Words by Danny Venzin
Five-star luxury, private dining cars and cabins with sweeping views are just the beginning on some of the world’s greatest rail journeys. Try these classic rail routes to enjoy a taste of yesteryear.
Connecting the coastal Canadian city of Vancouver with Rocky Mountain resort towns including Banff and Lake Louise, the Rocky Mountaineer offers views that have won the route the trademark ‘the most spectacular train trip in the world™'. There is plenty of validity to this matter-of-fact opinion. The train carriages have glass ceilings to maximise mountain and wildlife views in all directions. As well as the fine dining on board, a twist to this luxury train is that passengers disembark every night to sleep in hotels.
Rarely can trains claim to carry their own fleet of tour vans but things are done a little differently aboard the Shongololo Express. Transporting passengers in comfort and style throughout seven countries, including South Africa, Botswana and Zambia, the Shongololo Express has numerous routes and itineraries through the unique African landscape.
Itineraries are planned with plenty of day stops so visitors can get up close and wild with the local wildlife. Back on board, the delightful menu showcases the best the continent has to offer.
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Sadly, the classic Paris to Istanbul Orient Express route has fallen victim to competition from fast-speed trains and discount flight travel. Good news is that the Orient Express still offers all the pre-war elegance on its new route between London and Venice. Using the original 1920s and 1930s carriages, this train is about as glamorous as they come.
The modern incarnation takes in the beautiful scenery of France and Switzerland on the way to or from Italy. As well as an onboard Bar Car, there’s also a Champagne Bar, complete with Art Deco interiors that will transport you right back to the Roaring Twenties.
The Trans-Siberian Railway is one of those ‘must-do once in your life’ experiences, and the Golden Eagle is the most luxurious way to traverse the landscape between Vladivostok and Moscow, a seven-hour time difference. Running from the Pacific Ocean right the way to the shores of the Baltic Sea, the Golden Eagle was launched by British Prince Michael of Kent in 2007.
Route variations will allow you to see China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, as well as the entire width of Russia. The train itself is part hauled by a glorious steam locomotive and, yes, caviar is standard on the menu – so, too, is vodka!
For an unparalleled view of Australia, The Ghan offers one of the world’s great train journeys in our own backyard. Connecting Darwin and Adelaide, with a stop in Alice Springs, the cream of the carriages are the Chairman’s Carriage and Sir John Forrest Carriage.
Both offer private dining areas and all-inclusive drinks packages, as well as private chauffeured transfers at the start and end of your journey. The real attraction on this three-night escape is, however, the countryside, some of the most remote and picturesque you’re likely to see in Australia.