Concerns about health and the climate have seen alternative forms of travel grow in popularity over the last year. To avoid the hassle and crowds of a busy airport, many are now choosing to holiday by train instead.
Though you might think of planes and cars as simply a means to an ends when it comes to your summer break, on a train trip the journey is all part of the experience. All sorts of experiences are available, with everything from panoramic views and gourmet dining carts to bespoke tour guides and your own personal host.
“Unlike planes, when you travel by train you are able to see the ever-changing landscape rolling by,” says Estelle Giraudeau, managing director of Club Med.
“You’ll be able to enjoy the views of the French Alps or the Canadian Rockies from the comfort of your seat.”
To find the best luxury rail routes, the travel and tourism company took a look at train journeys from around the globe. Club Med ranked the best train trips using average ticket price, reviews from Trip Advisor, Instagram and Pinterest popularity as well as the number of sights you’ll see along the way.
Half of the top 20 routes can be found in Europe, while others wind their way through countries including Peru, Japan and Australia:
20. Golden Eagle Danube Express, Europe
19. Blue Train, South Africa
18. Maharajas’ Express, India
17. The Transcantabrico Gran Lujo, Spain
16. Seven Stars: Kyushu, Japan
15. The Belmond British Pullman, Europe
14. Deccan Odyssey, Asia
13. Golden Eagle, Russia
12. The Canadian, Canada
11. Indian Pacific, Australia and New Zealand
10. Belmond Andean Explorer, Peru
9. Golden Pass Panoramic Express, Switzerland
8. The Presidential Train, Portugal
7. Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, London to Venice
6. Rovos Rail, southern and eastern Africa
And here are the top five luxury train journeys in the world.
5. Bernina Express, Europe
The highest railway in the Alps, the Bernina Express takes passengers from Chur in Switzerland across the mountainous border to Tirano in Italy. You’ll travel through 55 tunnels, across 196 bridges and up to the highest point in the route at 2,253 metres above sea level. The section of the line between the stop in Thusis, Switzerland and Tirano even has UNESCO world heritage status.
Large glass windows provide spectacular views of the snow-capped mountains and a digital travel guide offers stories about the route as you speed through breathtaking scenery.
Prices start at just €9.30 per person per leg of the journey and you can find information on how to book this trip across the Alps here.
4. The Ghan, Australia
Stretching from Adelaide in the south all the way to Darwin in the north, The Ghan has been carrying passengers across Australia for more than 90 years. These days it has more to offer than just a way of getting between these two cities, however, with sumptuous dining experiences and private cabins available.
Along the way, there are also “off train” experiences including excursions into the outback, seeing sunrise at world-famous Uluru and seafood dinners in Darwin harbour.
You can book your Australian rail adventure here with prices starting from around €1,170.
3. Flåm Railway, Norway
Snaking across Western Norway, this luxurious train journey takes passengers up from sea level at the end of Aurlandsfjord all the way up to an altitude of 867m in the mountains at Myrdal station. The construction of the 20km long line is said to be one of the greatest engineering feats in the entire country.
The train also makes a five minute stop to allow you to take a photo at the impressive Kjosfossen waterfall. Local legends say to watch out for Huldra, beautiful mythological creatures with long hair wearing a red dress.
Prices for a spot on this impressive rail journey start at around €47 and more information about the packages available can be found here.
2. Glacier Express, Switzerland
Connecting the two major mountain resorts of Zermatt and St Moritz, this route offers stunning panoramic views of the Alps along the way. On your eight hour journey, you can enjoy meals prepared on board the train accompanied by wines from vineyards you’ll pass along the way.
Ticket prices for this trip are reasonable too at just €268 for a first-class ticket from St Moritz to Zermatt. You can book your journey here.
1. The Rocky Mountaineer, Canada
The best luxury train journey in the world winds its way through the Canadian Rockies with the option to visit nine different destinations along the way. Ranked as one of the most Instagrammable options on the list, The Rocky Mountaineer train company is known for its multiple day trips that show off the best of this rugged landscape.
As part of the luxury experience, there is an expert to guide you through the sights you’ll see from specially designed glass-domed coaches - and even an outdoor viewing area.
It isn’t cheap, with an average ticket price of around €1600 euros, but the remote vistas and exceptional staff make it worth the cost. Book your experience here.