To enter the world of luxury train travel is to recall a romantic age when the time spent traveling was as anticipated as the destination. From handsomely crafted compartments to elegant dining cars serving gourmet meals on fine china and white linen tablecloths, luxury train travel evokes the gracious hospitality of simpler times. Anyone willing to spend some serious money to experience the elegance of Kings and Queens, luxury trains are truly the best way to do it. "Online guide for the best adventure vacations in the world at Award Winning Destinations take your traveling experience to a new height."
You don’t have to leave the UK to travel on one of the most luxurious trains in the world. The Royal Scotsman carries just 36 passengers at a time, and guests can watch the glorious Scottish scenery from the tweed-filled observation car – provided the equally Scottish rain is not clouding the view. Happily, even when the landscape and weather disappoint, there are amazing gastronomic distractions on board. State Cabins are the most luxurious accommodation option, although all bedrooms have a private bathroom with shower, washbasin and toilet, constant hot water, high-quality toiletries and fresh towels every day. This trip through some of Britain’s remotest country has topped lists not just of the most scenic railway journeys in the United Kingdom but in the world. There’s barely a dull mile; even the departure from Glasgow affords fine views over the Clyde as the train climbs above the river. The whole of the route on to Mallaig is a succession of wonderful views that banish any thought of reading or iPad.
The legendary Orient Express train is a work of art in itself and a true Art Deco icon that is famous the world over. Romance, adventure and the mystery of the past are all intimately bound up in journeys that visit some of the most alluring continental cites. The original Orient Express, inaugurated in 1883, ran between Paris and Istanbul and soon became a byword for elegance and Art Deco luxury. Today, it is still possible to travel on the train as far as Istanbul and to a host of European destinations. Most itineraries include Venice, but other places to which the train ventures are Paris, Prague, Krakow, Budapest, Bucharest, Stockholm and Copenhagen. As with many trains of this style, it is evocative of a more gracious, elegant age of travel. Delightful vintage cabins, gastronomic cuisine with delicious afternoon teas and exquisite four course dinners along with lively on-board entertainment make a journey aboard this iconic train one of the world’s finest travel experiences.
Trains are generally the best way to travel through India, but the Palace on Wheels is a class apart. It is what it sounds like, an elegant, enchanting means of travel. Decorated in ornate, colorful regional textiles, inside, the cars look almost like they belong to a different age. The journey, which starts and ends in Delhi, takes you on a loop through the towns, cities and expansive, gorgeous desert of the northern region of Rajasthan. There are added elements of the trip, which is stretched over eight days, like the elephant welcome in Jaipur, lunch at the Lake Palace in Udaipur, a camel safari, and the requisite tour of the Taj Mahal. With a noble motive to promote tourism in Rajasthan, the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation along with Indian Railway launched the first Indian luxury train Palace on Wheels in 1982. This royal Indian train has 14 guest coaches, all of which reflect a decorative style similar to that of the personal carriages used by the Maharajas of the yore. Over the years, the train has been refurbished many times to accommodate technological advancements.
South Africa’s famous Blue Train is just what it sounds like, a beautiful blue train. It bills itself as “a window to the soul of South Africa,” and it does give you a literal window onto the ever-changing 1,000 miles of countryside that stretch between the coastal city of Cape Town and the inland capital, Pretoria. A five-star hotel on wheels, the Blue Train is outfitted with elegant bed linen, marble floors and gold fittings in the bathrooms, and cocktails, high tea and fine cigars can all be had on board. Dine on fresh meals prepared by top chefs as the train winds its way through the country’s diverse and gorgeous landscapes. The original wooden coaches were replaced in 1937 with steel coaches built in Birmingham and painted a smart blue. Before long, the train became known colloquially as ‘that blue train’, and its name was changed officially to ‘The Blue Train’ in 1946.
If you’re traveling through Southeast Asia, and have some time, and money, to spare, hop aboard the Eastern & Oriental Express for the 1,200-mile journey from Singapore to Bangkok, Thailand. This train, which boasts luxurious overnight cabins, an observation car, delicious meals prepared by internationally chefs and an elegant bar, whisks you through the lush, tropical countryside of Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand in style. Towering palm trees, impossibly green mountains, rice paddies and glimpses of the ocean stretch in every direction beyond the panoramic windows, and will make you wonder why you ever considered flying over all this beauty. The classic route for this train – which was inspired by Shanghai Express, the 1932 film starring Marlene Dietrich, also stops at the famous River Kwai and Penang.
