Nothing beats the romance of train travel. It's a daydreamer's delight to gaze out the window as the train meanders through lush vegetation or across barren landscapes, or along an ocean coast. A train ride is a relaxing and laid-back means of travel. You don’t have to encounter traffic, fatigue, or rogue motorists. Instead, there is the rhythmic sound of wheels running over tracks, while passing through impressive terrains with stunning views.
A train ride allows you to explore some pristine, unspoiled destinations. It is also a more sustainable way of traveling as it avoids overtourism.
In this article, we have compiled our favorite scenic train rides that deliver a once-in-a-lifetime experience of breathtaking scenery and orange-hued deserts to mountain passes and natural animal habitats.
Best Scenic Train Rides in North America
A train ride is perhaps the most luxurious and stylish way to travel across America. With journeys across national parks and historic landmarks and stops in exciting cities, here are some of the most spectacular train rides in North America:
Synonymous with breathtaking adventures and luxury, this is one of the best California scenic train rides. A ride in the Pacific Surfliner serves you with views of the Golden State’s most picturesque destinations. Whether you are looking for adventure or simply to travel, this train journey is thrilling.
The Pacific Surfliner is more than moving from point A to B. The journey from San Luis Obispo to San Diego or vice versa gives you a glimpse of the quiet beachside and some bustling cityscapes. The reclining seats ensure you can sink into the ever-changing scenery.
The Napa Valley Wine Train gives you a cross-country train experience that can please every natural scenery lover. It passes through the picturesque wine vineyards, stopping at some celebrated wineries on the way.
The Wine Train ensures you will savor every extraordinary view of the Napa Valley. The 3-hour, 36-mile journey from Napa to St. Helena immerses you in one of America’s most mesmerizing landscape.
Onboard cuisine ensures you have the ultimate refreshment. The gourmet restaurant serves fine California classics, including sustainable and ecologically safe seafood, superior local meats, and wine.
If you are looking for an escape from noisy cities, a train ride through Canada’s pristine destinations could be an ideal option. The Rocky Mountaineer Train passes through some of British Columbia’s most spectacular wildlife, forests, and mountains that passengers can enjoy through the train car’s large, transparent windows.
This train operates from late April to Early October. The 2-day scenic tour starts from the picturesque town of Banff westbound to Vancouver on the Pacific Ocean. The ride offers impressive views of turbulent rivers, canyons, glacier lakes, and black lava cliffs. Onboard the train, you can indulge with exquisitely prepared gourmet meals.
The Aurora Winter Train presents the most incredible scenery of the far north. It takes you through snowy passes over expansive wildernesses, bridges, and mountain ranges.
The 350-mile journey through the sparkling white blanket of Alaska’s snow is perfect for a weekend getaway. The train operates on weekends, with the northbound journey on Saturday and the return trip on Sunday.
With their perfect refreshment in hand, passengers often see a lot of moose on this ride. This journey comes with food and beverage options and a comfortable sitting as you explore the landscape through the large picture windows.
Best Scenic Train Rides in Asia
Asia features vast and beautiful countryside that’s best enjoyed while riding a train. It has some of the world’s best train rides that pass through scenic landscapes with fantastic views. From vast landscapes and secluded villages, these scenic train rides provide adventures of all kinds:
Western Ghat Saunter, India- Karjat to Lonavala
The Western Ghats scenic train ride is rich in biodiversity and is even more exciting during the monsoon season. The journey through dense forests and laid-back quaint hills provides some incredible highlights:
- Buddhist caves
- Cascading waterfalls
- Natural streams
- Strawberry trees
You will enjoy views of valleys with majestic trees and velvet mists. These views make the trip highly revitalizing and deliver the ultimate summer treat.
Expo Rail, Sri Lanka- Kandy to Ella
The 7-hour train ride from Kandy to Ella is a scenic adventure. Its rustic train rumbles through the highlands before culminating at Ella’s colonial train station. Despite being rustic, it has comfortable, air-conditioned carriages.
The most scenic section is the Nine Arch Bridge, which stands as an architectural masterpiece. It gives you a magnificent view of Sri Lanka’s breathtaking scenery. Along the way, you will spot terraced tea plantations, plain forests, small villages, and a waterfall.
The area around the bridge is surrounded by the lush forest that covers the hillsides. When traveling here, ensure you carry a great camera to capture any moment that unravels.
The Deccan Odyssey is an award-winning luxury train that provides majestic journeys across India’s countryside. The train ride traverses the major tourist destinations and is a gateway to the country’s pristine gems.
With the Deccan Odyssey, you can choose from 6 journeys, depending on your choice of travel. It takes you through the following cities:
- Andhra Pradesh
The train cabins are like five-star hotels on wheels. Here, you will be served delicious meals and various refreshments treated to Ayurvedic treatments such as massage and other ancient herbal treatments to rejuvenate and relax. Overall, the train is rich in romance, style, and adventure that offer a once-a-lifetime experience.
