Top 10 rail journeys in the world
There is something so romantic about travelling by rail. The bustle at the station, settling into your seat, and then the sense of excitement when the whistle blows and the train eases out of the station…it can send shivers down your spine.
Wherever you are in the world, a journey by rail gives you the chance to sit back and enjoy a leisurely ride, often with spectacular scenery, and really get a feel for the country you are visiting. Here is our selection of the top 10 rail journeys across the world to whet your appetite and tempt you to embrace a simpler way of travelling.
10. Eastern Rail Experience, Canada
What: A seven night tour along Eastern Canada, known as Canada Maritimes, and encompassing Halifax, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Travel on to Quebec on the Via Rail overnight service; ‘The Ocean’. Spend time in Quebec before continuing by Via Rail to Montreal and finally Toronto.
Best bits: Enjoy good food and comfortable overnight accommodation plus amazing scenery on board Via Rail’s The Ocean’ Service en route to the cosmopolitan city of Quebec. Explore beautiful Montreal with its charming Latin Quarter, and famous Notre Dame Basilica. Finally check out the sights and sounds of Toronto, the CN Tower, The Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto Zoo – this city has something for everyone.
More information and to book: Eastern Rail Experience, Canada
9. Coastal California
What: This varied itinerary showcases the highlights of the Californian Coastline, exploring San Francisco, Monterey and Carmel before enjoying a scenic train ride from Oakland to Los Angeles on Amtrak’s grand west coast service known as Coast Starlight. Three nights in LA give you the chance to explore the attractions of this exciting city. A half-day bus tour will tick off many of the sights, and an excursion by rail to the home of Disney in Anaheim promises a whole lot of fun. Finally a short train ride to sunny San Diego, home of the world famous San Diego Zoo.
Best bits: Top of the list is the train journey along the glorious Pacific coastline, so make sure you keep your camera handy. This spectacular route offers many amazing vistas along the way as you ride through the fertile Santa Clara Valley, with a backdrop of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and then along the dramatic Pacific coastline to Santa Barbara and finally into Los Angeles. San Francisco is on everyone’s wish list and a trip to Alcatraz is a must, wander along Pier 39 to watch the sea lions and don’t forget to ride the famous cable cars. Get your thrills on the rides in Disneyland and finally enjoy some laid back sunshine in San Diego.
More information and to book: Coastal California
8. Western Explorer Rockies by Rail, Canada
What: This seven night tour includes all the highlights of the Canadian Rockies with many surprises along the way. Flying into Calgary for one night before continuing on to Banff and the beautiful Lake Louise, Jasper Kamloops and finally Vancouver.
Best bits: If you love mountains and breath taking scenery, this is the tour for you and there are certainly many ‘Best Bits’. Top of the list is a once in a lifetime helicopter ride over the Rockies, closely followed by two days on board the Rocky Mountaineer travelling from Jasper to Kamloops and on to Vancouver. Finally a chance to stay in the world famous Fairmont Chateaux at Lake Louise, located in Banff National Park, a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site.
More information and to book: Western Explorer Rockies by Rail, Canada
7. America’s Heritage
What: A comprehensive tour by train of America’s historical East Coast cities. First stop is Boston where you can enjoy sightseeing along the famous Freedom Trail and discover up to sixteen historically significant sites. Give your feet a rest and let the train take the strain to New York where you can shop ‘til you drop. Onwards by Amtrak to Philadelphia, to enjoy the cities many museums before continuing to Williamsburg, and finally the US Capital, Washington DC.
Best bits: Amtrak’s service linking the cities on this tour is known as the Acela Express, operating frequent and high-speed trains between cities. There are many highlights along the way including the option to go whale watching from Boston, or to visit the Statue of Liberty in New York, and enjoy the museums and monuments of Washington.
More information and to book: America’s Heritage
6. Mountain to Sea Rail Passage, Canada
What: A holiday combing both rail, road and sea travel taking you from Calgary to Vancouver. Begin your adventure in Banff, then onto Jasper via the spectacular Icefields Parkway. All aboard Canada’s Via Rail service to Prince George and Prince Rupert. Time to find your sea legs on a cruise through the Inside Passage to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. Spend two nights in Victoria then take the ferry across to Vancouver for your last night before your flight home.
