The Golden Age of luxury train travel evokes old-world images of opulent carriages, mahogany-lined cars, and slow-moving scenery at your fingertips. But this is no bygone era. Train travel is celebrating a revival with record numbers of people embracing the railway. The world’s 5-star train journeys are elevating the experience, with everything from personal butlers and Michelin-star dining to luxury suites with bathtubs and marble floors. If you love the journey as much as the destination, here are 7 of the world’s most luxurious train journeys to inspire your next adventure.
1. Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, Europe
As the grand dame of the world’s most luxurious train journeys, Belmond’s Venice Simplon Orient-Express will transport you back in time to the Golden Age of luxury train travel.
Inspired by the famous Agatha Christie novel, Belmond’s founder James B. Sherwood bought original British Pullman train carriages from the twenties and thirties and meticulously restored them to their former glory. Today, this 17-carriage luxury sleeper train rolls through some of Europe’s most captivating destinations from London and Paris, to Venice and Verona, to Budapest, Prague and Istanbul – and it’s still the height of glamorous train travel.
A ride aboard will have you welcomed by white-gloved stewards and glasses of champagne. Relax in your stylised art deco cabin, dripping in plush furnishings, gleaming polished wood, and old-world elegance. And when you’re ready to venture out, be sure to dress to the nines (there’s a dress code). You’ll sit down to dinner prepared by world-renowned chefs and indulge in seasonal ingredients sourced along the route, like truffles from Italy or lobster from France.
Then head to the bar car where the barmen shake up all manner of spritzes, sours, martinis and wines, all while the resident pianist plays the baby grand. After a night of revelry, a beautiful breakfast is delivered to your private cabin, so you can wake up and watch Europe passing your window.
Add a dose of timeless romance to our Ultimate Italy luxury guided tour by taking the overnight trip from Venice to Paris on the lavish Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.
2. The Rocky Mountaineer GoldLeaf Service, Canada
There are few other journeys as breathtaking as a train trip through West Canada – and the Rocky Mountaineer takes it to another level with their five-star Gold Leaf Service experience.
This luxurious train carves a path through the snowy peaks, dazzling lakes, dreamy meadows, and lush forests… And it ensures you don’t miss any of the extraordinary views with bi-level glass-domed cabins, full-length panoramic windows, and even an exclusive outdoor viewing platform where you can inch even further into nature.
You won’t want to blink as you meander through the Rockies, following the banks of the North Thomspon River and passing the highest peaks in the Canadian Rockies and the Continental Divide. Those paying close attention will likely be rewarded with sightings of elk, eagles, and even a bear. Back inside, you can recline in plush seats with a glass of wine, or head to the restaurant for gourmet meals of fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Each night, the train eases to a halt and you’ll spend the night in a luxurious hotel before returning to the train after breakfast the next morning to continue your spectacular adventure.
You can the Rocky Mountaineer GoldLeaf Service from Jasper to Vancouver, with a night in Kamloops, on our Majesty of the Rockies luxury guided tour.
3. The Royal Scotsman, UK
As the only luxury sleeper train in the UK, Belmond’s Royal Scotsman train offers a truly special experience. You’ll travel with no more than 36 passengers at a time as you roll through the magnificent mountains, lochs, castles and countryside of the Scottish Highlands.
Bundle up in a tartan wool blanket in your Edwardian-style suite as you voyage through the dramatic landscapes. Or sip a wee dram of Scotch whisky in the mahogany-lined dining car – the bar is stocked with more than 50 kinds of the world’s best whisky. You can even indulge in a massage, facial or manicure in the unique spa car for the most scenic spa experience in the UK.
The open-air veranda in the observation car will take you closer to nature and it’s a great spot to visit at night when the sky is lit up with stars and guests gather to share tales of their adventures.
You’ll climb aboard the Royal Scotsman on our British Royale luxury guided tour and travel from Edinburgh to London in first-class style through the picturesque English countryside.
