International Travel

6 great railway journeys

6 great railway journeys

Travelling by rail holds a romantic and old-fashioned appeal that can’t be matched by flying or driving. By taking the slow route, you get to experience and interact with an area in a completely different way.

1. The Rocky Mountaineer 

Where Canada, from Vancouver to Banff, Jasper and Calgary. 

When In June, which is springtime in the Rockies, complete with blooming flowers and abundant wildlife. 

Duration Between two and eight days, travelling only in daylight, staying in deluxe hotels. Highlights Unparalleled views of the Rocky Mountains, incredible luxury at every stage of the trip, traditional native storytelling, wine classes and natural history workshops.

2. The Chepe

Where Mexico. It begins its journey in the mountains of Chihuahua and finishes on the Sinaloa coast.

When In the rainy season, from June to October, you’ll get lush vegetation and blooming cacti, although mid-summer (July) temperatures can reach 44 °C.

Duration Doing the route straight through takes 14 hours, but you’ll want to stop off overnight and explore traditional towns along the way.

Highlights The train winds its way down through 656 km of the spectacular Copper Canyon (which is deeper than the Grand Canyon), over 37 precarious-looking bridges and through 86 tunnels. Local people sell crafts and foods along the route.

3. The Ghan

Where Australia, from Adelaide to Darwin via Alice Springs.

When Going during the wet season (December, January) will allow you to see more wildlife and tropical splendour in the north, though peak season is usually the winter.

Duration Going straight through takes 52 hours. There are disembarkation points from which you can take tours.

Highlights Going through Australia’s Red Centre with cobalt-blue skies, red earth and not much else – a hauntingly beautiful and serene experience.

4. The Royal Scotsman

Where travels around the Scottish Highlands or all the way around Great Britain.

When Warmer weather and up to 20 hours of daylight in June makes it the perfect time to watch ospreys soaring over mirror-like lochs, or go in October for autumn colours and the rather vocal stag-rutting season.

Duration Trips can be as short as two days or as long as seven. 

Highlights Possibly the most expensive train journey in the world. You’ll be treated like a member of the monarchy. Indulgent cuisine, fine wines and carriages that look like rooms at Balmoral Castle await those willing to part with a minimum of £2350 per person for a two-night trip.

5. The Blue Train

Where South Africa, from Pretoria to Cape Town, or to Hoedspruit and Kruger National Park.

When From May to August you’ll be more likely to observe big game if you go to a game reserve.

Duration 27 hours on the train, with several stops along the way.

Highlights You’ll be travelling through diverse African landscapes in the utmost style, with stays on game reserves optional.

6. Eastern and Oriental Express

Where From Thailand, through Malaysia, to Singapore.

When April and May, for the least humid weather.

Duration Trips vary from two to eight days.

Highlights You’ll travel through the heart of Southeast Asia. From golden temples and paddy fields to cosmopolitan cities, this luxurious train showcases the best of the countries it passes through.

Written by Lola Augustine Brown. This article first appeared in Reader’s Digest. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, here’s our best subscription offer.