For the majority of us, there's nothing special about taking a train. It's merely a means to an end, transporting us from the comfort of our homes into our daily grind, be it work, university or school. Trains don't often get the love they deserve. The truth is, a journey by rail can be one of the most comfortable and stunning methods to see this big, wide world of ours.
They take us where cars ordinarily can't, and of course, the eye-level views are unmatched by anything you can get when traveling via plane, squashed in a middle seat. From the endless red Australian outback to the jagged peaks in the Swiss Alps, it's time to unearth the vast beauty that trains can deliver. All aboard!
10 The Ghan - Adelaide to Darwin (Australia)
There’s no landscape in the world quite like the vast, red, dry and desolate Australian outback. With roads that seem like they never end, and few places to stop along the way, it’s always a risk to make the journey by car. So, why not experience the beautiful surroundings in comfort, luxury, and without worry in the Ghan?
A trip on the Ghan takes passengers from South Australia all the up to the nation’s peak in the Northern Territory, along a journey of almost 2000 miles. The views from the window will continue to impress, as the train's location transitions from vast plains to the red-rocks of MacDonnell Ranges before finishing in the lush northern tropics.
9 Tokaido Shinkansen line - Tokyo to Kyoto (Japan)
Mount Fuji is an icon of Japan, plain and simple. Tourists flock from near and far to snap a selfie in front of the snow-capped volcano, and the best place to do so - to make all of your friends back at home jealous - is from the comfort of the bullet train that whizzes past it.
Linking Tokyo with Kyoto in the Shizuoka Prefecture, the trains on the Tokaido Shinkansen line notch up speeds upwards of 270km/h. For the best mountain views, those heading south will want to book a seat on the right-hand side, while those going toward Tokyo should reserve something on the left.
8 Glacier Express - Zermatt to St. Moritz (Switzerland)
The eight-hour journey aboard the Glacier Express is unquestionably one of the most idyllic railway journeys in the world, and it comes mighty close to taking the top spot. Along the way, passengers will be able to take in breathtaking views of the Rhine Gorge (Switzerland’s answer to the Grand Canyon), the infamous Matterhorn, the 2044-meter-high Oberalp Pass, and the Solis and Landwasser viaducts.
Finally, the journey comes to an end at the country’s most luxurious and revered holiday town, St. Moritz. Get your cameras ready, folks, because the trip on the Glacier Express travels through 91 tunnels and crosses 291 bridges.
7 The Orient Express - Paris to Venice (Europe)
A journey on board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (more commonly referred to simply as the Orient Express) is like taking a step back in time. The railway first welcomed passengers back in 1883 and has been gaining traction and history ever since. While there are 18 stops in total, in between London and Venice, the most revered route is the one from Paris.
The train has been featured in countless works of film, TV, and literature of the years, perhaps making it the most famous across the globe. To get you in the mood for a journey on board, spend an evening, popcorn in hand, watching detective Hercule Poirot work his magic in Murder on the Orient Express.
6 Chocolate Train - Montreux to Broc (Switzerland)
What’s better than a picturesque railway journey through the heart of Switzerland? Yep, you guessed it, the same journey overloaded with fine Swiss chocolate and cheese. With a name like the Chocolate Train, you could be forgiven for thinking that this railway journey is only for those with a sweet tooth, however, passengers also get to taste some exceptional Swiss cheese at the Maison du Gruyère (cheese factory) - the journey’s first stop.
Following that, passengers travel through the medieval town of Gruyères before finishing at the Maison Cailler, the renowned Swiss chocolaterie in Broc. Stunning views from the windows seal the deal, making this delicious culinary railway trip simply one of the world's best.
5 West Highland Line - Fort William to Mallaig (Scotland)
The diverse and lush scenery of Scotland produces one of the most picturesque landscapes in the world. The journey starts off in Scotland’s second biggest city (after Edinburgh), Glasgow, and passes through the urban area before chugging past lochs (sea inlets - think Loch Ness Monster), along glens (deep valleys) and through the wilderness of Rannoch Moor before arriving at the final destination, Fort William.
With unmatched views and an inviting landscape, passengers feel like they’ve been magically transported to another world. That thought would be justified, too, considering that the Glenfinnan Viaduct made a few magical appearances in the Harry Potter film series on the Hogwarts Express’ route.
4 Comboio Histórico do Douro - Régua to Pinhão (Portugal)
The Comboio Histórico do Douro (or, in English, the Douro Historical Train) runs along Portugal’s Douro River through a UNESCO World Heritage-listed landscape. The steam train pulls along five historical cars and offers exceptional views of the high mountains and the grapevines that dot their facades.
As a bonus, the various buildings at the stations along the way are yet to be modernized, meaning that they’ve overflowing with traditional Portuguese charm. For any rail enthusiasts traveling through Europe, the Comboio Histórico do Douro is not to be missed. Summertime presents itself as the prime time to take the journey, but visitors in winter certainly won’t be disappointed either.
3 Tranzalpine - Christchurch to Greymouth (New Zealand)
When you hear the name New Zealand, it’s hard not to think of a picturesque natural landscape almost immediately. The small two-island country to the east of Australia boasts stunning mountain ranges and incredible national parks. One of the best ways to see the country, without a doubt, is aboard the TranzAlpine.
The train kicks off in Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island, initially heading northwest along the Waimakariri River. It then ascends into the mountains, chugs along the Staircase Viaduct, and then through the beautiful Arthur’s Pass National Park before finally arriving in Greymouth, a former mining town.
2 The Skeena Train - Prince Rupert to Jasper (Canada)
If there’s anything more naturally impressive than the Canadian Rockies, then we’re yet to stumble across it. There’s no better way to experience them first-hand than with a seat aboard the Skeena Train (locally referred to as the Rupert Rocket), which transports passengers through the idyllic Jasper National Park over to Canada’s Pacific coast, and vice versa, of course.
From the sparkling lakes and jagged snow-capped mountains around Jasper to the serene Pacific waters of Prince Rupert and dizzyingly beautiful wilderness in between, the views from the Skeena are up there with the world’s best. Passengers can stretch their legs at Prince George as well, where the train stops overnight.
1 Vistadome Train - Cusco to Machu Picchu (Peru)
There’s so much to love about Peru, particularly in and around the Cusco region. Thousands of travelers have their sights set on the wonder that is Machu Picchu, not realizing that the journey there is almost just as impressive. Passengers can get up close and personal with the scenery and nature en route to Machu Picchu without needing a pair of hiking shoes, thanks to the Vistadome Train’s expansive panoramic windows.
The train leaves from San Pedro station in Cusco and stops in Ollantaytambo and Urubamba in the Sacred Valley before reaching the final beloved destination, Machu Picchu.