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The Blue Train: A window to the soul of South Africa

31 July 2015

Making its inaugural journey in the 1920s, Africa's legendary Blue Train travels across the continent on an epic 994-mile route from Cape Town to Johannesburg. With a history stretching through South Africa's gold and diamond rush to the Second World War and present day luxury train travel, the Blue Train is certainly one of the world's most iconic rail lines. Proudly calling itself 'the most lavish train on the planet', a trip on board The Blue Train is easily one of the best luxury rail holidays.

Humble beginnings
The Blue Train

Africa's original 'blue trains' were utilitarian passenger carriers, making the long-haul return journey from the Zambezi River to Victoria Falls. The southbound journey was called the 'Union Limited', while the return journey was the 'Union Express'; operating from distinctive sapphire-blue carriages, the line quickly gained the local nickname of 'those blue trains', and so the legacy of The Blue Train was born.

Thanks to the discovery of gold and diamonds near Kimberley, a prosperous upper-class arose in the area. Demanding a higher level of service than the initial services offered, the trains were upgraded to meet the expectations of the wealthy passengers. Boasting showers, electric lighting, oak-panelled dining saloons, smoking and card rooms, the glamour of the new luxury trains became famous in the 1920s. Today, The Blue Train has won the title of "The World's Leading Luxury Train" from the World Travel Awards no fewer than five times, and is considered one of the world's most luxurious trains.

A five-star hotel on wheels
The Blue Train

So what is a journey on The Blue Train like today? Simply put, this hand-crafted experience is designed to offer the ultimate in luxury travel. From the warm welcome at the station, to the gourmet dining, travellers as transported back to the golden age of rail travel. During the twenty-seven hour route, guests are treated to fine dining at breakfast and lunch and a formal evening dinner service. Guests are expected to dress for dinner, and a jacket and tie are essential for gentlemen. After dinner digestifs, coffee and Cuban cigars can be enjoyed in the Club Car.

Butlers are assigned to look after the passengers, one to each carriage, and are available day or night via a personal phone in each private compartment. Every cabin has its own en-suite bathroom, featuring marble décor, and sometimes a full-size bathtub. The private compartments all have a television, on which guests can view short documentaries about points of interest on the route. Passengers can also enjoy a fascinating view of the journey as seen from the driver's perspective, thanks to a camera mounted on the front of the train.

Travellers can also expect to enjoy incredible excursions, discovering fantastic locations on route. These include attractions such as the famous Big Hole in Kimberly. Dug by hand in an effort to find diamonds, the Big Hole is the world's largest man-made hole.

Experience one of the greatest journeys in the world on The Blue Train, with an escorted tour from Great Rail Journeys. See South Africa from the luxury of this opulent train, and embrace the comfort of luxury train travel.