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3 April, 20195 minute read

Joy rides: great railways of the world

It’s often been said that ‘life’s a journey, not a destination’. These train trips have convinced us it’s both.

We’re constantly thrilled by the great railway journeys of the world. Sure, you can fly across Europe in a matter of hours. And yes, there are quicker ways to travel between some of Africa’s great sights and sounds. But as you step on board a train, you can look forward to seeing these wonders in an entirely different way.

Rovos Rail’s Pride of Africa

Imagine taking a leisurely soak in a roll top bath as you watch majestic African landscapes slide past. Imagine sinking into a wing-tipped chair as you await the gong that announces that dinner is served. Imagine sipping your morning coffee in a beautiful Victorian dining car as you head towards your next amazing destination. Unforgettable. There are plenty of reasons why Rovos Rail’s Pride of Africa is the so-called ‘most luxurious train in the world.’ This is next-level comfort and elegance, recalling a bygone era when travel was always this sophisticated and relaxed.

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Two nights on board the Pride of Africa is part of our epic 17-day 'Tracks of Africa' tour. As you travel through South Africa, Zambia and Botswana, you’ll be guided through highlights like the beautiful Garden Route, Cape Town and Table Mountain, an exhilarating African safari and the spectacular Victoria Falls, known as the ‘Smoke that Thunders’.

Rovos Rail's Pride of Africa train travels past a field of springbok

Rocky Mountaineer

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to experience a truly humbling wilderness from a truly comfortable seat? To feel the mountain breeze in your hair without climbing any mountains? To dine on the finest local produce as you look out for local wildlife? The Rocky Mountaineer offers a unique way to see some of North America’s most epic landscapes by day before resting your head in some of its finest hotels by night. This fully glass-domed train is one giant viewing platform that snakes its way through Western Canada, taking in everything from the vibrancy of Pacific Coast Vancouver to the unspoilt beauty of the Canadian Rockies.

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You may want to go all out for the 17-day 'World’s Most Spectacular Rail Journey'. Or perhaps go for the 15-day 'Canadian Rockies Grand Circle'. We offer a number of different tours that include journeys on the Rocky Mountaineer, so there’s sure to be an itinerary that takes your fancy.

Another train ride?

To expand your Canadian adventure even further, our 'Trans Canadian Rail Odyssey' features VIA Rail’s The Canadian too. Taking you all the way west from Toronto on the east coast to Jasper in the Rockies, this is another spectacular rail journey across a vast, beautiful landscape. Or admire the canyons and mountains of America's southwest on Rocky Mountaineer's brand-new USA route - a memorable start to our 'Rocky Mountaineer Adventure and Great USA National Parks' tour.

Two passengers are served lunch on board Rocky Mountaineer

Titicaca Train

So far removed (in every sense of the word) from your average train journey, a trip on Peru’s Titicaca Train is incomparable. Travelling from the Altiplano to the Andean peaks, it’s one of the highest railway routes in the world, reaching altitudes of more than 4,300 metres.

The classic midnight-blue and cream livery hints at the stylish décor inside, with dark-wood panelling, linen-dressed tables and brass details inspired by the Pullman carriages of the 1920s. And when you want to really immerse yourself, there’s an open deck where you can breathe in that crisp mountain air as the La Raya range slips past.

Hop on board

Enjoy a night on board the Titicaca Train as part of our 14-day 'Footsteps of the Incas' tour. Boarding the train at Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca, you’ll climb past villages and grasslands to La Raya - the highest point of the journey. Then it’s on towards vibrant Cusco, once capital of the Inca empire. This amazing tour also features a visit to Machu Picchu, Peru’s most famous and arguably most breathtaking sight.

The Titicaca Train travels through the Peruvian countryside

Shinkansen bullet trains

In complete contrast to the leisurely pace and nostalgic luxury of some other great train journeys, Japan’s bullet trains offer slickness, speed and modern efficiency. Running at speeds of up to 320km per hour, the Shinkansen connects most of the country’s main cities. Trains generally depart within seconds of their allotted departure time too: a rare treat for commuters from certain UK towns and cities!

The trains themselves look incredibly futuristic, with a sleek, striking profile that hints at the high speeds they reach. One of the destinations they serve is Kyoto. A city of historic temples, shrines and beautiful gardens, it’s a wonderful example of that Japanese juxtaposition of high-tech efficiency and ancient traditions.

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Highlights of our 14-day 'Essence of Japan' tour include Tokyo, Mt Fuji, Hiroshima and Kyoto, via tea ceremonies, temples and walking tours. Plus, three exciting trips on bullet trains, from Kanazawa to Hiroshima, Hiroshima to Osaka, and Kyoto to Mishima.

A Shinkansen bullet train speeds past a field of pink flowers in Japan

Glacier Express and Bernina Express

Think of an express train ride. An image that probably doesn’t spring immediately to mind is a gentle journey through snow-covered peaks, seen through panoramic windows. So, the Bernina Express and Glacier Express are a revelation. Winding their way through the magnificent Swiss Alps, they offer panorama after panorama and are both an absolute joy to travel on.

The Bernina Express crosses borders and cultures, taking you from Chur/ St Moritz in Switzerland, all the way down to Tirano in Italy. The Glacier Express takes you on a seven-hour journey between the Swiss resorts of St Moritz and Zermatt.

Both railway lines are seriously impressive feats of engineering. The Bernina Express passes over 196 bridges and climbs the incredible Brusio Spiral Viaduct, which was built to limit the railway’s incline to 7%. The Glacier Express crosses a remarkable 291 bridges and its fittingly ‘glacial’ pace only adds to your enjoyment of those spectacular views.

Hop on board

You can travel on both the Bernina and Glacier Express trains on 'Switzerland’s Spectacular Rail Journeys'

The Bernina Express train crosses a viaduct in Switzerland
Image of blog author Laura Weeden

Although she loves a lie-in at home, Laura is often up and about before dawn on holiday. She’s watched the sun rise over the Grand Canyon, Uluru and Angkor Wat, but her favourite was seeing the first light of the New Year sweeping across the yacht-dotted waters of Sydney Harbour.

Laura | About the author

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