Journeys by rail

Debbie Dent on 17 January 2017
Whether you have been inspired by recent television programmes, or want to experience a different type of holiday, and perhaps a trip of a lifetime, then an iconic rail journey could be just the thing. When travelling by train, your journey is an integral and delightful part of your holiday experience. What you see from your seat is as much a part of the holiday as arriving at the destination.

With quite a few to choose from in various parts of the world, it is an ideal option and can be combined with a stay on land at either, or both sides of the journey.

Starting with the Rocky Mountaineer, based in Canada, it operates from April to October, with the most popular route travelling through the Canadian Rockies from Banff to Vancouver or vice versa. It is a two-day journey and only travels through the day so that you don’t miss out on any of the scenery, and you can keep an eye out for wildlife. There is no accommodation on board, so one night is spent in a hotel in Kamloops. There are two classes of service, GoldLeaf and SilverLeaf. GoldLeaf Service has a two-level glass domed coach with full-length windows, and its own restaurant where as Silverleaf has a single glass domed coach with oversized windows, and you are served food at your seat. Both include breakfast, lunch and complimentary drinks.

The legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express needs no introduction. Travelling in private cabins impeccably restored to their former splendour, passengers are assured of a truly unique travel experience complemented by the very best personal service. Meals are included with continental breakfast and afternoon tea served in your cabin, while lunch and dinner are served in one of the beautiful restaurant cars. The most popular journey is from Paris to Venice, which can be booked in conjunction with a British Pullman train from London to Paris and operates from March to November. It can also be booked as part of a tour, to include a stay in Paris and Milan, or as part of a bespoke holiday.

India’s Palace on Wheels is a luxury train that has also been beautifully restored to its earlier glory. Each passenger cabin is embellished with elegant furnishing, silk drapes, and beautifully carved wood panelling. The en-suite modern bathroom adds more comfort to each journey. Dining is included in one of two opulent restaurant cars, the Maharaja and Maharini, serving Indian, International and Chinese cuisine. There is also a comfortable lounge car and bar. It operates from New Delhi once a week between September and April, and after travelling through the majestic cities and towns of Rajasthan concludes its week-long journey in Delhi itself.

Australia has two famous trains, The Ghan that runs between Adelaide and Darwin, via Alice Springs, and the Indian Pacific that travels between Sydney and Perth, Adelaide and Sydney or Adelaide and Perth. The Ghan journey takes two nights/three days and the longer of the trips on the Indian Pacific, from Sydney to Perth, takes three nights/four days. On either train, if booked in Platinum or Gold Service, off-train excursions are included as well as meals and drinks, which are served in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant. If you are on a tighter budget, then there is the Red Service, which instead of sleeper cabins, you have a reclining seat with plenty of legroom, and food and drinks can be purchased from the café.

The Blue Train in South Africa offers passengers a luxurious experience from Pretoria to Cape Town or vice versa. The fully air-conditioned train accommodates up to eighty guests and each coach has a butler on call to attend to your needs. The journey itself takes twenty-seven hours, travelling nearly one thousand miles, with an excursion stop en route, and operates year-round. There is a lounge car where you can meet for drinks and have high tea and a dining car where you can experience fine dining with fresh local ingredients, presented in crystal or fine china. With Deluxe suites and Luxury suites to choose from, you can’t go wrong.

I know there are other wonderful rail journeys that I haven’t mentioned, but I hope that gives a flavour of what you can do if you want the trip of a lifetime.