World's Most Scenic Train Trips
Rail journeys that let you take in the Taj Mahal, the Canadian Rockies, the Australian outback and more.
There’s an old Buddhist proverb that says, “It is better to travel well than to arrive.” It’s a sentiment that beautifully sums up the recent resurgence in luxury train travel—where the journey is just as important as the destination.
For the past several decades, many globe-trotters have considered train travel something of an anachronism. Gone were the days of the Orient-Express, when society’s greatest luminaries rode in opulence from Paris to Istanbul; instead, jet-setters aimed to arrive at breakneck speed.
Things began to change in 1977, when James Sherwood, founder of Orient-Express Hotels, purchased two 1920s Orient-Express carriages at auction. They would be the first of 35 Pullman cars he would buy and refurbish to Art Deco splendor, in order to relaunch the Orient-Express line on a jaunt from London to Venice. First attracted by the novelty, travelers quickly became enamored with this slower, more contemplative mode of exploration—one that let them enjoy the beauty of the passing scenery, rather than whiz over it in a jet or through it in a car.
“Sleeping in a cozy cabin while the train is stable in a remote station overnight, viewing the ever-changing landscape from the open veranda of the train’s observation car, exciting off-train excursions…are all highlights of a journey aboard our train,” says Michael Andrews, general manager of The Royal Scotsman, owned by Orient-Express.
Today, an increased demand has led to a new renaissance of train travel. In 2004, Australia’s Great Southern Rail reintroduced the historic Ghan route, which crosses both the country’s dramatic deserts and its lush river gorges. Six years later, the British outfitter Cox & Kings joined forces with Indian Railways to create the Maharajas’ Express, a sybaritic ride that leads to the Taj Mahal, the Pink City of Jaipur and other noteworthy Indian sites. New this summer is the U.S. Coastal Passage, a route established by Rocky Mountaineer that will bring clientele from Seattle to the snowcapped peaks and turquoise-colored lakes of the Canadian Rockies.
A growing legion of train aficionados are looking to the four corners of the globe for their next scenic adventure. Sample one of these 10 epic journeys for starters: