There is a well-deserved romance around train journeys, never failing to charm with their old-world elegance. Train journeys often take one to the uncharted expanses, where everyday roads might not lead to. Further enhancing their appeal, these journeys can be one of the most rewarding experiences, especially when travelling aboard a luxury train that comes in the form of extravagant opulence on wheels. From personal valets to magnificent suites, gourmet services, spas and gyms and even more, one can have it all onboard these trains.
Total distance: 2,740 km
Time: 6 days
Season: Mid-March to early November
Fares: From USD 19,000
By far the most famous train in the world, the Orient Express, which was also the first luxury train, is nothing short of a legend on wheels. It has been featured as prominently as a star in over a dozen well-known films, most notably in the numerous adaptations of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.
The train which began in 1883 is now set to undergo an overhaul that will especially please those nostalgic about the good old days as it will wear the same look as it did in the 1920s.
According to the website of the company, from 2025, travellers can relive the legend aboard the 17 original cars, called Nostalgie-Istanbul-Orient-Express, that date back to over a century. The redesign, which blends nostalgia with contemporary luxury standards, has been executed by French architect Maxime d’Angeac.
These cabins feature ensuite bathroom and shower, small sitting area and fixed double or twin beds. Grand Suite guests also get free-flowing champagne in their cabins. Commencing the journey from Paris to Istanbul, it heads south through Lausanne, Simplon, Milan, Venice, Belgrade and Sofia before arriving in Istanbul. The European Grand Tours evoke nostalgia, reinstating legendary journeys of the golden age of travel and providing slow, meaningful travel experiences.
Onboard culinary experience encompasses three exquisite dining cars, namely Étoile du Nord, which is mostly decorated with marquetry, L’Oriental, with walls painted in colourful animals and Chinese lacquer, and Côte d’Azur, which has Lalique crystal insets.
Eurasia: Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express
Total distance: 11,000 km
Time: 15 days
Across the crossroads of Eurasia, the Golden Eagle plies on one of the longest railway routes on the planet, crossing almost all of Eurasia. Starting in Moscow, the Trans-Siberian Express traverses through the Urals, magnificent Russian steppes and wind-swept tundra, shores of Lake Baikal, beyond Asia to the Sea of Japan, before concluding in Vladivostok. There are 87 cities and 16 major rivers on the Trans-Siberian route.
In this 15-day tour, the itinerary includes many Russian treasures like Kremlin, St Basil’s Cathedral and Café Pushkin, which is packed with Russian socialist art, Kazan, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, the ‘Paris of Siberia’ to move on to Ulan Ude and Ulaan Baatar. The voyage explores some of the remotest expanses on earth, a maximum of 75 passengers can be accommodated on board though most departures travel with fewer people. The Golden Eagle private train presents luxury amenities such as en-suite cabins, elegant surroundings, personal cabin attendant service, standard first-class services and Michelin-star gourmet experiences. Aboard this deluxe train experience, visitors are treated to Private Rail Cruising experiences as the journey covers a tapestry of culture across the destinations against cinematic landscapes. The routes are currently unavailable due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Africa: Rovos Rail, Cape Town-Dar es Salaam
Total distance: 5,530km
Time: 15 nights
Season: All year round
Fares: USD 23,600 for Pullman Gold
Established in 1989, the Rovos Rail’s Pride of Africa journey is a 15-night private rail tour along 5,530 km that stretches across the wilderness of South Africa and Botswana, touching Zimbabwe at Victoria Falls, and crosses Zambia to Tanzania.
Rovos accommodates a maximum of 72 passengers in the opulence of its most ‘Spartan’ Pullman Gold Suites, standard Deluxe Suites and the Royal Suites, which take up half a train car. Until the Maharajas’ Express in India came on line, the Royal Suites were the largest train suites in the world. From Kimberley’s diamonds to ‘big five’ game drives, from the very British Victoria Falls Hotel to Africa’s Great Rift Valley, every day is a surprise for thrill-seekers on this Africa voyage.
