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Unforgettable Luxury Train Experiences That Will Set You on the Right Track

By AFAR Editors

05.31.18

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Sometimes the best way to see a place is from the rails.
Photo by Gritsana P/Shutterstock

Sometimes the best way to see a place is from the rails.

Whether you’re drawn to sky-scraping rails through the Andes, a cultural tour of Kyushu, or a leisurely ride designed for kings, these lavish train rides ensure you’ll take the scenic route in style.

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Kyushu Seven Stars


Japan

For the utmost in elegance and style in luxury train travel, look no further than the Seven Stars train in Kyushu, Japan. Each room is a suite in this decadent fusion of Japanese and Western design, incorporating polished wood, intricate fabric designs, and plush bedding. Passengers experience Kyushu’s scenery both from the train and on foot: Each journey includes sightseeing tours and visits with local artisans. —Nicole Antonio

Hop onto the Belmond Andean Explorer in Cusco.
Belmond Andean Explorer
Peru

Traveling one of the world’s highest rail routes will get a lot cushier with last May’s launch of the Belmond Andean Explorer, South America’s first luxury sleeper train. The 34 cabins were designed to be cozy respites, outfitted with handwoven local fabrics and alpaca-wool blankets. On guided one- or two-night itineraries that stop in Cusco, Lake Titicaca, and Arequipa, guests will feast on Peruvian-inspired meals in one of two dining cars and sip pisco sours on the open-air deck while watching the Andes go by.
Jennifer Flowers
Editor’s note: This appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of AFAR.

Bernina Express


Switzerland

Make your way from Switzerland to Italy via the Bernina Express, the highest railway across the Alps. On this journey, passengers traverse a variety of landscapes, cultures, and altitudes, whirring past Alpine vistas and charming fishing villages alike. Whether you’re gazing over a stone trellis or winding through wine country, this luxury train experience will uniquely flavor your European experience. —Nicole Antonio

The Most Epic Way to See Switzerland Is by Train

Maharajas’ Express


India

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If you’re looking for a Wes Anderson recreation, this is no Darjeeling Limited. With lavish decor and plush amenities, Maharajas’ Express instills a sense of grandeur in each passenger. From fine dining to memorable views, the royal ride does not disappoint. —Nicole Antonio

Swanky digs onboard the Blue Train
The Blue Train
South Africa

Cover 994 miles in style on this 27-hour ride across South Africa. Running a regular route between Cape Town and Pretoria, the speakeasy-like train includes cushy suites with goose-down duvets and a lounge where you can take in the view with other passengers while enjoying a bottle of sherry. —Nicole Antonio

The Transcantábrico Gran Lujo


Spain

Return to the golden age of train travel on an eight-day, seven-night trip on Renfe’s Transcantábrico Gran Lujo, which runs from Santiago de Compostela to San Sebastián in northern Spain. Its Pullman coaches from 1923 lend a vintage flair to the experience, which features spacious two-room suites, live performances and parties in the evenings, and daily excursions along the route. Another highlight? The opportunity to taste the flavors of each region through which the train passes—Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria, and Basque Country—both onboard and offsite. —Sara Button

The Rocky Mountaineer pulls into its stop near Whistler.
The Rocky Mountaineer
Canada

See the Canadian Rockies in all their snow-capped glory, and maybe catch a glimpse of bears, bald eagles, and moose through the domed windows of the Rocky Mountaineer. The dramatic landscape of Western Canada is the star on all four of the line’s unique routes; choose from dozens of itineraries that range between two to 13 days. Cozy hotel stays along the way, Zodiac tours, and helicopter sightseeing adventures also make the journey top-notch. —Sara Button

A stop along Lake Baikal is one of the most memorable parts of the Trans-Siberian journey.
Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express
Russia

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The Trans-Siberian railroad is the longest rail journey in the world, stretching more than 5,000 miles between Moscow and Vladivostok. So for a world-record experience, hop onto the Trans-Siberian Express with Golden Eagle. Cross the Ural Mountains, visit the deepest lake on Earth, or simply enjoy the view from the windows of your cabin. If you’re feeling social, head to the bar car, where along with sipping a beverage you can take part in activities like Russian language lessons or, in the evenings, the musical stylings of the onboard pianist playing a baby grand. —Sara Button

Eastern & Oriental Express


Southeast Asia

Embrace the romance of train travel on Goway’s Bangkok to Singapore Luxury Train Experience. As the train curves south from Bangkok through the Malay Peninsula to Singapore, take in the scenery from the window of your private cabin, or in the bar car, serenaded by its resident pianist. The 1,200-mile route connects some of the most legendary cities in Southeast Asia (including Langkawi, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, and Malacca), and guided tours at two stations along the way allow you to travel beyond the tracks. —Jill K. Robinson
Editor’s Note: This appeared in the July/August 2018 issue.

>>Next: Why a Train Trip Across the U.S. Is the Fastest Way to Slow Down

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