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15 most scenic train journeys in the world

March 21, 2014 09:56 IST

15 most scenic train journeys in the world

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Travelling by train has its own charm. It offers more room to relax compared to a flight or a bus. Fares are usually cheaper. But the real joy is peering outside the window lost in thoughts and seeing the changing landscape.

Some train journeys are so alluring that people travel all the way just to experience them - Switzerland's Bernina Express for example.

Fodor’s has compiled a list of 15 such breathtaking train rides around the world. Let’s take a look at them.

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Image: Glacier Express travelling in front of 'Breithorn' and 'Little Matterhorn' mountains.
Photographs: Courtesy, Glacier Express

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Glacier Express from Zermatt to St. Moritz

Location: Switzerland

The Glacier Express is one of the most famous railways in the world. It travels from Zermatt to Davos or St. Moritz in seven hours.

It is a day trip through untouched mountain landscapes, glamorous health resorts, deep gorges, delightful valleys, and the train crosses 91 tunnels and 291 impressive bridges.

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Image: A view from Glacier Express shows winter at Oberalp.
Photographs: Courtesy, Glacier Express

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Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Location: Colorado, US

This historic train has been in continuous operation between Durango and Silverton since 1882.

"On this journey, you can experience the sights and sounds of a romantic bygone era, as it winds through the breathtaking canyons of San Juan National Forest to the old mining town of Silverton," states the company website.

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Image: Silverton Appreciation train along the Animas River.
Photographs: Yvonne/Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
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Hiram Bingham Orient-Express from Cusco to Machu Picchu

Location: Peru

The Hiram Bingham is a super luxury train. Named after the explorer who rediscovered the Inca citadel, the train has two dining cars, an observation/bar car and a kitchen car. It can carry up to 84 passengers, according to Orient-Express Hotels website.

For many, a trip to Machu Picchu is once in a lifetime journey and this train offers breathtaking views combines with 5-star hotel like luxury.

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Image: Hiram Bingham Orient-Express.
Photographs: Courtesy, PeruRail

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Tranzalpine from Christchurch To Greymouth

Location: New Zealand

The TranzAlpine is operated by KiwiRail Scenic Journeys in the South Island of New Zealand, often regarded as one one of the world's great train rides for the scenery.

The journey is 223 kilometres one-way, which take about four and a half hours. There are 19 tunnels and four viaducts through which it passes.

Passenger can see the fields of the Canterbury Plains and farmland, followed by the spectacular gorges and valleys of the Waimakariri River.

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Image: Tranzalpine from Christchurch To Greymouth.
Photographs: Mike Goren/Creative Commons

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Talyllyn Railway

Location: Wale

This is a preserved railway that runs for 11.67 km from Tywyn on the Mid-Wales coast to Nant Gwernol near the village of Abergynolwyn. It passes through the beautiful and unchanging Fathew valley. The rail is preserved by volunteers and is a hot tourist attraction.

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Image: Talyllyn Railway.
Photographs: Courtesy, Talyllyn Railway and contributors

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Rocky Mountaineer from Banff To Vancouver

Location: Canada

Rocky Mountaineer is a Canadian tour company that offers train journey packages on different routes. Banff To Vancouver route covers places including Kamloops, Lake Louise, and Calgary. You can see spectacular mountains and dramatic canyons.

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Image: Rocky Mountaineer train.
Photographs: Courtesy, Rocky Mountaineer

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The Grand Canyon Railway

Location: Arizona, US

The train operates between Williams, Arizona, and Grand Canyon National Park South Rim. A person can opt for different packages, which include stay inside the national park and sightseeing. The train takes the passenger through the breathtaking Grand Canyon. Need we say more?

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Image: The Grand Canyon Railway.
Photographs: The Grand Canyon Railway/Xanterra Parks & Resorts

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The Royal Scotsman

Location: Scotland

Belmond Royal Scotsman takes you to the heart of the Highlands, where you travel through 'landscapes of pine-clad mountains, reflected in mirror-still lochs', according to the company’s website.

It is a Scottish luxury charter train run by Orient-Express Hotels. It composes of nine cars; two dining, five state, one crew, and one observation car. The two dining cars are named Victory and Raven with seating for sixteen and twenty people respectively.