4. The Blue Train, South Africa
Take an epic 27-hour, 1,600-kilometre journey across South Africa on the Blue Train, the country’s oldest luxury rail journey. Operating since the 1920s, the Blue Train is famed as the “window to the soul of South Africa” and that’s exactly what you’ll get – a window into the dynamic countryside stretching from the coasts of Cape of Town to the mountains of Pretoria.
The stunning passing scenery is rivalled only by the five-star elegance of the Blue Train. The luxury suites have full-sized bathtubs, and there’s nothing quite like sinking into warm bubbles, champagne in hand, savannah rolling by outside your window. The bathrooms are topped off with marble floors and gold finishings, and the suites also have sumptuous bed linens, writing desks, and a personal butler who is on call 24/7.
Tear yourself away from your suite and discover the wood-panelled Club Car with cocktails and complimentary cigars. For dinner, indulge in a feast of local delicacies prepared by top chefs, while string quartets play jazz and classical music in the background.
It’s hard not to feel like royalty here and you’ll be walking in the footsteps of past guests like Nelson Mandela, Quincy Jones, Mia Farrow, Paul Simon, Margaret Thatcher, and Kylie Minogue.
5. Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express, Russia
The Trans-Siberian rail journey is one of the world’s most legendary experiences, spanning eight time zones across the unparalleled expanse of Russia. And there is no better way to do this once-in-a-lifetime trip than on one of the world’s most luxurious train journeys – the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express.
Start with a glass of champagne and sink into the opulence of the Golden Eagle as the spectacular scenery unfurls before you on this two-week extravaganza. The train features exquisite suites and cabins with ensuite bathrooms and refreshing air-con or cosy heating, depending on the season.
Indulge in delectable meals in the regal dining room and relax in the lounge car while the resident pianist fills the air with music. You can even brush up on your Russian with language lessons onboard. After operating for more than a century, this luxury train journey is truly one-of-a-kind.
6. The Ghan, Australia
If you’ve ever dreamed of traversing the indomitable Australian Outback, this is the way to do it. The Ghan Expedition is the renowned three-night, four-day, 2,979-kilometer journey between Adelaide and Darwin, crossing the endless, scorched red earth of the desert. The Ghan is a contrasting oasis to the dusty Red Centre, with pristine cabins with ensuites, exclusive dining carriages, and breakfast served in bed. The mouthwatering five-course meals serve up local, gourmet ingredients like grilled kangaroo fillet and barramundi fish, and you’ll enjoy freshly-shaken cocktails under the awe-inspiring Milky Way.
The Ghan made its maiden voyage in 1929 on a rail line that took 50 years to build. The train was named after the Aghan came drivers who helped build the railway lines and transported goods to remote towns across the unyielding Red Centre. By 2004, Darwin was connected to the network, the line was upgraded, and the extraordinary Ghan adventure we know today was born. With stops in Coober Pedy, Katherine and Alice Springs, and thrilling excursions to Uluru and a working cattle station, this is the kind of journey you’ll never forget.
7. The Presidential Train, Portugal
The name says it all. This regal train once transported kings, queens and presidents in the 20th century, but after almost one hundred years of service, it retired in 1970. Forty years later, a businessman rescued the Presidential Train from a railway museum and restored it to its former royal glamour and glory. Today, you can board the Presidential Train and let it whisk you away on a Michelin-star gastronomical journey through the stunning wine and culinary regions of Portugal.
As the train pulls out of the century-old São Bento station in Porto and begins its journey to Quinta do Vesuvio, you’ll roll by the beautiful vineyards along the Douro River and Valley. Recline into sumptuous, velvet seats and sip wines from the very same region you’re passing by, then sink your teeth into the magnificent, multi-course menu, carefully designed by Michelin-star chefs. The gourmet dishes are made with the freshest ingredients and are perfectly paired with the region’s top wines. Every day on board this train is a culinary wonderland and once you’re satiated, you can retire to your private cabins and watch the lush Douro Valley through your windows.
Have you travelled on any of the world’s most luxurious train journeys? Let us know in the comments below.