We rarely parcel our blog into sequels (anymore) but unforgettable train rides was one topic more powerful than a locomotive. There was no way to lay down on the tracks and restrain our analysis to ten measly rides. No, we simply had to conduct our way through at least twenty spectacular rail trips, from Mexico to Russia and New Zealand to Tanzania.
The inherent sex appeal of train travel after all, has become de rigeur again, with a huge spike in deluxe passenger service in recent years. How nice to see a pickup in steam for this most erudite, yet provincial, mode of transportation.
All aboard then, as we outline our ten most unforgettable train rides. And for those playing at home, that was six, count ‘em six, railway puns.
Norway in a Nutshell
The Norway in a Nutshell tour is a superb gambit by the national tourism bureau to lure more international visitors. While the three day plus trip is not all via train travel, the best portions of fjord and Nordic countryside scenery come by way of the Bergen and Flam Railways.
Newfoundland & Labrador Tour
Newfoundland and Labrador present some inherent obstacles for visitors to Canada. Desolate, sparse, yet unquestionably beautiful, the Atlantic coast province is worth the effort. For those who have the cash, VIA Rail offers a splendid Newfoundland & Labrador Tour. It starts with a first-class trip from Montreal to Halifax, with maritime cuisine and deluxe accommodations. Next, a ferry to Newfoundland and comprehensive motorcoach tour of “The Rock”, complete with trips to UNESCO World Heritage Gros Morne National Park and L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site. The train ride back to Montreal caps the two-week trip.
Mountain Railways of India
In our opinion, the most unusual UNESCO World Heritage Site in India is also the best. Scour the list of UNESCO inscriptions and yes, you will indeed find the Mountain Railways of India. Anyone who has ever been on the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway or Kalka Shimla Railway understands why. A phenomenal way to enjoy the country.
Alishan Forest Railway
The swift wallop of Typhoon Morakot left behind many victims in Taiwan in early August 2009. One notable casualty was the historic Alishan Forest Railway. The Alishan National Scenic Area is a shoo-in UNESCO World Heritage Site if and when Taiwan ever joins the United Nations. The Forest Railway is the best way to see this transcendent part of the island. Pray for the line to operate again, we say.
New Zealand by train? Yes indeed, courtesy of Tranz Scenic, a Kiwi company that operates a slew of magnificent routes across the South and North Island. Our favorite and perhaps the most scenic of all is the TranzAlpine Express between Christchurch and Greymouth, with several notable deviations en route.
When you want to traverse the heart of Australia, you simply must consider the Ghan, or Adelaide-Darwin railway. The two-day journey is a magical way to experience a good chunk of Down Under, from the outback wilderness of Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park to the biodiversity of Kakadu National Park.
Pride of Africa
The most luxurious train ride in Africa cuts a scenic path through South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania. From Cape Town to Dar es Salaam and back, highlights of the journey include the Big Hole diamond mine in Kimberley and Victoria Falls. Exquisite gourmet meals and cushy accommodations come at a price however. Of note, operator Rovos Rail also offers a Cape Town to Cairo line.
At over 9,250 km long, the journey from Yaroslavsky Rail Terminal in Moscow to the Pacific Ocean port city of Vladivostok is for the hardcore train voyager. While there is a definite allure and hint of romance here – depart from Russia’s capital on the edge of Europe only to end up near China, North Korea and Japan days later – it pays to go the luxury route if you can afford it. Thus, check out the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express. One Gold Class ticket tops out at over $22,000.00 USD.
While the Ghan offers a convenient way to cross Australia by rail on the north-south axis, the Indian Pacific line propels people between Perth and Sydney twice a week. The 65 hour, 4,352 km journey is a literal and figurative trip and runs past some remarkable Down Under scenery.
Though Madrid to Malaga is a nice rail route, our favorite way to explore a beautiful part of Spain by train is the El Transcantabrico line. FEVE, the state railway concern, runs the 650 km line, which snakes from Santiago de Compostela to León, through desirable stops like Oviedo, Gijón, Santander and Bilbao. A magnificent tour with wonderful regional gastronomy, wine and dutiful attention to on board service and details.
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