The 11 Most Astonishing Train Rides In The World

Trans-Siberian Railway at Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia
Trans-Siberian Railway at Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia | © mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Helen Armitage
21 January 2019

While a plane might get you to your destination faster, nothing quite beats the romance — and window-side sightseeing opportunities — of a train ride. Here are the world’s most amazing train rides.

Rocky Mountaineer’s First Passage to the West – Canada

Covering the beautiful scenery of southern British Columbia between Vancouver and Banff, the Rocky Mountaineer’s First Passage to the West is one of the most scenic train rides in Canada, if not the world. Leaving the cosmopolitan coastal city of Vancouver behind, passengers are treated to breathtaking sights — such as the wild waters of Fraser Canyon’s Hell’s Gate and steep tracks running alongside the Thompson River — from the comfort of luxurious carriages. There’s an overnight stay in the lakeside city of Kamloops before they rise over the stunning, snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies and arrive at beautiful Banff.

Rocky Mountaineer train at Morant’s curve, Banff National Park | © eye35.pix / Alamy Stock Photo

Glacier Express – Switzerland

Connecting two of Switzerland’s most scenic mountain resorts, Zermatt and St Moritz, the Glacier Express is the most relaxing way to enjoy the stunning scenery of the Swiss Alps. Traveling eastward from Zermatt, the day-long trip covers a staggering 91 tunnels and 291 bridges as it rolls past southern Switzerland’s alpine meadows, pristine mountain lakes and picture-perfect hamlets. Highlights of the journey include Oberalp Pass, the highest point on the ride at 6706 feet. Another is the famous Landwasser Viaduct — a magnificent six-arch structure standing 200 feet and plunging into a tunnel cut straight into the mountainside.

Watch: Dane DeHaan discusses filming in Switzerland for A Cure For Wellness, a film which also features the stunning train journey.

Glacier Express Switzerland | © FedevPhoto / Alamy Stock Photo

TranzAlpine – New Zealand

All aboard the TranzAlpine for a stage-side seat to one of New Zealand’s most dramatic landscapes — the South Island’s Southern Alps. Starting out in Christchurch, the TranzAlpine travels northwest through the fertile fields of the Canterbury Plains alongside the Waimakariri River. Then it goes up into the mountains, where it crosses the mighty Staircase Viaduct. Passing through the magnificent, snow-capped mountains of Arthur’s Pass National Park, the TranzAlpine chugs onward through the west coast’s subtropical rainforests. Finally, it reaches its destination: the historic former gold mining town of Greymouth.

Mountain fields in the New Zealand alps | © Laurent Davoust / Alamy Stock Photo

West Highland Line, Glasgow to Mallaig – Scotland

Taking passengers through some of Scotland’s most diverse scenery, the West Highland Line is an excellent way to experience the country’s wild, western coast. Once the train leaves Glasgow — Scotland’s biggest city — the urban landscape quickly succumbs to verdant glens and tranquil lochs. Heading northward, the West Highland Line passes through the remote wilderness of Rannoch Moor before skirting the towering Ben Nevis and touching down in Fort William. Switching direction and moving westward, the train traverses the Glenfinnan Viaduct (featured in the Harry Potter film series) before arriving at the bustling port of Mallaig.

The Jacobite steam train on the Glenfinnan Viaduct, West Highland Line | © Cliff Green / Alamy Stock Photo

The Ghan – Australia

Australia’s Outback is home to some of the planet’s most awe-inspiring scenery, and The Ghan offers travelers the opportunity to experience the vast landscape in pure luxury. Cutting a path directly through Australia’s fiery red center, The Ghan travels from Darwin in the north to Adelaide — a total distance of almost 2000 miles. It takes passengers from the lush, tropical coast of the Northern Territory via the red-hued rocks of the MacDonnell Ranges and onto the fertile plains of South Australia. A trip on The Ghan also features off-train excursions, including a leisurely boat tour of Nitmiluk Gorge and a trip to the quirky desert town of Alice Springs.

