These days, automobiles and airplanes usually trump train travel when it comes to speed and convenience. But great train journeys aren’t just about getting from point A to point B.
The 15 routes listed here range from all-inclusive luxury trips to jaunts that take less than a day. One thing they all have in common is the opportunity to check out scenic stops that make train travelers reluctant to disembark at their destinations. Click through to see some of the most stunning views in the world.
- Start: Chur, Switzerland
- End: Tirano, Italy
- Ticket Price: Fares for a departure on Dec. 1, 2017, start at about $76.
You can take a journey of a lifetime on this train that climbs as high as 7,392 feet above sea level into the Alps before descending into the Italian city of Tirano. Featuring 55 tunnels, 196 bridges and curvy viaducts, the train route itself has been named to the UNESCO World Heritage List, and the scenery isn’t bad either. In addition to mountains and glaciers, passengers will see orchards, vineyards, forests and even a Swiss castle or two in the picturesque Domleschg Valley.
Additionally, passengers can pre-order platters of sausage, cheese and other alpine-appropriate snacks and drinks, or indulge in food and beverages from the train’s roving minibar.
- Start: Pretoria, South Africa
- End: Cape Town, South Africa
- Ticket Price: The per-person rate for a shared deluxe double is $1,131 for the low season, which extends through December.
Passengers travel almost the entire length of South Africa on this 27-hour, 994-mile journey, taking in mountains and fertile farmland along the way. But the historic highlights of the trip are probably its off-train excursions.
The Pretoria to Cape Town route includes a stop in Kimberley, which transports travelers to the height of the diamond rush days. The train also stops at Matjiesfontein, which retains Victorian charm thanks to its Colonial-era architecture and original, 19th-century London lampposts.
Fares include all meals, high tea, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, plus an after-dinner Cuban cigar and off-train excursions. The Blue Train site notes that rates, however, don’t include French champagne, caviar and external telephone calls, and that passengers are expected to dress for dinner.
- Start: Chicago
- End: San Francisco (Emeryville, Calif., Station)
- Ticket Price: A Value Fare for a reserved coach seat on Dec. 1, 2017, costs $171. Value Fares are fully refundable if travel is canceled at least 48 hours before departure.
Want to take a cross-country road trip in the U.S.? Travelers take in the sights between two iconic American cities on this picturesque route. The varied vistas on this 51-hour train ride between Chicago and San Francisco include the Rocky Mountains, the snow-festooned Sierra Nevadas, Donner Lake and some of Colorado’s most beautiful canyons.
Space in a sleeper car will set train travelers back significantly more than a standard coach fare. Those who choose to snooze in their seats can stretch their legs on a trip to the dining car, where dinner entrees start at around $16.
- Start: Chihuahua, Mexico
- End: Los Mochis, Mexico
- Ticket Price: Fares are $174 for First Express tickets and $100.49 for economy class.
This train travels past fields tended by Mennonites, who moved from Canada to Mexico in the 1920s. Additionally, travelers will see Copper Canyon, a network of gorges that cuts across the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range, passing high plains and waterfalls on the way to the Pacific Coast.
The First Express trains offer a dining car and bar, and economy service features a snack car. Travelers can enjoy snacks a la carte. Many train travelers take time to sample local cuisine at stops and enjoy excursions along the route before re-boarding the train at a later date.
Eastern & Oriental Express
- Start: Bangkok
- End: Singapore
- Ticket Price: Fares for the Dec. 1, 2017, departure start at $3,100 per passenger
The Eastern & Oriental Express also runs between Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, but the Bangkok to Singapore route gives passengers an extra day of onboard luxury. Fares might seem steep, but a steward brings breakfast to your cabin each day, and sleeping quarters offer amenities like an ensuite bathroom.
Lunch in the dining car might be roast duck breast, while dinner could showcase saba mackerel followed by a main course of beef medallions. At the end of the day, enjoy a nightcap in the train’s open-sided observation car.
Whether train travelers are in the open-air car or seated before one of the expansive windows, they’ll take in sights that include temples and tea plantations. Stops include iconic sites such as the River Kwai Bridge and the gold-domed Ubudiah Mosque, crafted with imported Italian marble over a century ago.
