All Articles 12 epic train journeys around the world

12 epic train journeys around the world

The Bernina Express in Switzerland and Italy riding over a bridge
Image: Roberto Moiola and Sysaworld/Getty Images
Megan Michael
By Megan Michael14 May 2024 8 minutes read

The destination is only as good as the journey. A great train trip doesn’t just take you from one place to another, it allows you to explore the world at a slower, and more sustainable pace. Venture out on a great cross-country expedition while soaking up sweet panoramic views through floor-to-ceiling windows, or go back in time on a historic locomotive.

Are you ready to hop on board? Here are some of the most epic train journeys in the world, plus tips on the best routes, travel times, onboard services, and things to do along the way.

1. Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, Europe

The Venice-Simplon Orient Express Train riding through the countryside in Europe
Inside the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Travel time: Two days (for their Classic Routes)

Train journeys: The Classic Routes go to and from Venice, London, Verona, and Paris. Check their website for the full list of train journeys available.

Be transported to the glamorous Golden Age of Travel in historic carriages, carefully restored from the 1920s. On the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, explore Europe in style onboard this lavish locomotive, complete with plush interiors, stellar service, and lively ragtime tunes by the resident pianist. Dress in your Sunday best and enjoy a sumptuous four-course table d'hôte menu paired with their sommelier’s choice of wines. Then take your night to the Bar Car for decadent cocktails and spirited conversations among newfound companions. Turn in for the night in one of their luxurious suites, fitted with lush beds and ensuite bathrooms.

Most of their classic routes between the major European cities—like Geneva, Innsbruck, Venice, and London—take two days but if you’re in for an epic ride, look out for the annual six-day Paris to Istanbul expedition that’ll take you on a journey through Budapest and Bucharest.

2. Glacier Express, Switzerland

The Glacier Express in Switzerland riding on top of a bridge
Inside the dining car of The Glacier Express
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Travel time: Eight hours

Train journeys: From Zermatt to St. Moritz (and vice versa)

Catch Switzerland’s most spectacular manmade and natural wonders from the comfort of your train seat with the Glacier Express. The train connects Zermatt, Switzerland—home to the iconic Matterhorn and Gornergrat—to St. Moritz, a stunning and luxurious alpine resort town. You’ll be journeying through 91 tunnels, crossing 291 bridges, and catching sights like the Rhine Gorge, Oberalp Pass, and other lakes, valleys, villages, and pastures through your cabin’s floor-to-ceiling windows.

Upgrade to the Excellence Class experience to take this scenic train ride to the next level. You’ll be guaranteed the best window seats in the house, a five-course menu with wine pairings, and exclusive access to the in-house bar.

3. Alaska Railroad, Alaska, United States

The Alaska Railroad in Alaska riding through the mountains in Alaska
The window view of a lake from The Alaska Railroad
Image: Management/Tripadvisor (left), Sara/Tripadvisor (right)

Travel time: 2.5 to 12 hours one-way

Train journeys: To and from Anchorage, Fairbanks, Talkeetna, Hurricane, Grandview, or Seward. Check their website for the full list of train journeys available.

Explore Alaska's sprawling countryside mountains on the Alaska Railroad. It offers train journeys all year round, with daily routes during summer from May to September. The flagship “Denali Star Train” is great for wildlife spotting in summer, stopping by Denali National Park and Preserve along the 12-hour journey between Anchorage and Fairbanks. The “Coastal Classic Train” between Anchorage and Seward is also great for beautiful coastal scenery, fjords, fishing, and hiking. Here’s a tip: upgrade to the GoldStar Service for glass-domed cabins with panoramic views, an upper-level outdoor viewing deck, meals, and drinks.

Don’t worry if you’re visiting in wintertime though. You can still experience an epic train journey through Alaska on the “Aurora Winter Train” which offers stunning views of the state’s magical snowy landscape and even the chance to see the northern lights.

4. Eastern & Oriental Express, Singapore

A passenger looking out of the Eastern & Oriental Express train
Inside the dining car of the Eastern & Oriental Express train
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Travel time: Four days

Train journeys: Round trip from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, Taman Negara, Langkawi Island, or Penang Island. Check their website for the full list of train journeys available.