Ghan Train travelling through the outback, Northern Territory, Australia | © Paul Mayall Australia / Alamy Stock Photo

Trans-Siberian Railway – Russia

At a staggering 5772 miles, the Trans-Siberian Railway is among the world’s longest rail routes. Starting at its westward terminus in Moscow, the Trans-Siberian crosses over the Ural Mountains and through dense Siberian forest. It spans the entire width of Russia and connects the capital with Vladivostok in the east. The eight-day journey takes passengers by landmarks including the magnificent 3227-foot-long bridge that crosses the River Ob at Novosibirsk (Russia’s third-largest city) and the breathtaking blue waters of Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake by volume.

Trans-Siberian Railway at Lake Baikal, Siberia, Russia | © mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

The Flåm Railway – Norway

Just an hour long, the Flåm Railway may not be an epic journey, but it’s among the most scenic. In fact, it’s one of Norway’s top attractions and is frequently hailed as one of the world’s most beautiful train rides. One of Europe’s steepest rail routes, the railway rises 2831 feet from its starting point in the tiny village of Flåm in the Sognefjord. It passes by deep ravines, cascading waterfalls and towering peaks to the mountaintop station of Myrdal. Gorgeous in the summertime, the Flåm Railway is even more magical in colder months when a blanket of snow turns the journey into a winter wonderland.

View from the Flåm Railway, Norway | © Digital Image Library / Alamy Stock Photo

Rovos Rail’s Namibia Safari – South Africa

A luxury train trek spanning some 2000 miles, Rovos Rail’s Namibia Safari passes some of the most stunning scenery the Southern African region has to offer. Departing from Pretoria in South Africa, the journey takes passengers into Kimberley — a former diamond-rush town and home to Big Hole, one of the world’s largest hand-dug mines. It then traverses the starkly beautiful landscape of the Northern Cape and Fish River Canyon. As it moves onward into the Kalahari Desert, the train visits Namibia’s lively capital, Windhoek, before crossing the Namib Desert and moving into its final destination at Swakopmund. This final stop is a perfectly preserved German Hansa town nestled along Namibia’s coast.

African Explorer train, Namibia | © mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Belmond Hiram Bingham – Peru

Traveling through some of Peru’s most romantic scenery and ending at the awe-inspiring Machu Picchu, the Belmond Hiram Bingham is a once-in-a-lifetime luxury train journey. Starting from the ancient capital city of Cusco, the Belmond Hiram Bingham traverses the Sacred Valley of the Incas, a stunning vale formed by the winding Urubamba River. It also passes through the tiny village of Ollantaytambo. It’s the journey’s end point, though, that is the real gem: Machu Picchu. This landmark is an ancient Inca citadel and UNESCO World Heritage Site set high in the Andes Mountains.

Machu Picchu, Peru | © dpa picture alliance / Alamy Stock Photo

Golden Eagle Danube Express – Central Europe and Transylvania

An epic, 14-day journey, the Golden Eagle Danube Express’s Central Europe and Transylvania route traverses a 2000-mile passage between Istanbul, Turkey, to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. Crossing an incredible eight countries, the Golden Eagle Danube Express is the best way to see Europe in style and includes stops in some of the continent’s most beautiful cities. From Istanbul, the train travels north via the Carpathian Mountains and into Transylvania, past Bran Castle — also known as ‘Dracula’s Castle’. It then travels through Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Poland before arriving in beautiful Prague.

Golden Eagle Danube Express | © Xinhua / Alamy Stock Photo

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad – Colorado, USA

A train ride perfect for history buffs, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad has been in continuous operation since its completion in 1882. It was originally constructed as means of hauling silver and gold from Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Now, the railroad allows passengers to enjoy the same breathtaking journey — via a coal-fired steam locomotive, no less — taken by Old West miners and settlers more than a century ago. The 45.4 mile route moves alongside the Animas River, winding through the remote wilderness and beautiful canyons of Colorado’s San Juan National Forest. Additionally, it often offers a glimpse of local wildlife, including black bears, deer and mountain lions.

Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Colorado | © Efrain Padro / Alamy Stock Photo

Cookies Policy

We and our partners use cookies to better understand your needs, improve performance and provide you with personalised content and advertisements. To allow us to provide a better and more tailored experience please click "OK"