12 great train journeys that prove it’s the journey that matters

For those of us with itchy feet, the idea of ​​a great train journey may not seem all that enticing. You want to hit the streets, pound the cobblestones along narrow village paths, or kick up the dust on a sun-bleached mountain path. You’ll want to wander in and out of shops and bars, talk to locals and find unique vantage points for unique photo opportunities.

But the great train journey has so much to offer in lieu of these attractions. If you fancy a trip that requires a little less effort than usual, but aren’t quite ready for a beach holiday, taking the train can be just as stimulating as a city break or rural expedition.

The Jacobite Route in Scotland, for example, offers views of the Highlands you may never have imagined. Riding high through the land of Harry Potter, it only takes a few hours to take in the melancholic splendor of those rainy lands. When you arrive in the port town of Mallaig, you’ll have time to breathe in some sea air and the town’s famous smoked kippers before seeing it all the way around on the way back to Fort William.

At the other end of the scale, the Trans-Siberian Railway offers a six-day, 9,000-kilometre trawl from Moscow to Beijing via Manchuria. Through city and desert, from Europe to Asia, your life will stand still for a week as you bond with your fellow travelers on this historic route.

With its vast expanse and surprising diversity, Asia feels like the natural home of the train journey. Perhaps nothing is more breathtaking than the Qinghai-Tibet line – nicknamed ‘the rocket to the roof of the world’ because of the towering heights it will take you to. At 5,000 metres, Tanggula Pass is the highest railway point in the world – no wonder the service includes an optional oxygen supply!

Not far to the west is the Kalka Shimla railway, which has its roots in the British Raj: such is the climate in this part of the world, the government moved to Shimla every summer in the late 19th century.e century. The area became so busy that a train service was needed, and if it was a convenience then, today it makes for an unforgettable holiday: from the temples and gardens of Kalka you pass 102 tunnels and 864 bridges on your way to the bustling capital of Himachal pradesh.

A good American alternative to the Kalka-Shimla can be found in Peru, where the Cusco-Machu Picchu line runs through the equally evocative country, through villages and astonishing landscapes to your destination in the heart of the former Inca empire. If you travel light, look for the opportunity to “Suit with a purpose” – to use reserve luggage space to transport supplies for local schools or medical clinics.

It’s a very different kind of history on the Indian Ocean, so named after the coast-to-coast route from Perth on the Indian Ocean to Sydney on Australia’s east coast. Gold mines and ghost towns tell the story of Australia’s Wild West.

A more dreamy story is told about Argentina’s ‘Train to the Clouds’: the fifth highest railway line in the world spins through its own plumes as it zigzags in apparent slow motion towards the Andes.

The Eastern and Oriental Express is another alternative for the eternal dreamer. The two-day Singapore-Bangkok luxury line introduces you to two starkly contrasting Asian cities: you’ll be treated like an emperor as you glide through gently unfolding rural landscapes, past temples, tea plantations, colonial towns, ancient villages and historic monuments.

A more remarkable and iconic view can be discovered at the tail end of Japan’s Tokaido Shinkansen line, in the shape of the famous Mount Fuji. The bullet train is a must-do if you’re on holiday in the land of the rising sun: this route combines the rough reality of commuting with spiritual simplicity. Traveling by train is an ideal way to travel through Japan Japan Rail Pass can make it quite affordable.

Photographers will love The Rocky Mountaineer from Vancouver to Banff: Canada’s underrated natural beauty, from mountains and lakes to grizzly bears, is on full display thanks to the glass-domed roofs of the world-class GoldLeaf Service. You can discover a more urban view of the continent further south, where the ‘Crescent’ New York-New Orleans passes through no fewer than thirteen states during your one and a half day tour of the US.

And finally, train fanatic or not, no serious traveler can say they’ve done it all if they haven’t ridden the Orient Express. A cornerstone of European travel, the vintage experience combines luxury with scenic views of Britain, France, Switzerland and balmy Italy. If you do it on foot it will take a little longer!

So the next time you think of a big getaway packed with excitement, views, new friends and unique dining experiences, consider taking the train. This new infographic from Pettitt’s collects these twelve dream trips into one memorable resource: run your eyes over the photography and get started!

Gary Arndt and Jen Leo

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