There are few things as nostalgically glamorous as train travel. The dark wooden walls, cocktails in the bar car, stately men in dinner jackets, white-gloved maître d’s, the soothing ri-tat of the wheels on the track—it’s all so civilized. As Cary Grant summarized in North by Northwest, “Beats flying, doesn’t it.” Luckily, some companies have preserved the Golden Age of rail travel for those of us that came after Eva Marie Saint. From the mountains of Peru to the Highlands of Scotland, these trains not only transport ticket holders to incredible destinations, but also to a more refined era, when getting there was half the fun.  
Royal Canadian Pacific
The route: A loop through the Canadian Rockies, beginning and ending in Calgary
Length: 6 days
Operating since 1881, this venerable train has hosted British royalty and other notables like Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt. The line’s signature trip through the Canadian Rockies is perfect for outdoorsy-types, with stops in Yoho and Banff National Parks, as well as Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park (the train stops at night to ensure you won’t miss any bucolic gems while you’re asleep). Travelers who want a bird’s eye view can also opt for a newly added helicopter flight over the mountains on the last day of the trip.
From $8,200 per person
Royal Scotsman
The route: 720 miles across Scotland, beginning and ending in Edinburgh
Length: 4 days
This railway’s “Classic Journey” provides a thorough overview of the country, with quintessential Scottish activities like whiskey tasting at Glen Ord Distillery, clay pigeon shooting in the Highlands, and a round of golf at Ballindalloch Castle’s course. Diners on the train can expect hearty, game-focused fare (and salmon, naturally)—guests who want to go native can even visit the train’s bespoke tailor for a custom kilt made in the company’s tartan.
From $4,090 per person
Venice Simplon Orient-Express
The route: Istanbul to Venice
Length: 6 days
This train is rich with history in and of itself—one carriage inspired events in Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, while another transported European royalty across the continent. French fare is served in one of three circa-1920s dining cars (the maître d’ will stop by your cabin to take your reservation). When you’re not aboard, you’ll be visiting Peles Castle in Romania or spending time meandering around stops like Budapest, Bucharest, and Vienna.
From $8,080 per person
Maharajas’ Express
The route: Bombay to Delhi
Length: 14 days
This two-week journey lives up to its princely moniker with an itinerary that includes lunch with the royal family at Jambughoda Palace, a champagne picnic in the Sand Dunes outside of Bikaner, searching for the elusive Bengal tiger in Ranthambore National Park, and watching the sunrise at the Taj Mahal.
From $10,515 per person
Rovos Rail
The route: Cape Town to Dar Es Salaam
Length: 14 days
With travel through South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, and Botswana, this two-week trip in July offers an efficient (and swanky) way to explore the southern part of the African continent. Arrive a few days early to explore Cape Town and the nearby winelands then board the train for stops including a sunset cruise down the Zambezi, Victoria Falls, and a two-night stay at the Tau Game Lodge in the Madikwe Game Reserve (the 4th largest in the country, you can expect to see the big 5 here). 
From $8,900 per person
Golden-Eagle Trans-Siberian Express
The route: Vladivostok to Moscow, via Mongolia
Length: 15 days
Doctor Zhivago fans will love the serene, snowy landscapes on this winter trip, which takes passengers across Siberia and includes an afternoon of dog-sledding and ice fishing on Lake Baikal. Also on the itinerary: lunch in a traditional Mogolian yurt in the capital city of Ulaan Baatar, a private concert in Irkutsk (the “Paris of Siberia”), and a horse-drawn sleigh ride around the quaint town of Suzdal.
From $13,795 per person

Hiram Bingham
The route: Roundtrip from Cusco to Machu Picchu
Length: About 12 hours
Named for the explorer who discovered the ruins of Machu Picchu, the journey from the ancient Peruvian city of Cusco to the lost city of the Incas is marked by gorgeous views of the Andes Mountains and the Ollantaytambo Valley. The cars, done up in the style of the 1920s Pullman carriage, offer plenty in the way of vintage charm, from the polished wood and brass to the multi-course meals shuttled by white-gloved waiters. The trip includes brunch, a tour of the ruins, afternoon tea at Machu Picchu’s Sanctuary Lodge, and cocktails like the local Pisco Sour and a four-course, Andean-inspired dinner.  
From $599 per person
Eastern & Oriental Express
The route: Thailand
Length: 7 days
Beginning in Bangkok, the week-long “Epic Thailand” trip takes passengers north where they’ll visit the ancient temples in Phanom Rung and Chiang Mai, visit elephant camps, explore the leafy canopy at Khao Yai National Park, and wine taste at Gran Monte vineyard. Bonus: guests also get a free night the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok before or after the train ride.
From $8,900 per person
-Leigh Crandall

November 2012

TAGS:     travel collage train rail