The world’s most breathtaking train rides

11 de August de 2023

Train journeys offer a unique mix of convenience, comfort, and unforgettable experiences through incredible landscapes, making them the perfect style of holiday for travellers looking to actually relax while on vacation. If travel is really all about the journey and not the destination, there may be no finer way to travel.

Journeys by rail often offer a sense of adventure without the need to do much planning or the stresses associated with a road trip. Whether you’re a solo traveller or travelling with family, train travel allows for social interaction and opportunities to meet new people. 

Each rail journey has its own unique charm, but there are a number of truly notable train journeys that pass through some of the world’s most scenic and often unforgiving landscapes which would otherwise be difficult to experience any other way.

Enjoy some truly memorable uninterrupted travel the next time you go on holiday with one of these breathtaking train rides. And in case your travels don’t go as planned, make sure you have travel insurance to help get you back on track.

The Blue Train, South Africa

South Africa’s Blue Train is one of the world’s top luxury trains, with its most popular route running between Pretoria and Cape Town. Enjoy world-class amenities and services on this historic train which once carried world leaders and high-ranking officials.

The traditional longer route thoroughly showcases the beauty of the South African countryside, while the shorter route to Hoedspruit sees you pass through Kruger National Park.

The train’s sleeper cars offer up two different room options that include Deluxe and Luxury, both of which will have your sleeping comfortably. Enjoy an ensuite that is equipped with shower or full-sized tub, comfy bed, marble bathroom, and private air conditioning.

The dining experience onboard is equally as elegant, allowing you to taste the flavours of South Africa such as Karoo lamb, ostrich steaks, Knysna oysters, and antelope venison. The train also provides luxurious lounge cars where passengers can relax and socialise.

The observation car with its large windows allows for panoramic views of the passing landscape where you will hopefully be able to see and maybe photograph iconic African wildlife that you pass.

Hiram Bingham Train, Peru

The Hiram Bingham train is a luxurious tourist train run by Belmond that operates between Cusco and the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu which has been labelled as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. The train takes its name from the famous American explorer who is credited with Machu Picchu’s rediscovery, although it is through the assistance of local Peruvian farmers that this was achieved.

While this train journey may be rather short, it definitely does not disappoint. The journey takes roughly three to four hours, covering a little over 100 kilometres. It is the most luxurious and relaxing way to travel to Machu Picchu, as opposed to the other standard trains like the Expedition and Vistadome trains or enduring the multi-day trek along the famous Inca Trail.

Enjoy a first-class luxury experience in beautifully designed carriages which are inspired by the 1920s Pullman trains. The train features elegant dining cars where passengers can sample gourmet Peruvian cuisine alongside live musicians and traditional Peruvian dance performances.

The price of the train journey includes bus transport from Aguas Calientes to the Machu Picchu ruins as well as entry into the famous historic site before making its return journey to Cusco. Another famous Peruvian train journey to consider is the Belmond Andean Explorer which is regarded as one of the highest train routes in the world, taking in Lake Titicaca and Arequipa.

The Ghan, Australia

We are fortunate enough to have one of the world’s most beloved train journeys right here in Australia. Stepping aboard The Ghan will allow you to discover the vastness, beauty, and culture of the Australian Outback. The nearly 3,000-kilomtre journey runs between Adelaide and Darwin, with stops at places like Alice Springs, Katherine, and the opal mining town of Coober Pedy.

The 3-4 day journey will allow you to witness the changing landscapes, from the lush vineyards of South Australia to the fiery red deserts of the Red Centre. The Ghan opens up the harsh and remote regions of the Outback that is seldom visited and operates on different routes and schedules depending on the season.

The Ghan provides a pure luxury onboard experience, offering well-appointed cabins with private ensuite facilities, gourmet dining, and top-notch lounge areas. While the scenery onboard is enough to keep you entertained, there are also a number of off-train excursions you can take advantage of including scenic flights over Lake Eyre, Uluru, and Nitmiluk Gorge.

Coastal Pacific and TranzAlpine, New Zealand

New Zealand’s South Island offers up two incredibly scenic train journeys which make it a bit difficult to choose between them, so we thought we’d cover both. While both journeys may depart from Christchurch, they offer up very different scenery.

The TranzAlpine train takes you from Christchurch to the town of Greymouth on the west coast. The four-to-five-hour journey ventures into the Southern Alps, taking in some of the South Island’s most impressive natural wonders such as the Waimakariri River and Arthur’s Pass National Park.

The TranzAlpine offers unique open-air viewing carriages that allow you to take in the fresh mountain air and feel a greater connection to the landscapes you journey through. Upon your arrival in Greymouth, you have the option to disembark and explore the town before returning to Christchurch the same day or continuing your journey to other parts of the South Island along the west coast.

Meanwhile, the Coastal Pacific takes in the eastern coastline of the South Island, running north from Christchurch to Picton. This journey is a bit longer than the TranzAlpine and offers impressive views of the Pacific Ocean, charming seaside villages, and the famous Marlborough wine region.

Much like the TranzAlpine, you will enjoy informative commentary throughout the journey on the Coastal Pacific which will cover the local history, places of interest, wildlife, and culture of the region. You can choose to disembark in Picton and explore the heart of Marlborough Sounds or catch a ferry to the North Island.

West Highland Line, Scotland

Regarded by many as the most beautiful rail journey in the world and most definitely at the very top of the list when it comes to mountain railways, Scotland’s West Highland Line ventures deep into the country’s mountainous west coast.

Known for its offering of breathtaking landscapes that include notable lochs and mountains as well as historic landmarks, the West Highland line creates a memorable journey through Scotland. The West Highland Line runs from Glasgow to the coastal regions of the Scottish Highlands, allowing you to take in Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the British Isles, as well as lochs like Lomond and Eil.

Harry Potter fans will be delighted to know the journey features the iconic railway bridge known as Glenfinnan Viaduct which of course the fictional Hogwarts Express crosses over in the films. Another notable landmark you’ll observe is Inverlochy Castle near Fort William.

Consider booking a ticket on the Jacobite Steam Train, which operates along the section of the West Highland Line from Fort William to Mallaig, a similar route to the one the fictional Hogwarts Express follows.