If the old adage that it’s not just about the destination but the journey holds true, then the best way to travel must surely be by rail. Train travel harks back to the days when life moved at a slower pace and is, perhaps, the best way to wind down before even reaching where you’re heading. Here’s our pick of the best rail journeys across the world.
Canada through the Rockies
One word for these journeys – wow! Three train routes, called Kicking Horse, Yellowhead and Fraser Discovery, take you through the most spectacular parts of the Rockies. If you don’t want to double back on yourself, you can also take advantage of coach links over the Columbia Parkway, which allow you to do a 10-night circuit passing through Vancouver, Whistler, Lake Louise and Vancouver. The Canadian Rockies are magnificent. Spanning from the Interior Plains of Alberta to the Rocky Mountain Trench of British Columbia, they are made of shale and limestone and tipped with sparkling white snow. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, they’re so tall only advanced mountaineers can tackle them, so sit back, let your train wind through them and enjoy the view.
Cross continents on Russia’s Trans-Siberian Express
If you’re looking for something epic to do, then how about taking the 15-day Moscow to Vladivostock run. The longest railway in the world, it means you can travel from Europe into Asia without ever leaving the ground. You can even hop on at London’s Waterloo, and travel via Berlin and Hanover if you don’t mind adding an extra few days to your journey. For those with a fear of flying, it could prove the perfect solution.
Switzerland to Italy on the Bernina Express
This doesn’t quite live up to its name as it’s anything but fast, given the curves it has to negotiate. Definitely one for those with a head for heights., it takes you over the highest rail summit in the Alps, at 7,405 feet up with curves on the climbs so sharp that you can photograph the train going in the opposite direction. You’ll find some of the most breathtaking Alpine scenery in Switzerland passes your windows and the little narrow-gauge train makes its way over the snow-swept Bernina Pass before descending to Tirano.
The slow train through Burma
This little-known route to Kalaw and Shwenyaung, which sets out from Thazi, is one of Burma’s hidden highlights. Even in upper class, the chairs are broken and, to be honest, a little grubby. But, if you can cope with a lack of five-star conditions, the views more than make up for it. The train ascends a spectacular wooded mountainside, stopping at villages where women sell fruit and vegetables from the baskets expertly balanced on their heads.
New York to Los Angeles
If you want to follow in the footsteps of the stars of yesteryear, this one is for you. Film stars of the 1930s and 40s would shuttle from Broadway to Hollywood aboard two luxury trains, the famous 20th Century Limited and the Super Chief. Today, the Lake Shore Limited leaves Manhattan along the scenic Hudson River before heading overnight to Chicago. From there, the Southwest Chief takes over on the two-night journey to the City of Angels. You may not spot a superstar but you will have guides giving you a running commentary, spacious, reclining seats and sleepers with ensuite showers.