We know, we know – it’s Winter, deadlines are never-ending, and December seems light years away. In this kind of environment, even taking the train to the office every day – easily the most romantic-hipster-fabulous way to travel around in the 21st century – can get a little dull. But we’ve got you covered.
Today, for your Friday viewing pleasure, we’ve round up the 10 most gorgeously scenic train trips in the world for your viewing pleasure – some of them in your own backyard. Hey, if you can’t take a mid-year break, at least your imagination can…
Premier Classe, Cape Town
If you don’t want to sell a kidney in order to afford a ticket on the Blue Train, this gorgeous trip follows nearly exactly the same route for a lot less cash. Watch as Table Mountain trundles past, enjoy the starkly beautiful Karoo scenery and its five-star sunsets later on, and after a sumptuous breakfast the next day, you arrive at Park Station in Egoli – the city of gold. What’s not to love?
The Venice Simplon-Orient Express, London
The slick descendent of the most famous train name in the world – the Orient Express made immortal by Agatha Christie – the Venice Simplon Orient Express is one of the better ways to feel like a snob in the 1920s, which alone is worth it. Leaving in the iconic blue train from London with white glove service and cocktails in the retro dining car, the scenery is also beautiful as you start of in green Kent and wind your way along any one of several beautiful routes through Europe – the two most beautiful still being the ones to Prague and Venice.
The Jungfraubahn, Switzerland
Riding the Jungfraubahn is likely to be one of the bigger highs in your life – literally. In just one memorable hour, the train scales a steep ascent of more than 3000 metres before arriving at one of the highest railway stations in the world. But the real star is the scenery. Not to be funny, but those of us living near Table Mountain sometimes forget what a real mountain looks like. The scenery on this ride in all its snow-capped, craggy-cliffed splendour can and should take your breath away.
The Desert Express, Namibia
The Desert Express is one of those trains that tends to have a family of eccentric, tightly-knit devotees from all over the world, and is one of the better-kept secrets of travelling through Southern Africa in unforgettable style. It makes the list for being one of the most beautiful night-time trips in the world. After sunset, it transforms into the aptly named Starline train, with memorable scenes of a brilliantly glittering sky set above the stark desert.
The Rocky Mountaineer’s First Passage to the West, Canada
Probably the most famous train trip in North America, and with good reason. This train trip could easily be renamed an ‘all that’s beautiful about Canada tour’. It allows you to see the snow-capped Canadian Rockies mountain range, vast views of glittering water as it glides above the Thomson River, plus dramatic looks at the Hell’s Gate rapids in Fraser Canyon, and even occasionally some wildlife like the iconic moose in this beautifully preserved part of wildest Canada.
The TranzAlpine, New Zealand
If New Zealand is known internationally for anything other than rugby, it’s known for it’s ridiculously otherworldly beautiful scenery – so beautiful that they filmed all of the Lord of the Rings movies, and many others, there. The TranzAlpine makes the most of it with sweeping green farmlands, glaciers, rivers and fields of wildflowers all as part of the vista, as well as a dramatic solid rock tunnel and some of the bluest sky you’ll ever see.
The West Highland Line, Scotland
You’ve probably seen this epic train trip – at least in part – in the Harry Potter movies. But nothing can prepare you for the sheer beauty of riding this line from Glasgow to Mallaig in the Summer. Miles and miles of rolling hilly greenery occasionally give way to historic stone bridges and picturesque lochs, only to be swallowed up by the green again. Restful, soothing – sheer bliss.
Talyllyn Railway, Wales
The Talyllyn treats passengers to one of the leafiest, greenest, quaintest rides around, with its historic coal-fired locomotive. But in actual fact, it’s also a celebrity in its own right – the Talyllyn of Great Little Trains of Whales is so endearing that it is actually the original inspiration for Thomas the Tank Engine. Choo choo!
The Quito-Guayaquil tourist train, Ecuador
If you like your train rides extreme, it doesn’t get more extreme than climbing up a sheer cliff face called ‘The Devil’s Nose’ at over 9000 feet. Not for nothing has this been named ‘the most difficult railway in the world’, and the series of loops, switchbacks and more will make your breath catch, in the best possible way.
Last but certainly not least is Tren a las Nubes in Argentina
Arguably the most poetic name for a train ride anywhere, the ‘train to the clouds’ sounds like something out of a Disney movie. In fact, it is a train journey so high-up that it is required to carry oxygen cylinders on board for its adventurous guests. Covering the starkly beautiful fiery Andes mountains, the train takes a lengthy 7 hours to wind its way all the way to the Chilean border. Engineering boffins will find this one fascinating – it is the highest train journey in the world not using a rack and pinion system, and the innovative zig-zag bends and twists and turns it needs to make to accommodate this are truly unique.