10 Best Luxury Train Journeys

Travel in style on one of these 10 posh train journeys.

The Orient Express, Europe

There’s one posh train journey that everyone knows the name of – at least partially thanks to Agatha Christie setting murders there.

Much of the mental image – art deco cabins with gleaming polished wood, staff members in silly hats, champagne bar, high-end cutlery and crockery for Michelin-esque dining – is true. But one misconception is that the train only takes one route, when in reality it trundles across Europe, doing London to Venice on one trip, Istanbul to Paris on another.

Orient Express: Old style glamour.

Orient Express: Old style glamour.

The Andean Explorer, Peru

Belmond, which operates the Orient Express, also has its fingers in the Peruvian pie. The Andean Explorer heads along some of the highest railway tracks on earth as it squiggles past the mountains on one and two-day journeys.

Again, it’s as much about the service as the sights – although gawping out of the window at the Andean plains, visiting Inca ruins and taking a boat trip on Lake Titicaca are hardly to be sniffed at.

Indian Pacific: Average train speed is 85.2kmh.

Indian Pacific: Average train speed is 85.2kmh.

Back before cheap flights cornered the market, the train journey across the Australian continent could be a grim endurance test.

Now seating-only tickets have been abandoned, and the 65-hour journey is done in full comfort, with ensuite cabins, all-inclusive fine dining and drinks, plus off-train excursions including Barossa Valley wine jaunts and canapes under the stars on the Nullarbor Plain.

The Ghan, Australia

If you prefer your OTT Australian train trips north to south rather than east to west, the Ghan does much what the Indian Pacific does. But between April and October, a longer version, taking four nights and three days, has been set up, allowing for longer excursions.

These can include cruises down the Katherine Gorge, a visit to Uluru or an outback experience on a working cattle station. This takes the trip even further away from the getting from A to B model, and into luxury cruise ship (but on land) territory.

The Maharajas' Express luxury train: Journeys can be up to eight days.

The Maharajas’ Express luxury train: Journeys can be up to eight days.

The Maharajas’ Express, India

The cruise ship on land feel is clearer on Indian luxury train journeys, however.

Some of the trips on the Maharajas’ Express cover surprisingly small distances, but effectively use the train as a moving plush hotel and lavish restaurant, while sending guests out during the day to see the Taj Mahal and Jaipur’s Amber Fort or spot tigers in Rathnambore National Park. Longer journeys can be up to eight days, covering significant chunks of the country.

The Northern Belle

If you’re just wanting to dip your toe into this luxury trains lark, then the Northern Belle services in Britain may well be a winner.

The seven-carriage train is done up 1930s style, designed to evoke the golden age of rail travel, and runs a variety of trips. These range from a seven-course Sunday lunch, served at seat while musicians and magicians wander up and down the train, to day trips to Edinburgh and Cornwall with proper pig-out food and drink on the way.

The Golden Eagle

Done on the cheap, the Trans-Siberian Express can be an endurance test where vodka is used liberally to smooth the rough edges. However, it doesn’t have to be done on the cheap.

The Golden Eagle plies the route from Moscow to Vladivostok, with private suites (go for the gold class – silver is a little on the poky side) and caviar-laced dining. The lounge car comes with a pianist tinkling the ivories, while enough time for sightseeing around the likes of Yekatarinburg and Lake Baikal is built into the journey.

The Blue Train travels between Cape Town and Pretoria.

The Blue Train travels between Cape Town and Pretoria.

The Blue Train, South Africa

Africa’s most lavish train journey heads between Cape Town and Pretoria, with butlers ready to whisk clothing away to be ironed, a wood-panelled gentleman’s club-esque club car with complimentary cigars, and feasts accompanied by a string quartet.

Some cabins come with their own bathtubs, while the key off-train excursion is to the giant open mines of Kimberley.

Seven Stars in Kyushu

Japan has some astonishing trains – getting around by high-speed shinkansen is a quintessential Japanese experience. But Seven Stars in Kyushu is the first real branching out into the “cruise train” concept.

It offers two and four-day journeys around the island of Kyushu, with the sumptuously designed suite cabins fusing Western and Japanese design. Live music in the lounge car and welcome ceremonies add to the pageantry.

The Rocky Mountaineer

On the whole, North America hasn’t bought into the luxury rail thing as much as it could, but the Rocky Mountaineer, which runs four routes in Western Canada, is a glorious exception.

On-board dining has a particular emphasis on produce from the Pacific North-West. The key difference with these trips is that you don’t sleep on board – a blessed relief for those who struggle to nod off on a rocking train – but in top hotels along the route.

– Traveller


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