Airfare prices got you down? Have I got a tip for you!
Seriously though. Train travel is enjoying a renaissance in the last few years, partly because it is mostly more affordable than traveling by air, but also because travelers are discovering it’s one of the most scenic, relaxing and romantic ways to travel. Not only will your travel accommodations be much more comfortable, there’s no stressful lines through security, or rush to get to your gate.
While Europeans have never really given up the rails, America in general had pretty much turned their backs on traveling by train after air travel became possible, because hurtling through the air at 400 mph was just faster. But, not since the gold rush has train travel been so popular in America.
Ask any rail traveler why they decided to take the train, and they’ll tell you: It’s part of the adventure! Most train journeys these days are known for their scenic routes and old-tyme appeal, and sleeping cars tend to rival, or beat altogether the price of a plane ticket, not to mention they usually INCLUDE meals in the dining car, which far surpass the mush airlines serve under the guise of “food”. Pair that with an almost hassle-free boarding experience compared to air-travel and you’ve got a recipe for adventure. Of course, it will take you longer to arrive at your destination than if you were to fly, but if you can plan the journey into your trip as part of the adventure, it will be well worth it.
One of the biggest reasons for taking the train, is the scenery and experience. We’ve got some of the top 10 most spectacular train trips, right here in North America! If you’re interested in traveling on any of these routes, let us know. We can make it happen!
Here are some of the most spectacular journeys in the world, in no particular order.
Amtrak’s Coast Starlight – America’s West Coast
I’ve personally ridden this legendary line and I can vouch for it whole heartedly! You’ll travel along the westernmost coast of the United States, from Seattle to Los Angeles (or vice versa, or both!), via 27 stops along the way. This train travels through coastal bluffs along the ocean, snow capped mountains, old historic towns, new urban areas and vast canyons, and more. The food was excellent, even if the dining car was chaotic. (We were traveling on the Thanksgiving holiday, so the train was much busier than usual). The parlour car, reserved for sleeper car passengers is what I call the “bubble” car, which has lounge tables and seating, with glass domed ceilings perfect for seeing the world outside your train. All sleeper room reservations include your meals the entire trip and while the smallest “roomettes” can be cramped for 2 people they are sufficient and far more comfortable than an airplane, with seats that convert to bed, and a large picture window to watch the world go by. Even in coach on the train, you’ll find a more comfortable trip than on an airplane – the seats are super wide and the legroom is more than enough, surpassing the best first-class cabins on most airlines, when it comes to personal space. Amtrak trains can often be outdated, but they are comfortable. You’ll notice this the most in sleeper cars, where the hardware and decor is clearly out of the 80’s, but everything is maintained well. Amtrak has been slowly refurbishing all of their trains too, so updates are coming, even if slowly. The staff is hit or miss, but we didn’t mind too much as we tend to keep to ourselves. On the Coast Starlight, our room steward was completely unavailable and unseen the entire trip, but we’ve also traveled the California Zephyr which was just as spectacular and featured a room steward that was by far one of the most attentive service employees I’ve ever met in my travels. Overall, I highly recommend traveling either of these lines if you can find the time in your schedule. It’s much more comfortable and adventurous than an airplane.
Alaska Railroad’s Coastal Classic – Alaska, USA
From Seward to Anchorage (or vice-versa) this route is a popular add-on to an Alaska Cruise experience, especially if your cruise ends in Seward. That’s because you have to travel to Anchorage to fly home anyway, so why not take one of the most famous scenic train voyages in North America? We’re featuring this experience on our own 2019 Alaska Cruise Adventure. Although other routes are popular, the Coastal Classic stays true to its name as the most classically beautiful stretch of scenery along the Alaskan railroad. The sights you’ll see include enormous glaciers, acres of alpine hills, wildflower-filled verges and glacial landscapes along the way. The train offers two classes of travel, “Adventure Class” (coach) and “Gold Service” which is their version ofw First Class. Each direction on the line is only 4 hours, so no sleeping accommodations are offered on this train. Their Gold Service tickets are affordable and worth the price, including gourmet dinner, cocktails and special viewing platforms just for you.
It’s difficult to choose a small number of highlights on this train as so much of the journey is spectacular. You’ll travel through Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage, travel along the coast of Turnagain Arm and Cook inlet, where you can watch for beluga whales and other wildlife. The train travels over the Kanai Mountains and through the summit pass of Grandview. Glaciers, waterfalls, gorges and rivers abound during you passage.
The Glacier Express – Switzerland
Connecting two of Switzerland’s most scenic mountain resorts over 180 miles between Zermatt and St Moritz, the Glacier Express is the most relaxing way to enjoy the stunning scenery of the Swiss Alps. A leisurely and visually delightful way to reach your ski resort, or simply to enjoy the views, Switzerland’s Glacier Express railway is possibly Europe’s most scenic train route. The day-long trip includes an incredible 91 tunnels and 291 bridges as it wanders past southern Switzerland’s alpine meadows, pristine mountain lakes and picture-perfect villages. Wintertime is considered the best time to take this voyage when everything is drenched in white, but the picturesque landscapes and quaint settlements are gorgeous at any time of the year. This one train ride spans most of Southern Switzerland, crossing both the Rhone and the Rhine rivers, the towering Matterhorn mountain, the deep ravines of Gotthard Pass and the Oberalp Pass, the highest point on the ride at 6706 feet. Another highlight is the famous Landwasser Viaduct — an incredible six-arch structure standing 200 feet and plunging into a tunnel cut straight into the mountainside.
First Passage to the West – Canada
For sun-sparkling lakes and sugar-white peaks, few landscapes are as famed as the Canadian Rockies, and there’s no better way to enjoy the Rocky Mountains than from the comfort of a luxurious railway car. Traveling by the beautiful scenery of British Columbia from Vancouver and Banff, the Rocky Mountaineer’s First Passage to the West is one of the most scenic train rides in Canada, if not the world. Passengers are treated to breathtaking sights, such as the wild waters of Fraser Canyon’s Hell’s Gate and steep tracks running alongside the Thompson River. Your train will stay overnight in the lakeside city of Kamloops before continuing the rise over the stunning, snow-capped peaks of the Canadian Rockies and arrive at beautiful Banff.
The Ghan – Austrailia
Famed as one of the World’s greatest train journey’s, The Ghan spans the entire length of Australia, directly through the continent’s center, from Darwin to Adelaide, a total distance of nearly 2000 miles. The Outback is home to some of the planet’s most awe-inspiring scenery, an ocean of red dirt desert, vibrant aboriginal settlements and vast expanses of unsettled land, and this railway journey offers travelers the opportunity to experience the vast landscape in pure luxury. You’ll experience scenery like the lush, tropical coast of the Northern Territory via the red-hued rocks of the MacDonnell Ranges and onto the fertile plains of South Australia.