Scenic railway journeys are a great way to explore. Train travel is comfortable, safe and allows you to travel slowly and relish the natural beauty right outside your window. Here is a collection of train trips in Australia, New Zealand, Africa and the Americas that you will want to make a part of your next great scenic railway journeys.
If you’re visiting Melbourne in Australia, then don’t miss the chance to ride on one of the world’s best-preserved steam railways.
For over 100 years passengers have enjoyed riding Puffing Billy through the Dandenong Ranges – a National Park of outstanding beauty. Hang your legs out of the carriages and feel the refreshing rainforest air rush by as you travel through towering forests and lush fern glades.
Puffing Billy runs on its original 24km track between Belgrave and Gembrook and is a wonderful way to take a step back in time and experience the region.
Bryony blogs at Coasting Australia
Rovos Rail Train
A trip on the world’s most luxurious train, the Rovos Rail, is an incredible experience that has to be at the very top of every Travel Bucket List. Rovos Rail routes zigzag their way across southern Africa from Cape Town to Pretoria and down to Durban as well as the incredible Victoria Falls and even on to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.
During the day watch the world whizz by from the open deck at the rear of the train while enjoying an ice-cold cocktail or a traditional gin & tonic. Step off the train to explore interesting historical towns (such as Kimberley and Matjiesfontein in the Karoo of South Africa), enjoy a safari game drive in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands or get drenched by the spray of the world’s largest waterfall, Victoria Falls. Then retire to your luxurious carriage for an afternoon nap, gently rocked to sleep by the movement of the train. In the evening expect linen napkins, crystal glass wear, and dressing for dinner.
A trip on this train not only takes you through some of the most majestic African scenery, but it also transports you back in time to an era where the pace of travel was slow and the experience of the journey was savored. This is truly one of the world’s great scenic railway journeys.
Kathryn blogs at Becoming You
New Zealand’s TranzAlpine rail
The TranzAlpine rail is New Zealand’s most famous and scenic train ride, and largely considered one of the most beautiful train rides in the entire world. Although it runs from Christchurch to Greymouth on New Zealand’s South Island, many people like it so much that they make a day of it and take a round trip! If you’re making your way across the country, it’s the perfect excuse to take a scenic bypass from the east coast to the west on your way to Franz Josef.
The train ride itself takes about 4.5 hours with a scenic stop at Arthur’s Pass along the way. Beyond the beautiful views you’ll see out your seat window, there are plenty of snacks and food available for purchase and, best of all, an open viewing car for a full panoramic view of the stunning scenery! If you’re hoping to get the best shots possible, it’s recommended to stake out an early space in the viewing car as it gets filled up quite quickly along the route!
It’s hard to resist the opportunity to experience one of the world’s most scenic railway journeys in one of the most scenic countries in the world, and the TranzAlpine rail offers all of it!
Tim blogs at Annual Adventure
Indian Pacific train
After the GHAN train which is the most popular Australian train journey, the Indian Pacific train is also a must if you love train travel. The train rides a couple of days a week from the East to the West Coast, traversing the country from Sydney to Perth and vice-versa. After experiencing the Ghan a couple of times, in 2014 I went on the Indian Pacific train from Adelaide to Perth. These 2-day-train-journey takes you across the Nullarbor Desert, a huge flat and arid region, where the train stops at Cook, 830 km west of Port Augusta, a truly isolated village with a population of 4. Kalgoorlie, the largest mining town in Australia is the next stop, where you can tour the Kalgoorlie’s Super-Pit, a unique experience which will leave you gaping!
The whole train journey offers an onboard gourmet experience by savoring the most fabulous food of Austraila. If you travel in Gold and Platinum cabins you also get special treats in the lounge bar, by sitting down, relaxing and sipping a glass of wine or beer and marveling at the magnificent Outback landscape. This truly unique experience is one of the best scenic railway journeys and one that you must try when visiting Australia.
Michela blogs at Rocky Travel
Premier Classe deluxe train of Shosholoza Meyl
Imagine the wide and pale landscape in the middle of nowhere of Africa. Once in a while, you might see a little house at the very far end of the one-way-street that is making its way through the rough and dusty no-man’s-land. Hey there, South Africa, you look awesome here in between Johannesburg and Cape Town. On our last trip to the most southern tip of the African continent, we opted for an unforgettable train-ride and do not regret it. The famous “Premier Classe deluxe train of Shosholoza Meyl” took us from Johannesburg 1600 km down south to Cape Town – within 26 hours. What started with a glass of champagne in the bar, went to a three-course-meal right to a perfect breakfast with a view – only topped with our first sights of Cape Town’s Table Mountain. It’s definitely worth a ride, which gives you an understanding of South Africa’s wideness and its surprising landscape.
Clemens Sehi blogs at Travellers Archive
There aren’t many train trips that take you across an entire continent – The Ghan in Australia is one of them.
The journey takes you 3000 kilometres between Darwin, in the north of the country, and Adelaide, in the south. The track roughly follows the path that European pioneers took about 150 years ago as they explored inland Australia.
Although some people use The Ghan merely as a mode of transportation, the cheap seats no longer exist so a trip will cost between AU$1500 – $5000. For this price, though, you do get a luxury experience and some incredible sights along the way.
The Ghan is designed to show people the Outback of Australia along the way. The train does a lot of the travel overnight and there are stops during the day for excursions to see places like Nitmiluk Gorge, Alice Springs and Coober Pedy.
Back on board, meals are served in dining rooms and there are lounges that offer complimentary drinks. Out the window, the steamy tropics of the north of Australia slowly turn into the red desert of the centre of the country, before being replaced by the green fields in the south.
