By train is one of the most enjoyable ways to travel, and it has a more acceptable carbon footprint too. With these great scenic rail routes, the journey is as enjoyable as the destination. As Agatha Christie said: ‘Trains are wonderful… to travel by train is to see nature and human beings, towns… and rivers, in fact, to see life’.
India – The Toy Train, New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling: This railway is now in fact a World Heritage Site; the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, or Toy Train climbs 30 miles from the scorching plains of Bengal to the old hill station of Darjeeling, on the edge of the Himalayas. The trains go at a snail’s pace, taking over nine hours to corkscrew the journey. The railway, was built in 1881 and is still powered by its original narrow-gauge steam engines. The reward is at journey’s end: an enthralling view of the sun rising on Everest.
Switzerland – The Glacier Express, Zermatt to St Moritz: One of the most spectacular journeys in Europe, this seven hour journey transports you across untouched mountain landscapes, taking in the Rhone Valley and the ‘Swiss Grand Canyon’, tunneling beneath the Oberalp Pass and traversing no less than 291 bridges. It is an incredible way to witness the splendor of the Alps. For more info or to book online visit www.glacierexpress.ch
Argentina – The Old Patagonian Express: Among Patagonia’s plateaus and valleys, the antique steam trains of La Trochita, ‘the little narrow gauge’, operate as a heritage railway and make a pair of round-trip excursions: Esquel to Nahuel Pan and El Maiten to Thomae, each taking in Patagonias unique and incredible scenery. Nahuel Pan trains operate year-round while Thomae trains operate seasonally. The train journey was made famous by Paul Theroux in his 1978 book The Old Patagonian Express, in which he describes it as the railway almost at the end of the world.
South East Asia – The Eastern & Oriental Express, Bangkok to Singapore: Every conceivable luxury is on hand for this three-day journey through South-East Asia. Splash out on a private air-conditioned compartment to watch the tropical landscapes of Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore unfolding before you: ancient temples, rubber plantations, rice paddies and sleepy villages all feature not to mention crossing the bridge over the river Kwai on the infamous Burma Railway. The train offers two restaurant cars, an observation car, and six Pullman cars – essentially a luxury hotel on wheels. There is even a balcony in the last carriage from which to savour the tropical air. You might say it is a last bastion of elegance from the golden age of train travel. Book online at www.orient-express.com
Canada – The Rocky Mountaineer: From Vancouver to Banff and Calgary, this service propels travellers through the breathtaking scenery of the Canadian Rockies with truly excellent on-board service; the glass domes in gold leaf class give the best all-round view of the Canadian Rockies you can get. A range of routes are on offer, but the ‘First Passage to the West’ formerly known as the Kicking Horse route is the most scenic and the most historically significant. The journey takes two full days and passes Castle Mountain, the pretty station at Lake Louise, the continental divide, the much-photographed Stoney Creek bridge, and the wonderfully-scenic Thompson & Fraser river canyons. Visit www.rockymountaineer.com for more info.