Great Scenic Rail Journeys-The Death Railway Thailand view of bridge over the river kwai

24 Great Scenic Rail Journeys in the World

Rail travel has become increasingly popular in recent years, so here are 24 of the great scenic rail journeys in the world to add to your bucket list!

There’s something magical about taking a train trip. Rail journeys connect modern cities, charming towns, and iconic landmarks while providing the traveller with adventure and an insight into the heart of a country. On any of these great scenic rail journeys, the journey becomes part of the destination.

From the passenger seat and windows of your carriage, experience spectacular views and watch the amazing panoramas unfold. These scenic train trips highlight some of the most picturesque vistas in the world including rock formations, towering mountain peaks, rice paddies, lush rainforests, canyons and desert expanses. In addition you will see lush flora, incredible wildlife, indigenous culture and historical towns.

Some of the world’s wildest and most beautiful scenery is best enjoyed from a train window, and is only accessible by rail. Whether your rail vacation takes you across the country or across the globe, you will experience destinations that are sure to impress and leave memories to last a lifetime. From the Maharaja’s Express in India to the Marrakech Express in Morocco, these 24 great scenic rail journeys provide the best on offer.

Did You Know?

“Trains are wonderful…. To travel by train is to see nature and human beings, towns and churches, and rivers, in fact, to see life.”

– Agatha Christie –

Great Scenic Rail Journeys in Africa

Marrakech Express – Morocco

Recommended by Nichola at ‘Family Hotel Expert’

Travelling across Morocco by train is by far the easiest way. Trains criss-cross the country and they’re a fantastic way to get glimpses of real life going on in communities along the tracks.

The train from Marrakech to Tangier is the perfect trip! It takes around six hours on the day train and it usually goes via another town or city, but on the night train (which will take longer, usually around 10 hours) you don’t need to change.

During the day you can take the train between Marrakech to Tangier with comfortable seats and very prompt service. If you want to sit in the air-conditioned, first class seats, then booking ahead is an absolute priority. It will also save you from the crush of people rushing to get on and find a seat as you will have a reserved one. Buying a ticket in advance is also cheaper than buying it on the day.

To save money on a night in a hotel you can also take the night train. This is not the most comfortable night’s sleep and the bathroom facilities can be more than a little basic (take your own toilet roll and soap) but it really does feel like an adventure. There is food available on board but both Marrakech and Tangier station have a really good selection to eat there or take on with you.

Either journey gives an amazing insight into this beautiful country.

Great Scenic Rail Journeys-Marrakech to Tangier night train pulling out of the station
Marrakech to Tangier Night Train

Great Scenic Rail Journeys in Asia

Trans Mongolian Rail Journey – China, Mongolia

Recommended by Sarah at ‘AsocialNomad’

The Trans Mongolian railway follows an ancient trading caravan route from Russia to China passing through Mongolia.   Often you’ll find it compared with the Trans-Siberian route, which is also covered in this article, so this section will focus on the specifics of the Trans Mongolian trains.

The route between Ulan Ude – Ulaanbataar – Jinning runs for 2,215 kilometres (1,376 miles) and has 23 stations.  The time taken to travel depends on the service that you take and the length of time taken for border crossings.   Plus there’s a special treat in store for those on the Trans Mongolian.  In Russia and Mongolia, the trains run on 1,520 mm gauge tracks.  In China, the gauge is 1,435mm.  That means that on the border between Mongolia and China, while you stay on the train they change the “bogies” – the wheels on the trains.  It’s a fascinating experience – inside a huge work shed, large cranes lift the chassis of the train carriages – with you in it – and place the carriages down on the Chinese bogies.   While the scenery is magnificent and vast on this trip, this experience is a once in a lifetime experience too!

You can buy through tickets at Russian tourist agencies in Moscow, or split the journey by travelling to Ulaanbataar and then buying tickets at Ulaanbataar train station through to Jinning, China.

Great Scenic Rail Journeys-Trans Mongolian - Nighttime crossing the Gobi Desert
Trans Mongolian – Crossing the Gobi Desert at Night Time

Maharajas’ Express – India

Recommended by Mariellen at ‘Breathe Dream Go’

The Maharajas’ Express in India, voted The World’s Leading Luxury Train, travels several routes in north and south India. The destinations may change depending on the route, but the luxurious experience does not. These train journeys offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the height of Indian hospitality, luxurious comfort, gourmet food cooked to order, first class service, and some of the most incredible destinations on earth. 

