Taking a luxury train ride is a lot more than just getting from A to B. Travel is changing, and our desire for slower ways to travel is enforcing the notion that the travel itself is as important as the destination. In some ways this is a waft of nostalgia, taking us back to a time when great attention was given to travelling in luxury, a golden age of travel when decadence inhabited steamer ships and roamed the corridors of luxury trains. Except now, luxury train travel is taking things one step further. These luxury trains are less like a mode of transport and more like hotels on rails. You can dine in elegance and sleep in comfort, or you can simply sit back and enjoy the views. These luxury train rides are so good, you might forget you have a destination at all.
The Maharajas' Express
Beginning in Delhi, The Maharajas' Express takes you on a very special journey through India, stopping off to explore Jaipur, Ranthambore National Park, Agra and the Taj Mahal, Orchha Fort, and Varanasi. But it might be difficult to tear yourself away from the beauty of the interior of this luxury train. The two restaurant cars are laid out like 5-star eateries and the food is lovingly made by onboard chefs. There's a bar car, that's also very impressive, and the cabins are hotel standard, with complimentary bathrobes and slippers, and luxury toiletries. But perhaps the most luxurious element of this rail journey is the butler assigned to each carriage. Having your own on-call butler really does bring that extra element of luxury.
Venice Simplon Orient Express
Undoubtedly the most famous luxury train in the world, The Orient Express was born in 1883 and was made to a high standard befitting the luxury travellers of the day. Today, the train has three restaurant cars from the 1920s and is composed of art deco carriages from the 20s and 30s. This is a truly stunning luxury train, with a bar car from your dreams and sumptuous cabins you'd expect to find in a royal palace. Take the Venice Simplon Orient Express from Venice to Paris and enjoy the absolute height of luxury train travel. It's a piece of railway history, immortalised in books and films, that's a real bucket list trip.
Palace on Wheels
When you take the Ultimate Rajasthan tour on the Palace on Wheels, the journey begins and ends in Delhi, and includes visits to Jaipur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur - the blue city, and Agra where guests will visit the Taj Mahal. This famous train gives travellers a taste of the royal Indian lifestyle from a bygone era, with graceful hospitality and 5 star food. The restaurant serves beautiful food inspired by cuisines from around the world. The saloon carriages have been restored and decorated to reflect the cultural ethos of each royal state, and give travellers a real sense of the royal history of the train.
The Blue Train
Before you even step foot on The Blue Train, you can get a feel for your journey by spending a couple of days enjoying Cape Town on the Cape Town and Kruger National Park tour. From there, this luxury train takes you to Kimberly, Pretoria, and the Kruger National Park. The trip might only be part on rail, but the time spent on The Blue Train is unforgettable. The butler service on board speaks of the history of this train, which has its roots in the roaring 1920s. The elegant, formal dinners are the focal point on The Blue Train, and no detail is left unattended to. Enjoy local cuisine and South African wines, as the incredible landscape rolls past your window.
Pride of Africa Train
The luxury train ride, the Ultimate Dar Es Salam and Victoria Falls, on the Pride of Africa, begins in Zambia, after guests have already enjoyed the Selous Game Reserve. The train takes you through Zimbabwe and to Victoria Falls, then through Botswana and onto South Africa where you'll go wildlife spotting, to Cape Town and ending at Cape Point. It's an incredible journey, rivalled only by the beauty inside The Pride of Africa. The dining car and observation car, which was once the dining car, are slightly retro looking and take you back to the 1940s, but it's the cabins, the suites, that really impress. Not just simple cabins, but luxurious spaces to sleep and relax in while the scenery glides by your window.
Rocky Mountaineer Train
The Rocky Mountaineer has to be one of the most scenery intense train rides you could ever take. The glass dome roof gifts you endless panoramic views of the landscape as you roll through it, making the journey as spectacular as any destination. Take the Wonders of Canada and the Rocky Mountaineer tour and you'll spend a couple of nights on this luxury train, taking you through Kamloops and Banff, before you head off to Toronto and Niagara Falls. Meals created by award winning chefs are served at your seat on this train ride, and the train only operates during daylight hours, so your trip includes hotels for overnight.
The Canadian Train
The Canadian Train journeys between Vancouver and Toronto, and forms part of the route on the Canada Coast to Coast trip. An original sleeper train, on The Canadian it's all about waking up to magnificent views of the country you're travelling through and enjoying them through picture wrap around windows. There's a bullet lounge with soft armchairs where you can sit back and simply enjoy the views, and meals are created by on board chefs, using locally sourced ingredients. There's also an impressive wine list of only Canadian wines, making this an immersive Canadian experience.
Once called The Afghan Express, now shortened to The Ghan, this luxury train began its life in 1929 and many parts of it hold onto the spirit of that time. Wood panelling and traditional train interiors sit side by side with the regal Adelaide Restaurant where you can enjoy fine dining and Australian wines. The train cuts right through Australia, from Darwin to Adelaide, taking you to areas in central Australia not often visited by tourists, where you can sit back and marvel at the views. You can also book this train as part of the Ultimate Australia tour, though this is an optional extra.
As we become more environmentally conscious and many of us strive for a slower way to travel, these luxury train rides offer something every traveller wants - a luxury hotel, beauty and fine dining, that's so much an integral part of the trip, it is the travel itself.