8 October 2019 by Emily Newton-Smith
From soaking up the resplendent luxury of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express to exploring the expansive vineyards of Spain, there's a no-fly option for everyone. Why not hop on the Eurostar to France, or revel in the dramatic landscapes of the Scottish Highlands onboard the Belmond Royal Scotsman? Flight-free travel has never been so easy, and our tailor-made travel experts have put together some of our most popular holidays with a greener footprint and less airport stress.
5-day luxury rail journey
The unparalleled luxury of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express will make your journey one to remember. Why fly when you can sip champagne in a cosy armchair and retire to a private cabin aboard the world's most famous train? This itinerary sees you arriving in Venice, the floating city, with time to explore the many winding alleys and intricate canal network with the help of an expert guide. Don't miss your chance to enjoy some authentic Italian cuisine; we recommend eating as much pizza and pasta as you can, and perhaps a glass of wine or two in the bustling Piazza San Marco. After two nights in Venice, there's no need to endure winding airport queues; simply head back via private water taxi into the welcoming splendour of the Orient Express to see you home to the UK.
The famous waterways of Venice
Independent rail tour
While the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is all about onboard experience, there are also plenty of other rail options for exploring the Continent where the scenery take centre stage. Perhaps our favourite is an eight-day jaunt through Switzerland, exploring delightful towns and villages and traversing soaring mountain passes to take in gorgeous alpine views. As a no-fly option, you'll begin with a Eurostar hop from London to Paris before swapping into the TGV to Zurich where you'll have time to visit the old town area of Neiderdorf and indulge in coffees and strudels – a staple of the Austrian capital. It's then time to hit the rails again, taking in the sheer beauty of the Swiss countryside with journeys on the Bernina Express between Chur and Tirano and the iconic Glacier Express to Brig. It's all enjoyed alongside the likes of market visits, walking tours and a four-course gourmet lunch.
Glacier Express, Switzerland
Short rail breaks
It's easy to forget that Paris is just a short train trip away, but the high-speed link between London and the City of Lights makes it one of the simplest (and greenest) ways to get across the channel. A whole host of tailor-made breaks are within easy reach, with only a 45-minute check in at London St Pancras to get you on your way. An included two-night stay in Paris is the perfect way to experience France at its most romantic, and from there the choice is yours. Take a short train ride with private transfers down to Bordeaux and sample all that the vineyards have to offer, or indulge your cultural curiosity in the old town of Lyon. Other options include Aix-en-Provence, Avignon and Dijon; all make for an authentic European experience.
Take in the sights of Paris and beyond
4-day luxury rail journey
There's no need to go too far afield to experience an unforgettable trip, and what better way to avoid the hassle of flying than to stay in the UK? This 720-mile loop on the Belmond Royal Scotsman pairs the ultimate in luxury rail travel with the rugged wilderness of the Scottish Highlands. You'll wind your way past spectacular scenery and across the iconic Forth Railway Bridge, and even stop for a coach trip into the Rothiemurchus Estate for a spot of clay pigeon shooting or fishing. This is Scotland at its best, and in between the excitement it's all about relaxing in the splendour of your private cabin or enjoying traditional Highlands entertainment in the warmth of the observation car.
The Belmond Royal Scotsman
An overnight ferry is the perfect alternative to flying, and with this self-drive tour you'll be able to experience everything from panoramic views of Ireland's coast to those trademark green hinterlands. After two days exploring the mighty Belfast, you'll head out onto some of Ireland's most magnificent roadways, pausing for forest walks in the Glens of Antrim and to view the castle in the charming village of Ballygally. Unmissable is the UNESCO-listed Giants Causeway, with its otherworldly basalt columns rising spectacularly from the sea. The best part about this self-drive holiday is the chance to take everything in at your own pace, and make detours to suit your travelling tastes. When you return to Belfast, simply hop on the ferry back home.
Giants Causeway in County Antrim
We're rounding off our top five no-fly holidays with this sophisticated self-drive tour around the endless sprawling vineyards of northern Spain. An overnight ferry will see you from Portsmouth to Bilbao in the complete comfort of your private premiere cabin. After collecting your hire car, you'll check into your luxury hotel, opposite the world-famous Guggenheim Museum, with time to explore Bilbao and its unique cosmopolitan culture. After that, you'll head for the Rioja, the wine capital of Spain, ready to explore the best vineyards and myriad ancient architecture dotted throughout the region. We recommend sampling local cuisine and tapas along the way, as well as (of course) plenty of wine. After navigating the ultimate wine-lovers route back through to Bilbao, you'll return to the UK once again by ferry.
Vineyards in Rioja
If you're seeking a no-fly holiday and the above aren't quite what you're looking for, browse our other flight-free options below. Our tailor-made travel experts are ready and waiting to put together the perfect itinerary for you.