Michael blogs at Time Travel Turtle
Huancayo to Huancavelica, Peru
Despite it leaving at six o’clock in the morning, I was pleased to leave the bustle of Huancayo on a train towards smaller Huancavelica. The journey was exceptionally slow. We trundled around corners as the ever-changing landscapes spread out beyond the windows; chugging noisily through the valley, startled llamas and sheep in our wake.
Huancavelica was described in my second-hand guidebook as the ‘poorest town in Peru’. I don’t know how this was calculated, but it certainly didn’t come across that way. Filled with ornate churches and picturesque plazas, the streets were clean and people spoke to us with interest. It is unusual for tourists to make it this far into Peru’s Central Highlands, but the mountains and their people made us welcome.
Katie Featherstone blogs at Feathery Travels
Cuban Hershey Train
The Cuban ‘Hershey Train’ is really one of a kind! The old train connecting the industrial city of Matanzas with Havana runs completely on electricity. The line, about 90 kilometers long, was built by chocolate giant Hershey in 1916 in order to transport sugar from the plantations to the capital. Nowadays, it is a unique way of crossing the country, bumpy but very nostalgic! Not only does the train feel like a rolling museum, the staff is also extremely friendly and might just decide to let you maneuver the train for a while. Another great thing about the train is that it spits you out right at one of Havana’s most stunning sites, the Castillo de Los Tres Reyes del Morro.
The train usually runs three times a day, that is, if it actually runs. It is so old that it is sometimes broken. Bring some patience!
Marco blogs at Life is a Trip
The Rocky Mountaineer between Banff and Vancouver
The Rocky Mountaineer’s First Passage to the West route runs between Banff and Vancouver in western Canada. The two-day train journey pauses in the city of Kamloops, where guests disembark for a night in a hotel.
The route is noteworthy for the scenery that can be viewed underway. Perhaps most dramatically, the luxury train runs through the Canadian Rockies where spiral tunnels facilitate a gradual drop of altitude. The line runs alongside the Fraser River, in which prospectors once panned for gold, and through arid desert scenery west of Kamloops.
Grizzly bears, bighorn sheep and bald eagles count among the creatures that might be spotted from the train’s panoramic dome windows on the upper-floor of bi-level GoldLeaf Service cars. A selection of delicious cuisine, made with regional produce, is served at mealtimes in the dining car on the lower level.
A combination of attentive service, quality food, comfortable seating and impressive scenery make the Rocky Mountaineer’s passage between Alberta and British Columbia a truly memorable train ride, one of the world’s great scenic railway journeys.
Stuart blogs at Go Eat Do
The California Zephyr
When I finished the John Muir Trail, I hopped on Amtrak’s California Zephyr line in Reno. I was heading up to Chicago to visit some friends. Little did I know how much I would see on the train!
As it turns out, the California Zephyr is considered the most scenic train ride in the United States. We passed through a multitude of landscapes, from dusty deserts riddled with sagebrush to the red iron-rich mountains along the Colorado River. At times I looked out at those rock formations, at all the lines of color from various ores, and thought how they looked like a layer cake. You get a great look at the Rocky Mountains. And if you were to continue past Reno toward San Francisco, you also get to traverse the Sierra Nevada. On this trip I had the pleasure of seeing large jackrabbits grazing and even witnessed a wild horse nursing her foal!
This was such an amazing train ride and passes through so many major U.S. cities. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to see the diversity of this landscape.
Karen Looney-Patterson blogs at Evergreenawakening
The Canadian Rockies
A winter train ride through the Canadian Rockies was a very special adventure for my mother and me on our Mother-Daughter holiday. Starting our journey in Vancouver British Columbia we hopped on our train. This was an overnight excursion so the first thing we did was check out our accommodations for the night, our sleeper car. How do they manage to put two bunks, a sink and toilet area in such a small space? Needless to say, we had a good laugh.
The meals were taken in the dining car where we enjoyed meeting and talking with other travelers from all over the world. However, the best part was the observation car with the clear glass ceilings and windows. The views were spectacular! The mountains and tall pines covered with undisturbed snow were so beautiful it was breathtaking. It was a true winter wonderland. Helping fulfill my mother’s bucket list item was a pure pleasure!
Sherrie blogs at Travel by a Sherrie Affair
El Chepe, Copper Canyon, Mexico
Did you know the Copper Canyon in the Mexican state of Chihuahua is three times bigger than the Grand Canyon in the U.S. state of Arizona? Well, it is! And it’s spectacular. You can see one of the great scenic railway journeys in all its glory from a train called El Chepe. El Chepe climbs up to 2400 meters above sea level. It crosses 37 bridges and goes through 86 tunnels.
El Chepe travels from Los Mochis to Chihuahua and takes 16 hours to complete the full journey at a cost of about US$130. However, passengers can stop along the way to explore the area, engage in adventure activities or sleep over and continue the journey the next day. The train offers first and second-class options, a snack bar and comfortable seats.
The engineering required to construct the trail was so difficult that it was canceled several times before finally completed in 1961. But the effort was certainly worth it as the scenery is unparalleled.
Train at the End of the World, Patagonia
At the southernmost tip of South America in the Argentinian Patagonia lies Tierra del Fuego National Park, the southernmost national park on earth. This large park is home to many species of flora and fauna. To see it all, visitors can take the “Train at the End of the World” for the $42 adult fare. The train is a picturesque steam engine that travels around the park’s valleys, waterfalls, rolling hills and two large bays.
There are three daily departures depending on the season. The seats are comfortable and the cabins are heated. Audio guides provide an interesting narrative in several languages. But the big draw, of course, is the spectacular scenery drifting by outside your window.
Talek Nantes blogs at Travels with Talek
Which of the world’s great scenic railway journeys do you want to try first?
And be sure to check out Part 2 of Great Scenic Railway Journeys if you missed it.