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L.If you think gritty subways and state trains are the only form of rail travel, here’s some compelling evidence of the most dreamlike mode of transport your vacation money can buy – a roundup of the top luxury train journeys around the world.
But be careful: the mere mention of night train journeys can trigger a blissful silence for some travelers when they lose themselves in thoughts of exotic travel destinations, romantic bedrooms and great meals in white dining cars.
Shiki-Shima train suite, Japan
Book now: From $ 3,320 for Package for one night
Although Japan is best known for high-speed trains, the country’s national railroad, the JR Group, operates a number of specialty trains for tourism, collectively known as Joyful Trains. The offers include PokÃ©mon-themed cars and railway lines with Cars for foot bathing, Ones dedicated to fine dining, or with an astronomical library. The crowning glory of the Joyful Trains is the ultra-modern, ultra-luxurious Train Suite Shiki-Shima. The Shiki-Shima (which means âIsland of the Four Seasonsâ) travels from Tokyo through eastern Japan and visits along their one-to-three-day excursions.
The walls of the observation cars (called terraces) at the front and back of the train are cut out in abstract patterns and leave behind windows that reveal the view almost from the hand-woven carpet to the curved ceiling molding. The 15 bedrooms on board vary from elegant and simple accommodations with private bathrooms to lacquered, wood-paneled and washi-wallpapered two-story suites with cypress-lined bathtubs, traditional tatami mat flooring and a working fireplace.
As expected in such a lavish train, the dining car features exceptional seasonal dishes prepared by a kitchen team that traverses the entire journey; In addition, guest chefs board the train to prepare special regional dishes that will be visited along the itinerary. This first-class, sophisticated hospitality is provided by a crew in elegant uniformsd by Issey Miyakes former creative director.
Belmond Venice Simplon Orient Express, Europe
Book now: F.from $ 4,761 for one night from Venice to London
The legendary Belmond Venice Simplon Orient Express hardly needs an introduction for travel enthusiasts: the gleaming wood-paneled interiors, the dining tables with fresh bed linen and silver and crystal and the extravagant comfort of the sleeping cabins symbolize a time when traveling was demanding and passengers came first.
The train, consisting of vintage cars from the 1920s and 30s that are equipped with modern amenities, runs regularly to European destinations. And once a year a trip makes a deliberately slow five-night transit between Paris and Istanbul. Berths for these classic runs sell out quickly, and Belmond has made the ride even sweeter by adding six Grand Suites, each named after a legendary city and designed in an Art Deco homage to that city.
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The Grand Suites have private bathrooms, double beds and underfloor heating in the living area. Honestly, when you factor in a private steward (in a dashing uniform with shiny buttons) and complimentary champagne on request, that train wouldn’t even have to leave the platform to qualify as the trip of a lifetime. The other accommodation classes are less exaggerated, but still offer design and comfort details that tend to lift a sleeping car into a dream state. This icon of the golden age of travel shows no sign of cloudiness.
Alaska Railroad, USA
Book now: From $ 6,409 for the 12-day / 11-night Glacier, rail and trails package
Alaska Railroad provides a way to see the state’s natural beauty – from the orcas breaking through icy bays to majestic Denali – without the hassle of roughing it or traveling on a cruise ship. One of the rail line’s summer offers, the 11-night Glaciers, Rails and Trails package, takes you through spectacular corners of this vast state, makes several stops a day and spends more than a day in Denali National Park and Kenai Fjords National Park. Outside the train, passengers visit museums and facilities for training sled dogs, take part in a raft ride on a glacier river and go on guided hikes. On board the train, passengers can see the sights from a double-decker observation car: a glass dome above (with drinks service) and a full-service dining car below. At night, the train stops at lodges and hotels in the wilderness and inland so you can get a good night’s sleep and get to know each place better before the next day’s activities.
Maharaja’s Express, India
The 23 wagons of these luxury trains run mainly at night, so passengers have plenty of time during the waking hours to visit UNESCO World Heritage sites, go on game drives and dine in fine hotels and palaces. Price matches a regal experience, of course, but a shorter trip, like the three-night Treasures of India package, is less expensive and no less glamorous. The itinerary includes excursions to iconic Golden Triangle sites – the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan (Tiger!), Amber Fort in Jaipur – as well as spa treatments and sumptuous meals. The train includes two restaurants, a bar cart, and modern en-suite accommodations range from a deluxe double cabin to a presidential suite. India is a once in a lifetime trip for many travelers, so traveling on a train like this would really add that extra dollop of whipped cream to the experience.
Rocky Mountaineer, USA
Book now: From $ 1,619 for two days, one night Package from Rockies to Red Rocks
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One of the few downsides to taking a train ride through spectacular scenery is that you lose all views at sunset. Instead, the windows only reveal the reflection of the bright interior of the train. Rocky Mountaineer, a popular luxury train brand, solves this tragic first world problem by planning its scenic routes with overnight stops at fine hotels along the way. Historically, the Rocky Mountaineer only rode on Canadian rails, following mountainous routes that ended in Vancouver and either Jasper or Banff.
However, beginning in August 2021, the pioneering company embarked on a new two-day trip between Denver and Moab, Utah, with an overnight stay in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. The luxury train, specially built for landscape observation, offers unparalleled views of the Rocky Mountains (watch out for bighorn sheep in the high passes) and the sandblasted canyons and surreal rock formations of the Utah Desert. As you gaze out of the picture windows, the staff is focused on serving you fine wines and freshly made food (apologies in advance to fans of Amtrak’s prepackaged tuna sandwiches). At Glenwood Springs, passengers disembark to spend the night in three different hotels before boarding again in the morning to end the trip in Moab. Extend your vacation by adding a few days to either end of the trip to spend time exploring Moab and / or Denver.
Rovos rail, South Africa
Book now: From $ 1,621 / person for 3 days / 2 nights Durban Safari Package
Bush planes are fine, but traveling on air-conditioned luxury trains on routes that zigzag the southern third of the vast African continent has a strong slow-travel appeal. The leisurely schedule means there is time to stop at siding for wildlife viewing and in vineyards for wine tasting or in reserves for game drives. Various Rovos routes follow the cliffs of the Great Rift Valley or cross the red deserts of Namibia. Depending on what you choose (or what you create; the company also plans custom trips), your trip could include golf courses, stays in luxury lodges or safari camps, or trips around Victoria Falls. The packages run from a 2-night trips up to 14 night adventure (including a Copper Trail trip, new for 2022, that crosses Zimbabwe, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Angola).
Not only are the journeys exciting, the train itself is pretty dreamy – its old passenger coaches have been collected, restored and upgraded with modern plumbing and air conditioning (but also working windows). In addition to the private suites, the public spaces on the train include a viewing car with sofas and an open balcony platform, lounge and club cars and a dining car. Polished wood paneling, tufted leather chairs, and picture windows create a visual style reminiscent of a travel time when people packed formal clothes and hats for various occasions. While you won’t really get a feel for African life and cultures as you pass in this luxury locomotive, you will never forget the ride.
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