South America: Belmond Hiram Bingham
Time: 10 nights for the ‘Best of Peru’ itinerary
Season: May to December
This iconic train is named after the American explorer who rediscovered the Inca citadel in 1911. Its Pullman-style carriages carry up to 84 guests. Hiram Bingham was launched in 2003 to escort guests lavishly high into the Andes. Today, the travel begins from Cusco, a city in the Peruvian Andes, the Hiram Bingham follows an exquisite journey into the Lost City of Machu Picchu.
From the turquoise still waters of Lake Titicaca to Lima’s bustling gastronomy, over 10 nights, the trip dives deep into Peruvian culture, famous attractions and tiny, traditional villages. It sweeps across the Sacred Valley and up to the entrance of Machu Picchu, offering exquisite Peruvian cuisine and guided tours to the ruins.
The Hiram Bingham departs from Poroy station near Cusco from May to December while direct journeys from Rio Sagrado to Machu Picchu are available from January to April.
Central Asia: Golden Eagle Almaty Tashkent Ancient Silk Road
Golden Eagle’s Caspian odyssey along the ancient Silk Road travels from Almaty to Tashkent twice a year, in April and October, through a fascinating patchwork of countries. This 14-day adventure unveils a glimpse into the mosques and bustling bazaars of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan to the verdant expanse and tranquil landscapes of Tajikistan and Kazakhstan.
Total distance: 643 km
Time: 14 days
Season: April & October
Starting fares: USD 103,895 for Single Imperial Suite
Featuring all the classic Golden Eagle amenities, the wide tree-lined boulevards of Almaty with Tien Shan Mountains as the backdrop, the train flags off the journey to head on to Lake Issyk-Kul and Bishkek, Darvaza and Ashgabat to Merv, Bukhara, Dushanbe and Samarkand before heading back to Tashkent.
North America: Rocky Mountaineer
Total distance: 450 kilometers
Time: 13 days
Season: Mid-April to mid-October
Starting fares: USD 12,299 for GoldLeaf Deluxe
The Rocky Mountaineer is a circular route that begins in Calgary and ends in Vancouver. Traversing the Continental Divide, this route winds through mountain passes and dramatic canyons of Jasper, Lake Louise and Banff in between. The itinerary includes four days of travelling the Icefields Parkway, one of the world’s most scenic drives, with a stop at the Columbia Icefield, Lake Louise, half-day tour of Yoho National Park with Emerald Lake and the Spiral Tunnels and sightseeing in Banff including the Banff Gondola. This luxury train experience features bi-level glassdome coaches, a gourmet culinary experience with views of the majestic wildlife everywhere.
Asia: Seven Stars in Kyushu
Total distance: 3,000 km
Time: 4 days
Season: All year round
Starting fares: Flexible
Called the Japanese version of the Orient Express, the Seven Stars in Kyushu in Japan is a deluxe liner that boasts Japanese hospitality, or omotenashi. It features a lounge car, salon car, tea room, bar, and even a gallery shop with 10 staterooms and a maximum of 20 guests. This year marks its 10th anniversary. The four-day Kirishima route runs east from Fukuoka to Oita Prefecture, south to Kagoshima Prefecture and then back up through Oita, returning to Fukuoka. The train is equipped with two deluxe suites, each measuring 17 sqm and featuring rosewood accents, vaulted ceilings, and screens that divide the sitting area from the bedroom.
Australia: The Ghan
Total distance: 2,979 km
Season: March to November, April to October
Fares: From USD 3,555 for Gold Twin suites
Promising access to parts of Australia that are barely traversed, in wide open spaces, the Ghan, since 1929, offers transit in opulence between Adelaide to Darwin and vice versa. From the Northern Territory, Top End’s tropical greens, the rusty Red Centre give way to the pastoral hues of South Australia’s plains and hills. While travelling, visitors can also take whistle stop tours to see the well-known outback villages of Katherine and Alice Springs. For guests travelling between April and October, the journey takes an extra day and night, called the Ghan Expedition. An extra stop in South Australia’s Manguri is included in it for a day trip to the world’s opal mining capital in South Australia, where many residents live underground.