Written by
Louis Dhont

Published on: October 23rd, 2017

Last modified: February 20th, 2024

Of all the endless ways to explore the world, there’s an enduring allure to luxury train travel. Something about stepping from the platform onto the carriage, settling into a sumptuous seat and watching the scenery slowly slide by allows you to appreciate the journey just as much as the destination – and ultimately, that’s what travel is all about.

Perhaps the most famous train in the world is the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: an absolute icon of 20th-century luxury rail journeys. It’s still one of the most luxurious trains in the world, transporting passengers back to the ‘golden age of travel’ with art deco details and timeless elegance to match its storied reputation.

That said, these days you can enjoy luxury train rides all over the globe. Their opulent cars wind through the peaks of the Andes and the Alps; around the islands of Singapore and Japan; across the vast wilderness of Australia and Africa; and between the grandest capitals of Europe. If you want to travel in true style, consider booking one of the world’s best luxury train journeys.

1. The Eastern & Oriental Express

Although its European counterpart may be more well known, this Orient Express is equally enchanting. Under the esteemed luxury Belmond umbrella, the Eastern & Oriental Express traverses two routes through Malaysia. Both journeys begin and end in Singapore, travelling either along the idyllic coast or through lush inland rainforests.

Eastern Oriental Express

On board you’ll enjoy intricately decorated cabins and suites, refined Malaysian cuisine and artisanal cocktails. At each intriguing stop you might have the chance to relax on pristine white sand beaches, learn about efforts to save the endangered Malayan Tiger or get to know the country’s culture through cooking classes and conversations with locals.

Eastern Oriental Express

2. The Vietage

With room for just 12 passengers total in its luxurious train cabins, The Vietage is a truly exclusive rail journey through some of Vietnam’s most spectacular landscapes. Each day it makes only two trips, departing from Da Nang in the morning to reach Quy Nhon in the afternoon, and then returning from Quy Nhon to Da Nang in the evening.

Vietage train

Both ends of this journey are special in their own right. Da Nang is a historic port city just an hour away from the charming town of Hoi An, while Quy Nhon is a largely undiscovered coastal destination boasting postcard-worthy beaches and fishing villages. The Vietage links them with a lovely six-hour trip, earning it a spot among our top travel tips for Asia in 2024.

Vietage train

3. Seven Stars Kyushu

The Seven Stars Kyushu is undoubtedly among Japan’s most luxurious experiences, and yet many travellers have never heard of it. One reason is that tickets are notoriously hard to come by, as they’re reserved far in advance through a lottery system. But if you’re willing to try your luck, it’s well worth designing your entire trip around this unforgettable train journey.

Seven Stars

The Seven Stars Kyushu is undoubtedly among Japan’s most luxurious experiences, and yet many travellers have never heard of it. One reason is that tickets are notoriously hard to come by, as they’re reserved far in advance through a lottery system. But if you’re willing to try your luck, it’s well worth designing your entire trip around this unforgettable train journey.

Japan Culture

4. Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is nothing short of legendary, and it remains one of the best luxury train trips on earth. Its beautifully restored carriages echo the chic elegance of the 1920s, from spacious suites and historic cabins to the lavish dining areas and ritzy bar car – where you can indulge in a decadent ‘midnight brunch’ after hours.

This world-renowned train offers various itineraries, crisscrossing Europe between grand cities like Paris, Prague, Budapest, Brussels and, of course, Venice. Although most of its journeys are only overnight, you can also opt for a round-trip adventure between Paris and Budapest or Vienna, in which case you’ll spend two nights aboard the train and two at local hotels.

5. Belmond Royal Scotsman

Perhaps the most magical way to experience the Scottish Highlands is aboard the Belmond Royal Scotsman. This opulent train wends its way through some of Scotland’s most remote and untouched landscapes, promising privileged views of its rolling hills, glittering lochs and historical landmarks.

The Royal Scotsman

The train itself offers delightfully cosy cabins and suites decked out in a sophisticated blend of local tradition and modern style. The Dior Spa carriage is especially inviting, as are the Raven and Swift dining cars, where you’ll be served exquisite haute cuisine. Whisky lovers can embark on an exclusive four-night trip featuring tastings and distillery tours as well.

royal scotsman

6. Glacier Express

There’s no shortage of stunning train journeys in Switzerland, from Alpine peaks to Lake Geneva – and the meandering Glacier Express is certainly one of our favourites. Its leisurely pace allows you to fully appreciate the scenic route from Zermatt to Andermatt to St. Moritz, which includes countless bridges, tunnels and dazzling views.

Glacier Express Train ith Landwasser Viaduct

The train’s three restaurants allow you to dine in style while passing through Europe’s magnificent countryside. Food is freshly prepared daily, with ingredients locally sourced and collected during the train’s stops. Our favourite part of the train is the champagne bar, the perfect place to enjoy a glass of bubbly or an expertly mixed cocktail.

Glacier Express Train

7. The Bergen Railway

Known as the Bergensbanen among locals, the Bergen Railway traverses Norway’s vast Hardangervidda Plateau. It carries passengers between the country’s lively capital of Oslo and the colourful port city of Bergen. Along the way you’ll pass through some of Scandinavia’s most dramatic scenery: about seven hours’ worth of fjords, valleys and mountains to marvel at.

Although the views are best during daylight, you can also book a night train to get some rest in a comfortable sleeping compartment. And if you’re travelling with kids, the family carriage provides plenty of entertainment for little ones. The Bergensbanen is also famous for Gudrun and Halldis Folkedal: twin sisters and train drivers who are known as the ‘queens of the railway.’

