The Best Rail Trips to Take in Asia

The iconic Nine Arches Bridge in Sri Lanka
The iconic Nine Arches Bridge in Sri Lanka | Photo by Hendrik Cornelissen on Unsplash
Gethin Morgan

Content and CRM Executive

From Laos and Thailand, to bullet trains in China and Japan, these Asia train tours are the best way to discover some of this continent’s most beautiful destinations.

Our Rail Trips are a love letter to the slow-travel joys of exploring a destination from the comfort of a carriage. More scenic, more sustainable, and more enjoyable – train travel is back.

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Train from Nuwara Eliya to Kandy among tea plantations in the highlands of Sri Lanka

Secrets of Sri Lanka by Train

The route between Kandy and Ella in central Sri Lanka is widely regarded as one of, if not the, most beautiful train rides in the world. The gently undulating journey winds through the luscious greenery of jungles, mountains and countless tea plantations. You can spot cascading waterfalls and rural villages as you pop your head out of the window. It also crosses the iconic Nine Arches Bridge, a majestic stone-arch viaduct near Ella. This epic journey is the centre-point of our 10-day tour of Sri Lanka by train. Before that you can enjoy a scenic ride from the capital, Colombo, to Habarana. You’ll cycle around the ancient ruins of Polonnaruwa, visit the surreal rock fortress of Sigirya and enjoy a Sri Lankan cooking masterclass at a local family’s home. After reaching Ella we’ll spot elephants in the wild at Udawalawe National Park and visit the gorgeous coastal fort city of Galle. The trip ends with one last stunning train trip, departing from Galle and tracing the country’s western coastline all the way back to Colombo.

From US$1519

Next available from 18th May 2024

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Trip highlights and details

STARTS AT

Colombo, Sri Lanka

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ENDS AT

Colombo, Sri Lanka

DURATION

10

GROUP SIZE

12

PHYSICAL RATING

Moderate

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STYLE

Discovery

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Train approaching the Duoliang Station in Taitung, on the east coast of Taiwan

A Taste of Taiwan by Train

Another island, another loop tour, but Taiwan is totally different to Sri Lanka. In fact it’s different to pretty much anywhere else on Earth. This East Asian gem has cultural influences from China, Korea and Japan, but also its own distinct identity, which we’ll explore across nine-days of rail-based discovery. The trip starts and ends in the capital, Taipei, where foodies will fall in love with busy night markets and architecture fans will marvel at the city’s many manmade masterpieces. We’ll explore Taichung City, the culinary capital (Tainan) and Kaohsiung, famed for its vibrant temples and art scene. You’ll also get to visit Sun Moon Lake, where we’ll go cycling, take a boat cruise and visit a temple, as well as going for a tea tasting session at a local factory – if there’s one thing this place does have in common with Sri Lanka, it’s tea. You’ll discover the surreal cave systems and epic rock formations of Taroko Gorge, before heading back north to Taipei on the most scenic train ride of the trip, all the way up the splendid East Coast National Scenic Area.

From US$2031

Next available from 20th Jul 2024

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Trip highlights and details

STARTS AT

Taipei, Taiwan

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ENDS AT

Taipei, Taiwan

DURATION

9

GROUP SIZE

16

PHYSICAL RATING

Moderate

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STYLE

Discovery

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View from a flowery field as the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) zooms past Mount Fuji in the Japanese countryside

Japan by Train: The Grand Tour

You can’t talk Asia and trains without eventually getting around to Japan, home of the iconic shinkansen, or bullet train. This famous high-speed rail network makes it possible to cover large swathes of this endlessly explorable nation within a relatively short period of time. That’s the idea behind our 12-day trip in Japan, which starts in Osaka and ends in Tokyo. Stops on the way include Hiroshima, Miyajima Island, Arashiyama bamboo forest, Kyoto, Hakone and Lake Ashi. You’ll visit traditional folk villages, sample sake in the Japanese Alps and stay in a traditional ryokan inn, equipped with onsite onsen (natural hot springs). You’ll snap photos of Mount Fuji on a Lake Ashi cruise before hitting up the capital, where you’ll get to watch sumo wrestlers train, learn how to roll sushi and try taiko drumming, before a customary night of karaoke fun.

From US$4045

Next available from 2nd Sep 2024

Secure your spot with a low deposit

Trip highlights and details

STARTS AT

Osaka, Japan

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ENDS AT

Tokyo, Japan

DURATION

12

GROUP SIZE

16

PHYSICAL RATING

Moderate

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STYLE

Discovery

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Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

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