Be swept away on a grand journey through Malaysia on the Belmond-operated Eastern & Oriental Express. Your four-day journey begins in Singapore and up north through lush jungles, charming towns, and relaxing islands. The “Wild Malaysia” journey is great for wildlife lovers, stopping at Taman Negara National Park, one of the oldest tropical rainforests and home to the endangered Malayan tiger. On the other hand, the “Essence of Malaysia” journey has a little bit of everything. You’ll make stops at the cultural hub of Penang and Langkawi’s Pulau Payar Marine Park, where you can snorkel with colorful sea creatures and other exciting water activities.

Along your train journey, feast on a four-course fine dining experience each night with a table d'hôte menu that features Malaysian flavors. Then, continue the night in the jazzy Bar Car for champagne and signature cocktails. Seats are limited so travelers recommend booking your train journey a few months in advance.

5. Serra Verde Express, Curitiba, Brazil

The Serra Verde Express coming out of a tunnel in Brazil
The window view of mountains on the Serra Verde Express
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Travel time: Four hours

Train journeys: From Curitiba to Morretes (and vice versa)

Wind through the lush greenery, waterfalls, canyons, and mountain passes of Brazil on the Serra Verde Express, one of the most famous railways in South America. Constructed over a hundred years ago, the train connects Curitiba to the historic coastal city of Morretes. While there aren’t many amenities or services available onboard, some carriages have sliding windows that allow the aromas of the rainforest to waft into the cabin, letting you fully immerse your senses.

To make the most of your journey, we recommend booking a round-trip package that includes a tour of Morretes. You’ll get to explore the city’s history, churches, markets, and colonial homes before ending the day with a barreado (a Brazillian beef shank stew) lunch by the Nhundiaquara River.

6. Rocky Mountaineer, North America

Rocky Mountaineer train on its train route through forests
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Travel time: Two to fifteen days

Train journeys: From Vancouver to Banff or Jasper in Canada, and from Moab to Denver in the U.S. Check their website for the full list of train journeys available.

Go on a majestic journey across the Rockies on the Rocky Mountaineer in North America. Choose from three epic routes through Canada like the “Journey Through The Clouds” trip, which takes you from Vancouver and past Fraser River, Hell’s Gate, Pyramid Creek Falls, and the mighty Mount Robson en route to Jasper.

For the best 360 views, upgrade to the GoldLeaf experience which features cabins with wraparound glass dome windows and a huge outdoor viewing platform. While most of the journeys take two to three days, there are round-trip packages that go on for up to 15 days, taking you from Vancouver to Whistler and back.

7. West Highland Line, Scotland

A West Highland Line on its journey through forests next to a river
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Travel time: 3.5 to 5.5 hours

Train journeys: From Glasgow to Oban, Fort William, or Mallaig

Explore the scenic west coast of Scotland on the West Highland Line where you’ll whizz past mighty glens, vast lochs, and majestic mountains. From Glasglow, journey up north to Fort William and Mallaig and past scenic spots like Monessie Gorge, Ben Nevis, and the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct, better known as the Hogwarts Express railway in the Harry Potter films.

The westward route from Glasgow takes you to the port town of Oban, passing by the historic Kilchurn Castle, the beautiful Falls of Lora, and the scenic Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. Keep your eyes peeled and you might even spot some adorable red deer hiding among the trees.

8. The Lake Titicaca Train, Peru

A woman posing in front of the The Lake Titicaca Train
The dining car inside the The Lake Titicaca Train
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Travel time: Ten hours

Train journeys: From Cusco to Puno (and vice versa)

Travel between Cusco and the port city of Puno on the PeruRail Titicaca train. Also known as The Lake Titicaca Train, the journey takes you across the amazing landscapes of the Peruvian Andes and down towards the magical Lake Titicaca, one of South America’s biggest lakes. From your train carriage, the scenic views are paired with amazing onboard experiences. You can watch live Peruvian music and dance performances, feast on a three-course gourmet meal, and have a spot of afternoon tea. The highlight? Enjoying a Peruvian cocktail on the semi-open observatory Bar Car.

Once in Puno, don’t miss a visit to the mystical Uros Floating Islands. These islands are home to the indigenous Uros people who have made their homes entirely out of totora reeds.

