Forget the queues, crowds and rush at airports. Instead, sit back and enjoy a holiday on rail where traffic jams are swapped for stunning scenery and cramped airlines seats are exchanged for a luxurious carriage.
This is the art of train journeys. Historically, trains were an essential mode of transport. These days many overlook the idea of the slow meander of a rail holiday, but for those who want to experience beautiful scenery or enjoy a book as they rumble through the countryside, there is an array of luxury train journeys. Guests can enjoy dinner à la Agatha Christie (minus the murder), with five-star cuisine served by white-gloved waiters in the Art Deco dining cart, or perhaps spot cherry blossoms
from a comfortable seat on a modern and sleek Japanese train.
Here is our pick of the most luxurious rail journeys in the world.
The Blue Train
The Blue Train, which has hosted singer Kylie Minogue, actress Mia Farrow and the late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, is one of the most opulent rail journeys in the world, a 30-hour, 1600 kilometre journey through South Africa’s diverse and spectacular scenery from Pretoria to Cape Town. The Blue Train also travels the 19 hours to Hoedspruit on the western edge Kruger National Park, one of the world’s finest game parks and home to Africa’s Big Five. This offers a fantastic rail-safari option that lets guests add on a stay at private safari lodges in the Greater Kruger and Sabi Sabi areas. The train cabins have under-floor heating, opulent marble and gold-fitted bathrooms, and goose-down bedding. Obviously, there are butlers on call to tend to your needs 24/7.
The Hogwarts Express
Harry Potter fans can indulge their ultimate fantasy by taking a ride on the famous steam train The Jacobite, aka the Hogwarts Express. The Jacobite steam train runs along what many consider the greatest railway journey in the world. Here you can discover the Scottish Highlands, learn about the history of the Jacobites and enjoy Scottish seafood on the west coast at Mallaig. The train journey passes Loch Ness, Ben Nevis and other natural wonders of Scotland, including the deepest freshwater loch, Loch Morar, and Glen Coe, used in Harry Potter films for the location of Hagrid’s hut overlooking Torren Lochan. Your land excursions include a stop at Loch Ness to go Nessie hunting and you’ll cross Glenfinnan Viaduct, best known for the iconic shot of the Hogwarts Express racing through the countryside.
The Venice-Simplon Orient Express
The setting of Agatha Christie’s classic mystery Murder on the Orient Express, this journey was one of the most decadent holiday experiences of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, the train still gently rolls by some of Europe’s most majestic scenery and cities, including London, Paris, Budapest, Berlin, Verona and Venice. The cars on this train are all originals from the 1920s that have been restored for modern tastes. The grand suites are the height of luxury; each has a double or twin bedroom with a living area for private fine dining and a sofa which converts into an additional bed, as well as an ensuite with all the fixings. Complimentary Champagne is on tap and guests are expected to dress for dinner, in keeping with the characters from Christie’s novel.
The Maharajas’ Express
This luxury train journey explores colourful India with 14 carriages that accommodate a maximum of 88 passengers. Life on board is all about grandeur, harking back to the days of the Maharajas with butlers in attendance. Cabins are decked out in rich tapestry with each carriage named after a famous gemstone of the Maharajas. The top Presidential suite, Navratna, has two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a living room, and can accommodate four guests. There are two restaurant carriages – Rang Mahal and Mayur Mahal – where guests can enjoy fine Indian cuisine served on gold edged plates and Swarovski hand-cut glasses. Guests can arrange activities such as astrology lessons and Bollywood dancing classes.
Seven Stars in Kyushu
With typical Japanese attention to detail, every aspect of the purpose-built Seven Stars in Kyushu is immaculate; polished floors, brass fittings, wood-panelled walls and engraved glass doors for a modern reimagining of traditional Japanese decor, with the latest in advanced technology. The super-luxury train travels across the amazing landscapes of Kyushu, known for its volcanic hot springs and national parks. Food is brought onto the train by chefs each day, presenting the freshest ingredients from the countryside and sea in multi-course Japanese feasts. There are only 12 spacious suites, each with a sitting room and bathroom with a Japanese electronic toilet.