15 Most Scenic Train Rides Around The World

Flying is awesome! It’s quick. It’s affordable. It’s safe. But thanks to the new COVID flight regulations it isn’t anymore.

So what’s the next best way to get to your destination you ask? That’s easy

Train Rides! They are the most agreeable, comfortable, and relaxing alternative way for long-distance travel.

On a train ride, you can nap, read, and take in the spectacular views without the headaches of traffic, cramped spaces, and bad directions.

Here are the 15 Most Scenic Train Rides Around The World.

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The Best of The Best Train Rides

Kabelleger / David Gubler (http://www.bahnbilder.ch) / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Let’s start with the best of the best – Bernina Express in Switzerland.

Running from Chur and St. Moritz in eastern Switzerland across the border to Tirano in northeren Italy this is the most scenic train ride in the world!

The climb over the Bernina pass at 7,000ft is often in a raging snowstorm, while you can bask at a café table on arrival in the warm Italian sunshine.

Over four hours you will travel 90 miles through 55 tunnels and 196 bridges. Traverse the sensational alpine landscape, past glaciers, lofty waterfalls, and cross dramatic ravines. Every carriage has a vista window so you can take in a panoramic view of this dramatic scenery.

Book your tickets now!

Alternative Train Rides: The Glacier Express connects two of Switzerland’s most scenic mountain resorts, Zermatt and St Moritz, and is the most relaxing way to enjoy the stunning scenery of the Swiss Alps.

Additional Reading:

Find out how I spent 2 weeks in Switzerland in late spring and check out my review of Hotel Crystal in Lauterbrunnen.

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The West Highlands

Glenfinnan Viaduct

The West Highland Line is a 42-mile journey starting from Glasgow and arriving at the bustling port of Mallaig. The train ride is an excellent way to take in the country’s wild western coast.

It passes through Britain’s highest mountain and Europe’s deepest seawater loch. Recently the highlight for many is the 21-arch Glenfinnan Viaduct made famous by the Harry Potter films.

Norway's Answer to The Bernina Express

Bergen to Oslo
toresetre / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

The most interesting thing about the train ride from Bergen to Oslo is that it varies drastically depending on the time of year you book it. 

Taking it in summer means you will get almost 24 hours of daylight. You can admire the scenery of waterfalls, fjords, and the snowcapped Hardangervidda.

During winter, the train becomes a winter wonderland. Most likely there will be very little daylight on the journey if not dark at all. However, once you get to Finse, you will be blown away by how deep the snow is. Finse is a stop in the middle of the journey that was actually the area where Star Wars was filmed because the plateau easily looked like an ice planet. Some other worthy stops are at Voss and Dale.

Alternative Train Rides: Just an hour-long, the Flåm Railway may not be an epic journey, but it’s among the most scenic. It passes by deep ravines, cascading waterfalls, and towering peaks to the mountaintop station of Myrdal.

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From Russia With Love

Trans-Siberian Railway

The ULTIMATE cross country train journey. The most epic of epic train rides, the Trans-Siberian Railway is a staggering 5,772 miles long. Starting at its westward terminus in Moscow, it spans the entire width of Russia and connects the capital with Vladivostok in the east.

The Trans-Siberian crosses over the Ural Mountains and through the dense Siberian forest and takes 8 days to complete!

The Trans-Siberian is actually a number of services, ranging from slow local stoppers to grand international trains running the main route, as well as two separate routes to Beijing in China.

The Land Down Under

The Ghan
Roderick Eime from Australia / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Another excellent cross country train ride is The Ghan in Australia. It offers passengers the opportunity to experience the vast landscape in pure luxury.

Cutting a path directly through Australia’s fiery red center, The Ghan travels from Darwin in the north to Adelaide — a total distance of almost 2,000 miles. It takes passengers from the lush, tropical coast of the Northern Territory via the red-hued rocks of the MacDonnell Ranges, and onto the fertile plains of South Australia.

A trip on The Ghan also features off-train excursions, including a leisurely boat tour of Nitmiluk Gorge and a trip to the quirky desert town of Alice Springs.

Alternative Train Rides: Just an hour-long, the Flåm Railway may not be an epic journey, but it’s among the most scenic. It passes by deep ravines, cascading waterfalls, and towering peaks to the mountaintop station of Myrdal.

Additional Reading:

Go On A South-African Safari

Rovos Rail’s Namibia Safari
David Brossard / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

Rovos Rail’s Namibia Safari is a luxury train trek spanning some 2000 miles. It passes some of the most stunning scenery the Southern African region has to offer.

Departing from Pretoria in South Africa, the journey takes passengers into Kimberley — a former diamond-rush town and home to Big Hole, one of the world’s largest hand-dug mines. It then traverses the starkly beautiful landscape of the Northern Cape and Fish River Canyon.

As it moves onward into the Kalahari Desert, the train visits Namibia’s lively capital, Windhoek, before crossing the Namib Desert and moving into its final destination at Swakopmund. This final stop is a perfectly preserved German Hansa town nestled along Namibia’s coast.

Alternative Train Rides: The Blue Train is the world’s best-known luxury service, gliding opulently since 1923 between Pretoria and Cape Town on its 994-mile, 27-hour journey showing off South Africa’s stunning scenery. 

Take A Train Ride to the Clouds

Tren a las Nubes
Casa Rosada / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

A must for altitude-seekers, the Tren a las Nubes is the highest train journey in the world not using a rack and pinion system. It climbs to 13,800ft during its seven-hour journey through dramatic Andean scenery.

