Trains are great aren’t they? We’re not talking the 06.25 St Pancras Express that arrives in central London just in time for the rush hour. Perish the thought, that wouldn’t be fun. We’re talking classic, exhilarating train journeys that open up a whole new world.
Forget the wrong type of snow. From superfast to the über-cool, these unique train journeys may inspire you to a whole new mode of travel.
Blue Train, South Africa
For the ultimate in luxury rail travel, it has to be the Blue Train of South Africa. Carrying a maximum of 84 passengers, expect to be waited on hand and foot by professionally trained butlers. Yes, butlers. Its unsurpassed elegance takes you seamlessly through Pretoria to Cape Town. The whole journey lasts 27 hours and travels sublimely through some of the most spectacular South African landscapes. All compartments are soundproofed, fully carpeted and include en-suite bathrooms. For a better view of Table Mountain as you near Cape Town there’s an observation deck at the rear of the train. For the ultimate adventure, combine your trip with a South African safari, although with all the onboard pampering you may not want to disembark!
The Palace on Wheels, India
If you’ve always dreamed of travelling through India like royalty then this train is for you. Departing on weekly tours from Delhi you’ll spend a week travelling through the deserts of Rajasthan, passing several towns and national parks along the way. The Maharaja’s original carriages were once used on this train which lives up to its majestic name as suitably attired attendants in splendid costumes tend to your every need. For a true flavour of India check out the elephants in Jaipur, take a camel safari near Jaisalmer and to truly absorb the royal theme, spend an afternoon at the Taj Mahal.
Copper Canyon Railway, Mexico
Time to forget your luxury, your butlers, your en-suite bathrooms and your fine cuisine. What this journey lacks in the finer things in life it makes up for in the view through the window. Taking in 36 bridges and 87 tunnels along 407 miles of track, the Copper Canyon Railway links the parched interior of northern Mexico with the Pacific coast, passing sheer canyons and waterfalls along the way. If the thought of bouncing through the Mexican desert is too much to bear, you can relax as two trains operate along this route, one is the primera express (first class) whilst the other is the clase economica (economy class); the choice is yours.
Coast Starlight, USA
Linking the major west coast American cities, including Seattle and Los Angeles, the Coast Starlight is widely revered as one of the most impressive train routes in the world. If you’re looking for original ideas for family holidays abroad this one certainly fits the bill. Its daily route takes you through Portland, Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay area and Santa Barbara. The whole trip takes around 35 hours passing through three States – Washington, Oregon and California – so kids of all ages can revel in the excitement of an overnight trip. Although it has an arcade room full of video games, the view through the window will provide the most entertainment. The dazzling snow-capped Cascade Mountain range and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean provide a spectacular backdrop to your travels.
The Shinkansen, Japan
Known as the Silver Bullet Train, the Shinkansen is the epitome of adventure holidays, railway style. A trip on this rocket like machine is a must for adrenalin seekers, taking just two hours and ten minutes to cover the 325 miles between Tokyo and Kyoto. Having been ousted from its prime position as the world’s fastest train by France’s TGV this new model, the Nozomi, looks like reclaiming its crown. If you can cope, carry on to Hiroshima.
Wherever you head to on your holidays this year there’s the opportunity to satiate your inner-train-spotter and open up a whole new way of seeing the world.
Author Kate Smedley travels by all modes of transport available in search of adventure holidays.