• 4 November 2020

Hop aboard and get ready to enjoy the world’s best railway journeys! There are a number of breathtaking destinations just waiting to be explored across the globe. Rail travel is a unique and memorable way to experience these incredible spots. 

There is a special kind of beauty in travelling by train; you get to experience destinations differently. Sit back, relax and travel through a country. You’ll enjoy the scenery unique to train journeys, and see locations you might not have access to outside of rail, while en route to your next stop. Your journey becomes a major part of your tour experience. 

From Switzerland’s mountains and the rolling hills of Tuscany to stark landscapes of Siberia and more, rail travel takes you to unforgettable places. 

Here are 14 of the world’s best railway journeys that you need to experience:

1. Glacier Express – Switzerland 

Marvel at the incredible scenery on the Glacier Express.

The Glacier Express is a train trip that is on many a bucket list! The Swiss are renowned for their railway travel in general thanks to Swiss efficiency and the incredible landscape. The Glacier Express trip is no different. The trip goes to and from St Moritz and Zermatt and takes eight hours. You’ll experience the beauty of the Swiss Alps: snow-capped peaks, alpine scenery and quaint villages. You’ll also get to enjoy incredible views of the Matterhorn and Oberalp Pass.

Related: Enjoy the breathtaking Swiss scenery on our Rome to Amsterdam Rail Explorer and Amsterdam to Barcelona Rail Explorer tours.

2. Blue Train – South Africa

View of Cape Winelands South Africa railway journeys
You’ll enjoy views of South Africa’s Cape Winelands on the Blue Train.

The Blue Train is described as one of the most luxurious train journeys in the world! Travel 1,600km (994 miles) between Cape Town and Pretoria and enjoy South Africa’s magnificent scenery as you go. The train travels through the heart of the country, traversing the Cape Winelands, rolling hills and the desert landscape of the Karoo. This is a 5-star hotel on wheels and travellers can look forward to first-class service including fine dining, private suites and complete relaxation!

Did you know? The Rovos Rail is another luxury train that operates in South Africa with routes across the country plus incredible trips in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola and Tanzania.

3. West Highland Line – Scotland

Train on Glenfinan Viaduct Scotland railway journeys
Take a trip across the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland.

This train trip which takes in the spectacular scenery of the Scottish Highlands is the most scenic rail journey in Britain – and even the world! Travel on the West Highland Line from Glasgow to Oban, Fort William and Mallaig. The trips take between three and five and a half hours depending on your destination. Along the way, you’ll get to enjoy cinematic scenery of mountains, lochs and moors covered in heather. On the Mallaig line, you’ll rumble over the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct – made famous by the Harry Potter film franchise! This is definitely a side of the country that you will only be able to experience by train!

Another great trip which ends in Scotland is the Caledonian Sleeper, an overnight train which runs between London and destinations across Scotland. 

Related: See the scenic beauty of bonnie Scotland on our exciting Scotland Rail Express rail tour.

4. Bernina Express – Switzerland to Italy

Bernina Express in Swiss scenery railway journeys
The views of Switzerland and northern Italy are beautiful.

A beautiful rail journey that begins in Switzerland and ends in Tirano, northern Italy. Starting in Chur, the oldest city in Switzerland, the Bernina Express transports you through the gorgeous scenery of the Swiss Alps including mountain passes, sparkling lakes and impressive viaducts. The trip takes four hours total and is a relaxed, scenic and unforgettable way to experience this part of Europe. 

5. The Flam Railway – Norway

View of Flam and fjords in Norway railway journeys
Make your way to fjord town Flåm on the Flåm Railway.

The Flåm Railway (Flåmsbana) is a truly unique train journey. It runs between Myrdal and Flåm in Norway over 20km and offers incredible panoramic sights; earning its spot as one of Norway’s top tourist attractions! You’ll travel up into the mountains to reach the picturesque village of Flåm – located at the innermost point of the Aurlandsfjord. Hop on a train from Oslo or Bergen to get to Myrdal. From there, you’ll enjoy an hour-long train trip complete with picturesque landscapes and jaw-dropping viewpoints.

6. Venice Simplon-Orient – Italy and beyond

Attendant on Venice Simplon-Orient railway journeys
Take a luxurious trip on the Venice Simplon-Orient.

Looking for a train ride experience that will make you feel like you are travelling in a luxurious work of art? The Venice Simplon-Orient is for you! The Belmond group is known worldwide for its luxurious hotels and destinations and this train tour is no different. This 5-star train journey is historic and beautiful complete with restored and refurbished art deco carriages from the 1920s, 30s and 50s. You can hop aboard in Venice, Verona, London or Paris and enjoy world-class service on board as you travel through Europe. This is the historic romance of train travel reimagined! 

Related: Enjoy an immersive experience of Italy in Expat Explore’s Italy Rail Express tour. 

7. Trans-Siberian Railway – Russia

View of Trans-Siberian railway Russia railway journeys
Make your way across Russia and see sights like Lake Baikal on the Trans-Siberian Railway.

This is a trip that can be found on many bucket lists thanks to the monumental distance and the experience of travelling through the Siberian landscape. The Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest in the world and it connects Moscow with Vladivostok in the far east area of Russia. The 9,288km (5771 miles) railway took 25 years to build at the turn of the 19th century. While you can complete the trip in one go, it will take you a couple of days. It’s a great idea to make stops along the way or join a guided tour to make the most of the bucket list railway journey. There is no specific train called the “Trans-Siberian Express”, rather a number of companies which run along the route. Find the one that fits your needs best and you’re ready to go! 

