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Robert Glazier Content Writer 4 years, 1 month ago

10 Destinations Offering Great Rail Vacations

  • The Ghan Train

There is something about travelling on an extensive train trip. It could be the relaxing experience while passing through interesting countryside or the idea of being on a travelling hotel. Goway offers some fascinating and varied train journeys which will give you unforgettable memories. 

1. Australia

Depending, on an Australia vacation, whether you wish to travel north-south through the Outback with its colourful and striking scenery or between the west and east coasts of this vast continent, either way, you will enjoy a unique but comfortable experience. The Ghan luxury train travels between Darwin in the north to Adelaide in the south taking 4 days, 3 nights in total. The trip, which operates once a week, can be broken into two parts if time is limited travelling between Darwin and Alice Springs or Adelaide and Alice Springs. If taking the complete trip, you will have a 4-hour sojourn in Alice Springs complete with sightseeing. All meals and sleeping accommodation are included. 

The India Pacific Train takes 3 days. You commence your trip in Sydney and finish in Perth in Western Australia or vice versa. En route, you travel through the Blue Mountains, visit the historic mining town of Broken Hill, the cultural city of Adelaide and journey through the desert terrain of the Nullabor Plain on the world's longest straight stretch of railway track (478 kilometres/296 miles), Once again, the trip can be broken into two segments, Sydney and Adelaide or Adelaide and Perth with departures again weekly. You can enjoy excursions in The Blue Mountains, Adelaide and the Nullabor Plain.  All meals and sleeping accommodation are included. 

2. South Africa

Rovos Rail in South Africa

South Africa offers many choices and itineraries for first-class and deluxe train trips. The renowned luxury Blue Train has been awarded Africa’s ultimate luxury train on more than one occasion. It runs between Cape Town and Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital. The journey time is 31 hours (2 nights onboard) covering a distance of 1600 kilometres/1000 miles. It is luxurious because the dining room uses quality silverware and offers a la carte meals and unlimited drinks all included in the price of the journey. Naturally, you have excellent sleeping facilities on board. You can also take the Blue Train from Pretoria to Kruger Park which is a 19-hour journey but the departures are irregular.

Rovos Rail is a private company which offers a selection of luxury train journeys. You can take the Cape Town to Pretoria 3-day, 2-night itinerary via Kimberley visiting the Great Hole and the Diamond Mine Museum.  Then there is the Pretoria to Durban, 3-day, 2-night trip which includes one or two game drives and a visit to the Spionkop Battlefields.  Golfers can satisfy their enjoyment for the game on the 9-day Pretoria back to Pretoria itinerary which includes up to 5 different golf courses as well as game drives visiting among other places Ladysmith, Durban, Kruger Park and Swaziland. For travellers wishing to go further afield, Rovos offers trips to Victoria Falls and also to Namibia both from Pretoria.

The Shongololo Express offers 3 much longer first-class itineraries. You can choose from the 12-day Pretoria to Victoria Falls which visits four different countries, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Mozambique with stops that include Bulawayo and Kruger Park, the 15-day Cape Town to Pretoria visiting the Winelands, Garden Route, Port Elizabeth, Kimberley, Ladysmith, Durban, St. Lucia Wetlands and Kruger Park and the 12-day Pretoria to Walvis Bay in Namibia.

3. Peru

Belmond Andean Train in Peru

The Hiram Bingham luxury private train is named after the explorer who first discovered the mystical archaeological site of Machu Picchu and offers upscale rail trips with elegant Pullman-style carriages. The journeys start and finish in Cusco, a city which, if on a Peru vacation, must be visited. You can either take the train to Puno on Lake Titicaca, the highest inland lake in the world and home to the famous floating villages, sleep on board and have a full sightseeing programme before returning to Cusco or continue to the colonial city of Arequipa, sleep on board again and have a sightseeing programme before disembarking. These journeys can be done in reverse. On embarking. You will be greeted with sparkling wine and orange juice, small canapes and a performance of traditional Andean dance and music.

4. Ecuador

The Devil’s Nose train journey may sound intimidating but don’t be put off by the name of this particular trip. The name stems from the many deaths of workers who constructed the track back in the early part of the 20th Century. You start your journey at Alausi which is one hour’s drive by road from Riobamba. You then join the train for a two-and-a-half-hour return trip to Silambe. The train runs through the Andes Mountains alongside rocky ravines, canyons and cascading streams with breathtaking scenery all along the way. The outward journey lasts for forty-five minutes before arriving at Silambe where a light lunch is served. You then return to Alausi.  The train is driven by a steam engine. This is just part of a longer train journey starting in Quito and continuing to Guayaquil. This takes 4 days and includes a visit to the Cotopaxi National Park where animals such as deer, wolves, bears and the Andean condor, the world’s largest flying bird make their home.

5. England, France, Switzerland & Italy

Venice Simplon Orient Express

The Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express is the train featured in Agatha Christie’s novel “Murder on the Orient Express”. This private luxury train has been restored to its former glory with vintage carriages looking exactly as they did in the 1920s and 1930s. You start your journey in London travelling to Folkestone on the coast where you join a local train which takes you through the Channel Tunnel to join the second train with sleeping-cars for the journey from Calais in France to Venice in Italy. The route the train takes is via Paris, Zurich, the Arlberg Pass, the Brenner Pass, Milan and Verona before arriving in Venice. Onboard for overnight, you will enjoy a delicious four-course dinner prepared by skilled French chefs. The Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express has three different restaurant cars and each has a unique decor. There are weekly departures and, if time doesn’t permit, you can consider segments of this journey to suit your purposes.

