11 of the best luxury train rides around the world
Expect iconic design, high-end service and absolute opulence on these luxury train rides around the world
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Travelling by rail can be one of the most luxurious ways of getting around. And no, we aren’t just talking about the Orient Express (though that is, indeed, very fancy). The world is full of opulent, luxe rail routes – and they come in all shapes and sizes. Some are veritable palaces on wheels, whilst others offer dazzling views or fine dining.
Many luxury train routes are built around packages for travellers, which often include plenty of day trips and stop-offs around every corner. In other words, it isn’t just the train that’s fancy: it’s the entire trip. Here is our pick of the 11 best luxury train routes in the world.
Best luxury train rides in the world
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1. The Eastern & Oriental Express
The world-famous Orient Express is somewhat incorrectly titled, seeing as it travels around Europe and Europe alone. But this route from Bangkok to Singapore ticks more boxes on the moniker front. It also runs through a stretch of scenery that will take your breath away, if that breath hasn’t already been snatched by the onboard decor and tremendous service. Ancient wonders and cosmopolitan cities collide (not literally) in a blur of exquisite glamour aboard this stunner. Tickets can stretch upwards of $3,000 (£2,450), but you very much pay for what you get.
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2. Rocky Mountaineer
Faultless service, delicious food and comfortable seats are all an integral part of the luxury train experience, but you can’t beat the overwhelming majesty of nature. Canada’s Rocky Mountaineer train understands this, hence the panoramic views, opening up the wonder of the route between Vancouver and Banff for all to enjoy. Sure, economy seats are available, but they don’t come with the views, so go all out and allow yourself this top-notch two-night experience.
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3. The Deccan Odyssey
India knows exactly how to put together a luxury tourist train. A spin-off of the famed Palace on Wheels, the Deccan Odyssey offers six different routes, from the hidden splendour of Gujarat to the natural magic of Maharashtra, but you can’t really go wrong with any of them. It is mind-bendingly expensive (tickets start at $7,320 or £5,980), but who expects low prices to follow the word ‘luxury’? Fools, that’s who. You are basically travelling in a limousine on wheels across one of the world’s biggest countries, after all.
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4. The Ghan
Australia is a land of iconic travel experiences, and a trip on The Ghan is right up there, a trundling train treat that coasts from Darwin to Adelaide. Keen geographers will realise that the train runs from the very northern tip of Australia to the bottom, making The Ghan a unique way to see the heart of this fantastic nation. There isn’t a whole lot in the centre of Australia (a lot of camels, by the way), but the overwhelming immensity of it all is incredible. The name is a shortened take on the route’s original moniker, The Afghan Express.
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5. Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
When one thinks of luxurious trains, the Orient Express immediately forces its way into the discussion. How could it not? This iconic train has been immortalised in literature, cinema and everything else since it first set off in 1883, covering the distance between Paris and Istanbul (then Constantinople) in less than 76 hours. It was known as the world’s most luxurious train for a reason, all glass panels, refined leather seats and beds that offered the sort of sleep that, yes, travellers can only dream of. Seven historic cars have been renovated for the modern day, bringing the 1800s glamour into the twenty-first century.
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6. Seven Stars in Kyushu
Japan’s finest luxury train experience is undoubtedly the Seven Stars in Kyushu, a circular tour from Hakata that runs through Nagasaki and Yufuin over two days. A four-day option is also available, perfect for those who have money to spare and are looking for a seven-star (yes, seven) railway experience. Trains in Japan are a thing of wonder, but there is something about the Seven Stars that makes it stand out. It is a gorgeous celebration of Japanese art, from the walls to the cabins to washbasins.
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7. Rovos Rail
Africa’s premium train journey experience is undoubtedly the Rovos Rail, with a variety of trips available covering everything from 48-hour runs to 15-day explorative itineraries. These bespoke trains are a sight to behold, with gorgeous armchairs and all the wine one can handle waiting within. Throw in a stunning dining car, observation decks and a total absence of TV and radio, and you’ve got a nostalgic experience to remember.
8. The Heritage Palace on Wheels
The Heritage Palace on Wheels (FKA The Palace on Wheels) has 14 luxurious cabins with all the mod cons, but it is the dining section on this beauty that really take the breath away. The food is spectacular in and of itself, but the decor and design make dining on the Heritage Palace on Wheels one of India’s great romantic experiences. The famous name has since incorporated the Royal Rajasthan on Wheels into its stable, although the insecurity of the past few years has rendered the train’s future somewhat uncertain. Climb aboard while you still can.
9. The Blue Train
Traversing the 1,600km or so between Pretoria and Cape Town by train is one of South Africa’s most amazing travel experiences, so why not go all out and embrace the luxury of it all? One of the fanciest trains on the planet, The Blue Train styles itself as a window into the soul of Africa and we’re inclined to agree.
10. The Royal Scotsman
The UK’s most famous train now exists as an opulent reminder of a very different time. The name remains in use as modern trains hurtle between Edinburgh and London, but those looking to climb aboard the iconic locomotive of yesteryear must dig deep into their pockets and dress to the nines as they do. Still, it is worth it, right? The Flying Scotsman is an exercise in British luxury, a time machine to the nineteenth century through the eyes of a very wealthy traveller indeed.
11. Belmond Andean Explorer
South America’s first luxury sleeper train first set off in May 2017, bringing the romance of the rails to this most romantic of continents. The train runs from Cusco (the capital of the Incan Empire, no less) to the white city of Arequipa, showcasing the best of the Peruvian Andes along the way.