • Đường sắt Bắc–Nam, Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

    The name of this railway translates as North-South and it's commonly referred to as the Reunification Express. A single, 1072-mile-long track connects Hanoi in the north to Ho Chi Minh City in the South. Construction of the line started in 1899 and finished in 1936. Highlights include the Hải Vân mountain pass and the Lăng Cô Peninsula near Huế.

    vr.com.vn

  • Trans-Siberian Express, St Petersburg to Beijing, China

    Ulan Bator, Lake Baikal and Irkutsk are just some of the highlights of this 22-day adventure. There are plenty of stop-offs, including the chance to watch a Mongolian horse show and a visit to a traditional Siberian village. There are nine types of compartment to choose from, with the Bolshoi Platinum being the most luxurious - and expensive.

    trans-siberian.co.uk

  • Via Rail, Toronto to Vancouver, Canada

    Your mode of transport for this four-day journey is Via Rail's luxurious Canadian train. There are two classes of accommodation to choose from, and there's also a stunning, glass-roofed Skyline carriage. The food served is out of this world, and wherever possible, chefs use ingredients sourced from the regions the train passes through: think Saskatoon berries, Canadian pike and seed-crusted tuna steak.

    viarail.ca

  • The Seven Stars luxury cruise train, Kyushu, Japan

    The Seven Stars train is Japan's first luxury cruise train, and was unveiled at the start of October. No expense has been spared: fragrant Hinoki cypress wood has been used in the bathrooms and the hand-painted ceramic washbowls were made by renowned Japanese pottery master Sakaida Kakiemon XIV. The journey starts and ends in Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu, and will take in key tourist sites including Yufuin in Oita Prefecture, Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture and Nagasaki.

    cruisetrain-sevenstars.jp

    Image: Kyushu Railway Company

  • The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Nantahala Gorge Excursion, North Carolina, US

    This four-hour excursion is the best way to appreciate North Carolina in all its autumnal glory. Departing from Bryson City, you'll travel alongside the Tennessee and Nantahala Rivers before crossing Fontana Lake and the beautiful Nantahala Gorge.

    gsmr.com

  • Bernina Express from Davos to Tirano, Italy

    During this Swiss rail odyssey, you'll experience gradients of up to 70 per cent, along with 55 tunnels and 196 bridges - and that's before you've even come close to the jaw-dropping Bernina Pass and Italy's Valtellina Valley. Look out for the carved ibex figureheads which appear throughout the train - the ibex is a wild mountain goat which appears on the coat-of-arms of Graubünden - the home canton of the railway.

    rhb.ch

  • White Pass Railroad, Bennett Scenic Journey, Alaska

    Train travellers who sign up for this 67-mile rail journey will be following in the footsteps of the Klondike stampeders who explored this area in 1898. You'll stop off at the abandoned gold rush town of Bennett for a guided tour and you'll also pass by Emerald Lake, famous for its bright turquoise waters.

    wpyr.com

  • Rocky Mountaineer, Vancouver to Jasper, Canada

    The Rocky Mountaineer's glass-roofed observation deck is the place to be on this two-day route, which passes through Canada's coastal mountain range and the equally stunning Fraser Canyon. The train hugs the banks of Fraser River for large parts of the route, and also passes Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.

    rockymountaineer.com

  • Glacier Express from Zermatt to St. Moritz, Switzerland

    Wannabe Heidis will love this Alpine train ride, which first operated in 1930. During the seven-hour journey, you'll pass through 91 tunnels and cross 291 bridges, travelling through untouched alpine pastures and past glaciers. A high point - literally - is the Oberalp Pass section of the route, which has an altitude of 2,033 metres.

    glacierexpress.ch

  • The North Yorkshire Moors railway, Pickering to Whitby, North Yorkshire, UK

    You don't have to head overseas for awe-inspiring rail journeys. Those who sign up for the journey between Pickering and Whitby will see the North Yorkshire moors at their finest. You'll also pass through some of the county's prettiest villages including Goathland, which doubles as Hogsmeade in the Harry Potter films.

    nymr.co.uk

  • Great Southern Rail, Adelaide to Darwin, Australia

    Expect desert - and lots of it - on this three-day, 1851-mile journey across Australia. However it's not all red dust and barren rock. You'll stop off at Alice Springs and Nitmiluk National Park's Katherine Gorge, and the train's facilities, which include a spacious cafe, lounge and restaurant, are more than enough to keep passengers entertained.

