There is a particular touch of romance that orbits train journeys: they allow you to witness the world unfolding through the train windows, taking in scenic landscapes as you go. From one spot in the world to another, these journeys have the potential to gift you an experience unlike any other.
Once a symbol of elegance for the wealthy, train journeys have grimly transformed into dreary carriages for commute. But, fret not as we are presently living in the renaissance of opulent train travel – luxury trains are back in the picture following the growing desire for lavish experiences. With time being a luxury these days, indulging in slow travel is the perfect treat – fancy trains are the dreamiest transportation your vacation deserves.
Behold, a curated compilation of 8 luxury trains from each (travellable) continent that would leave you mesmerised with old-age glamour and first-class experience.
ASIA: Eastern & Oriental Express
Returning after a four-year hiatus, this Southeast Asian deluxe train offers a rewritten adventure through two newly designed seasonal journeys departing from Singapore and through the allures of Malaysia. The ‘Essence of Malaysia’, which operates in February, November and December 2024, carries you north to Langkawi island whereas ‘Wild Malaysia’, from March to October 2024, is a trip through the country’s rural East Coast towns. With refashioned interiors of cherrywood corridors and oriental furnishings, the train makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a time-travelling tale. The gem of the Eastern & Oriental Express is its teak-floored Observation Car that invites you to sit back and enjoy the breeze amidst morphing scenes.
ASIA: Maharaja’s Express
India’s most renowned luxury train journey belongs to a class of its own. The nation’s finest train offers a stunning glimpse into the majestic land, complemented by sumptuous Indian cuisine and premier hospitality. This luxury train runs three weeklong journeys — ‘Indian Splendour’, centred around the royal state of Rajasthan; ‘Indian Panorama’, depicting the unmatched beauty and diverse cultures; and ‘Heritage of India’, bringing you from bustling Mumbai to the Indian capital of Delhi. For a shorter and less expensive (but no less fancy) is the 4-day ‘Treasures of India’ tour which showcases the cities of the golden triangle: Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. The train has 23 ornate carriages with a private butler in each, and the accommodations start from junior suites to an impressive Navratna Presidential Suite (for the grandeur seekers).
AFRICA: Rovos Rail
The leisurely schedule of a luxury train simply means there is sufficient time to thoroughly experience the many shades of Africa. Even more so with a tour through the most beautiful panoramas of the world’s oldest inhabited continent.
Beyond the landscapes, you can choose to participate in wildlife viewings and winetastings at specific stops. The itineraries range from 2-night trips to 14 night-excursions – these include the ‘Great Rift Valley’ escarpment and the newly added ‘Copper Trail’ which crosses Zimbabwe, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. Rovos’ antique wood-panelled carriages with picture windows and lush seatings paints the image of a journey unforgotten.
EUROPE: Glacier Express
The ‘window to the Swiss Alps’ is the phrase that embodies this luxury automotive – with cars that are almost wholly glass, and the express promises unparalleled views of Swiss nature. The Glacier Express is known as the slowest express in the world, taking eight hours to traverse the 180-mile journey. However, that is a title it prides itself on for every moment of this slow travel is golden – the entire journey covers 291 bridges, 91 tunnels, remote valleys, idyllic mountain villages, and two UNESCO World Heritage sites (“Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch” and “Rhaetian Railway in the Bernina Landscapes”). To enrich your experience, book in Excellence class on the journey between St. Moritz and Zermatt to be served champagne and savouries at your seat, followed by an exquisite five-course meal with wine pairings.
EUROPE: La Dolce Vita
Set foot on the Orient Express’ La Dolce Vita and lose yourself in the melodies and artistic fervour of 1960s Italy. Composed of 11 cars, this iconic train houses 12 Deluxe Cabins and 18 Suites with the latter adorned with glossy lacquered ceilings, smoke mirror walls and precious fabrics. With 6 itineraries that guarantee extraordinary experiences, the rail journeys through the beautiful Italian cities of Rome and Venice as well as the charming Portofino village and another Tuscan jewel, Siena. The reimagined train of dreams, which launches in 2024, offers a number of exciting off-board activities such as vineyard touring in Montalcino and relaxing on the beaches along Sicily’s coast – there’s something for everyone!
NORTH AMERICA: Rocky Mountaineer
Expansive picture windows and glass-dome ceilings wrap this luxury train, a pledge that not one sight is left unseen as the voyage unfolds between Vancouver, British Columbia and Jasper, Alberta. Broadening its traditional itineraries, the train service recently included its first U.S. route between Denver and Moab, Utah. With an obvious purpose of scenery-viewing, the Rocky Mountaineer showcases stunning views of the mountains as well as the roughened canyons of the Utah desert. If the idea of overnighting on a moving vehicle does not appeal to you, this rail trip is right up your lane as it has no sleeper cars – instead, there is an option of three different hotels to choose from. With gourmet food and large outdoor viewing platforms, this North American trip is a must-take!
SOUTH AMERICA: Hiram Bingham
The unique train with only a single route: one through the Sacred Valley and towards Machu Picchu. Belmond’s Hiram Bingham train is mark of grandness, from its gleaming surfaces of brass and wood which accompany the Peruvian soul of its interiors to an array of delectable meals and cosy cabins. The charm of this train lies in the way it furnishes you with all the space to comfortably unwind: the airy setting is perfect to watch the rivers and mountains pass by. The leisurely tour sets the ideal mood before guests debark to explore the 15th-century Incan citadel as part of this ultimate adventure.
OCEANIA: The Ghan
To cross an entire continent on rail is admittedly a rare feat, but the Ghan effortlessly ticks that off the list, travelling south to north Australia. A vast cross-section of varying climates and backdrops, the legendary luxury train stretches over 1,851 miles from Adelaide in the south, through the diverse landscapes of Alice Springs in the the country’s Red Centre, and ending in Darwin up north. The Platinum service elevates the rail journey, indulging guests with sophisticated, spacious suits as well as wide panoramic views. The 3-day all-inclusive journey is a sublime expedition through the heart of the Australian continent.