As cool travel goes, there’s nothing like sitting back on a train and watching stunning scenery pass you by as you travel on your way to your destination. Here we feature some of the best railway journeys from around the world. Whilst tourists jump on a plane and cross continents in a matter of hours, great travellers have always identified the journey as the adventure. Planning a route via rail is a great way to appreciate the landscape, and many offer hop on/off options that navigate a number of countries – simply check you have visas where needed, that travel insurance covers all locations and you cash appropriate currency to cover multi-country trips.
1. Indian Narrow Gauge Railways
Installed by the British almost 100 years ago, there are thousands of miles of narrow gauge tracks in India, many of which journey to and between old colonial hill stations, and a few still run on steam.
Travelling to some of the highest stations in the country, the three famed hill routes are the Darjeeling Himalayan, the Kalka-Shimla, and the Nilgiri, all of which have been declared by UNESCO as world heritage properties.
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Journey
Kalka Shimla Railway Journey
Nilgiri Steam Railway (India) Journey
2. Trans-Mongolian Railway
Traversing the entire breadth of Russia, through Mongolia to China, the Trans-Mongolian Railway crosses the Gobi Desert, the plains of Mongolia, and skirts the edge of Lake Baikal – UNESCO world heritage site and largest freshwater lake in the world.
Whilst the entire journey can take up to 10 days non-stop, there is the option to hop on and off, plus all manner of vodka related entertainment should you ever tire of the huge vistas.
Trans Mongolian Railway
3. Japanese Bullet Train
A trip to Japan wouldn’t be complete without a trip on a bullet train – travelling at speeds up to 300kph, the network connects all major cities on the islands of Honshū and Kyūshū. The Tokaido-Shinkansen route, which links Tokyo to Shin-Osaka, travels along the south coast edge of Honshū Island and is the most heavily travelled high-speed rail route in the world.
Stopping at Yokohama, Shin-Fuji and the temple city of Kyoto en route, the line totals 515.4km and is covered by high-speed services in 2 hours 25 minutes.
Japanese Bullet Train Journey
4. Orient Express
The Orient Express was laid to rest in December 1999, but its reputation as one of the most famed rail routes in the world lives on.
Opened in 1883, the original route ran from Paris to Vienna, with passengers chartered for Istanbul picking up an additional train and ferry to reach the Turkish capital – in 1889 the first non-stop train left Paris for Istanbul.
Over the years the route changed to encompass Northern Italy, Austria and Greece. Once simply a long-distance passenger train, the Orient Express eventually became associated with luxury travel and immortalised in all manner of popular culture.
Journey on Orient Express
5. Chinihuahua al Pacifico Railway
Traversing the Sierra Madres of Mexico, the construction of the Chinihuahua al Pacifico Railway took 100 years to complete and connects Chihuahua with the port at Topolobampo.
Climbing in excess of 8,000 feet above sea level, the track covers over 400 miles, travels over 36 bridges, through 87 tunnels and forest, mountain and canyons.
Chihuahua al Pacifico Railway Journey