8. California Zephyr – USA

View of Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco railway journeys
Make your way to San Fransisco on the famous California Zephyr.

Many people call the California Zephyr one of the most beautiful train rides in North America. The trip will take you across the USA; between Chicago and San Francisco on the West Coast. This is the most historic and scenic of all of the Amtrak routes. Take in the views of the Rocky Mountains, the Nevada and Utah deserts and Colorado canyons – there is even a sightseer section on the train! Over the two-night train journey, you’ll make short stops in Denver, Salt Lake City and more. This is a unique, fun and leisurely way to see America from a new perspective.

9. Qinghai-Tibet Railway – China

Lhasa in Tibet railway journeys
Venture into Lhasa, Tibet on a trip on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

An experience for travellers who would like a glimpse into the world of the previously pretty inaccessible region of Tibet. Travel from urban China in Xining, Qinghai Province, through the striking scenery of the countryside until reaching Lhasa in Tibet. Built in 2006, this is the highest railway in the world, reaching elevations of 5,000m – no wonder it has earned the nickname “The Sky Road”! You’ll travel past lakes, desolate Gobi Desert plains and the snow-topped Tanggula Mountains. Enjoy the journey and the adventures at your destination in Tibet! 

10. Reunification Express – Vietnam

View of Train Street in Hanoi railway journeys
Travel from north to south and see the beauty in between on the Reunification Express,

This single track trip is about the beauty of reunification. Known officially as the North-South Railway, the route connects two previously separated parts of Vietnam, the north and the south. Travel from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. Travelling south slowly is an incredible way to see this beautiful, historic, cultured and character-filled country. You’ll see cities, small fishing villages, orderly rice paddies and wild jungles. While there isn’t one train called the “Reunification Express” a number of Vietnam Railways trains operate along the route. All you need to do is find the train, schedule and time that suits you and you can venture south.  

11. The Ghan – Australia

Alice Springs train station The Ghan stop Australia railway journeys
Journey into the heart of Australia on The Ghan.

Head through the heart of Australia on The Ghan! Lauded as Australia’s greatest train journey, hop aboard and travel between Adelaide and Darwin. The journey itself is an experience – it’s one of the longest north-south trips in the world and was named after the Afghan cameleers who helped build infrastructure in the outback in the early 20th century. Enjoy world-class service over the course of three days. Take in the dramatic views of the outback and make the most of stops in Alice Springs, Marla and Katherine. 

12. Rocky Mountaineer – Canada

View from Rocky Mountaineer train in Canada railway journeys
Be awed by the views from panoramic windows on the Rocky Mountaineer in Canada.

See the majestic Canadian Rockies by train! Three route options give you the opportunity to explore more of this beautiful part of Canada. Choose from Vancouver-Kamloops-Banff or Vancouver-Kamloops-Jasper or Vancouver-Whistler-Quesnel-Jasper. The Rocky Mountaineer trips include breakfast and lunch on board and overnight hotel stays (you can also do the routes in reverse). This is an amazing way to take in the beauty of Canada; from the lush greenery and mountain passes to dramatic canyons and incredible national parks. It’s all about experiencing the journey. 

13. The Brocken Railway – Germany

Brocken Railway vintage train Germany railway journeys
Germany’s fairytale landscapes are all around during a Brocken Railway trip!

This trip is short but sweet! Venture into the Harz Mountains on a steam locomotive. The Brocken Railway is named after the highest peak in the Harz mountain range. The 50-minute vintage train trip allows for a nostalgic trip through beautiful German scenery – the quaint villages and forests seem to be taken straight from a postcard! Arrive at Brocken Station – one of the highest train stations in Germany. 

14. TranzAlpine – New Zealand

View of southern Alps New Zealand railway journeys
Admire the views of the Waimakariri River from the TranzAlpine train in New Zealand.

See New Zealand’s South Island from a new perspective on the TranzAlpine. Travel from Christchurch on the east coast to Greymouth on the west coast in five hours. Along the way, you’ll be free to admire the breathtaking views of the Southern Alps, the Waimakariri River and more. Relax near panoramic windows or take in the sights from the open-air viewing carriage. This is definitely New Zealand’s most scenic train experience! 

On top of all of these, there are hundreds if not thousands of exciting rail journeys connecting incredible cities around the globe. Now that you have seen what the world of train travel has to offer, it’s time to start planning your own journey! Take a look at Expat Explore’s rail tour offerings and get ready to make the most of the destinations and the journey! 

Questions & Comments

  1. Betty Stinemetz says:

    I received this email on November 4.2020 about your rail tours. I am especially interested in the Trans Siberian tour and also myself plus several other people (possibly 5 or 6) are VERY interested in the Rocky Mountaineer Canada tours but I can no longer find them listed on your site. Were they only available this past November or are still available or will they be offered again? I am a multi-repeat customer but all the others would be first time customers.

    • Heather Cameron says:

      Hi Betty, thank you for your message! Our rail tours cover Europe and the UK at the moment. The Trans Siberian and Rocky Mountaineer train journeys formed part of the general “best railway journeys” list that we put together for the blog in November. While we don’t offer tours to these destinations at this time, you can take a look at our current rail offerings here: https://expatexplore.com/rail-tours/

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