Though travelling by train on a grand tour has become less popular in recent times, it is by no means less glamorous. Promising timeless luxury and an undeniable sense of historicism, touring your next holiday destination by train could be the ultimate getaway. From the traditional Orient Express to more modern takes on the tradition, below we’ve rounded up some of the best luxury train tours on offer right now.
Cruise Train Seven Stars in Kyushu Japan
A trip on the exceptionally elegant Seven Stars train guides you through the seven prefectures of the region of Kyushu. One of the earliest hearts of ancient Japanese civilization, Kyushu is known for its verdant, mountainous scenery and historic sights. The sleek, burgundy seven-car train is home to 14 suites, each designed as a fusion of Western and Japanese design. Though each is slightly different, they’ve been designed to maximise comfort during your journey. Two of these are ‘deluxe’ – located in the seventh car, they boast wall to wall windows, offering guests a panoramic view of the landscape as it passes.
The first two carriages are communal areas, the first serving as a lounge car or ‘saloon on wheels’, where guests can mingle throughout the day and the space transforms into a glamourous bar with live music in the evening. The train’s dining car, named Jupiter, blends traditional, seasonal Japanese ingredients to showcase the best of Kyushu’s cuisine.
Venice Simplon Orient-Express: London to Venice
Inspired by one of the most famous train tours, the original Orient Express, Belmond has created a tour that is equally as glamorous and indulgent as its predecessor. There is a range of routes on offer, from an overnight journey to a longer, five-day trip, ideal for a long weekend originating in London and finding yourself in Venice. The train itself is entirely comprised of carriages from vintage trains such as Le Train Bleu and the Rome Express, mostly from the 1920s or 30s, each carefully restored. Decorated in iconic midnight blue, it really is the height of sophisticated elegance.
Your experience is heightened by the extraordinary dining experience onboard. As each stop the train makes, fresh, local ingredients are brought on board, resulting in a unique fusion of culinary traditions.
Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express: Moscow to Vladivostok (Eastbound)
Offering a 14-day experience, the Golden Eagle is a masterclass in luxury travel. With cabins split into three categories, Imperial, Gold and Silver, each stylishly furnished, come with a private en-suite and large windows to enjoy the view as well as modern amenities such as televisions. The communal areas offer guests the perfect opportunities to get to know their fellow visitors and the chance to unwind and relax as you travel through Russia, from Moscow to Vladivostok. Each morning, a buffet breakfast is served in the dining car whilst lunch and supper are a more comprehensive showcase of cuisines inspired by the regions you are travelling through.
The Blue Train: Pretoria to Capetown
Named after its distinctive royal blue and cream livery, the two train sets of The Blue Train company whisk guests across South Africa. A 31-hour journey from Pretoria to Capetown, guests can make the most of the luxurious public lounge and dining car which promises a five-star experience using the freshest seasonal ingredients. Guests face the choice between Luxury and De Luxe suites. The latter have indulgent gold and marble bathrooms and goose down and cotton bedding, whilst the Luxury suites promise a personal butler and double beds. Both suite categories are sitting areas during the day, which are transformed into bedrooms at night.
The Ghan: Adelaide to Darwin
A journey stretching 1846 miles and lasting three days and two nights, The Ghan has just celebrated 90 years of service and offers a more modern approach. With two cabin categories, Gold and Platinum, to choose from, there’s a real sense of sleek modernity throughout the train. Best of all, every guest is on an all-inclusive plan, allowing you to indulge in the full range of food and drink options at any time. From the art deco Queen Adelaide restaurant to the Outback explorer lounge, it’ll be hard to tear yourself away from The Ghan’s eating and drinking facilities before finding yourself in Darwin.
Rovos Rail: Southern and Eastern Africa
Rovos Rail specialises in creating bespoke train journeys across southern and eastern Africa, allowing guests to soak up their gorgeous natural surroundings for any period of time between 48 hours and 15 days. Committed to maintaining the spirit of the bygone era of long-distance train travel, there are no televisions or radios on board. With every suite boasting ensuite bathrooms, comfortable beds and gorgeous fittings, it’s hard not to feel as though you are stepping back in time. The public cars have large picture windows to soak up the views and are wonderful spaces to meet your fellow guests and the Observation car has an open-air balcony. Dinner is a more formal event, with staff serving a four-course meal accompanied by the finest South African wines, ensuring an evening of timeless sophistication.
The Rocky Mountaineer: Vancouver to Banff
The Rocky Mountaineer takes a much more modern approach, billing itself as an all daylight train. Each night, guests are transported to a comfortable, luxury hotel before the journey from Vancouver to Banff via Kamloops resumes the next morning. With no sleeper cars, the train entirely comprises glass dome compartments to allow you to soak up the panoramic views of the gorgeous Canadian landscape. With breakfast and gourmet lunch served onboard, it really is the best of both worlds.
Belmond Royal Scotsman: The Scottish Highlands
With a range of experiences available, from a whisky tour to a clan, castles and isles, there’s a train journey for everyone on the Royal Scotsman. Decorated in an opulent Edwardian style with mahogany surfaces and warm tones across the whole train, the Royal Scotsman raises the bar. As you travel through the highlands, you can opt to make various stops, from white water rafting to a tour through a whisky distillery, there’s ample opportunity to enhance your trip. Most unique, however, is the trains very own onboard spa, which promises a range of relaxing and rejuvenating treatments all as you speed through Scotland. Celebrating Scottish produce, dining onboard the Royal Scotsman is an extravagant affair, and combined with the views on offer promises an experience that truly is one of a kind.
The Royal Scotsman’s cabins are all of a very high standard, providing a welcome respite from a day’s travelling and guests can expect cabins with en-suite bathrooms, luxury toiletries and comfortable beds in which to unwind.
Maharajas’ Express: India
Having been awarded the title of the World’s Leading Luxury Train no less than five times, the Maharajas’ Express offers four tours through India ranging from 4 nights to a full week on board. Whether you choose to travel from Delhi to and back via Jaipur and Agra or Mumbai to Delhi via Jodhpur, you are sure to have an incredible time. The train itself is wonderfully opulent, though not over the top, and has four categories of cabins to choose from, ranging from the Deluxe cabin with its spacious en-suites and luxury toiletries to the Presidential Suite which boasts a separate living room, two bathrooms and bedrooms. Guests in the Presidential also benefit from a guide and luxury car during excursions, which can include visits to famous monuments such as the Agra Fort or dinner at Rambagh Palace. With two restaurants onboard, guests can expect a combination of Indian and more international cuisine.
El Transcantabrico Gran Luco: Northern Spain
El Transcantabrico transports you across the region of Northern Spain known as España Verde, from Galicia to the Bay of Biscay, known for its lush forests and temperate climate. Unlike the other trains mentioned above, El Transcantabrico remains stationary overnight, which gives guests the unique ability to enjoy the nightlife of that day’s destination. The panelled cabins (each with an en-suite) are luxurious, and though most have double beds, there a four with twin beds, instead. Slightly narrower than most trains, the cabins on El Transcantabrico are compact, though no less comfortable. With powerful showers in each bathroom and plenty of storage space for your belongings, it really is a home from home. Four saloon cars, each dating from the 1920s, ensure there is plenty to entertain yourself with and lend the train a sense of 1920s glamour. Though most lunches are had at local restaurants to allow guests to sample regional cuisine, breakfast and dinner are served in the dining car. You can expect seasonal ingredients and lots of fish and seafood.