Train rides take us through some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, that neither car or airplane could match. Traveling by train gives us the option to dine in a first class restaurant, while watching the vast and rolling scenery right outside the window. We get to meet fellow travelers and enjoy the serenity and beauty of the journey.
Below I have compiled a list of the most scenic train rides throughout the world that are renowned for their first class service and beautiful scenery.
1. White Pass and Yukon Route
Home to one of the most scenic train rides in the world, take a trip through the heart of the Klondike Gold Rush country aboard a narrow gauge railroad. There are a variety of excursions available, either hauled by a steam or diesel locomotive. Visit their website for more information and to purchase tickets.
2. Durrango and Silverton
The historic Durrango and Silverton narrow gauge has been delighting passengers since 1882. Board the train at the original depot built in 1882, and traverse through the historic canyons in the San Juan forest. The railroad operates their excursions using historic steam locomotives while riding in 19th century passenger cars. Multiple excursions are offered that will give visitors the chance to see the breathtaking Colorado landscape.
3. Cass Scenic Railroad
Experience logging railroading at its finest through the heart of West Virginia in open aired passenger cars, hauled by a historic shay locomotive. Originally built for transporting lumber by the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company, the railroad has been in operation since the early 20th century. The journey includes passage through Bald Knob, which is the highest summit of the Back Allegheny Mountains, and the small towns that the railroad helped established.
4. Great Smoky Mountains Railroad
Take a trip through the North Carolina countryside through mountain ranges, bridges, and valleys. Hop aboard the train in Bryson City and ride the 53 mile route while passing through some of the best scenery in the Carolina’s. The line is a former branch of the Southern Railway, which constructed the line in 1890. Various types of motive power are used including #1702, which is a 2-8-0 steam locomotive, and is currently operational. Additionally, the railroad owns a few classic diesel locomotives such as a GP30, U18B, and GP9’s.
5. Grand Canyon Railway
Originally constructed by the ATSF, the Grand Canyon Railway takes more than 225,000 visitors to the Grand Canyon annually. Visitors can board the train at the restored Santa Fe Railway station, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors get the chance to ride in historic coaches that date back to the fifties, with large picture windows to ensure an unobstructed view of the scenery.
6. Strasburg Railroad
The Strasburg Railroad offers visitors a beautiful journey through Pennsylvania Dutch Country, giving riders views of rolling landscape, all while traveling behind a vintage steam locomotive. Various classes of travel are available, including a dining option, where you can have lunch or dinner, while watching the scenic countryside roll by the window. Visitors can have an overnight stay at the Caboose Motel, where they can spend the night in a vintage caboose trackside. The Strasburg Railroad makes for a memorable outing for old and young alike.
7. Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway
Located in scenic Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway gives visitors a trip through the heart of anthracite coal country. The trip lasts 16 miles and is facilitated using the Reading and Northern Railway, while riding in coaches stemming from the thirties. Gondola rides are also available for a true open air experience. Visiting this railway in the fall months is a spectacular treat, as the scenery becomes increasingly more colorful. This is a great family train ride that is sure to create memories lasting a lifetime.
8. Jacobite Steam Train
Ride one of the UK’s most famous steam train journeys through the West Highland Line through Scotland, operated by West Coast Railways. The train operates over the Mallaig Extension, and passes over various viaducts, including the Glenfinnan Viaduct which consists of twenty-one arches. The railway uses one of three steam locomotives to haul the trains, including LNER Gresley Class K4 2-6-0, LNER Peppercorn Class K1 2-6-0, and LMS Stanier Class 5 4-6-0. The carriages used on the train are former British Rail Mark I and Mark II.
9. Glacier Express
Take a journey through the Swiss Alps on a non-stop express service, traversing almost three-hundred bridges and through famous mountain ranges such as the Matterhorn and Oberalp Pass. This railway is narrow gauge and climbs the steep grades using a rack and pinion system. The rolling stock used for the train have massive panoramic windows that stretch to the ceiling of the cars, making for an unobstructed view of the alps.
10. FFestiniog/Welsh Highland Railway
Enjoy a trip on the oldest railway in the world, while enjoying the sights and sounds of Snowdonia National Park. Visitors can take the Ffestiniog Railway from Gwynedd, to Porthmadog, and can then take the Welsh Highland Railway to Caernarfon. Occasionally, a train will operate through service from Ffestiniog to Caernarfon without needing to transfer to a different service. The railway is primarily operated by steam locomotives, some of which were built in the 19th century. This is a fantastic way to see the beauty of the Welsh countryside.