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The Ghan Expedition
- Start: Adelaide, Australia
- End: Darwin, Australia
- Ticket Price: Gold Service single-fare tickets for Nov. 29, 2017, through March 1, 2018, cost about $1,469.
The Ghan transports travelers from Adelaide, Australia’s cosmopolitan capital on the southern coast, to the Northern Territory. On the way, you'll pass mountain ranges, mallee scrub and ochre-tinted outback.
Off-train excursions include a stargazing stop in the outback and an off-train excursion in Katherine, where passengers can take a cruise on the Katherine River or spend the day with Aboriginal people, learning about the culture and trying their hand at traditional crafts.
Along with other perks, the Ghan’s Gold Service fare features a private cabin, all-inclusive dining, beverages — including Australian wines, beers, base spirits and non-alcoholic drinks — and excursions at key stops. Gold Service single cabins offer shared bathroom facilities, while twin cabins have upper and lower berths and a private ensuite bath.
Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express
- Start: Moscow
- End: Vladivostok, Russia
- Ticket Price: A Silver Class ticket costs $15,895 for travel between May 6 and May 20, 2018.
This 15-day tour starts in the heart of Russia’s capital city, where passengers can take in the sights and historical significance of Red Square. Next, they'll board a train that will transport them through landscapes that include the Ural Mountains, which divide Europe and Asia, and the shores of Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake. The Golden Eagle also dips into Mongolia, where passengers can see traditional yurts, livestock and the nomadic natives before returning to Vladivostok.
Among other amenities, a ticket includes breakfast, lunch and dinner each day, as well as a “generous drinks allowance” with lunch and dinner for all passengers. Higher-priced tickets also include drinks from the bar car at other times of day. The Golden Eagle package offers guided off-train excursions to help passengers explore stops along the route and some nights at top-tier hotels.
- Start: St Pancras International Station, London
- End: St Pancras International Station, London
- Ticket Price: A six-day, round-trip package from Rail Discoveries starts at $1,181 per person for the April 15, 2018, departure.
The Rail Discoveries package includes a guided walking tour of the historic German city of Goslar, where passengers have time to explore on their own. The itinerary features a stop in Quedlinburg, which boasts hundreds of distinctive, half-timbered buildings and other architecture dating back centuries.
Among the many benefits of this journey is the opportunity to travel on nostalgic, steam-hauled trains over narrow-gauge railways through the Harz Mountains. The package price includes five dinners, five nights of hotel accommodations and breakfast each day.
- Start: Hanoi, Vietnam
- End: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
- Ticket Price: Fare for an upper-bunk spot in a four-bed cabin costs about $54 for a Dec. 1, 2017, departure.
The route runs along the South China Sea, passing jungles, forests, beaches and islands. Between city stops, passengers will also view vistas populated by rice paddies and water buffalo.
Snacks, drinks and some meals are available for purchase on the train, but this isn’t a luxury line. Instead, consider disembarking at stops to explore attractions and sample the cuisine before reboarding on another day.
- Start: Vancouver, Canada
- End: Banff, Canada
- Ticket Price: Fares start at $1,590 for the “First Passage to the West Classic” package for the 2018 season, which begins in April.
The Rocky Mountaineer offers other routes, but this ride through the Canadian Rockies is a perennial favorite thanks to stunning scenery and historical heft. The “First Passage to the West” trip is the only passenger rail service on the route that connects Canada from east to west and takes train travelers by sights, including the Black Canyon, the Hoodoos — people transformed into pillars by witches, according to legend — Kicking Horse River, the Spiral Tunnels and Castle Mountain.
The package includes two breakfasts and two lunches aboard the Rocky Mountaineer, as well as hotel accommodations for one night each in Vancouver, Kamloops and Banff. You'll also get onboard snacks and drinks, including wine, beer, spirits and non-alcoholic beverages. Other perks include a National Park Pass to help train travelers explore the sights in each city along the rail route.
