Top 10 Most Iconic Train Rides

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Roffey
Sit back, relax, and soak up the scenery on these epic rail journeys. Welcome to MojoTravels, and today we're counting down our picks for the top 10 most iconic train rides. For this list, we're looking at the most scenic, storied and often sumptuous journeys by railroad. All aboard!
Top 10 Most Iconic Train Rides

Sit back, relax, and soak up the scenery on these epic rail journeys. Welcome to MojoTravels, and today we're counting down our picks for the top 10 most iconic train rides.

For this list, we're looking at the most scenic, storied and often sumptuous journeys by railroad. All aboard!

#10: The Blue Train
Cape Town to Pretoria, South Africa

It’s “grace, elegance, and romance” on wheels. The overnight route of the luxurious Blue Train between Cape Town and Pretoria traverses a diverse landscape that includes lush vineyards, rugged foothills, and the arid Karoo region. But it’s the impeccable service and extravagant luxury that are the train’s real claims to fame. Billed as a “moving five-star hotel”, the Blue Train boasts on-board chefs, butler service, and opulent dining and lounge cars, as well as carpeted sleeping compartments with marble-tiled, gold-fitted bathrooms. The considerable fare includes exquisite meals, South Africa’s best wines, and Montecristo cigars.

#9: The Royal Scotsman
Edinburgh to the Highlands, Scotland

Journey into the heart of the Scottish Highlands . . . in style. The dignified Royal Scotsman loops in and out of Edinburgh, through the wild, remote splendour of some of Britain’s most spectacular countryside. Budget travel it’s not: expect the full red carpet treatment, from a grand welcome by piper at the station to sumptuous mahogany staterooms and fine dining by candlelight. There are several different loch-dotted routes to choose from, with excursions that include fishing, clay pigeon shooting, and of course whisky distilleries. So grab a Scotch - or three - and enjoy the ride.

#8: The Ghan
Darwin to Adelaide, Australia

Bleak and barren, but with a rugged, unearthly beauty, Australia’s sun-blasted Red Centre is one of the most unique landscapes on the planet. Over the course of three days, the Ghan travels north and south between Darwin and Adelaide, right through this Martian landscape. A stopover at Alice Springs allows passengers the chance to spot local flora and fauna from camelback, and to strike out for Uluru before catching the next train onward. Train tickets are affordable and also include a cruise through magnificent Katherine Gorge. Travelers whose transcontinental ambitions aren’t sated can also ride east-west on the Indian Pacific - passing through the sweeping Nullarbor Plain and Sydney’s Blue Mountains.

#7: The Pride of Africa
Cape Town, South Africa to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

It claims to be “the world’s most luxurious train”, with spacious, wood-paneled suites and vintage Victorian dining coaches. And the scenery is as spectacular as the service. The Pride of Africa’s 15-day run between Cape Town in South Africa and Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania is an epic trip-of-a-lifetime through the African subcontinent, with stops at historic Matjiesfontein, jaw-dropping Victoria Falls, and two nights in a wildlife preserve to see the Big Five (which means lion, elephant, rhino, buffalo and leopard). Other highlights include a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River and the dramatic terrain of the Eastern Rift Valley.

#6: The Canadian
Toronto to Vancouver, Canada

There’s just something about the rhythm of the railroad tracks . . . especially with views like this. Canada is one of the world’s largest countries, and while the train called Rocky Mountaineer provides spectacular package tours of the Rockies, why see just the massive mountains . . . when you could see it all? VIA Rail’s iconic “Canadian” winds around the mountainsides, through thick pine forests and steep river canyons to Jasper, before bursting out into the wide-open prairies of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. All told, it’s a four day, 2,775 mile trip between Vancouver and Toronto - and every mile worth the trip.

#5: The Glacier Express
St. Moritz to Zermatt, Switzerland

Not all epic rail journeys have to last for days. The slow, scenic seven-and-a-half hour ride through the Swiss Alps on Glacier Express packs in as much as most train trips can in weeks. Traversing just 181 miles between picturesque mountain resorts St. Moritz and Zermatt, nestled at the foot of the mighty Matterhorn, the Express meanders its way through mountain gorges beneath snow-capped, wind-swept peaks, crossing an incredible 291 bridges and passing through 91 tunnels. It’s breathtaking, it’s unforgettable - and won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

#4: The Palace on Wheels
New Delhi to Agra, India

The audacious name might seem like a bold boast, but The Palace on Wheels delivers. The carriages were once the royal apartments of maharajas, and each is immaculately decorated in the style of a different princely state or city. Looping out from Delhi on an eight day tour of northwest India’s tourist hotspots, The Palace passes through the deserts and ancient cities of Rajasthan, with off-train excursions including camel and boat rides, local markets, and, just over the Rajasthani border into Uttar Pradesh, the mighty and magnificent Taj Mahal. This is a bucket list one.

#3: The Eastern & Oriental Express
Singapore to Bangkok, Thailand

Lush jungle, punctuated by gleaming rice paddies, rolls past as you sip a Singapore Sling and relax to the soothing melodies of a live pianist. Welcome aboard Belmond’s elegant Eastern and Oriental Express, whose signature three-day journey between Singapore and Bangkok carries you across the Malay Peninsula in luxurious, cherrywood-panelled cabins fit for a king. The fare includes guided tours of Malaysian village Labu Kabong and Thailand’s River Kwai. It’ll cost you a pretty penny, but if you have the means, it’s an enchanting trip through gorgeous countryside.

#2: Venice Simplon-Orient-Express
Paris, France to Istanbul, Turkey

The Orient Express, immortalized in spy fiction and murder mysteries, ceased its signature run from Paris to Istanbul in 1977, and was withdrawn from service in 2009. But you can still live the romance and glamour of bygone times on Belmond’s privately-owned Simplon Orient Express, whose ornate, vintage 1920s carriages carry forward a legacy of elegance and old world charm. From London and Paris, the train glides overnight to Venice or Verona, but once a year makes the classic six-day pilgrimage between Paris and Istanbul, via Budapest and Bucharest. It’s no “mystery” why you should hop aboard.

Before we reveal the identity of our top pick, here are some honorable mentions:

Hiram Bingham Express
Cusco to Machu Picchu, Peru

California Zephyr
Chicago to San Francisco, USA

#1: The Trans-Siberian Railway
Moscow to Vladivostok, Russia

It’s the world’s most famous train experience, and longest rail line - a historic network of tracks built over a century ago. The Trans-Siberian stretches a staggering 5,722 miles from Moscow to Vladivostok, an eight-day journey that spans eight different time zones! This is no banishment, it’s traveling to Siberia with style! And the Trans-Mongolian Railway is a route that branches off and heads down through Mongolia and China to Beijing, giving passengers the chance to experience Moscow’s Red Square, the Siberian wilderness, beautiful Lake Baikal, the rugged Mongolian steppes, and Beijing’s Forbidden City - all on one unforgettable trip. The sleeping and dining compartments on the Trans-Siberian might be simple, but hey, this is an easy number one.