Here Are Some of the World’s Most Scenic Train Journeys.
It seems that many of us love a train journey with a good view. So much so that when I asked some fellow travel bloggers to share some of their favourite scenic train journeys I was overwhelmed with submissions – too many to fit into one post in fact!
After all, what better feeling is there than twisting along through new landscapes, enjoying the view through the window, sticking your head out of a window, or even standing in a doorway – the feeling of being on a journey.
So here is part two of some of the most scenic train journeys. Just in case you missed part one, you can find it here!
1. The Flam Railway, Norway – by Untold Morsels.
It’s not the longest train journey in the world, but it is truly spectacular. The train from Flåm on Norway’s Aurlandsfjord fjord travels 850 metres above sea level to the mountain station of Myrdal on its 20 kilometre journey. Along the way you pass gaping gorges, cascading waterfalls and small farms and villages that the railway was built to connect. There is only one short stop along the way where you can alight and experience the splash of the Kjosfossen waterfall on your face.
Most visitors to this part of Norway take the journey on the Flåmsbana railway and with good reason. It’s one of the best ways to experience the fjords and spectacular natural environment.
Read more about visiting Norway’s fjord region on the Untold Morsels Blog!
2.Settle to Carlisle Railway, England – by A Packed Life.
If a train route could be designed for countryside lovers, this is it. Sweeping from chocolate box pretty Settle station in the Yorkshire Dales National Park to brooding Carlisle on the Scottish borders, this train can drop you off at isolated fells and moors for a ramble in some of England’s greenest lands. Alternatively, you can sit back and feast on scenery of such splendour that chatterbox passengers were silenced by its beauty.
You’ll have time to appreciate the journey, including the transit across Ribblehead Viaduct’s 24 arches, as the gradient makes for a slow climb of 16 miles up Blea Moor. If you’re collecting experiences, you’ll be passing the highest mainline station in England at Dent, and the highest point reached by mainline rail at Ais Gill summit. On the day we took the train, we got to see the fells in their gloomiest glory under brooding black skies, all adding to the atmospheric trip.
Read more on travelling from the Yorkshire Dales to the Scottish Borders on A Packed Life!
3. The Blue Train: Johannesburg to Cape Town, South Africa – by Travellers Archive.
The legend of the “Blue Train”, had been running between Johannesburg and Cape Town as early as 1923, taking passengers from Johannesburg to the ships departing from Cape Town to England. After a break in service in World War II, the route was taken up again and an extraordinary travel experience was created with various tours of the Blue Train going from Johannesburg and Pretoria to Cape Town and vice versa.
Nowadays, one experiences a lot of luxury and style while the beautiful countryside of South Africa passes by your train window from the comfort of the lounge car or club car. And of course, every journey starts with a warm-hearted South African welcome that is defined by personal attention. And when choosing the right route, you might end up staring at the Table Mountain himself, when the train slowly approaches the main station of Cape Town.
Read more about travelling South Africa on Travellers Archive!
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4. The Kuranda Scenic Railway, Cairns, Australia – by Flights to Fancy.
Most iconic rail journeys come with hefty price tags that put them out of reach of mere mortals, but there is one historic train trip that I’ve found to be as affordable as it is spectacular.
Australia’s Kuranda Scenic Railway rises to 328m above sea level, traverses through 15 hand carved tunnels, crosses 37 bridges and meanders through some of the lushest terrain in Queensland’s World Heritage listed Wet Tropics rainforest. The leisurely pace and historic carriages give passengers a unique glimpse of days gone by as they are immersed in the breathtaking views.
For just a little more guests can upgrade to the KSR gold class experience like we did and be spoilt with attentive service, beer, bubbles and delicious snacks. Stony Creek falls is one of the highlights of the trip and KSR gets you so close that you could almost touch them through the sash windows. At the end of the journey spend some time exploring the quaint village of Kuranda before making your way back to Cairns via the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway for a completely different view of the Daintree Rainforest. This unforgettable journey is a must do when you are in Cairns.
Read more about the gold class experience on the Kuranda on Flights to Fancy!
5. The Gokteik Viaduct, Myanmar – by Surfing the Planet.
When travelling in Myanmar, you will visit many places to remind you that Myanmar (Burma) was once a British colony. Amongst these reminders you will find the railway network, and one of the greatest experiences in Myanmar is a train ride from Hsipaw to Manadalay.
This railrway goes through the lush mountainous Shan region, and undoubtedly the main highlight of this trip is crossing the Gokteik Viaduct.
The Gokteik Viaduct is an amazing engineering beauty built by the British and the scenery you can see 100 meters below is simply breathtaking. The train goes very slowly during the whole trip (the quality of the tracks is awful), but when you actually get to cross the viaduct, it slows down even more. This gives you more time to you to enjoy the view and the faint hearted will probably close their eyes, while listening to the squeaking metal sound of the bridge as you pass through. It’s an incredible experience that can’t be left out from your trip around Myanmar.
Read more about travelling by train in Myanmar on Surfing the Planet!
6. Zermatt to Gornergrat, Switzerland – by Im Voyager.
Hearing the word “Switzerland” is enough by itself to evoke images of lush meadows, snowcapped mountains, picturesque villages and finally lovely trains that take you across this terrain which is a paradise on earth. The train journeys across Switzerland must indeed rank as the most scenic in the world. We feel blessed to have been able to undertake many such scenic train journeys in Switzerland, but the one that remains etched in memory is the journey from Zermatt to Gornergrat!
