See some of the world's most spectacular sights with these train journeys of a lifetime
There’s something special about travelling by train. A slightly slower approach to travel – opening up all-important headspace in the process – it feeds into that old adage of the journey being as important as the destination itself. And it’s this spirit that makes the routes below some of the world’s greatest train journeys.
Whether navigating mountainous terrain, gliding peacefully along a shoreline or alongside a stretch of forest, these the most jaw-dropping journeys the planet has to offer…
Flåmsbana Railway, Norway
Route: Myrdal to Flåm
Travel time: One hour
People flock from all over the world to ride Norway’s Flåmsbana Railway – especially engineering enthusiasts. As one of the steepest standard gauge railway lines in the world, it is a feat f engineering that enables the train to climb to almost 3,000 ft.
Climb aboard at Flåm station with a spectacular view of Aurlandsfjord and ascend into mountainous Myrdal. Along the way you’ll experience some of the wildest nature in Norway, including plunging valleys and snow-capped mountains.
Ghan Railway, Northern Territory, Australia
Route: Darwin to Adelaide
Travel time: 54 hours
Journey into the unexplored red centre of Australia on the Ghan Railway. A testament to how huge the country is, it’s a 2,979 km, 54-hour journey you can sink your teeth into.
Experience the eerie vastness of the Outback while crossing through the remote reaches of the Northern Territory, take in the awesome Australian desert and land on the gorgeous coast of Adelaide.
TranzAlpine Express, South Island, New Zealand
Route: Christchurch to Greymouth
Travel time: Approximately five hours
The spectacular 223 km route of the TranzAlpine Express is easily one of the world’s best train journeys.
It’s a wonderful day out that will offer up breathtaking views as you travel the majestic Canterbury Plains, winding around the edges of the Waimakariri river, the southern Alps and stretches of native beech forests.
It’s a particularly magical train journey when there is snowfall but spectacular no matter what time of year you decide to embark.
Route: London to Venice
Travel time: Two days
Once you board the classic British Pullman in London’s Victoria station, you’ll wonder why you haven’t taken this trip sooner.
The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express starts its journey speeding through Kent whilst lunch is served.
After crossing the Channel, you’ll change trains and board the blue and gold carriages of the continental Wagons-Lits. On-board you’ll find three dining rooms, a champagne bar, and elegant private cabins, which after dinner is transformed into a bedroom by your personal steward.
Head to bed and you’ll wake the following morning to views of the Swiss Alps, followed by the Italian Dolomites and the Brenner Pass. There’s time for a leisurely breakfast and lunch before you touchdown in Venice.
The Jacobite, West Highland Railway, Scotland
Route: Fort William to Mallaig
Travel time: Approximately six hours (round trip)
Scotland’s landscape – with its craggy mountains and sweeping glens – is the real star of this route, regarded as one of the world’s great train journeys.
Operated by West Coast Railways, The Jacobite is a beautiful steam train that journeys over the spectacular Glenfinnan Viaduct, made famous by the Harry Potter films.
It also passes through the beautiful villages of Lochailort, Arisaig and Morar before arriving in the pretty coastal town of Mallaig. The trip allows time for exploring, before climbing aboard and returning to Fort William.
Rocky Mountaineer, Rocky Mountains, Canada
Route: Vancouver to Jasper
Travel time: Three days
Appreciate the splendour of south-west Canada’s scenery by boarding the Rocky Mountaineer in Vancouver and heading south through Fraser River Valley and the vertiginous peaks of the Coastal Mountains.
Spectacular sights along the way include the expansive glaciers of the Albreda Icefields and Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.
Three days after embarking you’ll arrive in the picturesque town of Jasper in the Athabasca River Valley. From here, we recommend spending a next few days – or even weeks – exploring the region.
Pacific Surfliner, California, USA
Route: San Luis Obispo to San Diego
Travel time: Approximately eight and a half hours
Offering the best seats in the house for a view of the Southern California seascape, the Pacific Surfliner runs along the coastline for an impressive 563 km.
Steaming through Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and Orange to name a few route highlights, you’ll get a taste of the beach lifestyle that the locals enjoy at every stop.
Sparkling beaches and rolling hills provide a backdrop of dreams for surfers and travellers alike. It’s the best way to see the Californian coast in all its glory.
Kuranda Scenic Railway, Queensland, Australia
Route: Cairns to Kuranda
Travel time: Approximately two hours
Starting in the coastal city of Cairns, the Kuranda Scenic Railway winds through waterfalls, rainforests and steep ravines. There’s also a 10-minute pit stop at Barron Falls for a bird’s eye view of the jaw dropping sight.
The route features 15 man-made tunnels and 37 bridges – an engineering feat if ever there was one, each making it possible to take in some of Australia’s most spectacular views.
Route: Moscow to Beijing
Travel time: Seven days
Of all the world’s great train journeys, this one might just be the most iconic – and will certainly satiate an adventurous appetite.
Traversing the remote wilderness of Russia and Mongolia, the Trans-Siberian Express takes a hefty 9,258 km before reaching its final destination in China’s capital, Beijing.
On the way you can take the ancient tea caravan route, skirting along the shores of Siberia’s dramatic Lake Baikal – one of the most impressive natural wonders of the world – and explore Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia.
PeruRail Titicaca, Peru
Route: Cusco to Puno
Travel time: Approximately 10 and a half hours
If you’ve always dreamt of seeing the Andes mountains, this is the way to do it. The PeruRail Titicaca train departs from Cusco, which is also the starting point for treks to Machu Picchu, and takes a majestic 385 km journey all the way down to Puno on Lake Titicaca.
The 1920s-style Pullman carriage features an open-air observation car from which you can take in the breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains, lush landscapes and awesome lakes. There’s also two on-board dining carts to enjoy, too.
Bernina Express, Switzerland
Route: Chur, Switzerland to Tirano, Italy
Travel time: Four hours
Climb aboard in Switzerland and disembark in Italy. Both are blessed with great views and great food, making the Bernina Express a joy from start to finish.
Making tracks into an Alpine backdrop, the train reaches an impressive altitude of 2,253m, the highest railway across the Alps. As it heads towards the Swiss-Italian border, the terrain takes a slightly more Mediterranean turn.
Arriving in Tirano, you’ll find views of the mountains behind you and an evening of hearty Italian fare ahead.
Copper Canyon Train on the Chepe Railway, Mexico
Route: Chihuahua to Los Mochis
Travel time: Approximately 14 hours
Take a first class journey through Mexico’s Copper Canyon on the Chepe Railway and you won’t be disappointed. Situated in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains, you’ll cross rugged terrain with views of rocky mountains and lush bush life.
The Chepe Express is a new, luxury addition to the railway. Offering an on-board bar, panoramic viewing and a restaurant car, it is a more comfortable alternative to the commuter trains that serve the line, allowing you to take in the view in style.