9. Bernina Express, Switzerland and Italy

A woman and child admiring the view rom their train window on the Bernina Express
The snowy mountain view outside the Bernina Express
Image: Jet10701716970/Tripadvisor

Travel time: 1.5 to 4.5 hours

Train journeys: From Chur or St. Moritz to Tirano or Poschiavo (and vice versa)

Ride the Bernina Express and explore the snowy Swiss Alps from your warm train cabin. You’ll ride on Europe’s highest railway tracks, across UNESCO World Heritage Sites, over the magnificent Landwasser Viaduct, and past natural wonders like Lago Bianco and Palü Glacier.

Take the 4.5-hour classic route that connects Chur in Switzerland to the Italian town of Tirano. At this small commune next to the Switzerland-Italy border, you’ll get to visit historic sights like the Santuario della Beata Vergine di Tirano, an ornate church with interesting historical artifacts and intricately painted ceilings. If you’re in Milan, take a day trip to St. Moritz with the Bernina Express tour package. It includes a tour of St. Moritz, round-trip transfers, and hotel pick-ups to and from your accommodation in Milan.

10. Coast Starlight Train, United States

The interior of the Coast Starlight train
View of a lake from the window of the Coast Starlight Train
Image: vb22/Tripadvisor (left), Marco/Tripadvisor (right)

Travel time: 35 hours

Train journeys: From Seattle to Los Angeles (and vice versa)

Given that this train route runs daily, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t experience the Amtrak Coast Starlight Train at least once in your lifetime. This West Coast train adventure takes you from Seattle to Los Angeles, passing by stunning sights, from the snowcapped peaks of the Cascade Range and Mount Shasta to the Golden Gate Bridge and the sandy beaches of Santa Barbara.

Don’t worry, all meals are provided for on the train, including a three-course dinner menu featuring seasonal ingredients. There are coach class seats available but consider treating yourself to a good night’s sleep during the long journey ahead with their Superliner rooms and suites that come with convertible beds. If you need to stretch your legs on the 35-hour journey, hop off at San Luis Obispo in California for a wine tasting in a vineyard or outdoor adventures at Klamath Falls in Oregon.

11. The Ghan, South Australia and Northern Territory

The Ghan on its train journey through the countryside of Australia
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Travel time: Two to four days

Train journeys: From Darwin to Adelaide (and vice versa), and Darwin or Adelaide to Alice Springs

The Ghan is an incredibly epic and luxurious once-in-lifetime experience that takes you on a journey through Australia. Go for the four-day cross-country expedition that will take you from Darwin in the Top End, all the way to Adelaide down south, passing through some of the most remote parts of Australia. You can explore more of the Australian outback with off-train experiences to Katherine and Coober Pedy, or opt for the shorter train expeditions that end in Alice Springs, a perfect base to explore the Red Centre.

Onboard, you’ll be treated to regionally inspired meals and world-class wines aboard the stylish cabins. Then take the conversations to the social lounges, fully stocked with games, books, and booze for endless fun. For ultimate luxury, go for the Platinum experience which includes cabins with expansive window views, ensuite bathrooms, and personalized service.

12. Deccan Odyssey, India

The dining car of the Deccan Odyssey train
A bartender in the bar car of the Deccan Odyssey train
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Travel time: 15 days

Train journeys: From Delhi to Mumbai, or Mumbai to Kolkata or Hyderabad (or vice versa)

Journey across India on the luxurious Deccan Odyssey. Watch the diverse landscapes of India unfold before you as you relax in the glamorous cabins and dig into decadent Indian and international dishes. If you ever get bored of the views, the train even has a sauna and spa where you can get a traditional Ayurvedic massage, a gym, and even a hair salon.

For majestic palaces and cultural wonders, the “Splendours of Nothern India” route will take you from Delhi to Mumbai, through the scenic lakes in Udaipur and of course, the extravagant Taj Mahal in Agra. If sunkissed beaches and sunsets are more of your thing, the “Madras Mail” route might be perfect for you, passing through the coastal cities of Goa, Kochi, and Pondicherry en route to Hyderabad from Mumbai.

Megan Michael
Megan is a current student at the National University of Singapore studying Communications and New Media along with Japanese Studies. She's written articles for the NUS Japanese Studies Society, NUS CNM Types, TripZilla, and The Straits Times. If she's not drinking yet another iced Americano then she's probably trying (her best) to learn Japanese or trying some new TikTok dance trend.