Travel by train: 7 great railway journeys around the world

02 October 2017

Belmond Hiram Bingham train in Peru 

There’s something truly magical about boarding a train. Stepping through the door into that glamorous world. A golden age of gleaming wooden panels, opulent fabrics, and place settings to rival top restaurants. And those sleek modern facilities that make long train journeys a luxurious pleasure.

Little can be as delightful as gazing out of the window, watching an unfamiliar landscape roll by, champagne in hand.

And, making your journey part of your travels leaves you with a lifetime of memories that you just can’t make zooming around far-flung shores by plane.

Isn’t it time to slow down and enjoy the magical journey as well?

Explore Australia’s centre by train: The Ghan

Alice Springs in Australia

While many opt to fly across Australia, the train offers a wonderful alternative, as Travel Counsellor Rebecca says, "for a truly experiential journey like no other, consider a trip on one of Australia's iconic railways; The Ghan or the Indian Pacific."

On The Ghan, you'll meander through Australia’s dazzling red centre from Darwin to Adelaide on this incredible rail journey.  

Covering over 1,800 miles (almost 3,000 kilometres), the three-night one-way trip on The Ghan rolls past some breathtaking scenery. The rugged outback. The famous town of Alice Springs. The clear sky filled with twinkling stars. The mesmerising underground world of Coober Pedy and the opal mines. The brilliant green of South Australia. And the charming city of Adelaide.

Expect cooked breakfasts, three-course meals with wine, afternoon tea, and modern cabins. 

Gaze at the British countryside: Belmond British Pullman, The Golden Age of Travel

Belmond British Pullman, The Golden Age of Travel

There’s something wonderful about a steam train slowly puffing past, isn’t there? Perhaps it’s the chugging of the wheels on the track, maybe it’s the hiss of steam or the waves from smiling guests sat in the gleaming carriages.

Whatever it is that makes steam trains so special, experience your own magical journey aboard the exquisite Belmond British Pullman train. Step back in time to the 1920s and ‘30s, sip crisp champagne and indulge in an opulent 5-course meal as you watch the world go by.

The Golden Age of Travel route takes in the picturesque countryside of the Surrey Hills, with the round-trip journey departing from London’s Victoria Station.

If you're exploring the north of England, why not take a ride on the Belmond Northern Belle? Travel Counsellor Paula took her mother on a journey in February 2017 and her mother said: "It was a truly amazing day, from walking the red carpet to your carriage to being seated by very attentive staff who made me welcome with a lovely gift, a small teddy. It was wonderful - as soon as we were seated we were offered champagne, and then informed about everything. The food was fine dining taken to another level, all served perfectly, all the staff introduced themselves by name, and were extremely attentive, they anticipated our every need...all this whilst travelling through lovely English countryside."

Discover Canada’s iconic mountains: Rocky Mountaineer

Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Canada

Marvel at the huge, rugged peaks of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains as you glide along on the Rocky Mountaineer.

With routes travelling from Vancouver to Whistler, Jasper, Lake Louise and Banff, this luxurious train journey passes through a breathtaking natural landscape. Picture slate grey mountains, deep green forests, and turquoise lakes.

The Rocky Mountaineer is an all-dome fleet, with large windows so that you can gaze in awe at the wonderful scenery. The open-air vestibule means that you can breathe in the fresh mountain air – and take that perfect shot you’ve been waiting for. And the on-board hosts will make sure that you learn all about the sights, too.

Arrive in Venice in style: Venice Simplon-Orient Express

Venice, Italy

Perhaps one of the most famous rail journeys in the world is the two-day trip to Venice from London. And the iconic Venice Simplon-Orient Express.

This charming art deco train is a marvel of beautifully restored cabins and impeccable service, and opulence that seems to have stepped out of the roaring Twenties.

The journey from cosmopolitan London begins with the delightful Belmond British Pullman train. Then, once you’ve crossed the Channel into France, you board the exquisite Venice Simplon-Orient Express. Slowly winding its way through countryside and mountains, the train arrives into Italy, crossing the Venetian Lagoon before pulling into the station. Just in time to indulge in an exquisite evening meal in Venice…

Journey through mesmerising India by rail: Palace on Wheels

Amber Fort in Jaipur, India

As Travel Counsellor Archana says, "The railway is the main form of transport in India, and traditional sleeper cars offer a range of options to the traveller, from air-conditioned first class to the crowded ‘seater class’. However, there is no need to sacrifice comfort and privacy for an authentic and in-depth travel experience. A range of luxury sleeper trains operate throughout the country, providing decadent experiences coupled with an unrivalled insight to Indian life. Whether you’re journeying across these luscious landscapes seeking spiritual awakening or simply want to experience as much of the culture (and cuisine!) as possible, a voyage on a luxury sleeper train allows you to enjoy the very best of this intoxicating country."

On the luxurious Palace on Wheels train, you'll depart Delhi and enter a magical eight-day round-trip journey through India. This sumptuous train is a dazzling blend of ornate fabrics, gold, and dark, gleaming wood.

Blending modern amenities with décor designed to evoke the luxury train travel enjoyed by royalty at the turn of the century, the carriages are astounding.

On your train itinerary? Jaipur, Ranthambore National Park, Chittorgarh and Chittorgarh Fort, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, Bharatpur and Keoladeo Ghana National Park, and Agra. 

Travel through South Africa: The Blue Train

Cape Town, South Africa

Known as a five-star hotel on wheels, The Blue Train takes you on a fascinating voyage through South Africa.

Built in the 1920s, used in military service in World War Two, and refurbished from the 1970s onwards, this royal blue train offers a modern mode of transport with an intriguing history. On-board, you’ll find delicious cuisine using fresh, local ingredients and, of course, one of many of the Cape’s wonderful wines.

Travel Counsellor Natalie told us a little about her trip on The Blue Train: "Our journey began on a Monday morning, a professional check-in followed by an escort to our Deluxe Cabin with the luxury of a personal butler at our beck and call. Brunch, consisting of a three-course meal accompanied by our choice of beverage and followed by a cheese platter. High tea was served at 3.30pm, consisting of jam scones with cream, chocolate cake, cucumber and salmon sandwiches to name but a few!" 

This elegant train makes its way from Pretoria to Cape Town, via Kimberley and Matjiesfontein, or from Pretoria to Hoedspruit, for Kruger National Park.

See the sights of Peru: Belmond Hiram Bingham

Machu Picchu in Peru

Champagne? Four-course dinner? Machu Picchu? Welcome aboard the luxurious Belmond Hiram Bingham train.

Step back in time to the golden age of travel as you board a breathtaking 1920s Pullman carriage. On-board, you’ll find exquisite furnishings, elegant tables set with gleaming crystal, and sumptuous meals inspired by the Andes. Live Peruvian music entertains you in the Bar Car, while the observation car is perfect for watching that sweeping landscape roll by. Oh, and make sure you dress for the occasion - "don’t forget your dinner jacket for the dining carriage!" says Travel Counsellor Simon. 

The Belmond Hiram Bingham train journeys from Poroy (20 minutes away from spectacular Cusco) via The Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo, to Machu Picchu.

Looking to explore more of Peru by rail? Try Belmond’s luxurious sleeper train, Belmond Andean Explorer.

Travel by train this year: Get in touch with your Travel Counsellor to plan your railway journey.

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