Semmering Bahn Scenic Train Route
- Start: Gloggnitz, Austria
- End: Semmering, Austria
- Ticket Price: Prices for a Eurail Austria Pass currently start at $135
Impressive engineering — especially for the mid-1800s — and awe-inspiring scenery helped the Semmering Railway land a spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The stretch between Gloggnitz and Semmering includes 16 viaducts and 15 tunnels. When it’s not cutting through mountains, the route offers stunning views of alpine scenery that will evoke scenes from “The Sound of Music.”
Semmering Bahn trains typically offer snack trolleys, showers and bathroom facilities. And a Eurail countrywide pass covers the cost of other scenic routes, including Arlbergline, also in Austria.
- Start: Pretoria, South Africa
- End: Victoria Falls (on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe)
- Ticket Price: The Emerald fare for the Jan. 5, 2018, departure is $4,745.
Considered one of the continent’s most scenic train rides, the Shongololo Express’ Southern Cross route makes stops in South Africa, Swaziland, Mozambique and Zimbabwe during its 12-day journey before ending at the Zimbabwe/Zambia border. Along the way, passengers will take in the Drakensberg Mountains, parks, wildlife reserves and historic sites, including the Great Zimbabwe Ruins.
This trip is more about off-train excursions than the onboard amenities. But, when train travelers aren’t viewing stunning African sights and marveling at the wild game, they can eat and drink in the train’s dining and bar cars, though beverages and lunches aren’t included in the fare. All cabins include private ensuite bathrooms.
Train Suite Shiki-shima
- Start: Ueno Station, Tokyo
- End: Ueno Station, Tokyo
- Ticket Price: Double-occupancy fares start at $6,580 for four-day, three-night round trips departing from July through September 2018.
Scenic stopovers on this all-suite luxury train include Aomori, site of the ancient Sannai-Maruyama Ruins, and the Aomori Museum of Art and Hakodate, home to the historic Hakodate Morning Market. The site boasts around 250 stores, some of which offer seafood so fresh diners can catch it themselves.
Train travelers might want to save their appetites, though. The onboard cuisine is crafted from local ingredients to reflect the regions the train passes through. Space is limited on the Shiki-shima, so applications are accepted during a set period, and reservation requests are selected by lottery if there are more applicants than available spaces. The current application period is for trips departing from July through September 2018.
- Start: Christchurch, New Zealand
- End: Greymouth, New Zealand
- Ticket Price: A one-way Flexi Fare, which allows you to stop anywhere along the route, costs $126 for a Dec. 1, 2017, departure.
This trip takes travelers on a one-way journey across New Zealand’s South Island. The train cuts through the plains of Canterbury to the seemingly impregnable Southern Alps, where it ascends along a route that's considered a masterpiece of altitude-defying engineering.
On the way up, riders will catch glimpses of the icy Waimakariri River, pass through tunnels and viaducts — including the 72-meter-high structure aptly named the Staircase Viaduct. Those who aren’t too acrophobic can also observe breathtaking views of Mount Binser and the edges of Arthur's Pass National Park. The last leg winds through river valleys and along the banks of Lake Brunner.
The round-trip route runs every day except Christmas, and travelers often take advantage of the train's frequency by hopping off to take an alpine hike or throw out a line at Lake Brunner. The Great Journeys of New Zealand, which operates the TranzAlpine, also offers buses to take tourists to destinations beyond the tracks.
TranzAlpine carriages feature skylights, panoramic windows and audio commentary systems mounted in the side of each chair that can be accessed with a pair of complimentary headphones. The train also offers open-air carriages and, if you can tear yourself away from the scenery, a Cafe Carriage with food and non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks.
- Start: London
- End: Venice, Italy
- Ticket Price: Fares start at $3,124 per passenger for the train that leaves March 25, 2018.
This two-train trip begins at London’s Victoria Station, where passengers board the Belmond British Pullman train to enjoy brunch and Bellinis while crossing the countryside and the English Channel. Once in France, train travelers board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express for a four-course dinner and a night on the rails. It’s also worth noting that this iconic train offers other routes to cities such as Prague, Paris and Budapest.
Passengers are treated to breakfast in bed, where they can lounge until lunch is served in one of the train's restaurant cars. But most will likely want to revel in the passing Alpine scenery and admire the train’s antique fixtures and Art Deco style over meals. Disembark at Santa Lucia Station, which provides direct access to Venice’s Grand Canal.