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There’s a well-deserved romance that surrounds train journeys: They let you immerse yourself in the surrounding landscapes while filling every languid moment with old-world elegance. The best are ones that go beyond just getting from place to place, where the ride itself is an experience: “To travel by train is to see nature and human beings, towns and churches and rivers—in fact, to see life,” wrote Agatha Christie. From the legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express in Europe to Vietnam’s Vietage, these eight storied trains promise to make the journey as important as the destination.
Travelers can traverse the African continent’s most beautiful landscapes on journeys ranging from two to 14 nights: from Durban, South Africa, to Namibia to the recently added Copper Trail that navigates Zimbabwe, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola. Vintage wood-paneled coaches with panoramic windows and plush textiles set a sophisticated backdrop for world-class cuisine paired with some of South Africa’s finest wines, served on fine china and glassware with crisp linens and silver. A highlight: An open-air observation car allows full immersion in the scenery. rovos.com
This luxe train service from Anantara Hotels debuted in 2020, traveling through the rolling hills of the Vietnamese countryside between Da Nang, near Hoi An, and Quy Nhon—a route that connects two of Anantara’s five-star resorts, Anantara Hoi An Resort and Anantara Quy Nhon Villas. The six-hour, 12-seat journey allows guests to enjoy the sleek, modern interiors with picture windows and comfy seats. A bar is fully stocked with local craft beers, wines and snacks, and given Anantara’s wellness pedigree, it’s no surprise that there’s a dedicated spa area where guests can enjoy 30-minute head and shoulder treatments. And in case that’s not enough to keep you occupied en route: Each trip includes a deluxe three-course meal of Vietnamese fare with French accents—think foie gras terrine with Phu Quoc pepper, braised Wagyu neck with sesame jus and crème brûlée with locally sourced chocolate. thevietagetrain.com
This historic train was lovingly restored by Belmond to its 1920s magnificence with rich wood marquetry panels and designs by artists of the Art Deco movement like René Laliqué. With marble en-suite bathrooms, 24-hour butler service and free-flowing Champagne, the spectacular Grand Suites can go toe-to-toe with any luxury hotel room. But if you can tear yourself away from your cabin, you’ll enjoy delights like piano entertainment and craft cocktails, a midnight brunch with lobster rolls and truffle club sandwiches and extravagant meals where any request is honored. Routes through the continent include a one-night trip from Paris to Budapest or Venice to Amsterdam, as well as longer journeys like the five-night Paris-to-Istanbul itinerary with stops in Budapest and Bucharest along the way. belmond.com
It’s all about the views aboard the Rocky Mountaineer. Glass-dome coaches allow passengers to maximize passing vistas of the stunning mountain scenery; the Gold Leaf service even has a bi-level dome, with seats on the upper level and the dining car below, as well as large outdoor viewing platforms. While there are no sleeper cars aboard the Gold Leaf trains, they include a gourmet breakfast and lunch and complimentary beverages and snacks, and you can combine a ride with packages that include hotel stays along the way. In addition to itineraries through the Western Canadian Rockies, Rocky Mountaineer recently added its first U.S. route: from Moab, Utah, to Denver. rockymountaineer.com
This train is all about exclusivity: with room for just 20 passengers in 10 suites, and a lottery system to score a cabin that’s a true exercise in patience. Once on board, though, passengers relax in extravagant wood-paneled rooms with sumptuous fabrics and hand-painted sink basins—each cabin is unique. The Blue Moon lounge car has an intricate coffered ceiling, panoramic views and comfortable sofas where passengers can enjoy live music in the evenings, while the Jupiter dining car serves up seasonal ingredients from the countryside and seas of Kyushu cooked to perfection—but don’t miss the separate area set up for traditional tea services. A one- or three-night itinerary also includes a stay at a traditional Japanese ryokan and several local excursions. cruisetrain-sevenstars.jp
South America’s first luxury train soars over the world’s highest rail network in Peru over several one- or two-night journeys. An elegant experience that brings guests from Cusco and Lake Titicaca to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Arequipa, the design of the 16 carriages reflects its environs, evoking the beauty of the Andes with rich leathers and Alpaca wools in vibrant colors and Incan patterns—a departure from most luxury trains’ vintage-inspired décor. In addition to the 35 cabins, there are two dining cars, a spa and a lounge car. belmond.com
Set out on a top-to-bottom journey of the land Down Under in style aboard this legendary luxury train, which makes the three- or four-day trek between Darwin in the north to Adelaide in the south through some of Australia’s most remote lands. The Platinum Service makes the ride a smooth one, with stylishly appointed and spacious modern cabins, panoramic windows and access to the exclusive Platinum Club for dining and lounging. journeybeyondrail.com.au
India’s most famous luxury train is also its finest, earning countless accolades for its three weeklong curated journeys—Indian Splendour, Heritage of India and Indian Panorama—and the four-day Treasures of India tour. Highlights include stops at the holy city of Varanasi, tiger-tracking in Ranthambore National Park and a visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra. While onboard, guests don’t need to forgo any luxuries, thanks to plush beds in lavishly decorated cabins with butler service. There’s also a lounge car with cocktails, books and board games and two restaurants serving Indian and international cuisine beneath hand-painted ceilings. the-maharajas.com
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