10 of the best train journeys in the world!

Following on from my last post of 10 of the best road trips in the world, a follower of the website suggested I do 10 of the best train journeys in the world as my next post.

This list is a mix of some of the most spectacular, luxurious and longest train journeys in the world. Sadly the Dublin to Galway train of a bank holiday weekend just misses out as the return journey is not for the faint of heart!

1. Rocky Mountaineer, Canada

From Vancouver to Banff, Jasper and Calgary (different routes).

This one is definitely one for the bucket list! The Rocky Mountaineer is one of the most scenic train journeys in the world. This travels through the Canadian Rockies and across Western Canada and operates from April through until October. There are three different routes with the “First Passage to the West” from Vancouver to Banff being the most popular one. The scenery is stunning with full glass-dome windows giving you a great view of Western Canada. I’d recommend checking out the excellent Seat 61 website that does an in-depth look at each route.

2. Venice Simplon Orient Express

From London to Venice

Quite simply the most glamorous and luxurious train journey on the planet! The original Orient Express ran between Paris and Istanbul, but new routes (and variations on the name) were developed but the current London to Venice route being the most extravagant. You’ll dine in restored 1920s and move through dramatic scenery like the Swiss Alps. This is operated by Belmond, who are well known for their luxury train journeys and even operate one in Ireland, the Grand Hibernian.

3. Trans-Siberian, Russia

From Moscow to Vladivostok

Another bucket list train journey. The Trans-Siberian Railway is a network of railways connecting Moscow with the Russian Far East. With a length of 9,289 kilometres, from the capital Moscow to Vladivostok, it is the world’s longest railway. The Trans-Siberian isn’t geared towards tourists so its more practical than luxurious. You’ll travel through the Ural Mountains and Lake Baikal in the centre of Siberia. Along with the Trans-Siberian, there is also the Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Manchurian both going to Beijing via Mongolia and Manchuria respectively. There are various different classes so I’d recommend the bible for train journeys, Seat61, for more information.

4. TranzAlpine, New Zealand

From Christchurch to Greymouth

The TranzAlpine is a passenger train operated by The Great Journeys of New Zealand in the South Island of New Zealand and is often regarded to be one of the world’s great train journeys for the scenery through which it passes. This runs once daily between Christchurch, Arthur’s Pass and Greymouth on the South Island’s west coast, through the amazing misty mountain scenery of the Southern Alps. The journey is 223 kilometres one-way, taking almost five hours.

5. The Ghan, Australia

From Adelaide to Darwin

The Ghan is an Australian passenger train service between the cities of Adelaide, Alice Springs and Darwin on the Adelaide–Darwin railway right through the heart of Australia. Operated by Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions, it is the best way to visit Australia’s red centre and Uluru (Ayer’s Rock). It takes 54 hours to travel the 2,979 kilometres with a four-hour stopover in Alice Springs.

6. Blue Train, South Africa

From Cape Town to Pretoria

Along with the Orient Express in terms of opulence. The Blue Train has been operating since 1923 between Pretoria and Cape Town on its 994-mile, 27-hour journey showing off some of the most diverse and spectacular scenery offered by the African sub-continent. The Blue Train is one of the luxurious train journeys in the world with its superb cuisine, attentive butler service and decor. The Blue Train also offers an additional route to South Africa’s Limpopo Province, which is home to the Kruger National Park.

7. The California Zephyr, USA

From Chicago to Emeryville in the San Francisco Bay Area

The California Zephyr is a passenger train operated by Amtrak which runs daily between Chicago and San Francisco, coursing through the plains of Nebraska to Denver, across the Rockies to Salt Lake City, and then through Reno and Sacramento into Emeryville This mammoth train journey takes 51 and a half hours with a distance of nearly 4,000 km, has beautiful views of the upper Colorado River valley in the Rocky Mountains, and the Sierra Nevada.

8. Glacier Express, Switzerland

From Zermatt to St. Moritz

The Glacier Express is an iconic train connecting two major mountain resorts of Zermatt and St. Moritz via Andermatt in the central Swiss Alps. This “express” train goes at a similar pace to that of the Luas in Dublin and takes 7 and a half hours to cover just over 290 km (180 miles), at an average of around 24 mph. However, you won’t be complaining as Swiss mountain scenery unfolds outside the train’s panoramic sightseeing windows. For more info, click here for the Seat 61 report.

9. Andean Explorer, Peru

From Arequipa to Lake Titicaca and Cuzco

Another luxury train journey and another one operated by Belmond. Launched in May 2017, The Andean Explorer is South America’s first luxury sleeper train and travels between Cusco, Lake Titicaca and Arequipa of Peru. From Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire, traverse the highest plains of the Andes before arriving at the reflective beauty of Lake Titicaca. Cusco is the base city for visiting the famous Inca ruins at Machu Picchu, which you can either hike or take another train. 

10. Kandy to Ella, Sri Lanka

From Kandy to Ella, Sri Lanka

The last entry is not as typical as the previous entries as it is not luxurious or particularly well known but anybody who has been to Sri Lanka can attest it is one of the best places in the world to travel by train. This train journey from Kandy to Ella is seven hours long and takes you through stunning landscapes of green and lush tea plantations and mountain views. The views are truly spectacular as you can hang your head out of the carriage (for the love of God be careful) and this train journey is sure to be a highlight of anyone’s trip to Sri Lanka.

Like the lists I have done before, it’s difficult to narrow it down to a top 10 as there are so many great train journeys that miss out such as the Eastern Oriental or the enormous Canadian train from the East to the West of Canada. What do you think of the list? Is there any that I shouldn’t have overlooked? Let me know in the comments!

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