The World’s Must-Experience Rail Journeys
A rail journey is one of the most wonderful ways to explore all the beauty and history that our world has to offer. More and more holidaymakers are choosing trains over planes, allowing them to avoid long airport queues and to minimise their environmental impact.
An added benefit is that, on a rail holiday, the journeys become part of the experience, rather than an inconvenience. There are incredible views to be spotted as you waltz through stunning landscapes and, in some cases, luxurious dining and supreme comfort to be enjoyed on board.
The train itself often holds fascinating history to be discovered. Take the the Little Yellow Train of the Pyrenees, which is considered one of the world's great railway journeys. Opened in 1909, this historic, metre-gauge electric railway is a remarkable feat of civil engineering and will allow you to enjoy spectacular views of the rocky mountainous scenery.
This is just one of the many historic and scenic railway journeys you could take in Europe. But these remarkable journeys aren't just limited to Europe, with the Canadian Rockies and opulence of Asia just waiting to be discovered. With this in mind, we've rounded up some of our favourite railway trips to help you decide.
Experience opulence as you waltz through the beautiful British countryside on board the Belmond British Pullman. Expect glamour and opulence from the lovingly-restored carriages of this train, which romances the rail journeys of the 1920s and '30s during the 'Golden Age of Travel'. Departing from London Victoria, you can journey through the Kent countryside, to Georgian Bath or Oxfordshire on a round-trip with sumptuous dining and service included. Each carriage is whimsically-named, with unique décor and a story to tell.
This amazing train runs from St Moritz in Switzerland to Tirano in Italy - taking you through the Swiss Alps. There are two spectacular journeys - the St Moritz line is just over two hours each way, while the Chur line is just over four hours for a single journey. The Bernina Express will take you through 55 tunnels and 196 bridges and over the UNESCO-protected Landwasser Viaduct. You can expect 90 miles of stupendous Alpine scenery gliding past the panoramic windows.
Try it: Our eight-day Bernina Express tour is a best-seller and we offer multiple departure dates throughout 2024.
Whichever season you travel, a journey on board the Centovalli Railway is an experience in itself. The route journeys between Domodossola in Switzerland and Locarno in Italy, taking in romantic villages, green hills, valleys and waterfalls. The route is approximately two hours, traversing 52km and passes over 83 bridges and viaducts for a truly marvellous rail trip. Centrovalli translates as '100 valleys', referring to the countless valleys that pass by on this route, which was once untouched.
Try it: You'll enjoy a journey on the Centovalli Railway during our nine-day Italian Lakes and Peaks of Switzerland tour.
An option for anyone looking to ride through the dramatic vistas of the Swiss Alps is to experience a ride on the Glacier Express. This train is known for being the world's slowest express train - it's an eight-hour experience with highlights including a climb to 2,033m on the Oberalp Pass and passing through the alpine village of Zermatt with breathtaking views of the Matterhorn. You'll also feast upon a three-course meal as the stunning scenery passes you by.
Try it: You'll stay in Interlaken on this five-day tour, where your hotel will boast views of the impressive Jungfrau mountain.
Hop on board the idyllic Mont Blanc Express and witness magical snow-covered landscapes as you whizz from Gervais-les-Bains to beautiful Chamonix. This rail journey will take you through the magical Trient Valley, with its rocky outcroppings, forests, wild gorges and glaciers. The line has connected Martigny in Switzerland to Chamonix in France for more than a century, stopping at some key places in the Chamonix valley - and it's a great way to travel between fairytale alpine villages.
There's nothing like a heritage rail journey to fill you with a sense of nostalgia and the railways of North Norfolk have played a huge part of the county's history as trade and industry flourished. These days, it's a wonderful opportunity to explore the area's stunning coast and countryside. Choose to ride along the Poppy Line, between Sheringham and Holt; the Bittern line, connecting Sheringham and Cromer; or the Bure Valley Railway, which journeys between the market town of Aylsham and Wroxham in the Norfolk Broads.
Try it: On our Norfolk and Sandringham with Lucy Worsley tour, you'll enjoy three heritage rail journeys and a paddle boat cruise.
Looking to travel outside of Europe? The Rocky Mountaineer offers a luxurious journey through the Canadian Rockies, Western Canada and American Southwest. With four different routes to choose from, experience two different levels of service: SilverLeaf and GoldLeaf, with on board meals, beverages and snacks included as you witness jaw-dropping scenery. The trains only operate from April to October and during daylight hours, so you'll never miss a thing, just be sure to pack your camera.
Try it: You'll travel on the popular 'First Passage to the West' route on board the Rocky Mountaineer during our 12-day rail and cruise package from Canada to Alaska.