The Indian Panorama route on the Maharajas’ Express crosses four states in North India. The journey takes 6 nights and 7 days. From Delhi you will travel to Jaipur and Ranthambhore in Rajasthan; then Agra for the Taj Mahal; Gwalior and Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh; and finally Varanasi and Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh before heading back to the starting point in Delhi. There are also three other routes to choose from.

Along the way, the company arranges many fantastic and exclusive experiences — far too many to list here. But they included a private champagne picnic with a perfect view of the Taj Mahal in Agra, tiger safari in Ranthambhore, private lunch in Jaipur’s City Palace and much, much more. 

Top Tip: Save room for dinner! The food is really incredible on-board and the portions are large!

Great Scenic Rail Journeys Maharajas Express in India View of and from the Room
Maharaja Express – View from the Room

Mandovi Express – India

Recommended by Soujanya at ‘The Spicy Journey’

Passengers sitting on either side of the train can watch these landscapes in awe whilst gorging on fresh, hot Indian food since this train has a pantry car. Breakfast is usually a South Indian dish called sheera upma or fresh idli with coconut chutney. For lunch, there’s a choice of a vegetarian or non-vegetarian (chicken) thali – an assortment of Indian curries, lentils, rice, chapati, pickles etc. Throughout the journey, vendors will be offering soups, cutlets, other snacks and drinks.

To get the most out of your journey, travel in this train just after the monsoon from September to October when there’s less chance of a landslide, but it’s still lush and green. From November to April it’s safe to travel but you won’t see lush green landscapes. You’ll get the best views during monsoon but there’s a greater chance of landslides and delays or unexpected snags along the way. Tickets to the train are available on the official IRCTC website or mobile app.

Great Scenic Rail Journeys-mandovi-express-india going over a bridge
Mandovi Express – India

Railway Journey from Yogyakarta to Jakarta – Indonesia

Recommended by Victoria at ‘Guide Your Travel’

Prices vary depending on the availability of free tickets. For the equivalent of USD$24 / 20€ to USD$30 / 25€, you can get a seat in first class with a reclining, well-padded seat, a pillow, a fold-out table and air conditioning. In economy class, on the other hand, 3-4 people always share a bench seat in an un-air-conditioned car.

Tickets should be booked as early as possible and preferably online, as they are often sold out on weekends or public holidays. You should arrive 30-45 minutes earlier at the station for check-in, as you will have to go through a security check like at the airport.

The train passes through endless rice fields and small villages, which gives you a lot to see. There are clean toilets in almost every car and a snack car, which offers cold but also hot food and drinks for very little money. The train is not very fast, so it is a cheap and safe alternative with a lot to see compared to flying.

Great Scenic Rail Journeys-Yogyakarta to Jakarata Indonesia views of river
Railway Journey from Yogyakarta to Jakarta – Indonesia

Kyushu Scenic Train Journey – Japan

Recommended by Jonny at ‘Back Packing Man’

Kyushu has one of the best scenic train journeys in Japan and is one of the most beautiful main islands in the country. The area is located in the southwest and has active volcanoes and plenty of hot springs, as well as wild, rugged scenery.

From the city of Kagoshima, you can take small trains that are only three carriages long up into the hills, stopping at old train stations, and enjoy the surrounding nature.

It’s also a lot of fun as at each small station you stop at, you can get out and have a look around at the history of the area and see an old steam train locomotive.

As it’s touristy, you can just show up at the main train station in either city and ask for the scenic train journey. They will know what you mean! Check and see if the trains are covered by the JR Kyushu Rail Pass if you have one. Coming from the Kagoshima direction it’s best to sit on the right side of the train.

Great Scenic Rail Journeys-Japan Kyushu Scenic Train
Kyushu Scenic Train Journey – Japan

Mandalay to Hsipaw over the Iconic Gokteik Viaduct – Myanmar

Recommended by Samantha at ‘The Wandering Wanderluster’

Myanmar is a country of outstanding beauty and culture. Over the last decade, the country that was once tightly controlled by a repressive military government has seen a huge increase in tourism, with many visitors travelling around the country using its surprisingly extensive railway network. While its trains are far from high speed or modern, they provide a unique opportunity to see breath-taking landscapes and local villages that have remained unspoiled by modern-day comforts and technology. 

