There’s something magical about taking train journeys. From long romantic ones to super-speedy adventures, here are top 10 train journeys that you must experience at least once. By Bayar Jain
It is often said that JK Rowling first got the idea of Harry Potter on a train journey. Evidently, then, there is an aura of magic that radiates through the bogeys as the sound of steel and the gentle swaying takes you on an adventure. Who knows, maybe one of these spectacular journeys will inspire the next bestseller?
1. The Reunification Express, Vietnam
A vital lifeline during the World War II, the Reunification Express in Vietnam spans across 1,000 miles. Also known as the North-South Railway, this train cuts across almost the entire nation in only 34 hours. Starting from Ho Chi Minh City, as it meanders its way to Hanoi, the train serves as a brilliant way to soak in the beautiful greens of the country. During the day, views of an unbroken panorama of rural Vietnam, replete with paddy fields, pagodas from the forest, and rural folk cycling in bamboo huts adds to the experience.
2. Bullet Trains, Japan
China’s trains might be fastest in the world, but Japan’s shinkansen seem straight from the future. Translating to ‘trunk line’, the shinkansen claim the gold standard for safety and efficiency. Although every journey on these mechanical marvels is worth the hype, the Tokyo-Kyoto route is famous for its Mt. Fuji views along the way. Despite running at speeds of up to 320 km/h, the shinkansen is known for punctuality.
3. TranzAlpine, New Zealand
To experience a dramatic landscape in New Zealand, the TranzAlpine is the journey to take. Starting out in Christchurch, the train traverses the fertile lands of Canterbury Plains alongside the Waimakariri River and crosses the mountainous terrains of Staircase Viaduct. Then, passing through the Arthur’s Pass National Park, the TranzAlpine chugs to the west coast’s rainforests, culminating in the former gold mining town of Greymouth. It’s no surprise why the this five-hour-long journey is often dubbed as the most beautiful in the world.
4. Tren a las Nubes, Argentina
A must for altitude-lovers, the train in Argentina runs along part of the old line from Salta to the Chilean border. In the process, the train meanders almost 14,000 feet downwards in a span of seven hours. No guesses why it is considered the highest train journey in the world (not using a rack and pinion system)! The backdrop of multi-coloured rock formations will leave you spellbound, while tinges of giant cactus fields dotted along the way add to the mesmerising spectacle.
5. Palace on Wheels, India
A list on train journeys is incomplete without a mention of India’s Palace on Wheels. Serving as the most relaxing way to see the sights of Rajasthan, this famed train is often advertised as being in the ‘style of maharajas.’ And rightfully so! As the train takes you to the royal land of sand dunes and regal palaces, the cabins recreate the regal magic with their immense varieties of amenities. Personal attendants, mini pantry, wall-to-wall carpeting, miniature paintings, striking chandeliers, and more find a space within this train. If the two-day long journey gets too tiring for you, an onboard spa can help ease the pain!
6. The Ghan, Australia
There’s two parts to the great continent of Australia. One, such as that in the commercial spaces of Sydney, Perth, and Melbourne. The other, the lesser-explored side of Australia, is home to the awe-inspiring landscapes and the wild outback. Covering a distance of 2,000 miles, the Ghan gives its passengers a chance to explore this untouched landscape in the cosy confines of a luxurious cabin. Cutting a path directly through Australia’s center, the train journeys along the tropical coast of the Northern territory via the red-hued rocks of MacDonnell ranges, eventually ending in the fertile plains of South Australia. If being on the train gets to your senses, they even offer off-train excursions such as a leisurely boat tour of Nitmiluk Gorge or a trip to the quirky desert town of Alice Springs.
7. West Highland Line, Scotland
Fondly remembered as the Hogwarts Express, this is probably one of the most recognised trains in the world. As thick puffs of smoke spew out through the steam engines, this train makes its way through the highlands of Scotland as it carries you along the West coast. During the duration of the journey, you’ll go through the Loch Lomond, the Trossachs National Park, Loch Awe, and even Rannoch Moor. As you travel through the steep-sided lochs, and daunting mountains, keep an eye out for red deer that pop out of the wilderness to say hi!
8. Golden Eagle Danube Express, Central Europe and Transylvania
Spanning across 14 days, the Golden Eagle Danube Express traverses a 2,000-mile journey! Passing through eight countries, this is the best way to see Europe in style. From Istanbul, the train travels north via the Carpathian Mountains and into Transylvania, past Bran Castle — also known as ‘Dracula’s Castle’. It then travels through Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Poland before arriving in beautiful Prague, the capital of Czech Republic.
9. Rovos Rail, South Africa
Luxurious interiors and mesmerising exteriors, isn’t that the perfect combination for a train journey? Traversing from Cape Town to Pretoria, a ride on the Rovos Rail unveils the best of South Africa. A look out of the window while give you visuals of the magnificent Victoria Falls, while giant valleys, narrow alleys, and dense forests in the vicinity add to the splendour. Over the three-night adventure, an enthusiastic team of chefs brings you traditional dishes using local ingredients, paired with the choicest South African wines.
10. Grand Canyon Railway, USA
It might be a short two-and-a-half-hour journey, but the gorgeous views make up for it. The Grand Canyon Railway is a heritage railroad that carries passengers between Williams, Arizona, and the south rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. As you travel through the forests, keep your eyes out for elk, mountain lions, mule deer, squirrels, and even skunks. In the high desert, it’s common to see pronghorn, which look like antelope, as well as a variety of birds—from bald eagles to horned owls, ravens to California condors.