Here are the nine best luxury rail journeys, as voted by our readers in the 2017 Gold List Awards.
1. The Ghan, Adelaide to Darwin
Departing year-round, the three-day journey from Adelaide to Darwin aboard the Ghan takes passengers through the centre of Australia’s outback, with roomy cabins transitioning from private lounges by day to sleeping quarters by night. The journey features two off-train excursions in Katherine and Alice Springs as well as a short stop in the remote town of Marla. In Alice Springs, guests can take a helicopter or camel ride to explore the landscape. There’s also an option to travel further into the Outback to visit Uluru and Kata Juta.
Platinum guests enjoy access to Platinum Club where three five-course meals are served daily accompanied by a range of beverages and fine Australian wines. Groups travelling together in Platinum Service can also hire out the eight-person Chairman’s Carriage.
Gold Service prices for the Ghan Expedition (four days, three nights) start at A$2,359 per person for advance purchase.
2. Rocky Mountaineer, Vancouver to Banff
Rocky Mountaineer’s First Passage To The West route from Vancouver to Banff takes passengers on a four-day journey through the scenic Canadian Rockies. Passengers spend two full days aboard the train with tours and accommodation on land in Vancouver, Kamloops, and Banff. The driver will slow as the train passes bald eagles, bears and mountain goats, allowing guests to capture the perfect shot of the Canadian Rockies wildlife.
Guests can upgrade their packages to GoldLeaf and GoldLeaf Deluxe to stay in the most premium hotels, receive exclusive on-board dining room access, and spend their on-board days in a two-level glass-domed coach with floor to ceiling windows.
Guests can also add extra nights in any city or purchase an Alaska cruise tour before their train journey from Vancouver. Gold Leaf prices start at A$3,958 per person for a four day journey, inclusive of a three night hotel stay.
3. Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, London to Venice
Passengers aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express will travel through the heart of Western Europe overnight on board the historical Belmond British Pullman train. After boarding mid-morning in London, passengers will receive a three-course brunch served with a welcoming glass of Bellini followed by a four-course meal prepared by on-board French chefs. Passengers will awake the next morning to magnificent mountain and countryside views, arriving in Venice in the late afternoon after a three-course lunch and a leisurely afternoon tea.
Fares start from £2,602 (about A$4,390).
4. The Indian Pacific, Sydney to Perth
Passengers join Great Southern Rail’s Indian Pacific Sydney to Perth journey for a memorable four-day journey across the southern half of the continent. The journey starts off with a welcoming drink and gourmet Australian dinner as the train leaves the city behind and winds its way through the Blue Mountains. The next morning guests will wake up in Broken Hill where the train stops for an off-train excursion before continuing through South Australia’s Flinders Ranges and arriving in Adelaide later in the afternoon where guests can choose to stay in the city or visit the nearby Barossa Wine Valley. The train stops again 24 hours later for an outback dinner under the stars on the Nullabor Plain, the last stop before arriving in Perth the next day.
The Indian Pacific Sydney to Perth journey starts at A$2,259 for the all-inclusive Gold Service in a single cabin during low season.
5. Glacier Express, Zermatt to St. Moritz
The slowest express train in the world, The Glacier Express travels through the Swiss Alps on its Zermatt to St. Moritz journey, giving passengers a chance to take in the mountain views from its panoramic car at a leisurely pace. The eight-hour journey travels through 91 tunnels and crosses 291 bridges, passing castles, a Benedictine monastery and the jagged Matterhorn mountain.
The route is fully covered by the Swiss Travel Pass, however guests can choose to purchase packages which include overnight accommodation for an extra charge.
6. The Blue Train, Pretoria to Cape Town
The Blue Train takes guests on a 27-hour journey through the heart of South Africa on the Pretoria to Cape Town journey. Guests board the train in Pretoria early in the morning and arrive in Cape Town in the afternoon the next day, with a stopover in Kimberley to explore the city’s 19th-century diamond mines.
The all-inclusive journey starts at R15 000(about A$1,513) for a De Luxe double during low season with meals, non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages, off-train excursions, and high tea included.
7. Eastern & Oriental Express, Singapore to Bangkok
The Eastern & Oriental Express travels up the Gulf of Thailand from Singapore through Malaysia, finally arriving in Bangkok. The seven-day journey features three off-train excursions; a city exploration in Kuala Lumpur and two island visits in Penang and Koh Chaan, as well as two nights staying in five-star hotels in Singapore and Malaysia.
The all-inclusive Singapore to Bangkok trip includes two nights in five-star hotels, four nights accommodation aboard the Eastern & Oriental Express, 24-hour steward service, house beverages, daily continental breakfast, three-course lunch, and four-course dinner, afternoon tea, a choice of excursions in the three stopover destinations, and a boat ride with lunch.
Fares start from $US7,110 (about A$8,866).
8. Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express, Moscow to Vladivostok
The world’s greatest rail journey is the 9,300-kilometre Trans-Siberian trip from Moscow to Vladivostok. Golden Eagle’s 15-day journey starts with two days in Moscow staying at the Ritz-Carlton and travels east, making several stops for guided excursions in Russian towns such as Kazan, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Lake Baikal, Ulan Ude, and Ulaan Baatar in Mongolia. By day, the Bar Lounge Car hosts talks and activities while, in the evening, the resident pianist presides. The cuisine is international but features Russian specialities such as black sturgeon caviar. The spacious Imperial Suites are the most luxurious option with a large double bed plus lounge area, and a private guide and driver for off-train excursions.
The trip starts at US$15,895 (about A$20,897) for Silver Class and is all-inclusive, with arrival and departure transfers, hotel and on-board luxury accommodation, daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner, welcome and farewell dinners, off-train excursions, and a 24-hour personal attendant included.
9. Rovos Rail, Pretoria to Cape Town
Comprised of a collection of steam and diesel locomotives, Rovos Rail transports travellers across the sub-continent of Africa on a variety of multi-day journeys. The Pretoria to Cape Town journey takes passengers on a three-day, 1,600-kilometre trip with stops in Kimberly and Matjiesfonteinfrom. While on board, guests can enjoy the grandest accommodation option; they royal suite, which takes up half a carriage and is comprised of sleeping quarters, a private lounge and ensuite with a Victorian bath. Many of the carriage interiors feature period Edwardian décor, with gourmet meals served in a Victorian style dining car. Rates for a four-day journey from Pretoria to Cape Town start at R 24,460 (about A$ 170) per person, twin share.