Having spent the last two and half years driving across Australia and New Zealand we’ve come to appreciate just how intimate the experience of overland travel can be.
With the freedom to explore far from the tourist trail and head off the beaten path to more rural locations, a self-drive itinerary is something we always strive for when planning our travels.
However, along with the freedom of a self-drive itinerary comes the responsibility of navigation, long hours behind the wheel and sourcing accommodation en route. So we thought we’d consider trying out a rail based excursion instead.
With our scheduled travels now almost complete, we’ve been contemplating future destinations. Beach retreats in Asia, rural European escapes, we’re not quite sure what we want to experience but we know we want to continue to travel overland where possible.
Having spent a few hours glued to my laptop I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of inspiring rail routes that snake across countries and continents like veins. The diverse mix of landscapes and terrain they encompass is inspiring to say the least.
So, I thought I’d share a few of the greatest rail journeys with you.
THE BERNINA EXPRESS, SWITZERLAND & ITALY
Chugging along at just 20mph, the Bernina Express is one of the slowest trains in operation. However, it travels at such a glacial pace in order to safely navigate the 196 bridges, vast chasms and 55 mountain tunnels that make up the route as it wends its way over the Southern Alps.
With staggering views overhead via the glass roofed panorama car that take in the surrounding landscape recently named a Unesco World Heritage Site, this sounds like a journey for the adventurous rail enthusiast.
CUZCO TO MACHU PICCHU, PERU
One of the world’s highest cities, Cuzco is the start of the Incan rail line that shuttles backpackers and hikers 50 miles through the Andes to the cliff-top ruins of Machu Picchu.
This route is not for the faint of heart; plummeting from dizzying heights into the lush floor of the Sacred Valley and alongside the Urubamba River this looks like an unforgettable rail excursion.
THE GHAN, AUSTRALIA
Despite having already traversed much of Australia, The Ghan stands out as one of the most iconic rail journeys in the world and one we shouldn’t rule out. Especially as our Aussie road trip didn’t allow the time for us to visit Uluru.
A long established service which runs the length of Australia, dissecting the red centre with relative ease; this is a three day trip which covers almost 2000 miles. Initially mapped by Aboriginal people, not in the traditional sense but through the words of a song, this mysterious landscape still holds a wealth of secrets.
THE TRANS-SIBERIAN RAILWAY
It can’t be disputed that the Trans-Siberian is the most iconic of all rail journeys. Traversing uncomprehendable distances this is a route I certainly wouldn’t like to drive on four wheels.
Covering a whopping 20% of the circumference of the earth it may come as a surprise that the route is actually the culmination of a number of sub sections. Encompassing parts of Russia, Mongolia and Beijing, this route is a marathon adventure and one that needs time to explore the many ports of call along the way.
SEATTLE TO LA, USA
Taking in one of the most scenic coastlines in the world, the double decker Coast Starlight links the cities of USA’s West Coast in one fluid line.
With the cascades, high Sierra, San Francisco and Big Sur all stopping points along the route, we think spending a few weeks station hopping here sounds like a great idea.
While in my head rail travel is a rather romantic notion, one reserved for those who want to see the world and travel in style, I’m slowly coming round to the idea that with the right itinerary to entertain you at each station, there’s an adventure waiting to be had.
Have you ever incorporated rail travel into your itinerary? Share your comments with me below.