Holidays are about the journey as much as the destination. Travelling by rail is as efficient as it is luxurious, with unbeatable views from the carriages, gourmet meals, modern amenities, historical ambience and exciting excursions. Plus, it’s more eco-friendly than flying. Here are five unforgettable train experiences.
On Rocky Mountaineer’s popular First Passage to the West tour, guests travel from the lush rainforest of coastal British Columbia to the heart of the Canadian Rockies in Banff National Park, Alberta, witnessing moose, bighorn sheep, deer and bears in their natural habitats along the way.
But this is the farthest thing from roughing it. In addition to the spectacular views, this train journey offers the chance to enjoy local wines and delicious culinary dishes created under the watchful eyes of executive chefs Jean Pierre Guerin and Frédéric Couton. They draw on their experiences at five-star hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants to create culinary masterpieces, such as Pacific salmon and Alberta prime beef served alongside prairie grains, with seasonal fruits and vegetables sourced from the Fraser and Okanagan valleys.
If you’re looking for ultimate luxury, upgrade to GoldLeaf Service, which offers bi-level glass dome coaches, with passenger seating upstairs and dining downstairs. Or consider the newest tour, Rockies to the Red Rocks.
For over 30 years, this Canadian company has been offering breathtaking rail options through Alberta and British Columbia, but this addition showcases the striking mountain and desert landscapes of a completely different region: the Continental Divide between Moab, Utah, and Denver, Colorado.
The Glacier Express
Visitors will be ushered through southern Switzerland’s most majestic regions on this eight-hour rail trip. Experience the Swiss Alps on a lavishly renovated train, where each seat is retrofitted with its own power socket and free Wi-Fi.
You’ll see such destinations as St. Moritz, the iconic Matterhorn near Zermatt and the Rhine Gorge, which is known as the Grand Canyon of Switzerland. Witness the stunning Oberalp Pass, one of the highest points in the country, and the Albula Line, an engineering marvel that traverses viaducts and spiral tunnels.
Upgrade to Excellence Class for guaranteed window seats, a full-service concierge, access to the Glacier Bar, as well as snacks, champagne, afternoon tea and a seven-course regional fine dining menu.
This luxurious train has been described as a palace on wheels, and for good reason. Guests begin their journey to the Scottish Highlands at the historic Waverley Station in Edinburgh, Scotland, in high-class fashion. The train’s Edwardian-inspired cabins are outfitted with traditional wools and tartans and come equipped with plush beds and ensuite bathrooms stocked with local handcrafted toiletries.
There are two dining cars that serve lunch and dinner, with meals made using ingredients sourced from regional producers, farmers and fishers. There’s also a wide array of whiskies from native distillers for sampling.
Guests looking for a little R&R can opt to spend time in the spacious observation car, where oversized picture windows offer sweeping views of the country’s lochs and glens, or visit the spa carriage, which offers a variety of nourishing facials and soothing massages that will leave you feeling pampered.
The train even offers excursions, that may include day trips for a round of golf at one of Scotland’s world-renowned courses, open-water swimming, whitewater rafting, outdoor dining and distillery tastings, depending on your itinerary.
Beginning in Paris or Istanbul, passengers on the Venice-Simplon-Orient Express will enjoy plush cabins, scrumptious meals by Michelin-star chef Jean Imbert and an elegant piano bar, among other luxe amenities.
Make the occasion more memorable by opting to stay in one of the train’s grand suites, which offer 24-hour butler service, a comfy double bed, full marble bathroom and an endless supply of champagne.
The new and glamorous version of the Orient Express La Dolce Vita will debut in Italy in 2023 with six trains across 14 Italian regions, as well as three international routes. Travel in upscale transcontinental rail cars that draw influence from the golden age of Italian design, combining retro touches with a modern aesthetic. Opt to go truffle hunting in Piedmont, enjoy theatre in Milan or visit a quaint village in the Sicilian countryside along the way.
The Ghan Expedition
If the destination is most important to you, this train will get you there while enjoying all-inclusive meals, fine wines and beverages. Discover Australia’s outback with an iconic tour, which takes guests from Adelaide to Darwin on a four-day, three-night trip through 2,979 km of red desert.
Excursions include dining at the historic Telegraph Station in Alice Springs, touring an opal mine in Coober Pedy, seeing the sandstone facades and ancient cave paintings of the Nitmiluk Gorge and an evening of stargazing the southern skies in Manguri.
Or opt for a 15-day rail, land and ocean adventure with the new Ultimate Territory Tour, which launches in 2023. The experience includes a visit to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, as well as meals and train and hotel accommodations.
Rail travel is not only a sophisticated way to travel, it’s also more eco-friendly
According to Eco-Passenger, a tool that calculates and compares carbon emissions for trips taken by air, car and train, travelling by rail is the most planet-friendly way to travel, particularly for short trips.
- Every passenger train replaces dozens of cars, reducing air and noise pollution.
- Taking the train instead of a plane can reduce the carbon emissions of your trip.
- On average, a train line can move 50,000 people an hour, compared to a highway which can move 2,500 people an hour by vehicle.
- With arrivals and departures in city centres, rail travellers can easily use local transit or walk to their final destination.
Get ready to go
Book your own rail travel adventure with a knowledgeable CAA Travel Consultant who can help you select the right tour company and experience. They can also make sure you have the proper travel insurance to protect your trip.