Due to disrepair, the thrilling crossing is incredibly slow, with the train crawling across the creaking one way track, providing ample time to enjoy the view across the gorge and take the must have photo out the window. 

Those who wish to experience the adrenaline rush of crossing the viaduct and the picturesque journey should aim to book a seat on the left side of the train and book a day or two in advance at the train station in Mandalay, especially if you wish to ride in “upper class” which costs approximately USD$10 per ticket one way. While the upper class cabin is a far cry from luxurious, the seats are much more comfortable than the wooden benches in economy and if you’re lucky, the ceiling fans might be working to give you a little relief from the stuffy air in the summer months. 

Great Scenic Rail Journeys-Myanmar Train travelling over the Gokteik Viaduct
Travelling over the Gokteik Viaduct – Myanmar

Kandy to Ella Rail Journey – Sri Lanka

Enjoy the spectacular scenery on this 7 hour journey (150km / 94 miles) as you pass through lush tea plantations famous for producing one of the best teas in the world, Ceylon Tea, terraced rice fields, cascading waterfalls, quaint rural villages, and with endless mountain vistas.

This train trip is very popular, both among tourists and locals, so it is best to buy your tickets online well in advance at 12Go. Tickets can also be purchased at train stations, but you will need to be flexible in terms of departure times and train class. The most popular choice among tourists is the 1st class observation car which provides a full view of the scenery with designated seating and air-conditioning.

If you have time, we highly recommend getting off at stops like Hatton or Nuwara Eliya and spending a few days to enjoy the cool, refreshing air in the Sri Lanka highlands and explore the tea plantations.

Great Scenic Rail Journeys-Sri Lanka Kandy to Ella Train going over the old stone arched building near Ella
Kandy to Ella Train – Sri Lanka

Alishan Forest Railway – Taiwan

Recommended by Nick at ‘Spiritual Travels’

Alishan Forest Railway is a small-gauge railway in Central Taiwan. The Japanese built it in 1912, during their colonial occupation of Taiwan, to transport logs from the Central Mountain Range. Later, the cute train cars started transporting tourists rather than timber, who were attracted by the incredible scenery along the route.   

Even though the train ride has been shortened, the dramatic mountain views remain stunning. The best station to disembark is Fenqihu, a tiny mountain village surrounded by bamboo forests. Spend the night at a tea farm in the area or continue on by bus to Alishan. Alishan is famous for its hiking trails through old growth forests, sunrises above seas of clouds, views of Taiwan’s highest mountains, and in early April, cherry blossoms. It’s best to book your tickets online up to two weeks in advance, especially in cherry blossom season.

After you arrive at Alishan, there are a few more branches of the original train line operating within the park. You can ride them from Alishan station to three other scenic areas, including the famous sunrise viewing point. If you’re lucky, you’ll get one of the original train cars with an interior made of cedar. They smell lovely!  

Great Scenic Rail Journeys-alishan-forest-railway train at Chiayi Station
Alishan Forest Railway – Taiwan

The Burma (Death) Railway – Thailand

During World War II, the Japanese forced Allied prisoners of war to labour building a stretch of railway connecting Thailand to Burma. Stricken by illnesses such as cholera, beriberi, dysentery and dengue, the men built 415 kilometres / 257 miles of railway track in fourteen months. It earnt the nickname The Death Railway as it is reported that one prisoner died for every sleeper laid.

This beautiful, but sombre journey, can still be experienced along a remaining segment of railway track from Thonburi Station in Bangkok to Nam Tok, stopping at both Kanchanaburi and River Kwai Bridge stations. Trains (3rd class only) depart twice a day in the morning and afternoon and meander west through thick jungle, crossing the infamous Bridge on the River Kwai and passing tiny, brightly coloured stations along the way.

It is recommended to spend a day in Kanchanaburi to see the train crossing the River Kwai Bridge. For the best photos with the least amount of crowds, get there early in the morning or afternoon.

From Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok station, one of the highlights is crossing the famous Wampo Viaduct on the River Kwai. For the best views of the viaduct, sit near the back of the train and on the right hand side to get the best views on the journey from Nam Tok to River Kwai Bridge.

When in Nam Tok, visit Hellfire Pass, which is the railway cutting of the former Death Railway, and Sai Yok Noi Waterfall. Hellfire Pass has a very interesting museum that explains the building of The Death Railway in great detail, and also explains the hardships of the POW’s.

Great Scenic Rail Journeys-The Death Railway Thailand - Bridge Over the River Kwai
The Death Railway – Bridge Over the River Kwai – Thailand

The Reunification Express – Vietnam

The Reunification Express, also known as the North-South Railway, is one of Southeast Asia’s best-loved railways. It begins in Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, and you can travel on the train the whole 1726 kilometres / 1072 miles (36 hours) to Ho Chi Minh City. The most beautiful stretch is the first half of the journey from Hanoi to Dan Nang.

During the Vietnam War, the railway line was damaged by American bombs and put out of action. Less than two years after the surrender of South Vietnam and the country’s reunification in 1976, the complete rail journey from Hanoi to Saigon was possible once more.

The route is seen as a powerful symbol of solidarity, hence the nickname ‘The Reunification Express’. It provides a scenic way to travel between the cities along the coastline with travel through thick jungle, intermingled with intimate views of local villages and family life, and in the final stretch, cliff top views overlooking the South China Sea.

There are plenty of interesting stops along the route which are worth spending a day or two visiting. Hanoi is an amazing city with lots of things to do and see, and is a great place to learn a bit more about the history of this beautiful city and country. Also worthy of a visit are Hue, the former imperial capital, and Danang and Hoi An which are popular tourist destinations showcasing French colonial architecture and century-old pagodas. If you plan on continuing further south, the laid-back coastal town of Nha Trang has amazing seafood, and the final station, Ho Chi Minh City, is a modern metropolis oozing with history and amazing cuisine.

Great Scenic Rail Journeys-The Reunification Express Vietnam view of a farmer in rice paddies on a water buffalo
Rural Views from the The Reunification Express – Vietnam

Great Scenic Rail Journeys in Central / South America

Train to Machu Picchu Including the Belmond Hiram Bingham Train – Peru

Recommended by Ariana at ‘World of Travels with Kids’

The scenic journey by train to Machu Picchu  is one of the most famous rail journeys in the world – its only 1.5 hours in length, but what it lacks in duration, it makes up for in stunning scenery and an unforgettable destination.

These days a visitor to Machu Picchu has a wide range of train services to choose from, with two companies – Peru Rail and Inca Trail – offering a wide range of options.  In general the cheapest RT ticket comes in at $80 US (for trains that run at inconvenient times).   At the other end of the spectrum is one of the most luxurious trains in the world – the Belmond Hiram Bingham, gorgeously appointed, with gourmet meals and gold star service, which will set you back around $900.

The best value tickets are the Vistadome services that feature panoramic windows in the roof and the sides allowing incredible photo opportunities.  Plus, the Vistadome service tends to run at times that work better with a visit to Machu Picchu.

Great Scenic Rail Journeys-Peru-rail-trains-interior of the Vistadome Service
Interior of the Vistadome Service

Great Scenic Rail Journeys in Europe

St Ives to St Erth Rail Journey – Cornwall, England

Recommended by Claire at ‘Go South West England’

The St Erth to St Ives train in Cornwall is short but spectacular. It covers just 3 miles / 5 kilometres and will only take 10 minutes out of your day, but it runs past the ocean around the beautiful St Ives Bay, which is characterised by its brilliantly blue waters, tropical-like palm trees and white sand beaches. 

You can stop off in Carbis Bay, which is one of the best beaches in Cornwall and is where the famous G7 summit was held in June 2021. This sandy expanse has inspired artists for decades, and it’s easy to see why – you won’t get a more postcard-perfect destination anywhere in the UK. 

Make sure that you sit on the right side of the train if you are going from St Erth to St Ives, and on the left if you are going the other way. You’ll see the best beach views this way! 

As it’s such a short train ride, there are no dining facilities, but there are plenty of places to eat in St Ives. 

