The best way to take in the sights of a new frontier is seeing it all by train, am I right? In the 21st century, we’re constantly jammed into packed airplanes, paying too much for gas in expensive cars, or risking our lives by riding bikes into the city. But, sometimes it’s easy to forget about the train systems. Yes, people still take the train to their destinations! If you do decide to take the train, you’re traveling like James Bond, Paul Newman, or the guys from “Darjeeling Limited.”
Don’t just “get there,” arrive and depart like a badass gentleman. Here’s a roundup of the top ten greatest luxury trains in the world for your riding pleasure.
Golden Eagle, Europe
What better way is there to see the beautiful views of Siberia than by this epic luxury train. Launched in 2007, the train’s UK operators upped the ante on the new Golden Eagle with a new 120-square-foot Imperial Suite for VIPs, complete with a king-sized bed and personal lounge. Almost as legit are the Gold and Silver Class accommodations, both featuring a private bathroom. Feast and dine in two different dining cars and enjoy a lounge car while crossing the legendary Trans-Siberian route between Moscow and Vladivostok, or enjoy special tours of the Silk Road, Russia’s Arctic, and the Caspian Sea.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, Europe
This is definitely the world’s most authentic luxury train. The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express (VSOE,) is a restored, 1920s-era vintage train that still runs the famous route from Paris to Istanbul. Made famous in the Agatha Christie story, Murder on the Orient Express, the VSOE gets around, hitting destinations like Venice, Krakow, Dresden, Prague, and Paris.
Rovos Rail’s Pride of Africa, Africa
Offering an old-world elegance and luxury, the Pride of Africa is known for its top-notch operating equipment, stellar dining service, and frontier-style experience. Take in the grasslands from this classic train car on an exciting luxury rail experience.
Golden Eagle Danube Express, Europe
Five sleeping cars, two dining cars, and one lounge car: The Danube Express only has a capacity of 56 passengers, but these cabins are spacious, offering some of the best sleeping options in Europe. While cruising in style, take in the sights of Budapest, Prague, and Sarajevo; the Danube Express goes as far as Turkey and Iran. Oh, and don’t worry about food, drinks, gratuities, or even transfers–these tours are all-inclusive.
Belmond Royal Scotsman, Europe
This small 36-passenger train is one of our favorites, perfect for those who want an intimate luxury environment with five-star gourmet food, wine, and unbelievable service. All the cars are of the 1960s-vintage style era, and be sure to save for the dining car (that’s late 1920s-inspired), which has been recast with varnished wood, polished brass, and Edwardian drapes and fabrics. It’s like riding in a museum across the continent.
El Transcantabrico, Europe
The Clasico El Transcantabrico, has travelled through Northern Spain, since 1983. The original six sleeper cars, each with four double compartments with ensuite facilities, have been recently supplemented by six Preferente Suites and cabins, each with 129 square feet of private lounge space. Enjoy passing through the Spanish countryside from the comfort of an elegant cabin decked out with flat-screen TVs, computers, double beds and an extra-long sofa.
Eastern & Oriental Express, South America
The Orient-Express company acquired New Zealand’s famous Silver Star in 1991, moved it to Southeast Asia, and re-christened it the Eastern & Oriental Express following a major refurbishment. Today, it still goes the distance, running 1,262 miles between Singapore, Malaysia and Bangkok, Thailand.
Belmond Grand Hibernian, Europe
Debuting this summer, the Grand Hibernian is the next line of trains from the people who brought you the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express and the Royal Scotsman. Imagine a grand hotel on wheels, the first luxury overnight rail experience of its kind in Ireland. This elegant train will tour the countryside, the coasts, and through the cities of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Deccan Odyssey, South America
One of South America’s most awesome trains, the Deccan Odyssey was built in 2003 with top-quality staff, service, amenities, and dining options. Recently, the train upgraded its bedding, carpet, and other materials, which officially gave it “luxury” status, but as far as we’re concerned, it’s been luxurious for more than a decade.
Shangri-La Express, Asia
The private Shangri-La Express, is China’s most modern hotel train, with a crazy smooth ride, air-conditioning, first-class sleeping compartments, and shower cars with ample changing space. Also, this train has surprisingly vigorous water pressure (remember, all this on a moving train). It’s not technically a “luxury” train according to whatever international guidelines define “luxury,” but it’s an incredible experience with top quality lodging, food, and drinks. We’re certainly not complaining.