8 Scenic Train Rides Around the World That Immerse You in Gorgeous Landscapes

While flight is the quickest form of travel, trains show you the world in a slower, more scenic fashion.

While road trips require the active focus of the driver, train travel has the unique advantage of a slow travel experience that is every bit as relaxing as it is rewarding. These eight domestic and international scenic train rides travel through some of the most beautiful places on the planet, from the Grand Canyon to the Swiss Alps.

A blue and gold train passes a small pond, with mountains in the background

Construction of the railroad started in 1903 and ended in 1923 when President Harding drove the golden spike into the line near Nenena, signifying the completion of the nearly 500 mile line.

Courtesy of Alaska Railroad/Mike Criss

1. Alaska Railroad

Alaska, USA

  • Start: Anchorage
  • End: Fairbanks
  • Distance: 356 miles
  • Time: 12 hours
  • Buy a ticket: alaskarailroad.com

Have you ever wanted to see Alaska‘s otherwordly splendor? Onboard the Alaska Railroad, take in the sights unobstructed from all angles of a domed car. With a daily schedule, the Denali Star route departs Anchorage for the 356-mile, 12-hour journey to Fairbanks, with stops in Wasilla, Talkeetna, and Denali National Park.

The train crosses the Knik River, backed by the Chugach Mountains. South of Talkeetna, catch views of Denali soaring above the Susitna River. And just north, the tracks veer into the backcountry Hurricane area with views of the snaking Indian River and Hurricane Gulch from the top of a 296-foot bridge. Broad Pass offers eye-popping views of the Alaska Range from all around.

2. The Blue Train

South Africa

  • Start: Pretoria
  • End: Cape Town
  • Distance: 994 miles
  • Time: 54 hours
  • Buy a ticket: bluetrain.co.za

South Africa‘s historic Blue Train covers nearly 1,000 miles of scenic track from Pretoria to Cape Town. It crosses the escarpment of the Cape Winelands with its vineyards and Cape Dutch towns and on to Cape Town. The train winds through the Great Karoo Desert, a sparsely populated area marked by vast open plains, savannah, and grassland, giving the whole experience a nostalgic feel—punctuated by fine wine and elevated meal service.

Red train crossing tracks during sunset.

The Ghan has been crossing the outback for more than 90 years.

Photo by Paul-Alain Hunt/Unsplash

3. The Ghan


Depart from Adelaide in South Australia for a three-day chug that includes vibrant greenery and rugged red desert. The journey crosses Australia from south to north, traversing dramatic gorges and curious rock formations of the ancient mountains of the Flinders Ranges. Moving through the outback, it passes through the Red Center, the region home to two of Australia’s best-known natural landmarks, Uluru and Kata Tjuta, and stops in Alice Springs in the middle of the remote desert. And then, as the train approaches the northern coast, the landscape changes to tropical forests and wetlands.

Grand Canyon offers a trip from Williams, Arizona, to the Grand Canyon on restored historic passenger cars.

Grand Canyon offers a trip from Williams, Arizona, to the Grand Canyon on restored historic passenger cars.

Photo courtesy of Grand Canyon Railway

4. Grand Canyon National Railway

Arizona, USA

  • Start: Williams
  • End: Williams
  • Distance: 130 miles
  • Time: 8 hours
  • Buy a ticket: thetrain.com

Once a means of transporting ore through the Wild West, the historically significant Grand Canyon Railway dates back to 1901. The full-day, 130-mile round-trip journey departs from Williams, Arizona, west of Flagstaff and heads to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim with abundant opportunities along the way to spot wildlife, including bald eagles, mountain lions, and elk, in addition to the dramatic canyon landscape. (Riders on this day trip also have plenty of time to get out and explore the area on foot.)

The Glacier Express train traveling over the mountains in Switzerland.

The Glacier Express travels through three cantons in Switzerland.

Photo by Andrew Spencer/Unsplash

5. Glacier Express


  • Start: Zermatt
  • End: St. Moritz
  • Distance: 180 miles
  • Time: 8 hours
  • Buy a ticket: glacierexpress.ch

The spectacular Glacier Express travels through the Swiss Alps between the alpine village of Zermatt and the holiday resort St. Moritz, weaving through natural landscapes and charming Swiss towns. The narrow train hugs the mountains and valleys for an immersive view of the countryside. It passes through Alpine landscapes at the base of the Matterhorn in the Valais region, heads up the Oberalp Pass (the route’s highest point at about 7,000 feet), and offers vistas of the Rhine Gorge, Switzerland’s version of the Grand Canyon. The iconic train has both panoramic and skylight windows for enjoying the scenery.

The Most Scenic Summer Train Rides in the World

All seats on the Rocky Mountaineer are in panoramic dome cars.

Photo by Chantal de Bruijne / Shutterstock.com

6. Rocky Mountaineer Rockies to the Red Rocks

Colorado, USA

Rocky Mountaineer operates luxury train experiences on various scenic North American routes, offering daylight-only rail journeys for maximum immersive viewing experiences. While the operator historically ran on the Canadian rails, this 2021-launched route showcases the majesty of the American West. The train runs alongside the Colorado River and through a series of canyons with dramatically steep and rugged rock walls as windows frame mountain vistas, desert cliffs, and rock formations. Keep your eyes open for bighorn sheep in the high passes.

Single-decker Pacific Surfliner train.

The Pacific Surfliner services more than 10 round trips between San Diego and Los Angeles daily.

Photo by arisdla/Unsplash

7. Pacific Surfliner

California, USA

Amtrak’s iconic Pacific Surfliner offers a 351-mile trip through San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties—29 stations in all—with stretches of the route abutting the coastline in Southern California. In addition to offering convenient urban stations (including Anaheim for Disneyland), it offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Southern California’s rolling hills. This trip makes for an enjoyable way to roll through the region’s diverse natural beauty—without the brake lights of gridlock traffic for which the area is also known.

8. West Highland Line


  • Start: Glasgow
  • End: Mallaig
  • Distance: 134 miles
  • Time: 5 hours 20 minutes
  • Buy a ticket: scotrail.co.uk

This scenic train ride leaves Glasgow to go deep into the west coast wilderness—passing through places where no roads were ever built. Take the West Highland Line to Mallaig to travel the Glenfinnan Viaduct used in the Harry Potter films for the Hogwarts Express. As you ride through a visually arresting landscape of steep-sided lochs, heather moors, and mountains, watch for red deer silhouetted against the skyline or camouflaged in the foliage. Some stations are exceptionally remote, with little else save expansive nature for miles around.

Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles–based writer and editor focusing on travel, lifestyle, entertainment, health, and events.
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