5 amazing train journeys to keep your travels on track
It was once my great good fortune to travel across Canada by rail from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Toronto, Ontario. Although the purpose of my journey was relocation rather than recreation, the experience was nothing short of spellbinding, both for the stunning railroad-eye view of unspoiled countryside and the camaraderie of enrapt passengers observing nature as it flew by.
Little wonder that old-school train travel is catching on with forward-leaning meeting planners in search of new and memorable experiences with which to bring guests together. In fact, rail travel today is so unencumbered compared with the tedium of its time-saving successor, air flight, that an overnight with meals aboard a luxurious train feels like a trip back in time — in a good way!
While the century-old Orient Express, the Trans-Siberian Railway, and Switzerland’s Glacier Express routinely fill up with train enthusiasts, more and more historic rail routes in exotic locales now hum with steel wheels designed to evoke the romantic journeys of the past. Granted, the fares on some can mirror a short stay in a high-end resort hotel. Then again, how do you put a price on unforgettable?
Here are five rail journeys you won’t want to end:
Chicago to San Francisco
For sheer scenic rush, it’s hard to beat this Amtrak workhorse (pictured above), which whisks you through Denver, the Rocky Mountains, Salt Lake City, and the Sierra Nevadas before coming down to sea level 51 hours later. Ride coach or reserve a roomette or bedroom in a sleeping car.
The Ghan Expedition
Darwin to Adelaide, Australia
Prepare to be stunned by the sunrise/sunset splendor of Australia’s Red Centre as this 88-year-old classic, named after Afghan Express cameleers, rambles on its four-day/three-night, coast-to-coast journey, with off-train excursions in Katherine, Alice Springs, and Coober Pedy.
Twilight Express Mizukaze
Kyoto to Shimonoseki, Japan
This newcomer with an art-deco-style interior is billed as “a hotel rolling through the beautiful Japanese landscape” while providing “superior quality with a touch of nostalgia.” Daily sightseeing stops include the Korakuen garden from Enyotei, the Ohara Museum of Art, Bella Vista Spa and Marina Onomichi, and the stunning Itsukushima Shrine.
Cusco to Arequipa, Peru
Comfort is key aboard this Belmond classic, which traverses the Andes in style with two fine-dining cars, a piano bar car, and Peruvian-inspired sleeping cabins with en-suite bathrooms, showers, robes and slippers, and even in-room oxygen tanks and masks to ease breathing at high altitude.
Pretoria to Cape Town, South Africa
Once the chief mode of transportation for South Africa’s gold- and diamond-financed upper crust, the Blue Train underwent an extensive renovation in the 1970s that beautifully preserved its luxury suites, wood-paneled club car, and centrally located lounge car. Stay thirsty, my friends!
(Top photo by Amtrak)