Top Train Trips Around the World

Train travel hearkens back to a romantic bygone era. While there are certainly faster ways to get from one place to another, riding the rails really delivers on showcasing the natural beauty of a destination. In lieu of flying from major city to major city, trains can show travelers how urban and rural areas fit together to form a country. Part of your perfect vacation could be devoting some time to just staring out the window and daydreaming. Here are few of our favorite trains and itineraries for it.

Rocky Mountaineer

Running through British Columbia and Alberta, Rocky Mountaineer takes passengers on a journey through Western Canada. The cities of Vancouver and Calgary mingle with gorgeous mountain scenery, including national parks such as Jasper and Lake Louise. The view from the Virtuoso-preferred Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is iconic. If you want to do some exploring on your own, Rocky Mountaineer has the option of combining rail and car rental. The season runs from mid-April to mid-October. Pro tip: The last month features fall foliage at the lower elevations and snow higher up.

The Blue Train

The 994 miles through South Africa between Cape Town and Pretoria cover some beautiful territory. The Blue Train crosses it in style, with private suites for the overnight journey. The dining is fine, the lounges are elegant, the sights of mountains are vineyards rolling by are spectacular. Going southbound, you’ll stop in the mining town of Kimberly. Northbound travelers see the Victorian buildings of Matjiesfontein. With the departure times of 8:30 a.m. and arrivals at 3 p.m. the next day, The Blue Train is a great addition to safaris.

Belmond

Belmond has seven trains crisscrossing Europe, Peru, and Southeast Asia. They pull into stations at such diverse outposts as London, Machu Picchu, Kuala Lumpur and the Scottish Highlands. (Not all on the same ride, of course.) Some journeys feature comfortable overnight quarters, while others are tailored to allow overnight stays at some of Belmond’s 35 worldwide hotels. The Royal Scotsman and Andean Explorer even have spas onboard to help you unwind even more.

The Swiss Alps

The roof of Europe has awe-inspiring views, and a train window is a terrific vantage point. The Gornergrat train whisks passengers from Zermatt to 10,000 feet of elevation in just over half an hour, opening up a dramatic view of the Matterhorn. The cogwheel train has been running since 1898 and operates every day of the year. Climbing through orchards and vineyards on its way up to mountain passes, the Bernina Express makes its way across more than 50 bridges and through almost 200 tunnels. No wonder parts of the route have UNESCO World Heritage status. Featuring the St. Moritz, Zermatt, the Rhine Gorge and the Oberalp Pass, a ride on the Glacier Express is a full day of feasting for the eyes and palate, with meals prepared fresh onboard.

The Ghan and Indian Pacific

The Ghan runs north-south nearly 2,000 up Australia’s spine, while the Indian Pacific traverses 2,700 miles between Sydney and Perth on the east-west axis through the southern part of the continent. Each journey is a three-night affair, with off-train excursions included in packages. Get to know the Outback on the Ghan train, and consider upgrading to a fixed-wing flight over Uluru/Ayers Rock. From Adelaide on the southern end, you can easily reach the Barossa Valley wine region or the unique wildlife of Kangaroo Island. The Indian Pacific offers Barossa Valley and the Blue Mountains excursions. Gourmet meals and premium wines await in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant car.

Top places to ring in the New Year

A new year means a new beginning. A chance to start fresh, when anything is possible and you don’t know exactly what adventures lie ahead. We all have our own traditions, and as long as you’re spending time with people you care about, there’s really no wrong way to ring in the new year. But some destinations put on a better show than others, and here are a few at the top of the list.

Sydney

Featuring not one but two fireworks shows, Sydney Harbour provides an excellent venue for the celebration. The festivities kick off while the sun is still out, with a tug-boat water display followed by an air show. A cleansing ceremony honoring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures takes place around sunset, as flares and eucalyptus smoke fills the air. At 9 p.m., there is an 8-minute fireworks show that serves as both an appetizer for the main event and allows children who might not make it to midnight to celebrate. After that, a parade of elaborately lit boats fills the harbor, ushering in a dazzling fireworks display at the stroke of midnight that illuminates the water and iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Hong Kong

If there’s anyone who knows fireworks, it’s the people of Hong Kong. The city celebrates just about everything with a dazzling display, and New Year’s Eve is no exception. Victoria Harbour serves as the setting for this party, which kicks off at 10 p.m. with a performance fusing theater, dance and circus elements. The countdown to midnight starts early, with pyrotechnic shooting stars lighting up the harbor every 15 minutes beginning at 11 p.m. leading up to fireworks being launched from barges and from the roofs of skyscrapers in a dazzling display stretching two-thirds of a mile along the waterfront.

Rio de Janeiro

Cariocas never turn down a chance to party, and the thousands of revelers flocking to Copacabana Beach on New Year’s Eve know how to do it right. Adorned in white for peace, green for luck, yellow for wealth, red for passion or purple for inspiration, they eat lentils for health and pork and fish for prosperity in the new year. And of course, seven raisins before midnight, storing the seeds in their wallets so they’ll always be full. They then send candles and flowers into Guanabara Bay in honor of the ancient water deity Iemanja before dancing the night away to live music as fireworks explode over the bay.

Miami

New York’s Times Square is still the most popular U.S. destination for New Year’s. But it’s not so pleasant lining up for hours in the cold for a short countdown. Better yet, head to South Beach and leave your coat and gloves at home. You’ll need feeling in your limbs to dance as much as the Magic City requires. A variety of DJs, salsa acts and of course Mr. 305 himself, Pitbull, will keep the party jumping long into the wee hours. Plus, it’ll be about 40 degrees warmer than New York.

Cape Town

As with the other entries on this list, Cape Town’s climate and waterfront setting make it a stellar option for ushering in the new year. Festivities actually begin Dec. 30 with the start of a three-day festival in the Durbanville Wine Valley full of food, music and, naturally, wine. At the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, the New Year’s Eve celebrations kick off at 7 p.m. in four activity zones representing earth, air, fire, and water. Everything converges at midnight with fireworks igniting over the water and Table Mountain, which is the perfect spot for a pre-party hike to work up an appetite for a wonderful dinner and maybe a sip or two of Champagne.

By Damien Martin