Best bits: Via Rails dramatic service around Mt. Robson, the highest peak in the Rockies, gets this holiday off to a flying start. A picturesque cruise through the Inside Passage has real wow factor, sailing through the maze of islands, into deep fjords and around jagged inlets. You will have great opportunities for bird and wildlife spotting at sea, especially bald eagles and, sea lions. Finally, a short stay in Victoria gives you time to enjoy a whale-watching cruise around the harbour and the possibility of seeing Orca or Grey Whales.
More information and to book: Mountain to Sea Rail Passage, Canada
5. Cape Town, Blue Train & Safari, Self Drive, South Africa
What: A comprehensive 10 night holiday combining self drive, city, safari plus the iconic Blue Train. Explore Cape Town at your leisure before kicking back and relaxing for two days on board the luxurious Blue Train to Pretoria. Lastly an unforgettable safari in Kruger National Park and the chance to explore the area of KwaZulu-Natal before flying home from Durban.
Best bits: A ride on the cable car to the top of Table Mountain for some unsurpassed views of both the Atlantic and Indian Ocean, or a boat excursion to Robben Island, the prison that held Nelson Mandela for so many years. Two days of luxury on the Blue Train as it winds its way from Cape Town to Pretoria. Last but not least, the chance of spotting the ‘Big Five’ in Kruger National Park.
More information and to book: Cape Town, Blue Train & Safari, Self Drive, South Africa
4. North to South Scenic Rail Explorer, New Zealand
What: An extensive adventure through New Zealand starting in Auckland where you can take a ferry ride to Rangitoto Island and soak up the atmosphere of this delightful city. Continue on the scenic rail journey through to Wellington followed by a ferry to Picton and back on the train to Christchurch. Go at your own pace with a self-drive across the South Island and take a scenic cruise Doubtful Sound. Explore Queenstown before finally taking the train to Christchurch.
Best bits: Where to start? The scenic railway from Auckland to Wellington passes by the volcanic plateau and famous Raurimu Spiral. The inter island ferry to Picton is certainly a highlight and also the Coastal Pacific Train passing mountains and ocean. The historic Taieri Gorge Railway is considered one of the world’s great train trips, while a cruise along Doubtful Sound will be a wonderful wildlife spotting experience.
More information and to book: North to South Scenic Rail Explorer, New Zealand
3. Trans Canada by Rail
What: An adventure across Canada combining Via Rail’s legendary ‘Canadian’ service followed by the famous Rocky Mountaineer, starting on the East Coast in Toronto and ending on the west coast in Vancouver.
Best bits: There is nothing quite like travelling through Canada by rail and this tour has many highlights. Prepare to get wet as you view the spectacular Niagara Falls, high on everyone’s wish list. Enjoy the excitement of two nights on board Canada’s Via Rail service as you travel beside the lakes and plains of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Finally sit back and be wowed by the views on board the famous Rocky Mountaineer railroad as you travel through incredible scenery en route to Vancouver.
More information and to book: Trans Canada by Rail
2. Darwin to Adelaide on the Ghan, Australia
What: This tour starts with two nights in Darwin, plenty of time to explore all this vibrant city has to offer. Board the all-inclusive luxury Ghan Train for an unforgettable journey that is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest rail journeys in the world. Finally relax in the beautiful city of Adelaide, home to some fine museums and art galleries.
Best bits: A train journey on the famous Ghan is something you will never forget. From the moment you step on board you will be greeted by attentive staff, enjoy gourmet meals, quality wines and of course, the ever changing scenery. The train stops along the way and you have the chance to experience the authentic Australian outback on an excursion to the beautiful Katherine Gorge and to the mining town of Coober Pedy, known as the opal capitol of the world.
More information and to book: Darwin to Adelaide on the Ghan, Australia
1. Western Explorer by Rail & Polar Bear Experience, Canada
What: A nature lover’s dream holiday to the wilds of Canada starting in Calgary, spending time in Banff and Lake Louise with the option of staying in the world famous Fairmont Hotels. Ride the historical Rocky mountaineer train from Jasper to Kamloops and on to Vancouver. Fly to Winnipeg and Churchill and spend two days on the Tundra looking out for Polar bears.
Best bits: The picturesque Rocky Mountaineer rail ride through the Rockies passing dramatic scenery at every turn. An unforgettable Summit Helicopter ride over beautiful Kananaskis country and the Rocky mountains. A chance to observe the Columbia Icefield on board an Ice Explorer, a massive vehicle designed for travelling on the glaciers. Saving the best ‘til last – spotting Polar bears and arctic wildlife in their natural habitat.
More information and to book: Western Explorer by Rail & Polar Bear Experience, Canada