12 February 2019 by David Ward
Whether it’s the old-world charm, the luxurious surroundings and service, or the incredible sense of place, rail travel remains one of the most sophisticated and sought after modes of transport around.We’ve scoured every continent to come up with our pick of the world’s best rail holidays. Each is a masterclass in luxury and pampering, with varied itineraries and individual attention meaning the options for enjoyment are endless. Here, our team of luxury rail specialists have picked out their favourites.
The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express conjures up images of early 20th-century splendour, of silent film stars and Agatha Christie – of the golden age of travel. And, much of the glamour and mystique still lingers, the white-gloved services as faultless as one could hope for from the world’s most famous rail journey. The train offers a network of routes across the continent, but the overnight route between London and Venice (or visa versa) remains the most popular. And, where the original carriages have been lovingly refurbished to incorporate everything from the elegant restaurant and bar cars to small-but-perfectly formed cabins, the addition of the ever-so-spacious Grand Suites have brought a new level of luxury to this most glamorous rail holiday experience.
Sleek, elegant and ultra-comfortable, the Blue Train cossets passengers in all the luxury and service of a 5-star hotel. Operating regular services between Pretoria and Cape Town, its southbound route stops at the historic town of Kimberley, famous for its massive diamond mine, the Big Hole, and its siege in the Second Boer War, while its northbound route visits the old colonial town of Matjiesfontein. And, perhaps best of all, it's easily incorporated into a longer South Africa holiday, whether that's with a stay in the verdant Cape Winelands, a self-drive along the famous Garden Route or a Big-Five safari in the Kruger National Park.
Recalling the opulence of Rajasthani royalty, this luxury train is India's answer to the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: modelled on the luxurious railway cars of old with richly decorated interiors and service-proud staff. Travelling between Delhi and Mumbai, via Agra, Ranthambore National Park and through the desert-edges of the former royal state of Rajasthan, full days of sightseeing take in magical cities such as Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur. The journey itself is a lavish experience with luncheons arranged in former maharajas palaces and richly decorated elephants and entertainers regularly greeting the train’s arrival.
Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca, highlights of any visit to Peru, are linked by rail via Cusco along some of the world’s highest and most scenic tracks. Enjoy three days exploring fortresses, markets and valleys before riding the Hiram Bingham train to Machu Picchu.Then take the Andean Explorer to Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca, a stunning 10-hour journey past grazing llamas and high Andean villages. It's an unforgettable part of any luxury Peru holiday.
Enjoy the diverse beauty of Canada’s west aboard the famous Rocky Mountaineer. Consistently voted the ‘World’s Leading Travel Experience by Train’ , a trip on the Rocky Mountaineer will uncover the stunning landscapes of Alberta, British Columbia and the majestic Canadian Rockies. And, you'll travel in style throughout, enjoying superb onboard dining, included drinks and snacks, overnight stays in the region's best hotels and, for those in GoldLeaf class, unmatched views from your carriage's glass-domed roof.
For more than a century, travellers have taken Trans-Siberian trains across the vast expanses of Russia and Mongolia, yet never in such luxury as they can aboard the Golden Eagle. The route itself is one of the world’s greatest, travelling 6,000 miles (one third of the way around the world) from Moscow, over the Urals, across the Russian steppes, along the shore of the world’s deepest lake, down into Mongolia and then east to Vladivostok.
Experience the uniqueness of South East Asia in the utmost comfort and luxury, on board the elegant and timeless Eastern & Oriental Express. Departing from Bangkok you will pass the famous River Kwai before heading into Malaysia, past colonial Georgetown and Fort Cornwallis, over the Straits of Johor before arriving into the vibrant heart of Singapore.
The Indian Pacific is named after the two oceans it connects on its cross-country journey between Perth and Sydney. Covering 4,352km, it is one of the world’s longest and most memorable train journeys. Travelling East from Perth, the full journey takes four days and passes through Kalgoorlie on its crossing across the mighty Nullabor desert before arriving in Adelaide, ahead of a journey through some of Australia’s most productive farmlands and arrival in Sydney via the spectacular Blue Mountains.