This opulently appointed hotel train operates seven different itineraries in southern Africa. The principal route is between Pretoria and Cape Town, over which there are at least three departures every month in each direction. The idea of having a private family carriage or two was the starting point for Rohan Voss’s venture, which has remained a family business since the service began in 1989. The train of lavishly enhanced historic coaches was then hauled by Rovos Rail’s own steam locomotives, but the difficulty of operating them over long distances has prompted an acceptance of diesel and electric traction. Rovos Rail has good reason to claim that its largely wood-paneled train is “the most luxurious in the world”; the Royal Suites are certainly the most generously sized on any tourist train. A sense of occasion is created by a champagne reception held before departure in the elegant lounge of the large, colonial-style station at Capital Park. There is a strong focus on exquisite food so this is a journey on which you may want to suspend weight-watching.
Australia’s red center is one of the most spectacular wildernesses in the world, and the Ghan is unquestionably the most comfortable way to see it. The train runs through the heart of the country: 1,861 miles between the south coast at Adelaide and the north coast at Darwin, taking two nights and three days. It is named after the Afghans who helped to open up the Australian interior on camels imported from India. Added to the allure of the outback is Alice Springs, a town of only 27,000 people that is known the world over as a symbol of isolation. From Alice, as the locals call it, you can visit the world’s largest monolith, Uluru, or Ayers Rock. Gold Service berths are single or twin berths with en- suite bathrooms. Platinum cabins are almost twice the size of Gold, with double bed, lounge chairs and larger en-suite bathrooms. The Ghan is the ultimate luxury train journey through the heart of the Australian continent
Maharajas Express is a half-mile long mode of opulent transport that takes one back to an elegance of a bygone era, whilst maintaining all the modern comforts that can cater for 88 passengers. The pneumatic and hydraulic suspension system used ensures a smoother train ride. Offering what is arguably the most thrilling of all of India’s rail trips, the Maharajas’ Express was launched in 2010. The fine attention to detail is reflected in the excellent food and charming service – passengers even have their own butler standing by in case they fancy a masala chai in the middle of the night. There are two restaurants, a lounge and bar plus a presidential suite with a bath. The “Classical India” trip is particularly tempting as it’s a roll call of India’s greatest hits, starting at the Taj Mahal, before heading to Gwalior. Along with exquisite, comfortable dining and lounge cars, there are luxurious cabin choices of Deluxe, Junior Suite, Suite and Presidential Suite, all with large panoramic windows.
The most relaxing and convivial way to cross the immensity of Canada is on the Canadian, the flagship of VIA, which runs the national passenger service. Its sleek, silver 1950s cars are reminiscent of the first railway era, before prosaic planes destroyed the glamour of long-distance trains; its uniformed attendants wait beside each car to welcome you to your seat or compartment. During the 2,792 mile journey between Toronto and Vancouver, you gain a sense of the changing topography of five provinces, and if you’re in a sleeping car – which entitles you to enjoy freshly cooked food in the dining cars – you can watch the passing show from a “vistadome” car. The five-day, four-night journey across four time zones offers extraordinary contrasts, from empty boreal forest to vibrant cities, from prairies of wheat and grass to soaring mountains. It begins at Toronto’s Union station, built between 1915 and 1920 and the finest Beaux Arts-style station in Canada.
The Trans-Siberian Railway is, arguably, the world’s most famous train experience. There are three routes to choose from: the Trans-Manchurian or Trans-Mongolian, both of which take you from Moscow to Beijing, or the epic Moscow to Vladivostock, which crosses seven time zones and deposits you on the coast near Russia’s border with China and North Korea. The legendary trip covers more than 6,000 miles and takes a full week to complete. Whichever route you choose, you are assured of an unforgettable journey, through soaring mountains and the Siberian tundra, past rivers, lakes, rolling hills, forests and picturesque villages. It is truly the trip of a lifetime. To enjoy the longest hours of daylight and the chance of fine weather, it’s best to go between May and September. The journey can be broken into sections with overnight stays in hotels, the preferred option of many travelling on the Vladivostok route. The upmarket option is pampered comfort in the hotel-train style of Golden Eagle Luxury Trains, which operates a variety of itineraries each year.