Aboard the train, you will experience India in complete opulence. This train ride traverses breathtaking sights with rich culture and stunning scenery.
If you yearn to reach some unfathomably vast scenery in China, a ride on the Tibet Train will do wonders. In 22 hours of incredible adventure, the China Tibet train gives you a memorable traveling experience.
The journey features an incredible number of bridges, ever-changing scenery, and some extreme ravines. You will pass terrifying heights, endless mountain crosses, and nomadic tribes. A mind-boggling 675 bridges through the spanning ravines and attitudes of over 4000 meters contribute to an epic adventure.
While the heights can be dizzying, they aren’t anything to worry about, as the railway is one of the modern Chinese engineering marvels. Views of the highlands of Tibet, blue lakes, snow-capped mountains, and wild animals make this 4000 km train ride exciting.
The Indonesian capital of Jakarta is among the best places to catch a train ride. A scenic train ride from the capital to Yogyakarta is ideal if you are looking for a comfortable experience and a chance to visually explore nature.
The journey begins on the densely packed streets of Jakarta before emerging in the magnificent forests and mountains. Prepare to watch the views of the remarkable volcanoes on the way. As you cross the rural Javanese villages and lush rice paddies, don’t forget to take some photos. A train ride from Jakarta to Yogyakarta connects your soul to the land, people, and culture.
Best Scenic Train Rides in Europe
Europe is extremely rich in natural beauty and biodiversity, from jaw-dropping peaks to charming coastal views. It has a superb rail system connecting picturesque destinations and major cities, allowing happy wanderers to comfortably explore the continent. If you want to experience the breadth and endless European charm, taking train rides is perhaps the most rewarding thing you can do.
Our favorite train rides in Europe include:
The Trans-Siberian Express is an epic 2-week journey with lots of fun and adventure. The incredible 5700-mile journey is among the longest train rides globally, covering over a fifth of the earth’s circumference. Winding across Russia to the Far East, this exciting mammoth of a journey is best traveled in summer. The winter conditions aren’t conducive for traveling, and besides, you don’t want to explore a snow blanket for days in temperatures of -60 degrees Celsius.
The train ride starts in Moscow and traverses the Siberian Wildernesses, and ends in the Chinese city of Beijing. It passes through some small towns and major cities, from Russia’s bustling capital to the Far East. Think of scenic destinations such as Lake Baikal, Yekaterinburg,
It’s not only the lengths involved but also some mind-boggling tradition and drama that have unfolded since it was first opened in 1903. Due to the length of the journey, this train ride comes with full hospitality. It features laundry services, en-suite bathrooms, and air conditioning.
The Glacier Express is a wonderful train if you want to explore Switzerland during the snow season. The rail route is covered by rugged valleys, snowcapped peaks, and tangled alpine forests. Passing an incredible 291 bridges and 91 tunnels, this is definitely one of the most scenic tours in Europe.
While the journey covers only 300 km, it takes up to 8 hours. Every kilometer is adventurous, and you will rarely notice the passing time. The Oberalp Pass, which is by far the most picturesque, provides the most amazing views.
Meandering through glaciated valleys, the scenic train ride from Oslo to Bergen is our favorite in Scandinavia. The journey from Oslo to Bergen passes through stunning Norwegian sections of beautiful mountain scenery and forests. You will also experience changing weather conditions, with some parts windy and others snowy.
Throughout the 7 hours, you will come across varying countryside landscapes dotted with barren peaks, waterfalls, and quaint farmhouses. The train is comfortable and classy, with complimentary refreshments of tea and coffee.
A train ride from Settle to Carlisle presents some of Britain’s magnificent scenery. The majority of the journey weaves through the Yorkshire Dales National Park, where you will explore lush green valleys, moorland vegetation, and rolling hills.
This train ride, which featured in the Harry Porter films, offers an adventurous trip. Yorkshire is entirely countryside with natural beauty all year round. This railway line is also the backdrop of the Pen-y-Ghent Mountains. However, it’s the majestic feat of engineering, stone viaducts, and long tunnels that make this train ride scenic and iconic.
Each season has something to savor. The dryer summers provide spectacular views of the Yorkshire Peaks, while the rainy season presents flowing rivers and magnificent waterfalls.
The Orient Express is one of Europe’s historic train rides. Initially built for European monarchs and wealthy aristocrats, this train ride delivers a fantastic traveling experience. The modern train has been restored from its former glory, as the original Orient Express closed shop in 2009.
This breathtaking journey takes place on two trains, with the first going from London to Folkestone on England's south-western coast, and the second from Calais, France to Venice, Italy. The train from London culminates at Folkestone, where passengers are transferred to a fleet of executive road coaches that cross the English Channel on board the Eurotunnel shuttle train. Throughout the 24 hours, you’ll experience a taste of Britain, France, and Italy from the first-class carriages.
