7 Scenic Train Rides Around the World

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Photo of 7 Scenic Train Rides Around the World by Shashank

A plane might get you to your destination faster. And a road-trip will let you decide the course of your journey. But can any of these beat the romance of endless landscapes and window sight-seeing opportunities of a train-ride? (Not if you ask me). The most laid-back style of travel is also the most scenic. Here’s a list of 7 epic train journeys across the world.

1. Glacier Express, Switzerland

Billed as Europe’s slowest express, The Glacier Express is a regular scheduled year-round train service between Zermatt, at the foot of the Matterhorn and St. Moritz, in the Engadin skiing area. The train squeezes its way through the Alps, and chugs through 91 tunnels and 291 bridges, while climbing its way up glacier-skirting mountain passes. The journey reaches its summit – the Oberalp Pass at 2033 metres, during its day-long schedule. Passengers tend to spend a day each in Zermatt and St. Moritz.

Distance/Duration: 300 kilometres/8 hours

Route: Zermatt – Brig – Andermatt – Chur – St. Moritz

2. Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express, Russia

At a jaw dropping 9656 kilometres, the Trans-Siberian Railway is the world’s longest rail-route. Connecting the Russian capital of Moscow in the west to Vladivostok in the east, the journey spans the entire width of Russia, crossing over the Ural Mountains and cutting through dense Siberian forests. The express rolls over the magnificent Novosibirsk Rail Bridge (984 metres long), while also cruising along the shores of Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake.

Distance/Duration: 9656 kilometres/8 days

Route: Moscow – Kazan – Yekaterinburg – Novosibirsk – Irkutsk – Lake Baikal – Ulan Ude – Ulaan Baatar – Vladivostok

3. Tranzalpine, New Zealand

Starting out in Christchurch, the Tranzalpine takes you on a journey through New Zealand’s exceptional landscape. It travels north-west through the fields of the Canterbury plains, before cutting its way through mountains of Arthur’s Pass National Park situated in the Southern Alps. It finally makes its way to the historic gold-mining town of Greymouth via the west-coast’s subtropical rain forests. Tourists have compared the ride to a geography lecture, albeit more entertaining.

Distance/Duration: 223 kilometres/5 hours

Route: Christchurch – Rolleston – Darfield – Springfield – Arthur’s Pass – Otira – Moana – Kokiri – Greymouth

4. California Zephyr, USA

The California Zephyr is a daily service that traverses the heartland of America in a leisurely 52 hour journey. Making its way from Chicago to San Francisco, the train climbs both the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada. It also crosses several canyons in the Colorado River Valley. The Sightseer Lounge is the perfect spot to witness the country unfold before the Zephyr eventually descends to the Pacific Coast.

Distance/Duration: 3924 kilometres/2.5 days

Route: Chicago – Naperville – Princeton – Galesburg – Burlington – Mount Pleasant – Ottumwa – Osceola – Creston – Omaha – Lincoln – Hastings – Holdrege – McCook – Fort Morgan – Denver – Fraser-Winter Park – Granby – Glenwood Springs – Grand Junction – Green River – Helper – Provo – Salt Lake City – Elko – Winnemucca – Reno – Truckee – Colfax – Roseville – Sacramento – Davis – Martinez – Richmond – Emeryville

5. The Train to the Clouds, Argentina

The Tren a las Nubes literally takes the tourists to the clouds as it climbs to over 4200 metres in the rugged Andes mountain range in Latin America. This 69-year-old rail service which runs once a week, was originally constructed as a commercial link between Salta in Argentina and Antofagasta in Chile to service the mining industry. Now, the route is a major tourist attraction, one which shows glimpses of the changing landscapes of Argentina; from the rocky Andes to the vast highland plateau known as Argentine Puna.

Distance/Duration: 217 kilometres/8 hours (As of 2017, 80% of this route is by bus.)

Route: Salta – Quijano – V. Toro- Alfarcito – San Antonio de los Cobres – V. La Polvorilla – San Antonio de los Cobres – Tastil – Salta

6. The Canadian, Canada

If a single ticket lets you see the world's second largest country, wouldn't you buy it? Don't worry, it's not a trap; it's the Canadian. This transcontinental express will take you from Toronto to Vancouver - a journey 4466 kilometres long, in three-and-a-half days. The Canadian includes panoramic dome cars, and the background dissolves from the gentle prairie fields to the snowy peaks of the magnificent Rockies. The train offers a range of classes for every type of traveller.

Distance/Duration: 4466 kilometres/3 days 10 hours (average time)

Route: Toronto – Sudbury Junction – Sioux Lookout – Winnipeg – Saskatoon – Edmonton – Kamloops – Jasper – Vancouver (The Canadian has a total of 65 stops on its route.)

7. The Ghan, Australia

Originally dubbed the Afghan Express, the Ghan train was named after the migrant cameleers from Afghanistan, who blazed a permanent trail in Australia 150 years ago. With a perfect balance of luxury and adventure, this journey guarantees an experience of a lifetime. The travellers can enjoy the ever-changing landscape of Australia as the train makes its way down south, either from the solitude of their private cabins or over a glass of wine with the newfound companions.

Distance/Duration: 2979 kilometres/54 hours

Route: Darwin – Katherine – Alice Springs – Coober Pedy – Adelaide

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