Great Scenic Rail Journeys-England - Beautiful Scenes of the coastline near St Ives railway line
Beautiful Scenes of the Coastline Near St Ives Railway Line

Flam Railway – Norway

Recommended by Cazzy at ‘Dream Big, Travel Far’

It’s actually one of the steepest lines in the world on a normal track. In fact, you will be riding up to 866 metres in elevation. The trip itself takes around 2 hours with a 20-minute stop at Myrdal for taking photos and enjoying the view.

The fact that it’s a return trip between Flam and Myrdal means it’s recommended to sit on the same side of the carriage throughout, so you can enjoy the panorama from both sides. Passing the stunning Flam Valley, the old Flam village centre, scintillating rivers, and countless small farms, the sights along this line is truly extraordinary.

In terms of when to try this railway line, each season brings out a unique side of the surrounding landscapes, with winter creating a spectacular snowy backdrop and summer showcasing the lush greeneries of Norway’s mountainside.

Flam itself teems with beautiful walking routes along the pier, and you may want to hop on a cruise on one of their electric ships for a water tour of the fjords. The Flam Railway Museum is also just next door and the perfect way to complete a Flam Railway experience!

Great Scenic Rail Journeys-Flam Railway Norway picture of outside of carriage
Flam Railway – Norway

West Highland Line – Scotland

Recommended by Tracy at ‘UK Travel Planning’

Journey time between Glasgow Queen’s Street and Mallaig is 5 hours 15 minutes approximately.

After departing Fort William, the train crosses over the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct. Spectacular views of Loch Shiel and Glenfinnan Monument can be seen from the train.

The train continues through the Highlands before arriving in the coastal town of Mallaig where it is possible to catch a ferry to the Isle of Skye.

For an extra special trip on the West Highland Line, why not book a trip on the Jacobite Steam Train from Fort William to Mallaig. Famously appearing in Harry Potter movies as the Hogwarts Express, the train offers both fans of the films and steam train lovers a great day out.

Great Scenic Rail Journeys-Scotland - West Highland Line - View of the Glenfinnan Viaduct
West Highland Line – View of the Glenfinnan Viaduct

Al Andalus Railway Journey – Spain

Recommended by Paulina at ‘Paulina On The Road’

Great Scenic Rail Journeys-Spain seville-views-of-cathedral.jpg
Views of Cathedral in Seville

Bernina Express – Switzerland

Recommended by Tracy at ‘Tracy’s Travels in Time’

The journey takes 4 hours and covers a distance of 144 kilometres. Along the way, the train travels through 55 tunnels and over 196 bridges. Constructed in the late 19th Century, the route followed by the Bernina Express is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes.

Travelling from Tirano, the train climbs into the Swiss Alps with lakes, pretty villages and stunning Alpine scenery all around. The train passes near the popular Swiss resort of St Moritz before descending through the Bernina Pass, across the Landwasser Viaduct before pulling into the station at Chur.

The best seats on the Bernina Express (heading north) are on the left hand side of the train. It is impossible to tell when booking seats, so do not worry if your seat reservation puts you on the right hand side. When people alight at the various stations along the way you will find you can change seats quite easily.

Seat reservations are compulsory on the Bernina Express. If you have a Swiss Travel Pass, Interrail or Eurail Pass covering Switzerland, you only pay the reservation fee.

A refreshment trolley offers at seat service and sells prosecco, tea, coffee, snacks and souvenirs as it passes through the train.

Great Scenic Rail Journeys-Switzerland - View of Poschiavo from the Bernina Express
View of Poschiavo from the Bernina Express

Great Scenic Rail Journeys in North America

Rocky Mountaineer – Canada

Recommended by Emma at ‘Forever Lost in Travel’

Rocky Mountaineer is one of the most luxurious and scenic railway journeys in the world. Of the four routes offered, the most popular is the two-day journey between Banff and Vancouver in western Canada.

Being treated like royalty from start to finish as the train slowly snakes its way from the coast to the impressive Canadian Rockies is a once in a lifetime experience.

The views are out of this world, and the specially customized train cars have magnificently oversized windows which mean that there’s not a bad seat on the train. And if you opt for the ultra-lux GoldLeaf service, your double decker train car sits you even higher for unparalleled vistas. GoldLeaf also comes equipped with an outdoor veranda, perfect for taking photos while listening to the rhythmic clackety-clack of the train chugging along the tracks.