6. Norway

A very spectacular rail journey on a Norway vacation starts in Oslo and finishes in Bergen on the west coast of the country. This is just a regular train service but is considered one of the world's most scenic train rides. There are four daily departures and the journey time is 7 hours covering approximately 500 kilometres/310 miles. It stops 21 times so don’t be in a hurry. The scenery is not only spectacular but varied. En route, you enjoy picturesque mountain scenery and, at times, travel through the heart of the mountains themselves. The journey takes you via ski resorts, lakes, fjords and waterfalls and a large part of the time is spent above the tree line. You can, if you so desire, break your journey at Flam located on a tributary of the magnificent Sognefjord, Norway’s longest and deepest fjord. Here you can join the Flam Railway and take a one-hour journey up into the mountains to Myrdal. The Flam Railway is one of the steepest standard-gauge railways in the world. This journey traverses spectacular scenery - lush mountainsides, rushing waterfalls, goes through 20 tunnels and offers many fantastic viewpoints.

7. Switzerland

Bernina Express in Switzerland

It is easy to imagine typical Swiss countryside which includes snow-capped mountains towering over glistening serene lakes. What better scenery to include on a rail journey. There are two special train trips on a Switzerland vacation. The Bernina Express can be boarded at Davos, St. Moritz or Chur and travels to Tirano in the Italian Alps. This is a trip you can undertake in reverse or both ways. This 4-hour leisurely rail journey travels along a route declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in itself. This is a private train which has enlarged windows to allow views of the spectacular Alpine scenery. The train supplies an audio guide to enhance your experience.  The distance overall is 122 kilometres/76 miles and travels through 55 tunnels and crosses 196 bridges and viaducts. There are 25 stops along the route so you can enjoy the sights.

The Glacier Express again can be joined in Davos, St. Moritz or Chur but travels across the southern part of Switzerland to Zermatt. And again, the trip can be taken in reverse. A summer-only rail journey, this leisurely 7 1/2-hour trip crosses steep mountains while going through 91 tunnels and over 291 bridges. Once again, amazing panoramic views of snow-capped mountains, rushing rivers, alpine pastures and charming Swiss villages are the order of the day.

8. Ireland

Belmond Grand Hibernian Luxury Train Interior

The Belmond Grand luxury train offers two itineraries on an Ireland vacation. The longer one tales 7 days and 6 nights commencing and finishing in Dublin. The train accommodates 40 passengers with an observation car and 2 dining cars offering gourmet cuisine. En route, you visit Cork with a side trip to Blarney Castle, home of the iconic blarney stone after which, you continue to Killarney from where a pony and trap journey takes you to Ross Castle for a visit.  The evening includes local musicians who play lively traditional Irish music. The next port-of-call is Galway on the Atlantic coast with its charming mediaeval lanes and majestic cathedral and where a side trip to the dramatic Cliffs of Moher is included. Then it’s on to the resort of Westport and a visit to Ashford Castle with its magnificent grounds in the Connemara National Park. The train then returns to Dublin.

The second shorter itinerary, which lasts 3 days, 2 nights, involves Northern Ireland. Departing again from Dublin, the train heads for Belfast with sightseeing in the city with a tour of “the Troubles” and a visit to the Titanic Experience. Then the train heads south to Dundalk bypassing Dublin and arriving in Waterford, home of the famous crystal. A tour of the factory is included. The last night includes traditional Irish music before arriving back in Dublin the following morning.

9. Russia, Mongolia & China

St. Basil's in Moscow

For a journey of a lifetime, consider the 15-day itinerary which covers the vast and fascinating landmass between Moscow and Beijing. Your home away from home is the Tsar’s Gold Train, a comfortable but not luxurious private train.  You start your journey with a night in Moscow which includes a tour of the city and a visit to the old Tartar capital, Kazan. You then board the train and spend 5 nights en route to Irkutsk in Siberia with stops and sightseeing in Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains and Novosibirsk in the heart of Siberia. On arrival in Irkutsk, you spend one night here at a hotel which includes an excursion to Lake Baikal. From here, you spend a further 2 nights on the train before arriving at Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, where you spend a night at a hotel. On departure from Ulaanbaatar, you cross the Gobi Desert with a further two nights on the train eventually arriving in Beijing for 3 night’s hotel accommodation. All meals are included on the train including a special onboard “Tsar’s Feast” and vodka tasting.

10. Thailand, Malaysia & Singapore

If you find yourself in either Bangkok or Singapore, why not travel in luxury between the two places on the Eastern and Oriental Express train which includes all meals and accommodation. The journey from Bangkok to Singapore takes 4 days, 3 nights and the reverse journey takes 3 days, 2 nights. You will have the opportunity to do some sightseeing en route. This includes time spent at the River Kwai where you can enjoy a cycle ride through rice fields, take a cruise on the river to visit the infamous bridge and the war cemetery or participate in a Thai cooking class. On arrival in Malaysia, you can visit a local traditional rural village or take a hill trek to a local plantation producing rubber, banana and durian fruit. In the meantime, onboard, you will enjoy excellent cuisine and take in the scenery from the observation car.

21 Feb 2020, 3:25 p.m.

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