11. Venice-Simplon Orient Express
The origins of the Orient Express trace back to the late 19th century, where rail travel was in its golden age. The original Orient Express ceased operation in 2009, and the current train is a private venture courtesy of Belmond. This train trip is extremely expensive, as the service and amenities on board are second to none. The train uses carriages that date as early as the twenties and thirties, and are beautifully restored to their original appearance. This is a truly unique train trip that will offer unmatched luxury.
12. The Semmering Railroad
Constructed in the mid-19th century, the Semmering Railway is considered to be the first ever standard gauge mountain railway in Europe. The route passes through many tunnels and viaducts through the vast hills and valleys between the quaint towns of Gloggnitz and Murzzuschlag, with fantastic views of the Austrian Alps. The construction of the railway is also a prominent attraction, as it is a true engineering feat, especially being built in the mid 19th centuries.
13. Cape Town, The Blue Train & Kruger National Park
Discover all that South Africa has to offer while traveling in luxurious comfort. Experience fine dining and luxury suites while taking in the beautiful views passing by the window. Meals aboard the train include some of the finest dishes available, with choices to suit everyone’s taste. The service aboard the train is of the highest quality, ensuring riders that their trip will be one of relaxation.
14. Rocky Mountaineer
Enjoy a trip through the Canadian Rockies traveling through the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. Originally a VIA Rail service, the Rocky Mountaineer takes travelers through some of the most breathtaking scenery in North America. The highly acclaimed Gold Leaf service provides specially prepared meals in the dining car, which is provided by three on board hosts, all while riding in a bi-level glass dome coach. The Silver Leaf service provides service by on board hosts, and are given various beverages throughout the journey. Customers in this class of service travel in a single level glass dome car.
15. VIA Rail’s Canadian
Discover Canada on board North America’s last streamliner, complete with stainless steel dome cars, and first class dining service, this transcontinental service gives travelers the opportunity to see the beauty and nature that Canada has to offer. Travel through the scenic mountains of Jasper and the various agricultural fields of Saskatchewan while crossing over various rivers and valleys, all while enjoying the company of other travelers, and receiving first class service from the highly acclaimed staff.
16. Amtrak Coast Starlight
The Coast Starlight is one of the most beautiful train rides in the United States. It gives travelers the ability to ride along the coast of the Pacific Ocean in California, and into the forests of Oregon, before making its way into Washington, and finally into Seattle. Enjoy fresh food in the dining car, and various amenities in the sleeper such as coffee and water. The large picture windows on the double decker Superliner cars offers riders an unobstructed view of the landscape rolling by.
17. Caledonian Sleeper
Enjoy the comfort of overnight train travel between London and northern Scotland. This train gives travelers the ability to view the Scottish landscape as they are whisked through the highlands, and through many remote villages. The sleepers on board include a spacious bedroom and ample storage space. Upon reaching Carstairs the train splits into separate sections and travel to three separate destinations throughout Scotland, ultimately ending at either Fort William, Inverness, or Aberdeen.
18. The Trans-Siberian Railway
Built over a span of twenty-five years, the Trans-Siberian Railway is the largest railway in the world, which spans a distance of 5,772 miles(9,289 kilometers), and connects Moscow to Eastern Russia. The full trip aboard the train takes eight days to complete, while passing through eight Russian time zones. The train includes sleeper accommodations with comfortable cabins and dining cars that cater food service.
19. Eastern and Oriental Express
The Eastern and Oriental Express is a great way to see the historic sites of southeast Asia, while traveling in unbeatable luxury. Enjoy Asian cuisine in the dining car or lounge around in the comfort of high quality furnishings, while observing the classic hardwood architecture of the walls and ceilings of each rail car. This journey will take you through the heart of Thailand and Malaysia, from Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Singapore.
20. The Ghan
Take a transcontinental trip across Australia on the world famous Ghan. Operated by Great Southern Rail, this iconic train connects Adelaide and Darwin, and takes 54 hours to complete, while traversing over 1,851 miles between the two points. The Ghan is considered one of the world’s greatest train journeys, and gives travelers the luxury of high class travel with a view. The dining on the Ghan is high quality and service is top tier. The sleeper service aboard the train is comfortable and well furnished. The Ghan is the perfect way to explore all Australia has to offer.
21. Train to the Clouds
Tour Argentina in style with the Train to the Clouds tour. The tour takes travelers through a 269 mile trip with fantastic scenery, including the passage of 21 tunnels, 29 bridges, and 13 viaducts. The train ascends to an astounding 13,842 feet, high above the many desert canyons. Passengers board at Salta, and make their way towards La Puna, with the narration of tour guides posted in each car. The train makes a stop at San Antonio, which is a small town located in central Argentina, to buy locally crafted gifts and souvenirs.