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Image: The Royal Scotsman.
Photographs: Courtesy, Orient Express Hotels

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Maharajas Express

Location: India

The Maharaja Express is owned and operated by the government’s Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation. It is the most expensive luxury train in the world. It runs from October to April.

It journeys on five circuits covering more than 12 destinations. The train has 'redefined the luxury travel experience by offering guests the opportunity to explore fabled destinations' states the IRCTC website..

It passes through the rich and panoramic landscape and showcases the beauty of destinations like Jaipur, Ranthambore, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Gwalior, Orchha-Khajuraho, Varanasi and Lucknow.

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Image: Maharajas Express.
Photographs: Simon Pielow/Creative Commons

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Douro Line

Location: Portugal

The Douro line is a railway in northern Portugal. For much of its route the line runs close to the Douro River, offering very scenic views of the river and valley.

From west to east, the line runs from the junction at Ermesinde to Pocinho, according to Wikipedia. The line formerly continued east for a further 28 kilometres to the Spanish border.

The train also has a route called the almond blossom circuit. Passengers get to see the almond blossom and amazing scenes of millions of flowers in one of the greenest parts of Portugal.

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Image: Douro Line train.
Photographs: Courtesy, Douro Line

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The Ghan from Adelaide to Darwin

Location: Australia

The Ghan is a passenger train that runs weekly between Adelaide, Alice Springs, and Darwin, which is operated by Great Southern Rail. During the peak season, the frequency is increased to two trains each week.

From start to end, the journey takes 54 hours and covers 2,979 kilometres including a four-hour stop at Alice Springs.

The train offers unsurpassed view of Australia, taking the passengers form one edge of this continent to the other, through the very centre of the huge country.

“Each new day begins with a fresh panorama of this changing landscape. Red earth and cobalt blue skies - the essence of Central Australia takes on a character of its own with every passing hour,” says the company website.

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Image: The Ghan.
Photographs: Courtesy, Great Southern Rail

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Denali Star from Anchorage to Fairbanks

Location: Alaska, UK

The Denali Star is a semi-luxury train that operates only between May and September. The train journey is famous for the stunning scenery it offers of the DenaliNational Park.

“The journey from Anchorage to Fairbanks can be completed in a day. But, the 350-mile train ride takes 12 hours and is like an expedition, passing through four different climate and vegetation zones. Many travelers break up the trip with stopovers in Talkeetna and/or Denali,” states Alaska.org, a website that promotes tourism in the region.

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Image: Northbound train just north of Denali National Park
Photographs: Timothy Wildey/Creative Commons

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Napa Valley Wine Train from Napa to St. Helena

Location: California

After leaving the City of Napa, the train passes through the towns of Yountville, Rutherford and Oakville.

While on train a passenger can see the region's notable vineyards and wineries located in the picturesque Napa Valley.

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Image: Napa Valley Wine Train Diesel locomotive.
Photographs: Dewet/Wikimedia Commons

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Rhine Valley Line from Mainz to Koblenz

Location: Germany

The train offers scenic and laidback journey through the German wine country. On the way, it passes through Cologne.

“The West Rhine railway pulls out of charming Mainz and wastes no time in leaving industrial life behind before gliding into the charm and charisma of the wine producing region. It meanders along the west bank of the River Rhine, showcasing the calm water, gentle hills and vineyard-laden slopes of the valleys it passes through. Just a few tunnels interrupt the view until you reach Koblenz, where the MoselleRiver meets the Rhine,” states  the Euro Rail website.

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Image: Rhine Valley Line at Rhenish Massif.
Photographs: Tiexano/Creative Commons

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Danube Express from Budapest To Istanbul

Location: Hungary and Turkey

This is a private train that operates in central and eastern Europe. The train is dubbed as ‘hotel-on-wheel’ for the facilities it offers. For example, occupants of deluxe sleeping car have private bathrooms that feature a shower with constant hot water.

“Full air-conditioning has individual temperature control and lighting can be adjusted for mood or task with soft, concealed ceiling lights, spotlights and personal reading lamps.  Each compartment can be locked and a personal safe is provided,” states the company’s website.

It’s a four-day journey from Budapest to Istanbul. The train travels through the banks of Danube to the shores of the Bosphorus encountering the stunning scenery and ancient architecture. You also get to see the sights of rural Bulgaria along the way.


Image: Danube Express (above) and its interior (below)
Photographs: Courtesy, Danube Express

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