Flight-free travel: Inside Turkey's party train that's all about the journey, not the destination

Passengers in their carriage decorated with lights and garlands
Passengers in their carriage decorated with lights and garlands Copyright AFP / OZAN KOSE
Copyright AFP / OZAN KOSE
By Hannah Brown
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Considered one of the most beautiful train routes in the world, this 32 hour trip through eastern Türkiye is all about enjoying the journey.


There is a buzzing atmosphere on board the Turistik Doğu Ekspresi (The Touristic Eastern Express) which crosses Turkey through snowy, Anatolian landscapes.

It has become Turkey's most coveted and lively train journey with multiple stops in the most beautiful parts in the east of the country. 

The train departs from the country’s capital, Ankara and travels over 1,300 kilometres to Kars, a historic city in the northeast on the border with Armenia and Georgia.

For those in more of a hurry there’s an alternative train which takes around 20 hours. But travelling on the 32 hour Turistik Doğu Ekspresi is all about enjoying the journey.

Long-distance rail travel in Turkey

This train was designed for the sheer joy of travelling, with plenty of stops through spectacular but hard-to-access provinces such as Kayseri, Sivas, Erzincan and Erzurum.

According to Hasan Pezuk, the Director of Turkish State Railways, the Ankara-Kars line is considered to be one of the four most beautiful train lines in the world.

At each stop along the way, passengers have up to three hours to explore before re-boarding the train and continuing the journey.

This Turistik Doğu Ekspresi first opened in 2019 but with a pause in service due to the pandemic, it’s still relatively new. Despite its comparatively large price tag, the journey’s popularity is ever growing and so getting a ticket can prove difficult.

Why take an overnight train?

"It is really a very special moment for me and my family," says Zulan-Nour Komurcu, 26, who is celebrating her birthday with them on board. "It's my present."

Zulan-Nour and her family have decorated their cabin with purple lights, hung a furry wreath on the door and set out biscuits and a porcelain teapot on an embroidered tablecloth.

And they’re not the only ones. Garlands and lights can be seen all over the train as well as loud music, large picnics and treats galore. One group have even chosen to decorate their cabin with their leftover Christmas decorations.

In the dining car, revellers can feast through the night under a nightclub-style mirror ball or if you’d rather stick to your cabin, most are fitted with a mini fridge so there’s no luke-warm beers in sight.

If you’re more of a ‘quiet coach’ traveller, the Turistik Doğu Ekspresi definitely isn’t for you.

Watch the video above to see more from**Türkiye’s infamous party train in action.**

Video editor • Alexis Caraco

Additional sources • AFP

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