Best Train Rides in Africa
Africa is endowed with scenic destinations, fantastic culture, wildlife attractions, and an excellent climate. A train ride is the best way to adventure with comfort and style. Here are our favorite train rides that will give you a chance to explore nature and experience special excursions:
The New Madaraka express, which began operation in June 2017, is the perfect chance to explore Kenya’s best destinations. You can take the journey either from Mombasa or Nairobi depending on your preference. A trip from Nairobi covers approximately 500km and takes about 5 hours. It traverses across 7 counties before culminating at the coastal city.
The top attractions include the Tsavo National Park, sisal and pineapple plantations, and palm trees as you descend to the coast. You will also have a chance to explore the African villages of the Kamba, Maasai, Taita, and Giriama communities. At around $30, the tickets are inexpensive, but the train ride is super-comfortable.
This train ride allows you to view wildlife at the Tsavo National Park. You will be treated to sights of elephants, gazelles, buffaloes, and zebras in their natural habitat. Besides, the railway is raised a few meters, providing a chance to explore every aspect of nature.
The Watania Sleeper Train evokes a great sense of adventure. While this train isn’t as luxurious, the overnight sleeper is a relaxing experience.
The journey starts at 7:30 pm and sends you into an atmosphere filled with comfort and elegance. You can explore the dim Egyptian villages as the night starts to descend.
The Blue Train, named from the appealing rich Indigo that it is painted, is a legendary ride because of the luxury, hospitality, and diverse landscape it traverses. This scenic train ride from Pretoria to Cape Town is often referred to as a “5-star hotel on wheels” due to its first-class accommodation and beautiful scenery.
A train ride aboard the Blue Train covers 1600 km and takes up to 27 hours, with several stops on the way. While there are other trains plying the route, nothing comes close to the BlueTrain with its gold fittings, silky bed linens, executive chefs, and comfortable seats. Along the way you will be treated to sightings of animals galloping across the African Savanna.
Best Train Rides in South America and the Caribbean
There is an intangible charm to wandering by train in South America. Simply put, the Caribbean and Latin America have beautiful destinations. Think of river valleys, soothing coastlines, tropical jungles, exotic wildlife, and inhabited sites. All these come from the comfort of rail carriages aboard some of the best train rides in the world.
Here are our favorite South American and Caribbean train rides:
A trip to Machu Picchu is an unforgettable experience. This spectacular destination is a perfect fit for rail travel and it's a wonderful way to arrive at the Inca citadel. Operated by Orient Express, this train ride is a luxurious way to arrive at the Inca citadel.
Inside the Pullman-style carriages, you will be carried back in time by the antique fittings, brass finishes, gleaming woods, and fine fabrics. The old-fashioned charm coupled with the unmatched scenery of the hills and forests provides a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The 3-hour journey offers the ultimate treat for anyone visiting Machu Picchu.
Old Patagonia Express, Argentina- Esquel to Nahuel Pan
Also known as La Trochita, the Old Patagonian Express is one of the most dramatic and historic rail journeys in the world. It runs 400 km, from Esquel to Nahuel Pan. It’s more iconic as it remains unchanged since the 1920s. The steam train uses the same locomotives, with only a few renovations.
This ride passes through remote, untouched areas of the Patagonian wilderness, rivers, mountains, and green valleys. The rumbling steam engine and the amazing views make the journey a thrilling one.
The St. Kitts Scenic Railway train ride is the most spectacular in the Caribbean. It is one of the island's most popular attractions as it provides a great opportunity to experience the unspoiled countryside and the stunning scenery.
The 30-mile circle takes 3 hours and is filled with adventure. As the train winds through the mountains, you will be treated to amazing views that present the perfect opportunity for photography. Explore the small villages and vistas that nestle among the sugarcane fields.
Best Train Rides in Australia & New Zealand
The South Pacific Region of Australia and New Zealand has incredible sights and experiences. From UNESCO World Heritage Sites to remote and varied landscapes, train rides in the South Pacific is every traveler’s delight.
The TransAlpine operates from the East Coast to the rugged West Coast of New Zealand’s Southern Island. It starts from Christchurch before crossing the scenic Canterbury plains to find deep gorges and meandering rivers. This journey is also a great way to explore the backdrop of the Southern Alps.
The train is far from ordinary. It has air conditioning, ample legroom, and extensive vista views through the large windows. The journey culminates at Greymouth on the West Coast. Here, you can visit the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers to extend your adventure.
The Ghan is a 3000 km journey from Darwin to Adelaide. This journey passes through the Australian Outback and the Red Center, home to parched and awe-inspiring landscapes.
The Ghan train ride allows you to experience Australia's often harsh, but beautifully unique interior from a safe and comfortable place. The journey lasts 3 days, with several stopovers along the way for passenger excursions. The terrain constantly changes, from lush forests to wild plains. The on-train experience features all-inclusive meals and beverages and sleeper compartments.
The Bottom Line
These scenic train rides go through the world’s most adventurous destinations. If you want to explore nature in the best way possible, hop into any of these trains and enjoy the experience.