The Paris-Istanbul trip on the iconic Orient Express takes travelers through Budapest, Sinaia, Bucharest and Varna.
Cozy Edwardian décor makes a journey on The Royal Scotsman the most luxurious way to see the highlands, castles and moors of Scotland.
See granite peaks and evergreen forests aboard the Royal Canadian Pacific.
The Royal Palace on Wheels, featuring exquisite Victorian/Raj furnishings, whisks guests away for a seven-day rail tour of Rajasthan.
The Pride of Africa, a renovated vintage train, gives a peek into the savannas and lush landscapes of Pretoria.
Travel in sumptuous luxury while traversing the Naadam Festival Route on the Trans-Siberian Express from Moscow to Mongolia.
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 step out and be 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 of the world's best rail journeys.
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, a 1920s museum piece with gourmet cuisine. 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 Royal Scotsman Classic Tour of Scotland: Graced with Edwardian décor and splendid cuisine, The Royal Scotsman offers a five-day railroad trip amid lochs and highlands, castles and moors. The Scotsman stops throughout the countryside at night for restful sleeping. Day tours include walks and whisky tastings, fishing and shooting, golf and gardens, and a visit with a storyteller with a formidable Scottish burr.
Canadian Rockies Railroad Tour: Royal Canadian Pacific's seven-day Royal Canadian Rockies Experience spotlights the region's greatest hits — Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise, granite peaks and passes, evergreen forests, and a ride on the Kicking Horse Gondola. All this, and luxury cars that have hosted Queen Elizabeth, JFK, Churchill and other swells.
Rajasthan, India, by Train: With extravagant Victorian/Raj furnishings and onboard spa service, the Royal 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 ona renovated vintage train. This nine-day journey from Pretoria 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 from Moscow to Mongolia: The 13-day Naadam Festival Route offers experiences you won't get any other way. From Moscow the train heads across the Russian steppe, evergreen forests and the Urals into Asia. Along the way passengers explore centuries-old forts, palaces and mosques. The journey ends in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, just in time for the fabled Naadam Festival, where local boys and girls compete in archaic sports.