8. Presidential Train

The Presidential Train, or Comboio Presidencial, is a genuine piece of Portuguese history. It transported royals and dignitaries across Portugal in its five splendid carriages before being retired in 1970. It came out of retirement in 2016 after an extensive restoration process, only to cease operations again a few years later… but now it’s back once more.

Presidential Train

In 2024, the Presidential Train will return with a schedule of just 20 incredibly exclusive journeys. Each trip will take passengers from Porto to one of ten different wine estates in the Douro Valley. Onboard cuisine will be overseen by the renowned Chef Chakall, incorporating specialties from local restaurants to ensure authenticity and support the region’s communities.

Presidential Train

9. Belmond British Pullman

The Belmond British Pullman accounts for a good number of the most glamorous train journeys in Great Britain, with an illustrious history dating back nearly a hundred years. Today it offers an array of day trips throughout the English countryside, including round-trip itineraries from London to the likes of Bath, Kent and Oxfordshire.

British Pullman

We’re especially intrigued by the ‘Moving Murder Mystery’: an immersive experience that invites you to solve a classic case à la Agatha Christie – as you enjoy champagne and a five-course feast, of course. Choose a table or a private coupe in the whimsical Cygnus carriage, designed by filmmaker Wes Anderson, for an especially cinematic experience.

British Pullman

10. Blue Train

The iconic hue of the Blue Train makes it instantly recognisable from afar, but you’ll need to step aboard to discover the depths of its charm. It’s one of South Africa’s leading luxury trains, regularly undertaking the 54-hour journey between Cape Town and Pretoria – and now the 19-hour trip from Pretoria to Kruger National Park as well.

Blue train

The train’s interior is plush yet understated, its luxury suites and lounge cars imbued with a sense of classic glamour. You can cross the country on one of its regular routes or charter the entire train for a private journey, which is customisable according to the occasion and your preferred destinations and timings.

Blue train lounge car

11. Rovos Rail

The esteemed Rovos Rail has only been in operation for a few decades, but it captures all the vintage appeal of a bygone era. Choose from almost a dozen different itineraries based on your interests; you can take a relatively short journey between Pretoria and Victoria Falls, Durban or Cape Town – or opt for a longer trip that lasts between 9 and 15 nights.

These longer routes include safari adventures and grand tours of the whole of Southern Africa, including Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and beyond. You can explore this end of the continent in total comfort, whether you’re watching the magnificent scenery glide past from the quiet common areas, sipping a South African wine in the dining car or relaxing in your suite.

12. The Ghan

The Ghan is an Australian icon with a history stretching back nearly a century. These days it’s one of the best ways to explore this enormous country, travelling all the way from Darwin on the northern coast to Adelaide in the south. Its longest itinerary, known as The Ghan Expedition, is an all-inclusive three-night experience showcasing the best of the Outback.

The Ghan

On board The Ghan you’ll find sophisticated modern style, multi-course meals and impeccable service, whether you choose to travel in Gold, Gold Premium or Platinum class. One of the biggest perks is the fact that all food, drinks and excursions are included in the fare, so you can simply sit back and enjoy the journey without a care in the world.

The Ghan interior cabin

13. The Indian Pacific

As you might be able to guess from its name, The Indian Pacific travels from east to west (and vice versa) across Australia, between Perth on the Indian Ocean and Sydney on the Pacific coast. You can either opt for the full three-night journey to cover the whole country, or a one- or two-night trip from Perth or Sydney to Adelaide.

Indian Pacific Train

The Indian Pacific is all-inclusive, with every detail designed to make your experience seamless. The cabins convert from lounge spaces to sleeping compartments at night, and the Queen Adelaide Restaurant serves upscale local cuisine. Train enthusiasts will enjoy the fact that the section of the trip from Kalgoorlie to Port Pirie is the longest single stretch of railway on earth.

Indian Pacific Train

14. Belmond Andean Explorer

The exceptional Belmond Andean Explorer embodies the principles of slow travel. It takes passengers on an odyssey through the wonders of Peru – from Cusco to Lake Titicaca and Arequipa – at a pace that allows for total immersion. This is especially welcome in the high altitudes of the Andes, and its Picaflor spa even offers an altitude acclimatisation treatment. 

andean explorer

The rest of the train is almost as tranquil as the spa car, with a decidedly modern aesthetic that contrasts with many other luxury trains’ vintage style. You’ll find touches of local culture throughout, from the elevated Peruvian cuisine in the dining cars to the traditional patterns and alpaca-wool textiles in the snug cabins.

andean explorer

15. Belmond Hiram Bingham

There are many ways to reach the mythic site of Machu Picchu, but the Belmond Hiram Bingham is undoubtedly the most memorable. Departing from Cusco, it whisks you away through the Sacred Valley and towards the lofty remains of the Inca Empire. The three-hour trip to these legendary ruins includes a locally sourced lunch with wine and cocktails.

hiram binghan

After experiencing the magic of Machu Picchu, you’ll return to the Hiram Bingham for an unforgettable return trip. This is arguably the best part of the journey, featuring an excellent four-course dinner, top-notch mixology (try the Pisco sour) and often live music. It’s the perfect way to cap off your visit to one of Latin America’s most magnificent destinations.

hiram binghan

Trip Inspiration

Get inspired with our train journey example trips and then get in touch to plan your own adventure

Whatever you're looking for from your luxury rail journey, our travel designers are ready to help.