While some travelers race from one corner of the globe to the other, there’s another subset of people embracing a substantially slower mode of travel. Compared to the other forms of transportation, trains are substantially more laid-back and relatively hassle free. The next time you're planning a trip, consider forgoing the cramped seats, long TSA lines, and tight schedules to relax in style, take in the countryside, and enjoy the ride. Whether it’s for a few hours or several days, here’s a look at some of the best train rides around the globe.
Glacier Express - Switzerland
Spa destinations aside, the Glacier Express is a day trip worth splurging on. The train weaves in and out of the picturesque Swiss valleys, over deep gorges, and passes through 91 tunnels and across 291 bridges — in a span of just eight hours. The hardest choice will be deciding between winter or spring excursions when the valleys are in full bloom, but, either way, the glass-roofed carriages offer stellar views of the snow-capped peaks any day of the year so be sure to keep your camera handy.
TranzAlpine - New Zealand
In a country that thrives on adrenaline, the TranzAlpine is a breath of a fresh air. The train runs like clockwork from Christchurch to Greymouth and through Arthur’s Pass with a few stops in between. Don’t be surprised if certain sites look familiar -- some of the locations were used in popular films like Lord of the Rings and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
Rocky Mountaineer - Canada
Most train enthusiasts opt for a ride because they want to enjoy the journey, but the crew of the Rocky Mountaineer embraces each moment as wholeheartedly as their guests. It’s not uncommon for the driver to slow down for wildlife sightings and the steward will happily point out some of their favorite views along the way. The two-day expedition from Banff in Alberta to Vancouver showcases the best of the Rocky Mountains and you’ll find it hard to disembark at the final stop.
Maharajas Express - India
The Maharajas Express takes its 88 passengers on a journey through time and space. Vintage 1920s charm oozes from every nook and cranny, encouraging guests to embrace the fine dining and spend hours wandering up and down the turn-of-the-century cabins. While it’s tempting to stay inside, the Maharajas Express has plenty off-car excursions that are equally as enticing, including stops in the City of Gates, City of Blue, and City of Pink.
Danube Express - Hungary & Turkey
If you thought suites were only for resorts, think again. The Travel Channel dubbed the Danube Express a “hotel on wheels,” and it’s a pretty accurate description. Guests receive a daily itinerary, complete with weather forecast, and can select from a menu of all the best wines, champagnes, and liquors in Europe. One of its most popular routes is the “Treasures of Eastern Europe,” which stops in Venice, Prague, Berlin, and Budapest.
Belmond Hiram Bingham - Peru
Named after the American explorer who discovered Machu Picchu back in 1911, the train is one way to see the ancient ruins if you'd prefer not to hike. Back in Bingham’s day, tackling the Inca Trail through the treacherous Andes Mountains took weeks. Now, the luxury train effortlessly glides through the jungle, taking modern-day explorers to and from the site in about eight hours.
Trans-Siberian Railroad - Russia
Spanning the entire width of Russia at 5,752 miles, the Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest railway in the world, but that doesn't even have to be your end point. The railway features three different routes, one of which runs from Mongolia to Beijing. Most travelers opt in for the classic tour from Moscow to Vladivostok. We have plenty of tips on how can make the most of your journey and visa requirements here.
Rovos Rail - South Africa
Dubbed as one of the most luxurious trains in the world, the Pride of Africa is the crown jewel of Rovos Rail. The trip is really more of a safari on wheels, darting across South Africa with stops in Cape Town and Victoria Falls. Adding to its allure, only 72 guests are allowed at a time, all of whom are expected to adhere to a strict dress code (smart casual by day; jacket and tie by night) reminiscent of a truly bygone era.
Tren Crucero - Ecuador
Most trains are slow and steady, but the Tren Curcero is a different beast entirely. The four-day excursion chugs through Ecuador’s sugarcane plantations, along the scenic coastline, and through dense cloud forests in a vintage steam engine. Not for the faint of heart, you’ll climb more than 11,000 feet in altitude, pass more than a dozen volcanoes (some still active!), and take some tight turns through the mountain passes. All in all, the trek will be a breath of fresh air for adrenaline junkies and a rollercoaster to the squeamish.
Belmond Royal Scotsman - Scotland
Easily the most exclusive of all the trains on this list, the Royal Scotsman can only accommodate 36 passengers on its tour of the Highlands. The intimacy only enhances the experience by virtually ensuring each guest has a personally catered luxury experience. Offering two to four-night excursions, while you can’t go wrong with the castle visits in “The Classic Journey,” you have to admit the distillery stops along the “The Whisky Journey” are equally as tempting.