Around the world by railOct 28, 2019 02:38PM ● By Victor Block
For most people, taking a train is one way of traveling from one place to another. For others, the trip itself is the main attraction. They're interested in the ride, passing scenery and activities available to passengers. Luckily, there are several outstanding rail trips to choose from around the country and the world.
There's no need to leave the United States to enjoy some inviting scenic rides. The California Zephyr between Chicago and San Francisco climbs both the Rocky and Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Adirondack train is named for the mountain range it passes, and also rolls through New York's Hudson Valley wine country, where grapes have been grown and wine produced since 1677. Information about these and other U.S. train trips is available at www.amtrak.com.
Given the beauty of the soaring Alps mountains in Switzerland, it's no surprise that there's a choice of trains that introduce passengers to their splendor. The Bernina Express crosses the Alps between northern and southern Europe and offers dramatic views of towering mountains, castles and, eventually, the sun-soaked villages of southern Italy. Book this trip at www.rhb.ch/en/panoramic-trains/bernina-express.
Another shorter but equally dramatic ride through the Swiss Alps is provided by the Glacier Express. The eight-hour, 180-mile-long trip connects two famous mountain resorts and climbs to a height of 6,670 feet above sea level. Views change with the time of year, from rolling meadows in summer to a tapestry of color during the fall, to the snow-blanketed winter landscape. More information is available at www.glacierexpress.ch.
The setting is equally dramatic in Canada's towering Rocky Mountains. Rocky Mountaineer trains climb towering peaks and pass desert-like canyon terrain. Oversized windows provide unobstructed views of the scenery. Visit www.rockymountaineer.com to learn more.
From golf drives to game drives
Travelers who enjoy activities along with their train ride have a wide range of options on the Belmond Royal Scotsman. As the train rolls through Scotland’s breathtaking countryside, passengers may disembark to play golf, explore beautiful rural homes and enjoy tours and tastings at Scotch whiskey distilleries. For more information, visit www.belmond.com/royal-scotsman-train.
On African trains, passengers can view animals in their natural environment. Trips aboard the Desert Express in Namibia offer game drives, cheetah and leopard viewing at a safari guest farm and even lion feeding.
Another excursion explores sand dunes up to 1,000 feet high in the vast Namib Desert, which stretches more than 1,200 miles along Africa's Atlantic coast. Learn more at www.namibweb.com/desertexpress.html.
Old and new
Wales’ Ffestiniog Railway is the oldest operating railroad company in the world. It was founded in 1832, and in 1863 became the first narrow gauge train service to introduce steam engines—two of which still are in use.
This group of miniature, narrow gauge steam-driven trains chugs through Wales at slow speeds so passengers may enjoy the beauty of the passing landscape. The Ffestiniog route traverses the Aberglaslyn Pass—a deep, narrow gorge which has been called the most beautiful spot in the United Kingdom—and huffs and puffs up some of the longest and steepest inclines in the country. Visit www.greatlittletrainsofwales.co.uk for more information.
The newest addition to the list of great rail trips is the first luxury sleeper train in South America. The Belmond Andean Explorer travels along one of the highest rail routes in the world through the Peruvian Andes at altitudes reaching nearly 16,000 feet. Passengers visit remote villages and view the 10,725-foot deep Cotahuasi Canyon. This trip can be booked at www.belmond.com/belmond-andean-explorer.
Short and long
Even a train ride of only 11 miles can offer something special. Since 1902, the narrow gauge Vale of Rheidol train in Wales has been transporting passengers through some of the finest scenery in Britain. As the cars make a series of twists and turns, views outside change from open fields to ancient woodlands to rugged mountains. For more information, go to www.rheidolrailway.co.uk.
In contrast, the Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest single-service train ride in the world. It covers 5,770 miles and passes through eight time zones as it connects Russia's east and west. Depending upon which itinerary they select, passengers may stop at cities along the route including the capital of Mongolia, have a private viewing of the Kremlin and take a class in cooking traditional Russian dishes. One of the many companies people can arrange Trans-Siberian trips through is Golden Eagle Luxury Trains at www.luxurytrainclub.com/russia.