Top 10 Scenic Train Rides Around the World

Embark on an unforgettable journey with our top 10 scenic train rides around the world, offering breathtaking views and unique experiences from the Swiss Alps to the Australian Outback. Discover the magic of rail travel!

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Family Travel
Agata

By Agata

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Introduction

There's something uniquely captivating about train travel. The rhythmic clatter of wheels on tracks, the ever-changing landscapes outside the window, and the sense of journey and adventure combine to create an experience unlike any other. For travelers who crave stunning vistas and serene moments, scenic train rides are a must. From snow-capped mountains to lush valleys, here are the top 10 scenic train rides around the world that promise breathtaking views and unforgettable experiences.

1. The Glacier Express, Switzerland

Overview: The Glacier Express is one of Switzerland's most famous train journeys, linking the two major mountain resorts of Zermatt and St. Moritz.

Highlights: This eight-hour journey traverses the Swiss Alps, offering panoramic views of snow-covered peaks, deep gorges, and quaint mountain villages. Notable sights include the Oberalp Pass, which stands at 2,033 meters above sea level, and the architectural marvel of the Landwasser Viaduct.

Travel Tips: The best time to experience the Glacier Express is during winter or spring when the landscapes are blanketed in snow. Book your tickets in advance, as this ride is quite popular. Consider upgrading to Excellence Class for the ultimate luxury experience.

2. The Rocky Mountaineer, Canada

Overview: The Rocky Mountaineer offers several routes through the majestic Canadian Rockies, with the most popular being the journey from Vancouver to Banff or Jasper.

Highlights: This luxurious train ride takes you through some of Canada’s most spectacular scenery, including the dramatic Spiral Tunnels, the vast expanse of the Fraser Valley, and the rugged terrain of the Rockies. Keep an eye out for wildlife such as bears, elk, and eagles.

Travel Tips: Opt for the GoldLeaf Service for a glass-domed coach and gourmet meals. Travel between April and October for the best weather and visibility. Plan for a multi-day journey with overnight hotel stays to break up the trip and explore local attractions.

3. The Trans-Siberian Railway, Russia

Overview: The Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest railway line in the world, stretching from Moscow to Vladivostok over 9,289 kilometers.

Highlights: This epic journey spans the entirety of Russia, passing through diverse landscapes such as the Ural Mountains, the shores of Lake Baikal, and the endless Siberian taiga. Each segment of the trip offers unique cultural and natural sights.

Travel Tips: The full journey takes about a week, so be prepared for a long ride. Consider breaking the trip into segments to explore cities like Yekaterinburg, Irkutsk, and Ulan-Ude. Learn a few basic Russian phrases, as English is not widely spoken.

4. The Blue Train, South Africa

Overview: The Blue Train is a symbol of luxury travel in South Africa, running between Pretoria and Cape Town.

Highlights: This 31-hour journey provides an elegant experience with highlights including the vast Karoo Desert, the scenic Hex River Valley, and the iconic Table Mountain upon arrival in Cape Town. The train itself is a highlight, offering plush suites and fine dining.

Travel Tips: Book well in advance, especially if you wish to travel during peak tourist seasons. Take advantage of the on-board butler service for a truly luxurious experience. The best time to travel is during the South African spring (September to November) or autumn (March to May).

5. The Ghan, Australia

Overview: The Ghan traverses the heart of Australia, connecting Adelaide in the south to Darwin in the north.

Highlights: The journey offers a unique perspective of Australia's diverse landscapes, from the fertile plains of South Australia to the Red Centre’s desert scenery, and finally the tropical north. Key highlights include Alice Springs, Katherine Gorge, and the MacDonnell Ranges.

Travel Tips: The journey can be done in three or four days, with various excursion options along the way. The best time to travel is during the cooler months of May to September. Book a Gold Service or Platinum Service cabin for a more comfortable experience.

6. The Bernina Express, Switzerland and Italy

Overview: The Bernina Express is a remarkable journey from Chur in Switzerland to Tirano in Italy, crossing the Swiss Alps.

Highlights: This scenic ride features dramatic landscapes, including the Morteratsch Glacier, the Bernina Range, and the stunning Brusio Spiral Viaduct. The train ascends up to 2,253 meters at the Ospizio Bernina, offering breathtaking views.

Travel Tips: The journey is particularly stunning in the spring and autumn when the contrast of snow and greenery is at its peak. Make sure to sit on the left side of the train for the best views. Combine the trip with a stay in either Chur or Tirano to explore the local areas.

7. The Flam Railway, Norway

Overview: The Flam Railway is a short but incredibly scenic journey, running from Myrdal to Flam through Norway's fjord country.

Highlights: This one-hour journey takes you through some of Norway's most stunning landscapes, including deep valleys, cascading waterfalls, and towering mountains. The highlight is the Kjosfossen waterfall, where the train makes a photo stop.

Travel Tips: Summer is the best time to travel for lush green landscapes, but winter offers a magical snowy backdrop. Book tickets in advance, especially during peak tourist season. Pair the journey with a cruise on the nearby Sognefjord for a complete fjord experience.

8. The Jacobite Steam Train, Scotland

Overview: The Jacobite Steam Train offers a nostalgic journey through the Scottish Highlands, from Fort William to Mallaig.

Highlights: This two-hour ride is famous for crossing the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct, known from the Harry Potter films. The route also offers stunning views of Ben Nevis, Loch Shiel, and the rugged Highland scenery.

Travel Tips: The train operates from May to October, with summer being the most popular time. Book tickets early, as this is a popular attraction, especially with Harry Potter fans. Consider staying in Fort William or Mallaig to explore the surrounding areas.

9. The TranzAlpine, New Zealand

Overview: The TranzAlpine is a scenic train journey across New Zealand’s South Island, from Christchurch to Greymouth.

Highlights: This five-hour trip crosses the fertile farmlands of the Canterbury Plains, ascends into the Southern Alps, and passes through Arthur’s Pass National Park. The journey ends with a descent into the lush rainforests of the West Coast.

Travel Tips: Travel between spring and autumn for the best weather conditions. Book a seat on the left side of the train for the best views. Plan to spend a few days in Greymouth or Christchurch to explore local attractions.

10. The Eastern & Oriental Express, Southeast Asia

Overview: The Eastern & Oriental Express offers a luxurious journey through Southeast Asia, from Singapore to Bangkok.

Highlights: This three-day trip takes you through the lush landscapes of Malaysia and Thailand, including rainforests, rural villages, and the River Kwai. The train itself is a highlight, with opulent cabins and fine dining.

Travel Tips: Book well in advance to secure a cabin, as this is a popular route. The best time to travel is during the cooler, dry season from November to February. Take advantage of the on-board excursions to explore local sights along the route.

Conclusion

Scenic train rides offer a unique way to explore the world's most beautiful landscapes, providing a blend of adventure, relaxation, and cultural immersion. Whether you're traversing the snowy peaks of the Swiss Alps or the vast expanse of the Australian Outback, each journey promises a memorable experience. Consider these top 10 scenic train rides for your next travel adventure and immerse yourself in the unparalleled beauty that unfolds outside your window.


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