    greatsouthernrail.com.au

  • Rovos Rail, Pretoria to Victoria Falls, South Africa

    It's 994 miles from Pretoria to Victoria Falls, but the luxurious Rovos rail service connecting the two destinations makes it seem considerably less. After departing Pretoria, the train passes through Mafikeng into Botswana and then north towards Mahalapye, crossing the Tropic of Capricorn just after Gaborone. Victoria Falls and the Zambezi river are the final stop.

    rovos.com

  • Golden Eagle Luxury Trains, Budapest to Tehran, Iran

    This two-week adventure takes place for the first time in October 2014, but it's already generating a huge amount of interest, largely because it will be the first luxury train service to Iran. Interested parties should start saving now - prices start from £8695, although that does include hotel accommodation along the route, entertainment courtesy of Iranian cricketer Farokh Engineer, and various guided tours of sites along the way.

    danube-express.com

  • Eastern & Oriental Express, Bangkok to Singapore

    This four day, three night journey includes a stop-off at the famous Kwai Yai River where passengers can learn about the history of the Thailand-Burma railway and the famous bridge. Penang, the UNESCO-listed capital of Georgetown, is next, before the final stop at Woodlands train station in Singapore.

    orient-express.com

  • Andean Explorer, Cuzco to Lake Titicaca, Peru

    If you're heading to Lake Titicaca from Cuzco, skip the trauma of the overnight bus and hop on the Andean Explorer instead. Expect silver service, a spectacular, open-air carriage and plenty of Cusqueña - a malty, Peruvian beer. You'll be travelling through some of Peru's most spectacular landscapes, including the Grand Canyon of the Urubamba and La Raya. At 4321 metres above sea level, this is the highest point of the trip.

    perurail.com

  • North Korea State Railway, Pyongyang to Beijing, China

    Those crossing the border from North Korea into China should expect to have their cameras examined and their bags thoroughly searched. The border is one of the most fascinating sections of the trip, although the entire North Korean section allows passengers a rare glimpse of life outside of Pyongyang. A bridge connects the two countries, and the grey North Korean landscape instantly transforms into a neon-lit, billboard-filled Chinese border city of Dandong.

  • Shinkansen, Tokyo to Hiroshima, Japan

    Passengers on the Shinkansen can expect to travel at speeds of up to 200 mph. It takes five hours to get to Hiroshima, and during the journey you'll pass through Kyoto and Osaka and you'll also whizz past Mount Fuji. If you tire of the view, there's plenty in the way of onboard entertainment, including leg warmers - seats which send out a stream of warm air - and hi-tech vending machines.

    shinkansen.co.jp

  • Hiram Bingham, Cuzco to Machu Picchu, Peru

    Don't fancy the trek up to Machu Picchu? Why not get the train instead? For the first few miles, the track hugs the side of the Urubamba River before heading up through the hills to Aguas Calientes. From here it's just a short bus ride to the famous Inca site. The price of the trip includes appetisers, brunch, live music (pan pipes at the ready) and dinner.

    orient-express.com

  • Dartmouth Steam Railway, Paignton To Kingswear, Devon, UK

    A journey on this historical steam railway is a journey back in time - more specifically through the English Riviera Global Geopark section of coastline between Paignton And Kingswear. During the seven mile journey, you'll also pass through the wooded slopes which border the Dart Estuary and speed over several viaducts.

    dartmouthrailriver.co.uk

  • The Swiss Chocolate Train, Montreux to Broc, Switzerland

    The only downside about this train service is that it only operates between June and October, but then again that's probably a good thing when it comes to our waistlines. The service is a joint venture by GoldenPass Services and Cailler-Nestlé and includes a visit to the cheese factory in Gruyères and the Nestlé Chocolate Factory at Broc. It probably won't come as a surprise that the onboard dining consists of croissants, croissants and more croissants.

    myswitzerland.com

  • Coastal Pacific, Christchurch to Picton, New Zealand

    You'll cross 175 bridges during this scenic train journey, which snakes between New Zealand's mountains and coastline, through vineyards and over the Clarence River. During the second half, you'll travel through the coastal town and whale-watching mecca of Kaikoura before heading on to the Canterbury Plains (New Zealand’s largest continuous area of flat land).

    kiwirailscenic.co.nz

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