22. The Bergen Railway
Take a scenic trip through Norway between Oslo and Bergen. The seven hour trip traverses through some of the highest elevations in Europe, and delights travelers with the various types of wildlife, while gliding over rushing rivers and streams. At each station stop, enjoy the Norwegian architecture at the station and surrounding town. Various types of trains operate on the route, including an evening train that provides a sleeping compartment for an overnight stay on the train.
23. Northern Explorer-New Zealand
Operated by Kiwi Rail, the Northern Explorer is the longest train journey in New Zealand. It takes travelers on a cross country journey exhibiting the natural beauty of the country. The train passes through various fields and farmland, as well as volcanoes and the Kapiti coast. The train operates between the cities of Auckland and Wellington, and makes intermediary stops between the two cities. The landscape of New Zealand is unique, as in some portions of the country, it is possible to see snow, lava from volcanoes, and vast forests all in the same view.
24. Settle-Carlisle Route
The Settle-Carlisle route, which is located in the Northern England region of Cumbria,passes through various remote settlements and fields, and includes some of the most spectacular architecture in the UK, including the Ribblehead Viaduct. Revenue passenger service is operated throughout this line courtesy of Northern, as well as various types of freight movements. Occasionally, excursions operate over the railway hauled by steam locomotives, taking passengers along the historic and impressive infrastructure throughout the route.
25. Alaska Railroad
A vacation in Alaska isn’t complete without a visit to the Alaska Railroad. Enjoy the rolling hills and mountains as you cross truss bridges and duck through tunnels. Look out for the various nature next to the tracks, such as various species of birds and other types of wildlife. Enjoy beverages and other refreshments in the dome car, which includes windows that stretch up to the ceiling, making for an unobstructed view.
26. The Belmond Royal Scotsman
The Belmond Royal Scotsman presents itself as the pinnacle of rail travel in the UK, as its interior is lined with lacquer polished wooden panels and upscale furnishings. Enjoy the Scottish scenery including castles, mirror lochs, and mountains. Aboard the train, taste the locally distilled Scottish wines and enjoy world class dining while passing through the Scottish highlands. Belmond facilitates a variety of different scenic excursions throughout the UK and continental Europe.
27. Feve Line-North Coast of Spain (Transcantabrico Line)
The Transcantabrico Line traverses the entire length of Spain’s north coast, and gives travelers a scenic view of the seaside, while enjoying sleeper carriages and dining cars during its eight day trip. This train is unique as it is one of Spain’s very first overnight trains, as well as the first of its kind on metre gauge track which is 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3/8 in). The Line’s “Luxury Train” has been named the most highly acclaimed tourist train in the world.
28. The Nordland Railway
Cross the arctic circle on board Norway’s longest railway, stretching 452 miles from Bodo to Trondheim. Traverse through Norway’s vast forests and greenery from the comfort of your seat. An overnight train is offered for those who would like to view the famous “Northern Lights”, as you cross the arctic circle. At the end of the journey, the train arrives at its final destination, Trondheim, which is over 1,000 years old.
29. TrenItalia Naples-Palermo
Hop aboard a high speed train and enjoy the scenery of rural Italy fly by. The stretch between Naples and Palermo is some of the most gorgeous scenery the country has to offer. Ride along the coast and admire the shoreline as the beautiful blue water passes by the window. As you approach Palermo, the houses on the various hills will come into view, as well as the beautiful Italian countryside in the background.
30. Heart of Wales Line
The Heart of Wales Line will take passengers on a scenic journey through the center of Wales, and runs between Swansea and Craven Arms, where it diverges onto the mainline, and continues into England. Throughout the journey, the train passes through various tunnels as it glides through Wales’ many mountainsides. Enjoy the rural scenery along the line as well as the small towns it passes through. This service is currently run by Transport for Wales.
Operated by Kiwi Rail, the TranzAlpine train journey will take passengers through some of the most scenic and diverse landscapes in New Zealand. Running between Christchurch and Greymouth, the train passes through the Southern Alps, which is the most popular section of the trip, as before the route was constructed, trains would be blocked by the mountain. The train also passes through various scenic forests and rivers, with rich blue water. The journey is nearly 5 hours and is 223 kilometers (139 miles) long.
32. West Highland Line, Glasgow to Mallaig Scotland
Voted as top train journey in the world by some travelers, this is the best way to see the Scottish Highlands and the rural countryside. The line traverses through the west coast of Scotland and through some of the most scenic areas the country has to offer. The line operates between Glasgow Queen Street station and extends northwest to Oban Railway station. Some of the sights seen along the line are the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which is a true marvel of architecture and engineering. Perhaps the highlight of the entire trip are the endless sights of tall mountain ranges.
33. Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway
Enjoy the splendor of Scotland aboard the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway, which will take travelers on a five mile journey between Bo’ness and Manuel Junction. As you take the journey, admire the various wildflowers and greenery that adorn the side of the railway. Trains at this railway are either hauled by steam or diesel traction. The station at Bo’ness is the site of the future Scottish Railway Museum, which is being planned to encompass the transportation history of Scotland.
34. Amtrak Empire Builder
Take a scenic ride through the open plains of the northern region of the United States, with spectacular views and service. Named after James J. Hill, who introduced railroads to the northwest, the trip takes travelers on a scenic trip from Seattle to Chicago. Travel through the infamous Marias Pass in Montana, and the plains of the Dakotas while relaxing in the sightseer lounge with seats that swivel for a 360 degree view. Tickets can be booked for this trip through the Amtrak website.
35. Downpatrick and County Down Railway
This railway gives visitors a scenic trip through the Irish countryside. Hop on board behind a vintage steam engine and enjoy the sights of rolling hills and flat plains. Visitors can board the train near the station located just steps from the St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the heart of Downpatrick, and will travel to Inch Abbey, where passengers can enter the buffet car and enjoy light refreshments.
36. Napa Valley Wine Train
This three hour journey takes wine connoisseurs from Napa to St. Helena in historic rail equipment, while dining on specially prepared meals and drinking wine from local wineries within the surrounding area. The trip passes through various wineries throughout the area and gives riders to opportunity to see where the wine is made, and the expertise that is involved in production. Visitors can also tour various wineries upon arrival to St. Helena for an additional fee.
37. Arctic Circle Train
The Arctic Circle train gives travelers the opportunity to view the vast scenery between Narvik, Norway and Kiruna, Sweden. Views will include various snow covered mountain tops and even view the midnight sun. In Kiruna, there are various ski resorts to check out, as well as the Northern Lights upon nightfall. There are two daily trips traveling between the two towns, which lasts three hours. Additionally, there are a couple trains offered in the evening time.
38. Amtrak California Zephyr
The California Zephyr operates between Chicago and San Francisco, and gives travelers beautiful views of the American landscape, such as the Book Cliffs in Utah, the vast plains of Nevada, Donner Pass, and the rugged terrain of the Rockies. Enjoy restaurant style dining in the dining car, and a comfortable sleeper berth to enjoy a restful night’s sleep. Tickets can be purchased for this trip on the Amtrak website.
39. Amtrak Ethan Allen Express
The Ethan Allen Express, operating between New York City and Rutland, Vermont, takes riders on a 5 1/2 hour trip through many scenic landscapes. The train is also popular with skiers, as the train passes through the resort town of Killington, Vermont. If traveling on the route during the fall, enjoy the spectacular foliage, as the colorful trees pass by the window. When traveling towards Rutland, be sure to check out the small town and its charm.
40. Belmond British Pullman
Operated by Belmond, the British Pullman takes passengers on a luxurious journey towards many different events held in southern England. The train departs from London-Victoria station and consists of carriages dating from the twenties through the fifties. On board, passengers will get to experience the romance of rail travel, while being served gourmet dishes,enjoying posh furnishings, and admiring the art-deco style interior of the beautifully restored carriages.
41. Amtrak Cascades
The Amtrak Cascades connects the cities of Vancouver B.C., Seattle, Washington, Eugene, Oregon, and Portland, Oregon. The Cascades gives travelers the chance to travel alongside the scenic Puget Sound in Washington between Tacoma and Nisqually. Pass through the various tall forests of Oregon and Washington, while watching the wildlife thrive outside your window. Connections are available to the bustling city of Vancouver, Canada twice a day.
42. Amtrak Cardinal
The Cardinal is unique, as it gives travelers views of the bustling northeast and the vast plains of the Midwest. The Cardinal leaves New York Penn Station to Chicago Union Station three times weekly, with connections to various communities within West Virginia. Ohio, and Indiana. While journeying towards Chicago, the train will pass the Allegheny Mountains and the vast Shenandoah Valley. Classes available are coach and business class, along with dining car services.
43. Belmond Grand Hibernarian
The Belmond Grand Hibernarian gives passengers the opportunity to tour Ireland in its entirety, with service from Dublin -Cork-Killarney-Galway-Westport, which includes an entire four night tour. Also available is a two night tour to Belfast Northern Ireland. These tours include first class dining and furnishings while enjoying the rolling Irish countryside and many small towns.