The backdrop of multi-colored rock formations interspersed with giant cactus fields extends as far as the eye can see as the powerful diesel on the front weaves ever upwards.

And, don’t worry, there is oxygen on board!

Darjeeling Is More Than Just Tea

Darjeeling Himalayan Railways

One of the most beautiful train rides in India is the Darjeeling Himalayan Railways, also known as the Darjeeling Toy Train. Although it’s anything but a toy – performing a vital social function for the local villages on its 50-mile journey. It is one of three Mountain Railways of India accorded World Heritage status.

The narrow gauge toy train chugs along the city roads and then takes the mountain tracks. It crosses through several mountain villages and tea gardens to reach Darjeeling. It is a great sight to see steam engines pulling mini coaches up the steep mountains through breathtaking mountain landscapes, maneuvering the curves and gradients on the hilly terrain.

The line climbs 6,500ft from India’s sweltering plains near Kolkata to the fresh air of the Raj hill station at Darjeeling. Near the top, the train doubles back on itself through four zigzag loops to allow passengers to acclimatize.

You can book your tickets here.

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Visit Kandy For A Treat

Kandy-Ella Train

While most people tend to visit Sri Lanka for its coastline, the central region has just as much to offer. The train ride from Kandy to Ella is one of the most beautiful train rides in Asia if not the world.

Starting from the colonial city of Kandy, it takes six to seven hours to reach the hill station of Ella. The train passes through beautiful hills dotted with tea plantations. You can either go directly from Kandy to Ella or stop in places along the way. You can break the journey in Hatton to climb Adams Peaks or in the hill station of Nuwara Eliya to see the tea plantations.

The journey starts in the colonial city of Kandy. With its thriving bazaar and number of temples, it is often considered the cultural capital of Sri Lanka. From Kandy, it takes six to seven hours to reach the hill station of Ella and there are several trains leaving throughout the day.

You can book your tickets here.

Alternative Train Rides: The Blue Train is the world’s best-known luxury service, gliding opulently since 1923 between Pretoria and Cape Town on its 994-mile, 27-hour journey showing off South Africa’s stunning scenery. 

The Rocky Mountaineer

The Rocky Mountaineer

The Rocky Mountaineer’s First Passage to the West is one of the most scenic train rides in Canada. A thrilling two-day journey covers the beautiful scenery of southern British Columbia between Vancouver and Banff.

Leaving the cosmopolitan coastal city of Vancouver behind, passengers are treated to breathtaking sights — such as the wild waters of Fraser Canyon’s Hell’s Gate and steep tracks running alongside the Thompson River — from the comfort of luxurious carriages.

There’s an overnight stay in the lakeside city of Kamloops before they rise over the stunning, snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies and arrive at beautiful Banff.

The Last Great Train Journey

California Zephyr
Drew Jacksich/ CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)

Commencing in 1949, the California Zephyr Superliner offers a spectacular panorama of America’s heartland. Heading west from Chicago’s magnificent Union station this two-night, a 2,438-mile odyssey to San Francisco is considered to be the last great train journey in the U.S.

It passes through the flatlands of Nebraska, then Denver and the canyons of the Colorado River, the Utah Desert, and the snow-capped Sierra Nevada.

It was famously said that when you step off this train you have seen more of America than most Americans.

Alternative Train Rides: The Grand Canyon Railway, dates back to 1901 and offers riders journey into Wild West! Here you will travel through one the US’s most iconic regions. On board the restored carriages you will hear folklore, tales from the crew and be entertained by musicians which bring the old west to life. 

Additional Reading:

Not a fan of trains? Then check out the Top 5 Road trips to take in the U.S.

Is It Safe To Travel By Train During A Pandemic?

Remember the most of the transmission of the coronavirus is respiratory and not through inanimate objects That means the biggest risk in train travel comes from your fellow passengers, and the staff on the train and at the stations.

So, your chief concern if traveling by train should be minding your social distance, and also maintaining impeccable hand hygiene.

Which Is The Most Beautiful Train Ride In The World?

These are some amazing, jaw-dropping, and breathing taking train rides. Each can be considered the most beautiful train ride in their own way. But for me, it has to be The Bernina Express (Switzerland) with The Rocky Mountaineer (Canada) a close second. The Ghan (Australia) comes in third due to the variety of things you can see and experience in those 3 days.

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12 thoughts on “15 Most Scenic Train Rides Around The World”

  1. My husband is a real train lover. Our trips have been mostly in the states: Durango Silverton in Colorado, and our most recent in Skagway Alaska which are our two favorites. Wonderful article and beautiful photos.

    Reply
  2. I love scenic train rides. I actually looked into the Rocky Mountans train when I was in Canada many years ago, but it turned out that it was cheper to hire a car and drive it. There’s definitely some awesome scenery out that way!

    There’s also a cross country train from Perth to Sydney in Australia called the Indian Pacific. It’s a big country so I guess they need more than one cros-country route!

    Reply
    • Hi Kez,

      I guess train rides are more expensive than road trips but they offer a very different type of experience. And with kids, that extra leg room is a blessing

      Reply
    • Hi Angela

      Those are good picks but what about Switzerland and Australia? The constantly changing scenery guarantees you will not get bored of staring out the window the entire trip!

      Reply
  3. Oh wao, I never thought of train rides as being this much fun. My ultimate wish will be to get on the Rovos Rail’s Namibia Safari luxury train in the Southern African region for the entire 2000 miles!

    Reply
  4. These look amazing, my favorite is the one in Switzerland. I’ve been aching to check out the Swiss mountain scenery since watching some shows recently, this would a great way to do so.

    Reply

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