‘Palace on wheels’: Here are the most luxurious train journeys on Earth

The luxury Royal Scotsman train travels across the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct
The luxury Royal Scotsman train travels across the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct Copyright  Jack Anstey via UnSplash
Copyright  Jack Anstey via UnSplash
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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Want to reduce your carbon footprint without sacrificing luxury? Try these fancy train journeys.


Train travel is a great way to slash your carbon footprint - but can it compete with the comfort of flying?

Put any ideas of uncomfortable, cramped couchettes, dirty environments and broken bathrooms out of your mind. These days, more companies than ever are offering luxury journeys via rail, meaning you don’t have to compromise while doing your bit to protect the planet.

New research from games company Slingo looked into the best onboard experiences on trains worldwide. Here’s what they found out.

Which factors make a train journey luxurious?

As well as contributing to the planet’s health, train travel prioritises both the journey and the destination. Going by rail - even on the most basic trains - guests can take in stunning scenery at a slower pace, truly appreciating surroundings so often missed when travelling by plane.

Slingo’s research team looked at factors including cabin size, sleeping arrangements, global search trends and destinations visited.

Each category was scored out of 10 to determine the most luxurious rail experience.

Slingo's investigation found that Rovos Rail offers the most luxurious train travel on earth
Slingo's investigation found that Rovos Rail offers the most luxurious train travel on earthRovos Rail Tours

Coming in the top spot was Rovos Rail. The South-Africa based company scored 9.21 out of 10, thanks in part to the amount of countries it stops off in.

Guests can make the most of high-end cabins and excellent dining experiences while visiting up to 10 separate nations across sub-saharan Africa.

Slingo also, interestingly, uses the amount of posts on Instagram referring to a particular company to make their decision on which is the most luxurious. Rovos Rail’s figures were high in that category, too, with more than 11,000 posts tagged with #RovosRail on Instagram.

Hot on its heels in second place is Palace on Wheels. Scoring 6.80 out of 10, this train takes guests on a tour of Northern India.

Although it does only visit a single country, travellers can take in some of the most iconic sites in all of Asia, including Udaipur, the Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur and the vibrant streets of Delhi.

Guests who opt to stay in Palace on Wheels’ Super Deluxe cabins will enjoy 12.9 square metres of cabin space as well as the largest beds Slingo found in its research - coming in at 3.6 square metres.

Those in the Super Deluxe area are also provided with their own private vehicle and English-speaking tour guide on all excursions away from the train, as well as an opportunity to go on a tiger-spotting safari in Ranthambore National Park.

In third place, we’re staying in India with the Deccan Odyssey. Scoring 5.96, the private train offers tours exploring either the north or south of the country, with visits to iconic Indian cultural destinations, ranging from Darjeeling and Delhi to Mumbai and Madras.

Travel in style: a luxurious cabin on board the Deccan Odyssey
Travel in style: a luxurious cabin on board the Deccan OdysseyDeccan Odyssey

Onboard, there is one of the most luxurious cabins in existence. The Presidential Suite provides 19 square metres of space and includes a separate lounge complete with a sofa and writing desk and an en-suite bathroom with a separate shower.

Guests of the fanciest suite can also benefit from a private chauffeur and tour guide in many destinations.

Which other luxurious train experiences are on the list?

Interestingly, trains in Asia make up the majority of high-end experiences on Slingo’s list, with India’s Maharajas’ Express and The Orient Silk Road Express coming in fourth and tenth places respectively.

Golden Eagle makes the cut too - a service that explores less-travelled central Asian destinations, including Uzbekistan, around the Caspian sea, or Caucasia, a transcontinental region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, mainly comprising Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and parts of Southern Russia.


Also in the top 10 are South America’s Belmond Andean Explorer and the Blue Train, which offers both scheduled and charter services in South Africa.

Only two journeys in Europe make the cut - but they’re both still ultra-luxurious.

In fifth place is the Danube Express. If variety is as important to you as comfort, this could be the right train for you.

Carrying just 50 passengers and offering freshly prepared meals served at a single sitting in the elegant restaurant car, the train chugs through 18 different countries.

From Paris and Venice to Krakow and Istanbul, the Danube Express offers by far the highest number of potential stops on Slingo’s list.


More limited on destinations - but no less luxurious - is the Royal Scotsman. Taking guests on adventures throughout Scotland’s striking highlands, the Belmond trains boast Edwardian, mahogany-clad cars. Offering a maximum of just 10 carriages, the service is famous for its quality, only improved by the unique countryside outside.

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