The most scenic rail journeys in the world

While your travel plans for the immediate future might have been hampered by the outbreak of a global pandemic, it’s a great time to plan future excursions to some of the world’s more interesting places. In many cases, the travel itself can be a bit of a necessary evil – especially if you’re flying to your destination. But sometimes, getting from one place to another can be a feature of the holiday, rather than something to be simply tolerated.

In almost every case, these memorable journeys are taken on a train. But only some trains stand out as worth taking a trip for. Let’s review some of those that are worthy inclusions on any bucket list.

The Most Scenic
Rail Journeys in the World

Caledonian Sleeper, The United Kingdom

This famous train journey is an overnight service connecting London with Scotland. The Caledonian Sleeper is actually two trains rather than just one: there’s a Highlander, which will take Londoners all the way up to Aberdeen, and the Lowlander, which connects to Glasgow and Edinburgh instead. Along the way, you’ll get stunning views of the English countryside, and then of the Scottish highlands. Sleeper trains are something of an endangered species in Europe, and this is a great way to roll luxury accommodation and travel into a single expense, and to see some of the countryside at the same time. Of course, you can also find your way from the Caledonian Sleeper to just about anywhere along the way, if you’re willing to make a few changeovers. Trains travelling to Bognor Regis, Newcastle and York can be boarded at several points along the way.

Photo by Jack Anstey

The TranzAlpine, New Zealand

The TranzAlpine will take you through the mountainous heart of this faraway island nation. It’s among the world’s most diverse train journeys in terms of climate and scenery, packing in urban Christchurch, the plains of Canterbury, the snowy Southern Alps, and the rainforest beyond. If you’re looking to explore all of the beauty that New Zealand has to offer, there are few better ways in which to do it.

Flåm Railway, Norway

This journey runs between Bergen and Oslo, and it’s so beautiful that it was actually live broadcast back in 2009 on Norwegian television. There are mountains, lakes, waterfalls and (of course) the famous fjords to appreciate along the way. If you’re willing to go a stage further, there’s Myrdal, which connects to Flåm via one of the world’s steepest railway tracks.

Photo by W Alan

The California Zephyr, USA

In terms of scale, this American journey goes some way beyond the trips we’ve mentioned so far. Rather than taking a few hours, the Zephyr’s route stretches over several days – and runs across nearly 2500 miles of sun-battered prairies and deserts on the way from Chicago to San Francisco. There’s not quite as much variety on offer here (at least, not on a per-mile) basis, but you’ll get that unmistakable sense of the frontier as you make your way through the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada.

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