The Most Beautiful Train Rides in the World

February 2019

The old adage says that beauty is in the journey, not necessarily the destination — but sometimes beauty can be found in both places, especially if your mode of travel provides you with the opportunity to sightsee.

Traveling the globe by rail has always been one of the easiest and most romantic ways to indulge in wanderlust.

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Look at some beautiful train rides so that you know which excursions are worth making a reality.

Bernina Express

Start: Chur, Switzerland
End: Tirano, Italy
Ticket Price: First-class tickets start at $64.
You can take the journey of a lifetime on this train that climbs as high as 7,392 feet above sea level into the Alps before descending into the Italian city of Tirano. Featuring 55 tunnels, 196 bridges and curvy viaducts, the train route itself has been named to the UNESCO World Heritage List, and the scenery isn’t bad either. In addition to mountains and glaciers, passengers will see orchards, vineyards, forests and even a Swiss castle or two in the picturesque Domleschg Valley.

Additionally, passengers can pre-order platters of sausage, cheese and other alpine-appropriate snacks and drinks, or indulge in food and beverages from the train’s roving minibar.

Blue Train

Start: Pretoria, South Africa
End: Cape Town, South Africa
Ticket Price: Ticket prices for a single adult in a deluxe suite start at $2,066.

Passengers travel almost the entire length of South Africa on this 27-hour, 994-mile journey, taking in mountains and fertile farmland along the way. But the historic highlights of the trip are probably its off-train excursions.

The Pretoria to Cape Town route includes a stop in Kimberley, which transports travelers to the height of the diamond rush days. The train also stops at Matjiesfontein, which retains Victorian charm thanks to its Colonial-era architecture and original, 19th-century London lampposts.

Fares include all meals, high tea, alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, plus an after-dinner Cuban cigar and off-train excursions. The Blue Train site notes that rates, however, don’t include French Champagne, caviar and external telephone calls and that passengers are expected to dress for dinner.

California Zephyr

Start: Chicago
End: San Francisco (Emeryville, Calif., station)
Ticket Price: A Value Fare for a reserved coach seat starts at $172, depending on the time of year. Value Fares are fully refundable if travel is canceled at least 48 hours before departure.

Want to take a cross-country road trip in the U.S.? Travelers take in the sights between two iconic American cities on this picturesque route. The varied vistas on this 51-hour train ride between Chicago and San Francisco include the Rocky Mountains, the snow-festooned Sierra Nevadas, Donner Lake and some of Colorado’s most beautiful canyons.

Space in a sleeper car will set train travelers back significantly more than a standard coach fare. Those who choose to snooze in their seats can stretch their legs by taking a trip to the dining car, where dinner entrees start at around $16.


Start: Chihuahua, Mexico
End: Los Mochis, Mexico
Ticket Price: Fares are $174 for First Express tickets and $100.49 for economy class.

This train travels past fields tended by Mennonites, who moved from Canada to Mexico in the 1920s. Additionally, travelers will see Copper Canyon, a network of gorges that cuts across the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range, passing high plains and waterfalls on the way to the Pacific coast.

The First Express trains offer a dining car and bar, and economy service features a snack car. Travelers can enjoy snacks a la carte. Many train travelers take time to sample local cuisine at stops and enjoy excursions along the route before re-boarding the train at a later date.

Eastern & Oriental Express

Start: Bangkok
End: Singapore
Ticket Price: Fares start at $5,200 per passenger.

The Eastern & Oriental Express also runs between Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, but the Bangkok to Singapore route gives passengers an extra day of onboard luxury. Fares might seem steep, but a steward brings breakfast to your cabin each day, and sleeping quarters offer amenities like an ensuite bathroom.

Lunch in the dining car might be roast duck breast, while dinner could showcase saba mackerel followed by a main course of beef medallions. At the end of the day, enjoy a nightcap in the train’s open-sided observation car.

Whether train travelers are in the open-air car or seated before one of the expansive windows, they’ll take in sights that include temples and tea plantations. Stops include iconic sites such as the River Kwai Bridge and the gold-domed Ubudiah Mosque, crafted with imported Italian marble over a century ago.

The Ghan Expedition

Start: Adelaide, Australia
End: Darwin, Australia
Ticket Price: Tickets vary based on service, season and cabin selection. Gold Service single-fare, single-cabin tickets for the high season (May 2018 through August 2018) cost about $2,068.

The Ghan transports travelers from Adelaide, Australia’s cosmopolitan capital on the southern coast, to the Northern Territory. On the way, you’ll pass mountain ranges, mallee scrub and ochre-tinted outback.

Off-train excursions include a stargazing stop in the outback and an off-train excursion in Katherine, where passengers can take a cruise on the Katherine River or spend the day with aboriginal people, learning about the culture and trying their hand at traditional crafts.

Along with other perks, the Ghan’s Gold Service fare features a private cabin, all-inclusive dining, beverages — including Australian wines, beers, base spirits and nonalcoholic drinks — and excursions at key stops. Gold Service single cabins offer shared bathroom facilities, while twin cabins have upper and lower berths and a private ensuite bath.

Harz Mountains

Start: St Pancras International Station, London
End: St Pancras International Station, London
Ticket Price: A six-day, round-trip package from Rail Discoveries starts at $1,181 per person for the April 15, 2018, departure.

The Rail Discoveries package includes a guided walking tour of the historic German city of Goslar, where passengers have time to explore on their own. The itinerary features a stop in Quedlinburg, which boasts hundreds of distinctive, half-timbered buildings and other architecture dating back centuries.

Among the many benefits of this journey is the opportunity to travel on nostalgic, steam-hauled trains over narrow-gauge railways through the Harz Mountains. The package price includes five dinners, five nights of hotel accommodations and breakfast each day.

Reunification Express

Start: Hanoi, Vietnam
End: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
Ticket Price: Fare for an upper-bunk spot in a four-bed cabin costs about $90, depending on time of year.

The route runs along the South China Sea, passing jungles, forests, beaches and islands. Between city stops, passengers will also view vistas populated by rice paddies and water buffalo.

Snacks, drinks and some meals are available for purchase on the train, but this isn’t a luxury line. Instead, consider disembarking at stops to explore attractions and sample the cuisine before re-boarding on another day.

Also read: Expect The Unexpected: 5 Tips To Protect Your Travel Plans When Disaster Strikes

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