A journey by rail has a romanticism found nowhere else. Here are the eight best.
Travelling is mind-expanding, but these days we tend to do it at a breakneck speed trying to ft in as much as possible in as short a time. All that rushing can take its toll though, and it’s easy to come back from a trip more exhausted than when you left.
Train journeys are something different. There is a slow romanticism to a truly gorgeous train ride that cannot be eclipsed. Sitting back in your chair, possibly with a drink in hand, and watching the miles slip away is soothing, calming and, if the view is good, a worthwhile holiday of its own.
Here are eight train journeys you should add to your bucket list right away.
Glacier Express – Switzerland
Travelling between Zermatt at the foot of the Matterhorn and St Moritz in the Engadin skiing area in Switzerland the Glacier Express is billed as being “Europe’s slowest express”. The narrow-gauge train takes more than seven hours to cover just 290 km, and that time will stagger you with its picture-postcard beauty.
The journey will take you over 291 bridges and through 91 tunnels, making it all seem like something out of a toy train modeller’s dreams.
The Flåm Railway – Norway
At only an hour long, this is an easy route to take if you are ever in Norway. The train travels from the village of Flåm in the Sognefjord and is one of the steepest railroads in the world, climbing steadily to the mountaintop station of Myrdal.
With views of waterfalls, mountain peaks, and cliff-sided ravines, its beauty will stay with you for a very long time.
Rovos Rail’s Namibia Safari – South Africa
Leaving from Pretoria before taking in Kimberley and the big hole, the Namibia safari also sweeps past stark Northern Cape landscapes, and the fish river canyon before heading into Windhoek. It’s not over however as the train next chugs its way across the Namib desert into Swakopmund before ending in a perfectly preserved German Hansa town on the coast.
Given what a difficult part of the world this can be to drive in, the train’s luxury and ease of use takes all the pressure off, allowing you to truly appreciate the dry desert surroundings and the beauty of the sunrises and sunsets.
The Train to the Clouds – Argentina
Climbing to 4,200 metres above sea level, this train climbs so steadily and to such heights that oxygen is supplied on board. With awe-inspiring views across the Andean mountain range, this seven-hour train journey takes the old salt rail line from Salta in Argentina to the Chilean border.
Between the multi-coloured mountain ranges and the vast open cactus fields, there is something new to see every kilometre further down the track.
The Rocky Mountaineer – Canada
Taking you rumbling past deep blue glacier-fed lakes, and through thick green forests, this trip over the Canadian section of the Rocky mountains takes four days from the West coast to Vancouver. Pay a little extra and ride and eat meals in luxury in the 360-degree dome cars that allow you almost unimpeded views all around you.
With breathtaking views and quality service, this is also a great trip to take in winter, past icy fields, frozen lakes, and white-dusted mountainscapes.
Palace on Wheels – India
Travelling in India can be a gritty experience and for the adventurous backpacker, this is one of the must-see destinations. For those looking for a relaxing holiday that includes all the sites, including the Taj Mahal, with none of the rush and hassle, this seven-night journey out of Delhi will take in all the sites of Rajasthan in high luxury that includes your own “khidmatagar” – or personal steward.
The Trans-Siberian – Russia
Taking eight full days if you don’t get off anywhere, this 9,200km trip begins in Moscow before wending its way over the Ural mountains and through Siberian forests to Vladivostok in the east. This route also crosses eight time zones.
It’s possible to take this route as a public traveller, meeting strangers along the way, but if you can afford it, the Golden Eagle luxury train, which is complete with sumptuous suites and fine dining, is a great way to feel like one of the Czars of old.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway
High up in the Himalayan mountains, this route still uses old Victorian-era steam trains which climb almost 2,000 metres from the Indian plains near Kolkata to the remote mountain refuge of the Raj hill station at Darjeeling.
The climb is so high that near the top, the train needs to traverse four zigzag loops back and forth to allow passengers to acclimatise to their new heights, and the views across the mountain range are simply staggering.
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Source: The Citizen