If life is about the journey, then train travel is the way to go. With scenic views, resplendent dining and lavish surroundings, it makes for a charming alternative way to travel. Here is The Sybarite’s pick of the best and most luxurious train journeys around the world. All aboard!
Board the vintage carriages of Belmond British Pullman, sister train to the Venice Simpson-Orient- Express, and glide through stunning scenery to exciting destinations all over Britain, dining on sumptuous cuisine paired with the finest wines. No journey is complete without taking a stroll through the train, admiring the unique flourishes that make Belmond British Pullman truly one of a kind: think veneered panels decorated with Art Deco marquetry; plush roomy armchairs; tables set with linen, silver and crystal and brass luggage racks that recreate the glory of the 1920s and 30s aka theGolden Age of Travel.
Much remains the same as it was then—the exquisitely appointed carriages, the liveried stewards, the sumptuous black-tie dinners. However, the Belmond’s luxury train journeys are as much a celebration of the present as they are of the past.
The Blue Train was steam-rolled into being in the 1920s. The two original trains, known then as the Union Limited and the Union Express, meandered their way as far as the Great African Railway would allow – a bridge straddling the Zambezi River, showered by the ‘thunderous smoke’ of the Victoria Falls – a trip taken by Former State President, Thabo Mbeki in 1998. After being pressed into military service during World War II and then reincarnated in 1946, the trains’ distinctive royal blue and cream shades gave rise to ‘those blue trains’ intimations. It was in these shades that a legend was born, that The Blue Train would soon ride the rails to legend.
A carriage-by- carriage refurbishment in the 70s and modernisation from steam to electricity and diesel in the 90’s, helped define this train as an unmatched experience of luxurious modern travel while simultaneously invoking the romance and history of its glittered past.
Launched in 2010 as a joint venture between travel experts, Cox & Kings and the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, the Maharajas Express Train offers five different journeys – take a bow Treasures of India, Gems of India, Heritage of India, Indian Splendour and Indian Panorama – all of which are fit for a maharaja. The aforementioned journeys – which run from October to April – have been often compared to Orient Express of Europe. Cabins are adorned with rich tapestry, linen, upholstery, wall-to- wall carpeting, semi-precious stones and antiques – evoking nostalgia of past grandeur – but also boast every conceivable amenity a 21st-century traveller could desire: think Plasma TVs, WiFi, DVD players, individual temperature controlled panels and private bathrooms. Beyond the cabins, you’ll find a high end boutique, bar, restaurant and Rajah Club lounge – the perfect place to enjoy the breathtaking scenery whizzing by from the huge panoramic windows.
The legendary Venice Simpson-Orient- Express train – a true Art Deco icon – offers one of the most celebrated and romantic journeys in the world. Adventure and style are all intimately bound in journeys that criss-cross Europe, rolling through spectacular scenery to some of the continent’s most alluring cities. Exquisite vintage cabins, gastronomic cuisine, and lively onboard entertainment make a journey on this luxury train one of the world’s finest travel experiences.
What’s more, Orient Express visits some of Europe’s most evocative destinations. The traditional route between London, Paris, and Venice (or vice versa) has been complimented by departures from Venice to Vienna, Prague, Budapest, and Istanbul. For the most discerning Sybarites, the Venice Simplon-Orient- Express invites you to embark on its annual, very special departure to Istanbul, re-creating the original journey of 1883. The sheer romance of the onboard experience is entirely undiminished. Whatever your destination, you can be sure of superb service, a veritable feast of sumptuous menus and perhaps, in the hectic world of the 21st century, a nostalgic reminder of a time when the journey was as important, if not more so, than the destination.
Rocky Mountaineer has been carrying more than one million guests from all around the world into the heart of the majestic Canadian Rockies – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – for over 25 years. The world renowned luxurious train offers five rail routes, rich in history and natural wonders – expect glacier fed lakes, carpets of green forest and an abundance of wildlife – through British Columbia and Alberta. Onboard the Rocky Mountaineer – which travels during the day so that Sybarites can get the most from their epic surroundings -each incredible sight may be experienced
Onboard the Rocky Mountaineer – which travels during the day so that Sybarites can get the most from their epic surroundings -each incredible sight may be experienced from open-air viewing decks – or from the comfort of your personal plush, 360-degree domed carriage. Passengers are also treated to a variety of delicious food and drink, freshly prepared by the train’s chef and served by friendly staff.
Step aboard Rovos Rail’s wood-panelled coaches and experience the charm of a bygone era as you behold spectacular scenery in the comfort of your own wood-panelled luxury suite. The Rovos Rail Journeys are Cape Town, Victoria Falls, Durban Safari, Golf Safari, African Golf Collage, Namibia Safari and Dar es Salaam, with journeys ranging from 48 hours to 28 days. The trains feature three levels of suites: Pullman Suites, The Deluxe Suites and last, but by no means least, the Edwardian style Royal Suites – each of which occupies half a carriage. Whatever your preferences, Rovos Rail will do their best to maximise the wow factor.