There’s always a certain charm attached to a journey by train. While some may swish across landscapes at high speeds, connecting some of the world’s most major and iconic cities, others may simply rattle slowly along a scenic coastline.
While trains have long been a vital link for transport, their role as a mode of a luxury travel is experiencing somewhat of a renaissance.
Think plush carriages, pressed linens, and a five course meal where you’re expected to dress for dinner; rail travel has once again become an elegant affair.
Luxury train travel has made a serious resurgence in recent years, and these five top class contenders vie with each other to pamper you as you travel across remote landscapes in the most plush and romantic of environs.
Thinking of taking a luxury train journey?
You can’y go wrong with one of these!
The World’s Best Luxury Train Journeys
Venice Simplon Orient Express
London – Venice
The historic carriages of the Orient Express, which has been in operation since 1982, offer travelers some of the most uncontested luxury on an exciting journey between two of the most captivating cities in Europe – London and Venice.
Orient Express London to Venice is run privately these days and lives up to its five star rating throughout the two day / one night journey. Once a week, from March to November, the Orient Express offers visitors a magical experience between London, Paris, Verona and Venice.
The trip is actually undertaken by two trains, British Pullman from London to Folkestone and then a Continental Classic from Calais to Venice featuring 1920 era sleeping coaches.
The lovingly maintained train is said to be a piece of art in itself. The vintage cabins are delightfully air-conditioned and well equipped. Breakfast and evening tea is served in the cabins, while snacks and dinners are served in the three different styled restaurant cars.
The live on board entertainment makes for a unique rail travel experience. To revel in the good aristocratic time of the old days, there is nothing better than enjoying a drink in the Art Nouveau interior of the bar car.
The scenery enroute is nothing less than spectacular, to say the least, as the train passes through the Swiss Alps dotted with chalets against the majestic backdrop of the Mountains.
The Bernina Express
Chur (Switzerland) – Tirano (Italy)
This spectacular train journey runs in both directions, across the Alps commencing from Chur, in Switzerland, before ending far below at Tirano in Italy.
As this is the highest railway line in the Alps, it meanders gently along the route through some incredible alpine landscapes. There are a total of 25 stops on the route and the distance of 122 km is covered in four hours.
Travelers can enjoy plenty of twists and turns as the train passes through 55 tunnels and 196 bridges, taking in stunning mountainous scenery, and UNESCO World Heritage sites along the way.
The Bernina Express train has two panoramic carriages, extra space for comfort and an observation car on which a seat can be booked at an extra cost. It ascends up to the 2253 m Bernina Pass on its own steam and without any rack and pinion mechanism assistance.
The train runs all year round, and while any time is good to undertake the journey, rides during winter display frozen lakes and snow covered mountains while summer trips show green pastures in their pristine beauty.
The Rocky Mountaineer
Vancouver – Banff (Canada)
The Rocky Mountaineer is much more than your average train trip. It is the only train which offers unparalleled luxury that as it winds its way through the beautiful but hostile terrain of the Canadian Rockies.
Each distinct route offers endless adventure, showcasing surreal beauty on its way from Vancouver through Jasper, Lake Louise and Banff.
There are two “services” when booking the Rocky Mountaineer, GoldLeaf or SilverLeaf, though at every service level, Rocky Mountaineer hosts attend to your needs. They will welcome you with a morning toast, serve up delicious meals and entertain you with interpretive storytelling.
To satisfy your taste buds you’ll find a fully equipped gourmet kitchen that churns up exotic recipes, coupled with crisp wines. As the rays of the sun cast their golden glow on the landscape, you embark from the carriage to spend a night in a comfortable hotel.
Hotel options are offered for each level of service, and you have the flexibility to change or upgrade your hotel experience as desired. There is plenty of sightseeing at each stop along the way.
Image: Gary Bembridge (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
The Blue Train
Pretoria – Cape Town (South Africa)
From love-struck couples to famous celebrities and Presidents and Kings, the most luxurious Blue Train has catered faithfully to one and all since 1946.
Knicknamed ‘a window to the soul of Africa’ the 1600 km route takes 31 hours to complete from Pretoria to Cape Town, with a great stopover at Kimberly to take in the days of the diamond rush.
Over the years, the Blue Train has gained immense popularity by providing high class service and unmatched hospitality on all its routes. Think air conditioned luxury accommodation with with ensuite facilities, which includes in house entertainment and latest movie releases.
The Blue Train runs once or twice a week and the cost includes everything, even cigars, providing you have the Rand for pay for it!
Image: 2010 World Cup – Shine 2010 (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
The Golden Eagle Luxury Trains
Moscow and Vladivostok (Siberian Russia)
Traveling by train is a fantastic way to take in the stunning landscape of Russia. The Golden Eagle Luxury Train launched with great fanfare in 2007, providing guests not only with first class service, but with a cabin with ever changing views that cover an astonishing eight different time zones.
Add to it some of the finest dining experiences, with surreal views of the surroundings of Lake Baikal, and you have a holiday that offers a unique exploration of a country in a private atmosphere between Moscow and Vladivostok.
Once you board this state of the art seven star luxury hotel on wheels, your journey of a lifetime is about to take shape. A 24/7 cabin attendant will ensure that every need is tended to, including liberal shots of vodka to soothe the outside icy cold!
Luxury train travel is here to stay. Train journeys have come a long way in terms of comfort these days, and are a great opportunity to enjoy heritage and history while traveling in a decadent way.