If you've had enough of the indignities of air travel (and there are so very many) and long car rides don't appeal, you're going to want to put these epic train experiences on your bucket list. These rail lines from the U.S. to India are among the world's most spectacular and romantic on the planet.
1. Palace on Wheels, India
Stepping onto the Palace on Wheels train is like traveling back in time, to an era when royal Maharajas traveled the continent in splendid luxury. Start your journey with a tour of the major sites of New Dehli, before boarding the train to travel to Jaipur. After spending a day touring the Palace of Winds and shopping for locally made carpets, travel into the wilderness of Ranthambour National Park to see wild tigers and more. From there you will visit Udaipur, the Thar desert, Jodhpur, Bharatpur, and of course visit the Taj Majal in Agra before your journey home. There is no more comfortable or fascinating way to see so much of India in a single journey.
2. The Ghan, Australia
Travel deep into the heart of Australia on this trans-continental journey from Adelaide to Darwin. Originally called the “Afghan Express” in honor of the original pioneers who blazed this trail through central Australia on camelback, the train is now known simply as the “Ghan.” Enjoy the solitude of the endless outback as you head North from the Southern Australian plains, through McDowell Mountain Ranges, and the tropical greens of Katherine and Darwin. When the train stops, enjoy excursions such as river cruises, camel or helicopter rides, or in depth wildlife and historical learning experiences in the outback. This all-inclusive train serves gourmet local fare you’ll never find anywhere else, such as grilled kangaroo fillet along with Australia’s finest wines.
3. Golden Eagle Trans Siberian Express, Russia
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Trans-Siberian line, the mystical railway that connects East to West across the continent, from Moscow, over the Urals, through the vast steppe, across the shores of the world’s largest freshwater lake. Start your journey with a tour of Moscow including the Red Square, Bloshoi Theatre, Kremlin, and more. Visit picturesque and modern Russian cities including Kazan, Yekaterinburg, Irkutsk and others, as well as the grandeur of more remote outposts like Lake Baikal and Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia. There is no more iconic or inclusive way to experience the continent.
4. Flam Railway, Norway
While the Bergen railway is a stunning way to make the journey across Norway, the little diversion on the Flamsbana is a definite must-do. The hour-long journey is one of the steepest in the world, where almost 80 percent of the railway has a gradient of 5.5 percent The train descends 867 meters to the sea-level town of Myrdal, winding past steep mountains, gushing waterfalls, and through more than 20 tunnels. You’ll want to have your camera ready for multiple mind-blowing vistas of the mountains, fjords, and waterfalls.
5. Sunset Limited, United States
Take a trans-continental journey across the stunning Southern route from California to Louisiana, seeing the most unique American regions — from bayou country, to the Mexican border, to the Southwestern deserts, to the California mountains. Deboard in Alpine, Texas to visit Big Bend National Park, in Tucson to visit Saguaro National Park, or in Maricopa Arizona to experience the spas of Scottsdale. National Park Guides provide context and information for the beautiful panoramas along your journey.
6. Danube Express, Eastern Europe
See the cultural meccas of Eastern Europe from the luxury of the Golden Eagle Train during the April through October season. Each journey carries only 50 passengers, in cars sleeping two or four, with en-suite bathrooms and every need met, including five-star dining on regional cuisine in the extravagantly appointed dining car. Travel from the home base in Budapest, Hungary through routes that can include Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Serbia, Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Germany. Experience the history of the major cities of World War II, and delve into the music, culture, and tastes of Eastern Europe.
7. Rovos Pride of Africa, Southern Africa
This line bills itself “the most luxurious train in the world” for good reason. Each train has a lounge car, a glass-ended open balcony observation car, a smoking lounge, and one or two dining cars done in 1920s and '30s style. Sleeper coaches each come with a lounge area and en-suite bathroom, some with victorian claw foot tubs. See the majestic vistas and wildlife of Bostawna, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, and Zambia, or choose a journey to the breathtaking Victoria Falls of Zimbabwe.
8. Rocky Mountaineer, Canada
Carve through the otherwise inaccessible terrain of the grand Canadian Rockies from the comfort of your luxurious coach. Keep an eye out for snow-capped peaks and grizzly bears through the floor to ceiling windows, while eating a gourmet meal and drinking local wine from British Columbia. Travel through Western Canada from Vancouver through Whistler, across the mountains to Jasper, then move into Alberta where you will see the stunning Lake Louise and Banff. Spend evenings at luxurious hotels between stops on your sublime train journey.
9. Bernina Express, Switzerland
Travel through 55 tunnels, 196 bridges, and inclines up to 70 miles as you traverse the picturesque Alps through Switzerland to Italy. The highest railway across Europe’s most stunning mountainous region takes you to the heights of the Ospizio Bernina 2.3 meters above sea level, and back down to the palms of Italy below. The Thusis-Valposchiavo-Tirano section of the line has even achieved UNESCO World Heritage status. Experience terrain as varied as icy glaciers, sprawling orchards, and the castle-laden Domleschg Valley as you revel in Mediterranean flair, culture, and history from your luxurious seat.
10. Andean Explorer, Peru
Experience the ten and a half hour Cusco to Puna route — with a stop at Lake Titicaca, of course — in extreme luxury aboard Perurail’s new Andean Explorer. Make time to dine on gourmet cuisine in one of two cars decorated in 1920s Pullman style. With an open-air observatory car, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to take panoramic pictures while enjoying the traditional music of the Peruvian highlands.
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