Top 10 Scenic Train Rides In The World

I hold a special fondness for the rhythm of the rails. There’s something about threading through landscapes aboard a train that grants a perspective unlike any other mode of travel. This experience has a charm that’s hard to duplicate in today’s fast-paced world. From the moment you step aboard, the journey itself becomes a destination – unveiling the art of slow travel where every scene outside the window tells a story.

What sets scenic train rides apart isn’t just the destination but the journey. As the train meanders through terrains unreachable by other means, you’re privy to views that are often reserved for the most intrepid of travelers. With panoramic windows and routes carved through the wildest of landscapes, these train voyages offer a travel experience that entices with both comfort and awe.

In this article, I’ve curated a list of the top 10 scenic train rides across the globe that promise an unforgettable adventure whether it be for a single day to one or more night trips.

From the lush greenery of the United States and Canada’s dramatic mountainscapes to Europe’s historical charm and New Zealand’s captivating natural splendor, these train journeys showcase the best of what each region has to offer. Fasten your seatbelts – or rather, relax into your plush seats – as we prepare to explore these rail-bound wonders.

The Rocky Mountaineer:

  • Duration: 1-4 days (overnight stay in a hotel or in the train)
  • Location: Canada and one location in the United States

This daylight-only train ride through the Canadian Rockies offers routes like the Journey through the Clouds and the First Passage to the West. The train travels by day to ensure passengers enjoy every moment of the breathtaking scenery. I also rate the Rocky Mountaineer train ride as one of the best scenic train rides in North America.

The Glacier Express:

  • Duration: Approximately 8 hours
  • Location: Switzerland

The Glacier Express offers a day-long journey through the Swiss Alps, from Zermatt to St. Moritz. It’s a leisurely ride through some of Switzerland’s most stunning landscapes, including alpine meadows and mountain passes. This is one of the best scenic train rides in Switzerland.

The Coast Starlight:

  • Duration: About 35 hours
  • Location: United States

Connecting Los Angeles and Seattle, the Coast Starlight offers a variety of landscapes, from ocean views to mountain vistas. This journey is a great way to experience the diverse geography of the West Coast.

The TranzAlpine:

  • Duration: Approximately 4.5 hours
  • Location: New Zealand

From Christchurch to Greymouth, the TranzAlpine is a relatively short but incredibly scenic journey. It crosses the Southern Alps, offering views of the Canterbury Plains and the Waimakariri River.

Conway Scenic Railroad:

  • Duration: 5 hours
  • Location: New Hampshire US

Located in New Hampshire, the Conway scenic railroad is a 5 hour train ride that takes you through the amazing White Mountains. It is also one of the most popular fall train rides in New England and easily one of the best scenic train rides in New Hampshire. I would recommend getting seats there at least 3-4 weeks before you go.

The Canadian:

  • Duration: 4 nights
  • Location: Canada

The Canadian’s transcontinental journey from Toronto to Vancouver is a multi-day adventure. It covers over 4,000 kilometers, showcasing Canada’s diverse landscapes.

The Bernina Express:

  • Duration: About 4 hours
  • Location: Switzerland

Running from Chur to Tirano, the Bernina Express is known for its panoramic views and the dramatic passage over the Bernina Pass. I also consider the Bernina Express to be one of the best scenic train rides in Switzerland by far.

The Flam Railway:

  • Duration: About 1 hour
  • Location: Norway

The Flam Railway offers a short but steep and scenic journey through some of Norway’s most beautiful landscapes, including fjords and waterfalls.

The Empire Builder:

  • Duration: About 46 hours
  • Location: United States

Amtrak’s Empire Builder travels from Chicago to either Seattle or Portland. This long journey showcases the varied landscapes of the United States, from the Midwest plains to the mountains of the Pacific Northwest.

The Ghan:

  • Duration: 3 days
  • Location: Australia

Spanning from Darwin to Adelaide, The Ghan offers a unique cross-continental journey through Australia’s diverse landscapes, from rainforests to deserts.

How to embark on your ideal scenic train adventure:

Wrapping up our global train travel excursion, I’d like to give you some parting advice to ensure your journey is everything you dream it to be. Trust me, a bit of planning goes a long way. Remember to think about what YOU want from your scenic train ride. Are you seeking serenity, excitement, or perhaps a blend of both?

Don’t forget to factor in the season. Some routes shine in the winter snow, while others boast their beauty in the lush green of summer. Your budget will play a significant role in your choice. Consider package deals or off-season discounts to get an immersive experience without breaking the bank.

Plan ahead and book early, especially for trains with limited departures and high demand. And if there are perks that matter to you, like window seats or meal options, make those a priority when reserving your spot. Most importantly, remember that the journey itself is an essential part of the adventure. So, relax, gaze out the window, and cherish the moving panorama unfurling before you.


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