Despite being a technology that is well over 150 years old, trains are still an important mode of transportation in many countries around the world. They’re a great and cheap way to cover a long distance if you don’t mind spending a little more time traveling than you would an airplane. It also happens to be one of the best ways to travel if you like sightseeing. Here are 15 of the world’s most scenic train routes.
1. The Flåm Railway, Norway
We’ll start out with a relatively short route. The Flåm Railway is only about 55 minutes long but it really is among the most beautiful you’ll ever seen. It rides down into Flåm Valley. Passengers can expect lush green landscapes, Nordic farmhouses, waterfalls, ravines, and gigantic mountain ranges. It’s about as much as you can conceivably squeeze into an hour long train ride. It’s also among the cheapest at $60USD.
2. Canadian Rockies Railway, Canada
Canada is home to some of the harshest environments in North America but they also happen to be among the most enjoyable to look at. For the price of a used car ($1879CAN to $8200CAN), you can take a 7-day trip from Vancouver to Toronto and see the best landscapes that Canada has to offer. Accommodations include a heated seat on a luxury railroad, a great view of Jasper (Canada’s largest national park), Yoho National Park, and the Columbian ice fields. There are few better ways to experience Canada without going to a hockey game.
3. Trans Siberian Railroad, Russia
There is no better way to travel through Russia than the Trans Siberian Railroad. It’s 6000 miles long and can take passengers a long time to ride from end to end. In that time you’ll get to experience pretty much all of the landscapes of northern Asia because the railroad doesn’t just go through Russia but also through parts of China and Mongolia. It’s a very popular railroad with some of the most truly breathtaking views. First class will cost you a couple of thousand dollars but if you don’t mind mixing it up with the locals, you can ride for cheaper.
4. Glacier Express, Switzerland
All you need to do is look at the picture to see the reason why this train is included on this list. During the train’s 7-hour ride, you’ll becoming intimately familiar with the iconic Alps as this train passes through 91 tunnels and 291 bridges as it twists and turns through the mountains. It’s a one of a kind experience. Again, all you need to do is look at the picture.
5. Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru
You may know Machu Picchu as the site of the Inca Ruins and the train ride there can be spectacular. There are actually a number of railways that make this journey. They range from cheap and functional to expensive and luxurious. It doesn’t really matter which one you take because you get the scenery either way. You’ll see the Urumbamba River, vast fields filled with animal life, and it all is the foreground to a wondrous mountain range in the background. Of course, there are the Inca Ruins too which are breathtaking all on their own.
6. The Royal Scotsman, Scotland
Much like the Canadian Rockies Railroad above, this one will cost you approximately on arm and one leg. You can pay an average of $2000USD per day to enjoy the Royal Scotsman but it’s well worth it. You get food prepared by world class chefs, classic experiences like whiskey tasting and salmon fishing, and of course you’ll get to enjoy the raw Scottish landscape. You really will get to see all there is to see in Scotland in terms of environment including beaches, hamlets, glens, mountains, and valleys. It’s a veritable slideshow of beauty and truly one of the most unforgettable experiences you can have on wheels.
7. The Palace on Wheels, India
India has a famous reputation for their trains being a little brutal to ride but there are some there that can be an experience unlike any other. One such train is The Palace on Wheels which will take you through the desert to the Taj Mahal with stops at the lake palace of Udaipar and Jaisalmer where you can ride camels on a desert safari if you want. It costs a pretty penny at around $2000USD for basic packages but there are few better ways to experience the wonder of the Indian landscape.
8. The Blue Train, South Africa
Africa is known for its endless wilderness, vast deserts, and dangerous wildlife. You could always go on a safari and brave the elements or you could sell your car and take The Blue Train. Its cheapest package is $2000 but you’ll be treated to marble floors, butlers, and the unimaginably scenery that only Africa can provide. You’ll see wildlife, mountains, plains, and pretty much all the other best parts of Africa. It’s pricey but definitely worth it.
9. The Coastal Classic Train, Alaska
As the name suggests, The Coastal Classic Train features a most classic view of the Alaskan wilderness along with its craggy mountain peaks, ice blue waters, and if you go during the right time of year, its vibrant green landscapes. You’ll also see a glacier and if you’re lucky you may see some wildlife such as the beluga whale. It’s only a four hour trip but we’ve no doubt you can grab a thousand pictures anyway.
10. The Ghan, Australia
There is no better way to enjoy the wonders of Australia than The Ghan. It runs from the south of the continent to the north so you’ll transverse the entire continent in just a couple of days. During your trip you’ll see the legendary Australian outback including the Katherine Gorge, Flinders ranges, Alice Springs, and of course hundreds of miles of untamed Australian wilderness. It’s a tad expensive at $1420AUS but that’s not bad for what you get to see.
11. The Sky Train, Tibet
This train gets its name from the fact that it spends most of its journey over 4000 miles above sea level. It’s one of the cheaper trains on the list with the average price being around $185USD but don’t let the price fool you. You’ll be riding at the top of the mountains where you can see the vast landscapes around you not to mention you’ll be among the snow capped mountain peaks. This is often called the ceiling of the sky train.
12. Talyllyn Railway, Wales
Many of these trains are huge, mammoth trains that trek hundreds or thousands of miles. The Talyllyn Railway has a measly 14.5 mile track but don’t let that fool you. It runs through Fathew Valley which is a small grassy paradise in Wales. While the scenery is fantastic, this is one instance where the train itself is also pretty iconic. It was the train that inspired Thomas the Tank Engine. It’s staffed by volunteers and it’s really a quaint little trip to take.
13. The Grand Canyon Railway, Arizona
Have you ever wanted to see the Grand Canyon but the prospect of riding down in a donkey not your cup of tea? Why not try the Grand Canyon Railway. It runs through 130 miles (round trip) of the harsh and wondrous Arizona desert and eventually ends up at the south rim of the Grand Canyon. If you’re down for the rugged Arizona landscape followed up by one of the natural wonders of the world, then this is the railway to take.
14. Douro Line, Portugal
If you want to enjoy the historic landscapes of Portugal along with its amazing Douro River then this is the way to do it. The trip crosses 30 bridges and passes under 26 tunnels as it winds its way around the Douro River from Porto to Pocinho. Along the way you’ll find picturesque views of the river valley and it’ll even make stops as old style train stations so you can check those out too. It’s best to ride between early spring and late summer when the almond trees are in bloom. It’s downright heavenly.
15. Rhine Valley Line, Germany
Our last scenic train route is one of the best if you’re a fan of old school architecture. On the Rhine Valley Line you’ll see Germanic castles from centuries ago and almost perfect towns and villages that seem to bring the past to life. What’s even better is that no matter which point you start or end at, there are even more towns, villages, and castles for you to visit. If you go all out and get the Eurail Pass, you can switch from trains to riverboats that are also operated by the Rhine Line.
If you’re a fan of unforgettable landscapes, then trains are still the best way to travel. If you can, make sure you make it to at least one of these scenic train route destinations so you can experience it first hand. Don’t forget to bring the camera!
Featured photo credit: Josh Nezon via unsplash.com