The journey is 2 full days on the train with an overnight hotel stay in the small desert city of Kamloops between them. No sleeping on the train means you don’t miss any beautiful scenery.

The train runs seasonally from April to October, but May is a particularly amazing time to travel – longer, crisp spring weather days, snow-capped mountains, and plenty of bears waking up from hibernation.

This is a scenic train journey you don’t want to miss and is a must for every bucket list.

Great Scenic Rail Journeys-Side of the Rocky Mountaineer Canada
Rocky Mountaineer – Canada

The Canadian Railway Journey – Canada

Recommended by Emilie at ‘Love Life Abroad’

A train ride across Canada on board The Canadian is a great alternative to a road trip to explore beautiful Canada. As you may already know, Canada is huge and it takes a big trip to drive the 4,466 kilometres that separates Toronto from Vancouver

The journey starts downtown Toronto at the Union Station for a morning departure. For the next 4 days and 4 nights, you’ll discover the endless boreal forests of Ontario, the golden fields of Manitoba, and Saskatchewan to finally enter the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Alberta and British Columbia. The journey ends in Vancouver where you’ll arrive at your destination in the morning. You’ll be welcomed by a sunrise over downtown Vancouver, a city in between the ocean and mountains.

The Canadian train ride can be done year-round and really depends on what your overall plan is. For example, it can be a good idea to take the trip to get to Vancouver and then add a ski trip in Whistler in the winter, or to simply enjoy the town of Vancouver in the summer.  Fall would also be a great time for this train ride as you’ll be able to admire the foliage at the start of the journey and may get to see some snow on top of the Rocky Mountains.

Copper Canyon “El Chepe” Railway – Mexico

Recommended by Shelley at ‘Travel Mexico Solo’

Riders have two options on where to board the train. The first is in the city of Los Mochis, in Sinaloa state. If you board there, you’ll go about 220 miles (350 kilometres) to the city of Creel in Chihuahua state.

Creel is one of about 135 or so Mexico pueblos magicos(magic towns), and a popular tourism destination in Northern Mexico.

You can also do the route in reverse order — starting in Creel and ending in Los Mochis. However, many consider the desert landscape and canyon vistas near Los Mochis to be the most beautiful, so you’ll want to see them in daylight.

In fact, this is one of the Copper Canyon El Chepe Train tips: Start the journey in Los Mochis! Another tip is to sit on the right side of the train if you’re coming from Los Mochis, and the left side if you’re starting in Creel.

Along the nine hour train route, you’ll pass through tunnels, across mountains, over bridges, and of course, along the famed Copper Canyon. You can make stops in three Mexican towns along the way: El Fuerte, Bahuichivo and Divisadero.

El Chepe has first, executive and tourist class tickets. They range from 3100 to 5200MXN pesos ($155-$260USD). You can buy tickets online or in person — though it’s better to buy in advance so you can choose your seats on the best side of the train.

Great Scenic Rail Journeys-Mexico-El Chepe, the Copper Canyon Train near Los Mochis, Sinaloa
El Chepe, the Copper Canyon Train near Los Mochis, Sinaloa

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway – USA

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, shortened to D&SNGRR, was voted #1 Best Scenic Train by USA Today in 2021. It is a National Historic Landmark, in use since 1882, in the state of Colorado, USA. On the 45-mile route between Durango and Silverton you’ll have splendid views on the San Juan Mountains. The mountain vistas and railroading history is why you’ll take this ride. The railroad still operates with a historic engine.

The train ride is a 3ft narrow-gauge heritage railroad. In between Durango and Silverton you pass the old towns of Hermosa and Rockwood, but it’s mostly just mountains and wilderness. Sights not to miss are the Horseshoe Curve, High Bridge and the High Line. The High Line is considered one of the most spectacular railroading views in the world.

The journey takes 9.25 hours, roundtrip. This includes a 2 hour layover in Silverton. Silverton is a historic mining town, in which you’ll easily spend 2 hours, especially if you include a visit to the Silverton Freight Yard Museum. Durango is a railroad town and has the D&SNG museum.

