Astonishing landscapes, uncharted little towns, historic routes… Traveling on these trains is a totally life-changing experience.
What do you think of when you see the best train trips in the world written down? If for you traveling means simply going from A to B, you are probably thinking of modern, comfortable and fast trains. But if you are like us, frequent travelers and constant dreamers, your idea of an unforgettable train journey has more to do with long, old routes, wagons full of history and inaccessible places. Then the following list is for you.
Scenic train rides on each continent
1. Europe: The Bergensbanen, Norway
Trains, as we know them today, were invented in Europe, so it is not surprising that the Old Continent is dotted with emblematic routes, such as the Orient Express or the Trans-Siberian. But there are others that are as little known as spectacular.
The one that connects Norway's capital Oslo with the country's second largest city, Bergen, is one of them. It takes 6 hrs 30 mins to travel its 496 km (308 miles) while crossing mighty rivers, inhospitable mountains, snowy plains and a total of 182 tunnels. A window seat on this train is mandatory.
2. Asia: The Reunification Express, Vietnam
This railroad suffered the destruction caused by the Vietnam War. It was not until 1976, when the country was reunified, that the service covering the journey between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City was relaunched, covering a distance of 1726 km (1072 miles) that can take approximately two days to complete.
The journey is full of contrasts: its origin and end takes place in the heart of two overcrowded cities, while in the middle you pass through desert jungles, traditional villages anchored in another era and terrifying cliffs.
3. Oceania: TranzAlpine, New Zealand
Although it's hard to believe, most of the overwhelming outdoor scenarios in which The Lord of the Rings takes place belong to the same place: New Zealand. And most of them can be seen from this train on a journey that takes just four and a half hours.
The train departs from the town of Christchurch and heads northwest through the Canterbury Plains, the Waimakariri River and the Arthur's Pass National Park mountains. After 223 km (139 miles) it arrives at its destination, Greymouth, a city that used to be dedicated to gold mining.
4. Africa: Rovos Rail’s Namibia Safari, South Africa
While most of the trains in this list have the traditional first class/tourist class categories, this one is truly a luxury hotel on rails, with its wagons exquisitely decorated like in the 1920s.
The experience, which lasts a total of nine days, begins in Pretoria and stops at breathtaking places: Kimberley, a city home to one of the world's largest diamond mines, the Fish River Canyon, the Kalahari Desert or the perfectly preserved 19th-century German Hansa town of Swakopmund..
5. America: Belmond Hiram Bingham, Peru
Born in the United States, Hiram Bingham is inevitably linked to Peru. It was this explorer who in 1911 rediscovered the Inca city of Machu Picchu, one of the wonders of the world and the main tourist attraction of that country.
In his honor, this luxury train takes his name. It departs from the capital, Cuzco, and reaches Machu Picchu itself, crossing the Sacred Valley and running parallel to the Urubamba River. Inside you can enjoy the varied Peruvian cuisine, works of art and panoramic views from his Observation Car.
Train travel tips for long journeys
Have you already decided which of the above best train trips will be your next adventure? If you're not sure, but you still know that you'll soon have a long journey ahead of you, perhaps these tips will help you make it easier.
Keep your luggage light
Most trains don't have the same baggage restrictions as airplanes, but that doesn't mean you can take everything you want. While most of them allow one to two large suitcases per passenger, in some countries such as Japan space is strictly limited. Find out before packing your luggage if you don't want to travel with it between your legs.
Sitting for several hours can be exhausting, even on trains. That's why the best decision is to wear comfortable clothes and put in the suitcase some objects that can help you feel at home, such as a travel blanket or a pillow OSTRICHPILLOW GO, which takes up little space and adapts to each type of neck thanks to its memory foam core.
Views from the train are wonderful. But if you travel at night or in an aisle seat, you may not enjoy them much and need something to pass the time. Infotainment systems are not so common on trains, so it's best to carry a good book, a tablet or a fully charged mobile phone. Best train trips are better shared!.
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Header photo by Roland Lösslein on Unsplash