The Royal Scotsman in the Sottish Highlands (Belmond Royal Scotsman)
List Words : Wanderlust team | 05 October

All aboard! 7 unique rail journeys you’ll want to book now

Experience the romance of rail travel in some of the most stunning locations on the planet

1. Travel the Trans-Siberian in style

Forget trying to fathom rail timetables in Cyrillic or Mandarin. You deserve to travel the world’s longest railway like a Romanov – aboard a luxurious private Imperial train, where your every need is catered for. Your biggest decision will be whether to have caviar with your blinis. Or not.

Imperial train beside Lake Baikal (Regent Holidays)

Imperial train beside Lake Baikal (Regent Holidays)

Departing from Moscow, the Imperial Express stops in the grand Siberian cities of Kazan, Yekaterinburg and Novosibirsk, as well as on the shores of Lake Baikal, where you’ll enjoy a picnic and discover the pretty village of Listvyanka. You’ll learn how to erect a yurt in Mongolia and explore the beautiful landscape in Terelj National Park. 

On arriving in Beijing – refreshed and relaxed ­– you’ll be treated to a private tour of the Great Wall and feted with a traditional Duck Banquet. 

Make it happen …

Trans-Siberian Moscow To Beijing By Imperial Russia Train, Regent Holidays

15 day; depart Moscow, (finish Beijing)

What makes it special: It’s long. And luxurious.

2. Get on track for a Canadian winter wonderland

The Canadian is one of the most famous trains in the world, and so beloved by Canadians that it appears on the their $10 bill. Renowned for its friendly service, world class food and huge windows, a journey into the heart of the Canadian Rockies aboard this train is extraordinary at any time of the year. In winter, it is truly memorable.

Train tracks in winter, Canadian Rockies (Dreamstime)

Train tracks in winter, Canadian Rockies (Dreamstime)

From the moment you depart Vancouver, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views on every side. Upon reaching the stunning Jasper National Park, the experience goes up another notch, with the opportunity to dive into the landscape with a guided hike along the frozen floor of the beautiful Maligne Valley. 

From Jasper, you'll journey by road to Lake Louise, one of Canada's most photographed attractions, to enjoy an evening sleigh ride and then on to Banff and a guided snowshoe hike to Marble Canyon.

Make it happen …

Winter Rockies Tour: Vancouver To Calgary, Wexas Travel

11 days; depart UK, (round-trip)

What makes it special: A warm introduction to spectacular Rockies’ winter

3. Enjoy a highland fling with a Royal Scotsman

Some may insist on taking the high road in Scotland, but those in the know take the train. The luxurious Royal Scotsman is the perfect way to enjoy the spectacular Highlands scenery, single malt in hand.  Settle down in a comfortable sofa or armchair, or step out onto the open air veranda of the observation car as castles, villages and glens glide past.

You'll complete a 720-mile loop through some of Scotland's most spectacular scenery, with opportunities to take part in traditional Highland pastimes like fishing, clay pigeon shooting and whisky-tasting along the way. Back on board, you’ll dine on world class cuisine, rich with Scottish specialties. 

There are never more than 36 guests onboard, so a high level of personal service is assured.

Make it happen …

The Royal Scotsman, Wexas Travel

5 days; depart Edinburgh, Scotland, (round-trip)

What makes it special: The scenery and the service

4. China by high speed train

Forget Japan’s Shinkansen. China has the world’s longest High Speed Rail (HSR) network. Indeed, it’s a network that is longer than the rest of the world's high-speed rail tracks combined. Using the latest HSR technology, the Chinese trains are among the most advanced in the world.

High speed train in China (Dreamstime)

High speed train in China (Dreamstime)

It’s a fast, convenient and thrilling way to see the highlights of China. You’ll zip from Beijing to the terracotta warriors in Xian, to the famous Kung Fu monks of Shaolin Temple and then through the stunning karst scenery of the Guilin region to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong. All by train and taking less time than if you had to check into airports and fly by plane.

Make it happen …

China By High Speed Train, TravelLocal

13 days; depart Beijing, China (finish Hong Kong)

What makes it special: Fast, modern, comfortable – and environmentally friendly too.

5. Northern Lights rail

All aboard the Polar Express. This nine-day train journey through wintery mountains and past tiny Scandinavian towns is designed to get you deep into the heart of icy Lapland and maximise your chances of seeing the elusive Northern Lights.

Northern Lights over Reine, Norway (Dreamstime)

Northern Lights over Reine, Norway (Dreamstime)

Starting in Oslo, you’ll head north to Norwegian Lapland and across to northern Sweden. You’ll get acquainted with small town life in winter here, disembarking to visit museums and take part in activities like snowshoeing and dog-sledding. A visit to the stunning Lofoten Islands, staying in quaint fishing cabins by the sea, is a highlight.  

Be sure to watch the sky for a chance to spot the Northern Lights in their full glory.

Make it happen …

Northern Lights & Artic Circle By Rail, G Adventures

9 days; depart Oslo, Norway (finish Kiruna, Sweden)

What makes it special: Dancing green lights from the comfort of your cabin

6.  Iran by private train

Onboard an exclusively chartered air-conditioned train, you’ll travel across lands where some of the world’s greatest kingdoms once rose and fell, embracing the enchanting colours and spices of ancient Persia through bustling bazaars and the silence of the deserts. Asleep in your cosy cabin on board, you travel to your next destination overnight, allowing you to explore each site in depth.

Isfahan at night (Dreamstime)

Isfahan at night (Dreamstime)

Departing from Tehran, you’ll travel to the ancient desert trading city of Kerman and explore the Persian paradise gardens and bustling bazaars of Shiraz, before completing a grand loop to Iran’s dynamic capital. As you traverse the barren Iranian plateau moonscape, you will have the opportunity to explore the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Pasargadae and Persepolis, as well as visiting the stunning, ornate blue-domed Shah Mosque in Isfahan.

Make it happen …

A Journey Through Persia By Train, Regent Holidays

12 days; depart Tehran, Iran (round-trip)

What makes it special: The best of Iran in airconditioned comfort

7. Southern Africa in luxury

The Rovos Rail's Pride of Africa is regarded as the world’s most luxurious trains. Each train comprises a maximum of 20 coaches, all beautifully rebuilt in traditional Edwardian style. Gourmet chefs prepare outstanding meals enhanced by the finest South African wines, with all requirements catered for by hostesses on duty around the clock.

The coffee bar on the Pride of Africa (Dreamstime)

The coffee bar on the Pride of Africa (Dreamstime)

Bookended by five-star stays in unforgettable Victoria Falls and equally stunning Cape Town, you will travel across Southern Africa in the luxurious Pullman Suite. From Victoria Falls Station in Zimbabwe you’ll travel southeast to Hwange National Park, where a game drive at The Hide awaits. Travelling along one of the world's longest stretches of railway, you’ll reach Bulawayo and then cross into Botswana. From there, at the end of a journey through some of the most stunning scenery on earth, Cape Town awaits.

Make it happen …

Victoria Falls, Rovos Rail and Cape Town, Wexas Travel

13 days; depart UK, (round-trip)

What makes it special: Stunning scenery and equally stunning service


Main image: The Royal Scotsman in the Sottish Highlands (Belmond Royal Scotsman)