In Spring, Summer and Fall the scenic round trip is possible. But in winter time there’s the Polar Express train ride. There were several classes on the train, we were in the Silver Vista. Which gives 360° views, since the ceiling is also made of glass windows. You’ll also have the most legroom, a private outdoor viewing platform and an on-board attendant.

Great Scenic Rail Journeys-Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad - travelling alongside Animas River Gorge
Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad – Animas River Gorge

Amtrak Coast Starlight Train Line – USA West Coast

Recommended by Mary at ‘Wander U’

Hugging the stunning coastline of the United States’ West Coast, the Amtrak Coast Starlight train line connects two bucket list places, Seattle and Los Angeles. From the evergreens and mountains of the Pacific Northwest to the turquoise waves and beach fronts of SoCal, this train covers some of the most breathtaking scenery in America.

From downtown Seattle, the train passes by the Cascade Mountains; spot Mount Rainier and Mount Saint Helens before crossing the Columbia River into Oregon where you can spy Mount Hood. From Oregon, the train continues into Northern California, stopping in Sacramento and the Bay Area before continuing towards Los Angeles. The best place to sit is definitely the Sightseer Lounge for large windows to drink in the sights. In any car, you’ll want to choose a seat on the right-hand (West) side of the train for the views of the Pacific Ocean in California.

Great Scenic Rail Journeys-USA Amtrak Train Tracks WA
Amtrak Coast Starlight Train Line – USA West Coast

Great Scenic Rail Journeys in Oceania

The Ghan Expedition – Australia

Recommended by Angela at ‘Where Angie Wanders’

Over two nights and three days, The Ghan will take you on a luxurious adventure. Cabins have 1920s styling with teak interiors and a picture window which allows you to watch the scenery of Australia go by right before your eyes. Single or double sleeping configurations are available all with en-suite facilities.

All-inclusive dining aboard The Ghan is a special event, and breakfast, lunch and dinner is cooked to extremely high standards. Australian wines accompany every meal and other alcoholic beverages are available. Dining carriages are set out with tables seating four guests – if you are travelling solo or as a couple you will be seated with others. This is a nice way of meeting the other guests.

Each day there is a trip included in your travel itinerary. Day one is a trip to Nitmiluk Gorge in Katherine for a cruise along the river and day two is a stop at Alice Springs, the heart of Australia, with several options including a visit to the School of the Air and the Telegraph Station. The day is finished off with BBQ and stargazing if weather permits. Day three is the final leg of the journey and takes you through the famous Flinders Ranges before arriving in the city of Adelaide.

Although The Ghan is extremely expensive, it is a “one of a kind” epic railway journey and is worth every penny.

Great Scenic Rail Journeys-picture of The Ghan Expedition Australia
The Ghan Expedition – Australia

Coastal Pacific Railway Journey – New Zealand

Recommended by Holly at ‘Globeblogging’

Running over 300 kilometres between the South Island’s capital Christchurch and Picton in the Marlborough region, the Coastal Pacific winds its way not only through the picturesque countryside for which the South Island is famous, but it follows the spectacular coastline of the Pacific Island along the edge of the island. Stopping at Rangiora, Kaikoura and Blenheim on the way, the full trip takes a little under 6 hours.

Anyone who has ever tried to capture a photo through a train window will be familiar with the challenges. On the Coastal Pacific, photographers can head to the open air carriage for the chance to capture unobstructed ocean views and perhaps a glimpse of the Kaikoura seal colony.

The café carriage is another drawcard, offering both hot and cold food and beverage options which you can order on the day or pre-order with your ticket. If you’re riding from Christchurch it’s a 7am departure so it’s a good option for breakfast!

Bring your earphones along to plug into the audio commentary of the journey and learn about the locations you are travelling through.

Great Scenic Rail Journeys-New Zealand - Coastal Pacific Rail journey views of the coast
Coastal Pacific Railway Journey – New Zealand

In Summary – 24 Great Scenic Rail Journeys in the World

Train travel has become a very popular mode of transportation as they are ideal for a more relaxed way to travel as you take in a destination at a slower pace. In addition, you have the added benefit of offering fantastic views of various landscapes and countryside, picturesque towns and villages, and in some cases, amazing wildlife.

What is your favourite rail journey in the world and why? Have you been on any of the great scenic rail journeys listed above? Post your tips, comments and questions below.

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