Apart from the romantic nuances implied by stepping onto a train heading to a whimsical destination, train travel is the eco-friendly option for getting from one place to another. It's the chance to disconnect from a frenetic world and become a train-window voyeur.
Train travel is coming back in a decadent style that rivals 5-star hotels. The glamorous journeys on offer today indulge your fantasies of opulent carriages, mahogany-lined restaurants and bar carriages, plus luxuriously appointed sleeping compartments; some even offer personal butler service, and dressing up for dinner is de rigueur. Preparing your meal in the train galley is not some has-been cook with no home, but Michelin-star chefs create masterful dishes. I'm not talking bullet trains in Japan, but journeys of distinction through some of the most incredible scenery that passes by your window in a slow, dreamlike trance as you recline in a plush seat while sipping champagne. A train journey can be the destination, with many trains offering stop-offs for day excursions—train travel is to be savored slowly and elegantly.
The Ghan, Australia
With scenic views of endless red desert sand vistas, traveling on The Ghan is an incredible journey. It's 54 hours of adventure, leaving Adelaide in the south and arriving in the far north city of Darwin, or vice versa. A slow dance along railway tracks that took fifty years to build, its maiden voyage happened in 1929, albeit as a goods train. The line follows the Scottish inland explorer John MacDouall Stuart's footsteps when he led an expedition through the heart of Australia from south to north in 1844. In 2019 The Ghan celebrated 90 years of traveling through some of the most astounding Australian outback. Create your own stopovers over 3 or 4 days amidst ancient gorges, famous wine regions, a working cattle station, and the dusty soul of Australia—the Red Centre. This transcontinental escape on rails covers 2,979 km. Gourmet meals of regional treasures such as barramundi and kangaroo fillet will have you wishing for more, and breakfast in bed is offered.
Shongololo Express, Africa
A destination of wild animals and jaw-dropping scenery, taking a cabin on the elegant Shongololo Express in South Africa will have your heart pumping. Choose the decadent length of your journey from 12 to 15 days to experience the magic of the African continent with off-train excursions. An 'Out of Africa' journey, it departs Pretoria. The off-rail excursions take you on game drives in Kruger Park and Hluhluwe wildlife reserve, touring Durban and its famous botanical gardens and past iconic places such as the Valley of a Thousand Hills and Drakensberg Mountains. You will be amazed as the train traverses the Fish River Canyon, nearly as big as the Grand Canyon. And the Kalahari Desert will shimmer before your eyes. You get to embark on a small plane to a safari lodge in Sossusvlei for breathtaking wild experiences in the bush. The list of extra activities along the way is extraordinary. While on the train, your journey is a never-ending ebb and flow of remarkable scenery. The quiet stillness of the Namib Desert fills your window view of the passing world as the train continues to wander along the Atlantic coast until disembarking at Walvis Bay. Shongololo Express is the epitome of elegant luxury, accommodating only 72 guests on any journey, so you are definitely spoiled with service and attention. Select luscious South African wines accompany your meals created from locally sourced ingredients and presented on plates like works of art. This journey conjures up childish imaginings of the African continent.
The Maharajas’ Express, India
India without the hordes of humanity. Exotic and totally indulgent, the prospect of taking a tour on one of the world's most luxurious trains is enough to give you palpitations of excitement from the moment your mind ponders on this adventure. There are five different trips, but they all encompass legendary sights such as Varanasi, one of the world's most ancient cities, the eclectic view of the Pink City of Jaipur, and Ranthambore, where tigers and leopards still roam. Gaze at the famous sand dunes of Bikaner, known as the Camel Country, while sipping a cocktail during the pink hues of sunset. Pay homage to love at the glowing Taj Mahal. You will be treated like royalty by your own personal valet as you swan around your lavish cabin, dine on exquisite delights in the grand dining car or savor a cocktail amidst the stately décor of The Rajah Club or The Safari Bar—ever so fleetingly contemplate what the rest of the world is doing.
The above are not the only luxury train rides to consider. The Glacier Express in Switzerland also delivers a world-class adventure. Considered the slowest train in the world, you will have plenty of moments to relish the sights of the stunning Swiss Alps, the mirrors of mountain lakes, and endless meadows as the train chugs over 291 bridges and 91 tunnels.