Trains are in my DNA. My maternal grandfather worked for Canadian National Railway for almost 50 years, spending his weeks riding the rails across Canada, painting train stations from coast to coast. He and my grandmother raised their family in a railway employee house that was just metres from the train tracks in my hometown. My grandfather’s stories of his adventures—which took him from Halifax to Vancouver—were magic to a starry-eyed wannabe wanderer.
My first-ever train journey took me, a young university student headed to a summer job in Alberta, from Barrie, Ontario, to Calgary. For three days and two nights I watched the Canadian landscape unfold outside my window: Great Lakes, Prairie, Canadian Shield, the Rocky Mountains. I became smitten with rail travel. Other train journeys followed: through the Swiss Alps, the length of England, a 30-hour journey from the bottom of India to Mumbai, not to mention countless train escapes in Canada.
When it comes to rail travel, there’s something for everyone, from full-day luxury rail tours to multi-day train vacations.
Among its global offerings, the Belmond luxury train service operates overnight journeys between Venice, Paris, London and Verona.
The Venice-to-London itinerary departs Venice Santa Lucia train station late morning and arrives the next day at London’s Victoria Station. The onboard offerings include a four-course dinner prepared by French chefs, sparkling wine, a three-course lunch, petit fours, afternoon tea and all the trimmings.
That’s in addition to the stunning scenery of the English countryside and, of course, beautiful Venice.
Splendours of Africa on Rovos Rail
Table Mountain in Cape Town. Wildlife in Botswana. Victoria Falls. Historic Pretoria. These are some of the options possible on the Belmond-offered 11-Day Splendours of Africa journey on the legendary Rovos Rail, the iconic sleeper train known for its time-honoured opulence. The Royal Suite on the Rovos takes up half a carriage, and includes a private lounge plus en-suite bathroom with Victorian bath–definitely a dress-for-dinner rail experience. One of the key features is the legendary Cape Town landmark where this adventure begins: the iconic, pink-walled Mount Nelson Hotel.
The British Pullman
The first Pullman hit the tracks in 1874. While train travel has changed, the vintage rail cars are still in vogue. The Belmond group offers scenic one-day or weekend rail journeys in Britain on authentic Pullman cars from the 1920s.
The one-day Chatsworth House itinerary, for instance, takes you from London on an art-deco-themed Pullman through the English countryside to Derbyshire, where guests are escorted by coach to the palatial Chatsworth House, home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.
Liveried stewards serve a three-course lunch onboard the train, with fine china and white linen. Other one-day England tours include Bath, Highclere Castle and historic Oxford.
Rocky Mountaineer: The First Passage to the West Classic
The Rocky Mountaineer train service is known for showcasing the stunning scenery of North America—and local food. Guests don’t sleep onboard but in carefully selected local hotels and resorts. They spend much of their day in the train’s glass-domed coaches gazing at mountains, glaciers, canyons, lakes and wildlife. The three-night “First Passage to the West Classic” takes guests from Vancouver to Kamloops, British Columbia, where they overnight, and ends in Banff/Lake Louise, Alberta.
Scenic highlights include the Shuswap region of British Columbia, the rushing waters of Hell’s Gate in the Fraser Canyon, Rogers Pass, Kicking Horse Canyon, plus the glaciers and snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies. Whenever possible, chefs feature local ingredients in the menu as part of their Gold Leaf Service.
Other options on the Rocky Mountaineer include the newly-launched Rockies to the Red Rocks (Moab-Glenwood Springs-Denver) along the Colorado River.
VIA Rail: Jasper to Prince Rupert
In addition to its regular commuter schedule, VIA Rail, Canada’s national train service, offers five scenic Adventure Routes, one of which is the 1,160-kilometre overnight Jasper to Prince Rupert route.
It’s a wallet-friendly option whereby guests arrange their own hotel accommodation and transportation to and from the train station. Passengers depart from Jasper in the Canadian Rockies on a two-day journey (sleeping over in Prince George) through the Canadian wilderness: steep canyons, snow-capped mountains, emerald lakes, rivers and tunnels—not to mention wildlife sightings en route.
Splurge for the premier Touring Class option which guarantees you a seat in the Panorama Dome Car. VIA’s other Adventure Routes include Winnipeg to Churchill, Manitoba; Sudbury to White River, Ontario; Montreal to Senneterre, Quebec; and Montreal to Jonquière, Quebec.
Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel
Grand Canyon Rail has been taking adventurers to the Grand Canyon—one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World—since 1901.
One popular option is the one-night Railway Getaway Package which includes train, overnight stay and meals. You’ll begin with a sit-down dinner at the trademark Fred Harvey Restaurant in Williams, Arizona, and sleep overnight at the iconic Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, located a block from the historic Route 66.
Guests board their train the next day after breakfast for the scenic trip from Williams to the Grand Canyon, where they are greeted to a tableau of sandstone canyons, mesas, volcanic features, the Colorado River and gushing waterfalls.
Inca Rail: Poroy to Machu Picchu
Many travellers hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, the UNESCO World Heritage site that’s become one of the most potent symbols of the Incan Empire. Others who are strapped for time (or are disinclined to hike at high altitudes) opt for the more comfortable train options offered by Inca Rail.
One route is the three-hour journey from Poroy, a small town in the Cusco District, to Machu Picchu. The First Class service includes live music in the Observatory Lounge, an outdoor balcony where passengers can easily photograph the ruggedly beautiful Andes mountains, plus a pisco sour followed by a three-course meal (based on local ingredients) and a selection of wines. Upon arrival, first class ticket holders are taken by private transport to the Citadel.
Have you experienced some epic train journeys around the world? Let us know what your favourite train journeys are in the comments below!
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