Rail Travel: 6 Luxury Train Vacations

Scenic, romantic, nostalgic: train travel around the world.

Updated April 2017 — The Kindle hasn’t replaced printed books (yet) and airplanes haven’t replaced the previous generation of high-speed travel: the locomotive. There are still great rail journeys. By "great" we mean rail travel that offers such beautiful scenery you can't take your eyes away from the window. A great rail journey should give you opportunities to explore part of that landscape, too. And the train itself should provide comfort, style, and service that make you feel like the royals who once rode the great railroads.

With these modest criteria in mind, here are six rail journeys to consider.

Orient Express, Paris–Istanbul: The route is the same; the speed is faster. Now, the gold standard of vintage train journeys is just six days long, aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. This stylish 1920s luxury train has opulent, vintage cabins and gourmet cuisine featuring fresh ingredients picked up at stops along the route. The Paris–Istanbul trip includes guided tours in Budapest, Sinaia, Bucharest, and Varna with three nights on board the train — plus two in top-drawer hotels. Over the hum of the rails, listen for echoes of Agatha Christie’s literary hero Hercule Poirot.

The Belmond Royal Scotsman Classic Tour of Scotland: Graced with Edwardian décor and splendid cuisine, The Royal Scotsman luxury train offers an intimate experience, with accommodations for 40 guests, a cozy observation car, and a relaxing spa with two treatment rooms. Multiple trips are available, including the popular Classic Journey, a four-night adventure with stops along the way at castles, scenic gardens, charming cottages, and fishing villages. Scotsman stops throughout the countryside at night for delectable dinners, live entertainment, and restful sleeping.

Canadian Rockies Railroad Tour: Royal Canadian Pacific's signature Royal Canadian Rockies Experience spotlights the region's greatest hits, including Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise, granite peaks and passes, evergreen forests, and a ride on the Kicking Horse Gondola. During the seven-day tour, guests stay in luxurious private staterooms, indulge in delicious cuisine, and enjoy the unrivaled scenery of the Rocky Mountains, state parks, and a number of picturesque cities.

Rajasthan, India, by Train: With extravagant Victorian/Raj furnishings and onboard spa service, the Palace on Wheels’  seven-day rail tour of Rajasthan, India, sweeps through deserts with hilltop fortresses and stops for the romantic palaces of Jaipur and Udaipur, historic Jodhpur and Jaisalmer, elephant and camel rides, wildlife sanctuaries, and, as a farewell gift, the Taj Mahal.

Luxury African Rail Travel: Rovos Rail's Namibia Safari is a 3,400-kilometer trip on a renovated vintage train. This nine-day journey from Pretoria to Walvis Bay includes a visit to the Fish River Canyon, second in size only to the Grand Canyon, a bird’s-eye view of the stunning Namib Desert, and a stay at a game lodge on the edge of the Etosha National Park, along with impeccable cuisine and service.

Trans-Siberian Express: The longest of the Trans-Siberian routes is the 6,152-mile train ride from Moscow to Vladivostok, famous for the vast and breathtaking landscape. Several travel companies offer all-inclusive packages, including Golden Eagle Luxury Trains, which has a 15-day Trans-Siberian trip. This epic journey — which runs both eastbound and westbound — stops at about 10 historic and picturesque cities, as well as the massive Lake Baikal, which stretches for nearly 400 miles.

Ed Wetschler, executive editor at Tripatini, scoffs at rumors that the automobile will replace the iron horse.

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