Trains have been in existence since the 6th century BC in Ancient Greece. Diolkos tracks, or a paved roadway, was used as a transport system until wooden tracks came in around 1500 AD. In the late 1700s, metal tracks became the norm as railway designs changed over time. Mining carts were the first to be used, followed by steam engines, then electric and diesel engines led to the high-speed trains we have today.
Train travel offers a freedom that rarely comes with other forms of transportation. You can move about, enjoy the views from the observation car, get something to eat in the dining car, chat with fellow travelers, and stretch your legs. And there are few better trains for enjoying that experience—along with beautiful views and thoughtful amenities—than these stunning routes around the world.
The Blue Train
Location: South Africa
On the Blue Train, traverse through the beautiful vistas of South Africa. The ride is approximately 990 miles long, and travels from Cape Town to Pretoria. At a speed of 56 mph, passengers can take in the relaxing and beautiful countryside while sipping their favorite beverage.
The Blue Train is a very luxurious ride that many refer to as a five-star hotel on wheels. It has carpeted and soundproof compartments, en-suite butler service, and lounge and observation cars. The carriages have gold-tinted windows and are special enough to have had heads of state, presidents and kings take a ride.
The Denali Star train travels a picturesque route from Anchorage to Fairbanks, Alaska. The 356-mile, 12-hour trek stops in Wasilla, Talkeetna, and Denali National Park. There is no better way to take in these sites than while riding a train. Do not miss seeing the namesake Denali mountain and getting a glimpse of the wildlife that calls the area home. (If you spot moose or grizzly bears, remember this is a no-feeding zone.) The train's double-decker design allows passengers to take in incredible panoramic views of Alaska. Denali Star is a semi-luxury train that is seasonal and operates between May and September. Its sister train, Aurora Winter, is available during the winter months.
Belmond Royal Scotsman
The Belmond Royal Scotsman train runs several routes that can vary from three to eight days. The travel packages venture across Great Britain, England, the Scottish Highlands, and the Western Frontier. The passage is a majestic and scenic experience in a train that is 675 feet in length. Dinner service includes meals that feature both Continental and European flair. In 2007, the train was marketed as one of the best luxury trains in the world.
The Ghan in Australia began in August 1929 and takes a two-day journey across the continent, from Adelaide to Darwin. Along the way are magnificent landscapes that incorporate wilderness in both the central and northern parts of Australia. This is a way to experience both desert and tropical climates in one trip. The Ghan is perhaps the longest train trip on this list—and even the world—and offers two separate accommodations, the Platinum and Gold class. If you are looking for private cabins and bathrooms, select the Platinum option. The passage is 1,851 miles with a stop at Alice Springs.
Eastern & Oriental Express
Location: Singapore, Malaysia, & Thailand
The Eastern and Oriental Express was built in 1972 and is considered one of the best trains in southeast Asia. It runs through three countries: Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. The track goes for 1,262 miles, and the journey lasts three days and two nights. This luxury train takes passengers through the stunning landscapes of Southeast Asia. The journey makes stops at Lumpur, Butterworth, and Kanchanaburi. It also travels between Bangkok and Vientiane, the capital of Laos.
The Eastern and Oriental Express offers presidential suites, dining cars, a piano and bar, a saloon, and a library, and each compartment has an en-suite bathroom with a shower. The entire train is fully air-conditioned.