Travelling by train is one of the best ways to introduce yourself to the culture of a place, and even say hello to all those towns and cities as you pass through them. Many consider it as the most romantic means of travel – the speed, the scenes, the swing and the snooze, all add to the lazy travellers’ experience without emptying his pockets like flying usually does. There are innumerable scenic train routes in the world. The 7 that we pick from across continents to bring to your notice are:
7. The Pride of Africa:
The ‘Pride of Africa’ is a luxury train that runs between South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania. The once-in-a-year trip planned on the train takes you on a 14-day epic expedition through Cape Town, Dar Es Salaam, Kimberley, Pretoria, the Kruger National Park, Beit Bridge, Bulawayo, Victoria Falls, Lusaka and through Tanzania to Dar Es Salaam. Two reasons make this train journey a must do. One, you will love the absolute luxury and the leisurely pace at which it will be served to you. And two, the nature-lover in you will get to see the hidden grandeur of a continent lesser known and mostly unexplored.
6. Konkan Railway:
Nearly 750 km of railway line that connects the 3 Indian States – Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka – this rail link is bounded by the Sahyadri hills on the East and Arabian Sea to the West. The train on this line will chug you through fantastic scenes of dense forest cover we well as paddy, coconut and mango plantations. From criss-crossing rivers to endless stretches of water, from valleys to mountains, the Konkan railway is a delight to the eyes. The train goes through 92 tunnels, crosses 2000 bridges over hundreds of rivers and thousands of villages to finally connect the commercial capital of Mumbai with Mangalore. It was a trend-setting infrastructure project when it was completed and was made possible by several technological innovations.
5. Trans-Siberian Railway:
Epic journey is a term that the Trans-Siberian Railway lives up to. A 19 day journey takes you from Moscow to Vladivostok, a port on the Pacific Ocean. It is the longest railway line in the world, crossing 8 time zones and with connecting branch lines into Mongolia, China and North Korea. Interestingly, this lifeline of Russia sees people from all social stratum and nationalities travelling along together on a most unique rail experience. Of course, you can book a private car to yourself too and even schedule side excursions like trekking, city tours and scuba diving. However, the more the merrier when a liter of vodka is available at just $3. Yes, we know you are booking your tickets already!
4. Andean Explorer:
The Andean Explorer covers one of the highest standard-gauge rail routes in the world, reaching altitudes up to 14,150 feet, as it makes its 9 hour trek from Cusco to Puno and Lake Titicaca. From 8 am to 530 pm, you can enjoy your 3-course lunch sitting in beautifully decorated coaches. Or, sit in the glass-walled observation deck to soak in the absolutely incredible scenery. And we assure you that when you see the sunset a few miles before Puno alongside Lake Titicaca, you will wish this journey was much longer than just 10 hours.
3. Bergen Railway:
The Bergen railway is considered one of the most scenic lines in the world. The line between Oslo and Bergen is the highest rail line in all of Europe. The most spectacular stretch is the one over the Hardangervidda – Europe’s highest mountainous plateau. Since it connects Norway’s two main cities the line is popular with both tourists as well as commuters. Ski resorts dot the way making this line as popular in winter as in summer. It took 34 years and 182 hand-carved tunnels to make this magnificent 7 hour journey possible. In 2009, it turned 100 years old! Those are some numbers there!
2. Alaska Railroad:
The Alaska Railroad system covers 500 miles of some of the world’s wildest landscapes. The 114-mile stretch through the Kenai Mountains is considered the most impressive section of the journey. The train veers you into areas inaccessible by car, apart from touching coasts, traveling through five tunnels, past cool blue glaciers and even over a river gorge. What’s wild? Passing within 800 feet of Bartlett Glacier; sunsets over Cook Inlet on the return trip; the Glacier and Wildlife Cruise into Kenai Fjords National Park. What’s wilder? Spotting moose, bears, Beluga whales and bald eagles, if you are lucky that is. Wild landscape, indeed!
1. Glacier Express:
This is the most popular route amongst all the scenic trains and also the longest perhaps. Known worldwide as the world’s slowest express train, the complete route operates from Zermatt to St Moritz (or vice versa). It will take you through mountain landscapes, very deep gorges, 91 tunnels, and across 291 bridges in about seven hours. The highest geographical point of the trip comes when traveling over the Oberalp Pass, which reaches over 6600 feet above sea level! And while you hold your breath for reasons aplenty on extremely steep-and-scenic inclines, your drinks will be served to you in a special tilted glass so as to avoid spills. Fascinated already, aren’t you?