The train journey from Zermatt to Gornergrat takes about 35 minutes and takes you through stunning landscapes with the majestic Matterhorn in your line of view. When you reach Gornergrat, you behold an awe inspiring panorama stretching out in front of you with the Matterhorn dominating the scene. The train itself is a technical wonder having made its first trip in the year 1898. The fully electric cog railway is a chugging testimony to the genius of the engineering minds of the 19th century who gave shape to it.
As the historic train chugs along climbing the height of 3,089 metres, the exhilarating scenery outside, white snow creating an intriguing mosaic with the brown of rocks, makes for a stunning sight. One of the most fascinating sights as the train curves around a bend, is the view of the engine meandering towards its destination.
Read more about train travels in Switzerland on the Im Voyager blog!
7. Pretoria to Cape Town, South Africa – by In Africa and Beyond.
Also known as The Pride of Africa, the Rovos Rail is one of the most luxurious trains in the world.
The leisurely 48-hour journey from Pretoria to Cape Town will take you past meandering rivers and vast open plains, through dark mountain tunnels and arid deserts. The memorable sight of thousands of pink flamingos upon Kamfer Dam, will indicate your arrival into Kimberley, home to one of the biggest man-made holes in the world, dug in pursuit of diamonds. The dam is one of only six breeding sites for lesser flamingos in the world.
Fields of red and green vineyards will become prominent as you journey through the Cape, until you spot Table Mountain, one of the world’s seven wonders of nature, in all its glory. This signals the end of your amazing journey. All this from your king-size bed or the balcony at the end of the train which offers an unparalleled open-air viewing deck, while you sip on constantly topped-up drinks.
Read more about Rovos Rail on In Africa and Beyond blog.
8. Mount Washington, New England, USA – by The Foodie Miles.
When you think about a train ride, chances are you expect a train to take you from city to city or from country to country. But the most scenic train ride I have experienced was up the highest peak of New England – Mount Washington.
While you can hike or drive up the mountain in your own car, taking a train, to my mind, is way more fun. Especially, when it’s the world’s first mountain-climbing Cog Railway train. Round trip to the top of the mountain and back takes approximately 3 hours. You can choose between historic steam train or an eco-friendly biodiesel locomotive.
The tickets are rather costly at $69 per person, but the views are magnificent. You will have one hour on the Summit of Mount Washington to look around and take pictures. Make sure to bring some warm clothes like sweaters and scarves. Even during summer months the weather on top is unpredictable.
Read more on The Foodie Miles Blog.
9. Phitsanulok to Chiang Mai, Thailand – by en Squared Aired.
I have been dreaming of taking the train across Thailand for years now, and it’s only recently (last week, to be exact!) that I had the chance to experience this journey.
The trip started from the south to the north where I made stops along popular destinations. Each segment was beautiful, but it was the segment from Phitsanulok to Chiang Mai the left me in awe.
The landscapes we went through were nothing short of breathtaking. To see sugar canes and rice fields with clouds reflecting from the ponds was beautiful. Every so often, I’d catch a glimpse of a local on a motorbike carrying on their daily routine.
As the train took us further up north, the scenery changes to show us glimpses of a jungle. We could tell when the areas became steep because the train would slow down, allowing us to savour more of nature. Of course, I did not catch the moments that took my breath away. That means if you are curious about this journey, you need to go and see it for yourself!
Read more on travel in Asia on en Squared Aired blog!
Thinking of travelling in Thailand by train? Read about my journey on the sleeper train from Chiang Mai to Bangkok here!
10. And one from me.. 🙂 Colombo to Galle, Sri Lanka.
Just the rails, glinting in the afternoon sun, a jagged slither of sand, and the crashing sea. For miles and miles along the coast. That’s one of my lasting memories of Sri Lanka.
In Colombo itself, the railway line south runs between the city and the Indian Ocean from just beyond the famous Galle Face Hotel to the southern city limits and beyond. The trains to Galle are Sri Lanka’s equivalent of the commuter line. Trains are full to overflowing, but the crowding was easy to forget, if only for the reason that there was so much else to look at.
Far less popular with instagramming travellers than the more famous “tea train”, the line from Colombo to Galle is a ride you won’t forget in a hurry. For pretty much the entire route, the train hugs the seashore, with views out to the pacific ocean. As the train runs endlessly past the sea, the boulders and rocks of Colombo’s shoreline turn into slivers of sandy beach next to beach shacks and huts. Standing in the open doorway, the salt breeze provided welcome ventilation for the packed carriages. This is a ride you won’t want to miss.
Read more about train travel in Sri Lanka here!
For next year, we’re dreaming of the Trans Canadian Railway!
Where’s your favourite train journey been? Got tips for finding the best train journeys? Let me know in the comments below!
Want further inspiration? Check out The Telegraphs list of the 25 Greatest Train Journeys in the World.
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A Londoner by birth Ellie has lived in the UK, Netherlands, India and now Canada. Prior to blogging, she worked for 12 years in hospitality and online travel. Ellie started this blog during a sabbatical trip in 2015 around South Asia, to help conscious travellers find the best inspiration for their next sustainable trip. When not travelling, she is happiest with wine, pasta and a good (travel) book. Ellie is also Founder of Soul Travel Consulting which helps travel brands communicate their sustainability initiatives.