Orient Express: still the "grande dame" of top
What are the world's best train rides?
From Europe's venerable grande dame, the "Venice Simplon-Orient-Express"
to India's wheezing geezer, the 100-year-old "Toy Train," the Society of International Railway Travelers regularly anoints the world's
top train excursions.
Some on the list are over-the-top luxury, such as the all-first-class Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express, or Rovos Rail's "Pride
Others offer the most stylish and comfortable way to see less-developed regions, such as the world's newest private train, the Danube Express, which offers week-long, rail-based cruises through Central Europe.
The following are the cream of the crop of world luxury train excursions and should be on anyone's 'bucket list' of great railway journeys.
Rovos Rail's Pride of Africa
Considered the finest train in Africa, if not the world, the aptly named Pride of Africa offers world class dining and service as it moves passengers graciously through the continent which, on one outstandingly spectacular route travels from Cairo to Capetown on a month-long adventure.
Known as the most luxurious train in India, the Maharajas' Express combines old world luxury with state-of-the-art amenities including LCD televisions, wi-fi access, individual temperature control and full en-suite bathrooms. The two luxurious dining cars and two well-appointed lounge cars provide cushy seating, a full bar, and a choice of Indian or continental cuisine.
Made famous in the Agatha Christie mystery novel, the Orient Express still runs the storied route from Paris to Istanbul with all the Roaring 20's luxury of a bygone era. Today, the Orient Express also offers separate itineraries such as luxury excursions to Venice, Krakow, Dresden and Prague. (Alas, there are yet no scheduled trips to Belgium, with apologies to fictional Detective Poirot!)
The richly wood-paneled Edwardian era awaits you aboard The Royal Scotsman that caters to only 36 passengers to provide luxurious and intimate five-star dining and world-class service, offering classic trips including a "Highland Fling" and stops at major cities, as well as scenic tours to other parts of Scotland, England and Wales.
Royal Canadian Pacific
Here's another intimate journey through breathtaking Canadian scenery for a mere 30 passengers who are ready to be spoiled by gourmet meals, open-platform observation decks - and even musical events - on board one of the most outstanding train rides in all of North America.
Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express
Stay warm and cozy inside this luxury rail cruiser that plies the famous Trans-Siberian route between Moscow and Vladivostok, as well as special tours of the Silk Road, Russia's Arctic, and the Crimean.
The best, most luxurious way to see Eastern Europe, the Danube Express features deluxe accommmodations and off-train sightseeing on routes that go as far north as Gdansk and as far east as Istanbul with most journeys originating in Budapest, Hungary. Other itineries include Krakow and Warsaw in Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania.
With China joining the rest of the world in following the trend for luxury train accommodations, the Shangri-La Express offers spectacular scenery and adventure journeys to Tibet, Hong Kong, the Silk Road and other itineraries. By no means in a class with other world-class luxury trains, the Shangri-La Express is still worlds away from regular train service throughout the country and worth the extra cost (with an authentic Chinese silk robe you get to keep in the bargain!)
The Swiss proudly hail the Glacier Express as the world's slowest express. The train takes almost eight hours and the services of two private, narrow-gauge railroads to traverse the 168 mountainous miles between two posh resorts—Zermatt and St. Moritz. The Alpine route of the Glacier Express is what makes this train so marvelous.
The complete Oslo-Bergen line was opened in 1909 as the only year-round land transport between Norway's two largest cities. The 300-mile length of track passes through 200 tunnels and 18 miles of snowsheds in addition to crossing more than 300 bridges. The scenery on the 7-hour Bergen Railway trip across the Hardanger plateau, the largest wilderness area in Europe, is breathtaking.