It doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done – if you haven’t traveled by train, you haven’t seen it all.
Train travel around the globe allows travelers to glimpse gorgeous landscapes that, in many cases, can’t be enjoyed from a car or from the sky in the kind of relaxed, scenic fashion afforded by rail.
Here is just a small snapshot of train travel experiences that deserve a spot on your travel bucket list.
The best train travel across the globe
Rocky Mountaineer offers several different routes through the Canadian Rockies for those looking to travel by train, and you can’t go wrong with whatever you choose. The Journey through the Clouds includes Mount Robson, the highest point of the Canadian Rockies, Coastal Passage offers a ride along the Pacific Ocean between Seattle and Vancouver, and First Passage to the West includes a ride through the Spiral Tunnels. If it’s too hard to choose, passengers can combine a few routes into a longer journey.
The Belmond Grand Hibernian is the answer to all those who’ve dreamed of taking a luxury rail journey through the Irish countryside. Up to 40 guests enjoy two-, four-, or six-night journeys, splitting time between suite-style cabins, two restaurants and an observation car. Depending on your trip, stops along the way may include everything from an opportunity to kiss the Blarney Stone to an Irish whiskey tasting.
Few places represent the word vast like the Australian Outback. If you’re not up for four-wheeling through the desolate terrain or enduring some kind of soul-searching walkabout, consider travel by train with the Ghan, a perfect bet for experiencing this largely undisturbed part of the planet. It takes four days and three nights to traverse the roughly 1,850-mile route, which crosses the continent north-to-south. Relax in your private cabin aboard the train between optional excursions, such as a camelback ride. Shorter trips covering portions of the route are available as well.
A fjord is a narrow inlet or valley that twists and turns through steep, majestic cliffs. Norway is loaded with these natural wonders and the Flam Railway – also known as the Flamsbana, which is undoubtedly the coolest word you’ve read all day – is a perfect way to enjoy them. The two-hour round trip starts at sea level but rises quickly, ascending more than 2,800 feet to Myrdal. Along with beautiful fjords, the route rolls through tunnels and past waterfalls.
The Glacier Express moves slowly, and you wouldn’t want it any other way. The seven-hour journey from Zermatt to St. Moritz is graced with the best of Swiss scenery, including the Oberalp Pass through the Alps, 90-plus tunnels and more than 290 bridges.
The Blue Train runs a 994-mile route from Cape Town to Pretoria, South Africa. It’s a relaxed 27-hour ride. Along with sweeping scenery, the trip includes a stop at the Kimberley Mine Museum, which tells the story of area diamond mining history, and a lookout over the museum’s famous Big Hole, the largest hand-dug excavation in the world.
The Grand Canyon Railway is the trip back to the Wild West you’ve always dreamed of. Your experience starts in Williams, Ariz., on the iconic Route 66. Guests of the railway start their adventure with a Wild-West-themed show that (naturally) ends in a shootout. From there, it’s a scenic, 65 mile, two-hour-and-15 minute ride to the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park. En route, guests enjoy visits from costumed, period musicians and, perhaps, some train robbers.
Train travel with the Royal Canadian Pacific is about luxury. The line’s fleet consists of 10 vintage business cars resorted with brass fittings, circassian walnut wall paneling and imported bird’s eye maple, combined with modern amenities such as gourmet cuisine and fine wines and top-notch service. The line travels a 650-mile loop from Calgary, Alberta, wrapping through beautiful Rocky Mountains scenery populated by wildlife ranging from elk to moose to grizzly bear.
Have a favorite out of the bunch? Want to share your train travel experiences with other AAA members? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.