The Best Luxury Train Journeys: Experiencing Elegance and Grandeur on the Rails

train running over bridge in mountains of scotland

5min read

Published 30 April 2024


In a world where efficiency is prioritised, and we rarely get to stop and smell the roses, it's no surprise that slower means of travel are increasing in popularity. From days spent at relaxing resorts to the steady sway of a cruise ship, travellers, young and old, are flocking to experiences that can help them take a breath and step into the slow lane.

If you're keen to take your foot off the gas and want a holiday that encourages you to enjoy the journey just as much as the destination, then perhaps it's time for you to embrace the romance that comes with luxury trains.

Opulent rail journeys allow you to sit back in the comfort of your cabin, spying panoramic vistas out the window. With no set schedule or deadlines, you can sink into old-world splendour - marking time by the passing of the world outside your window and not by alarms, meetings or schedules.

Better yet, train travel is very accessible and a far more eco-conscious way of getting from A to B when compared to flying or driving. Reducing your carbon footprint while snoozing in luxury bliss as you steam past epic scenery - Where do we sign up?

person looking out of train window as it drives past field of cows
person looking out of train window as it drives past field of cows
person looking out of train window as it drives past field of cows

Booking Luxury Train Travel

With plenty of accessible and affordable options available, luxe train travel is no longer reserved purely for the elite traveler. Rather, this rail renaissance, or second golden age, is an incredible opportunity for all travellers to experience the joy and romance of train travel (beyond the monotony of the 9-5 commute).

So, whether you've been inspired by Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited or are enchanted by Harry's ride on the Hogwarts Express, booking private cabins on luxury sleeper trains has never been easier.

Alternatively, if you want to embrace the beauty of slow travel but would like to test the waters with some day trips, there are plenty of options available that can be squeezed into your itinerary.

To help make your life easier, we've done the rounds and outlined 13 of the most luxurious trains around the world. If you see one that tickles your fancy, reach out to Flight Centre's friendly team of rail experts, who will happily provide more information and help get your holiday chugging along.

Most Luxurious Train Rides in 2024

Luxury Train Journeys in Europe & the UK

British Pullman, A Belmond Train, England

Sprinkled with Art Deco touches, polished interiors and old-world charm, a ride on the British Pullman will have you transported back to the oh-so-glamorous world of upper-class 1920s England. This vintage train departs London en route to bucolic British towns like Cambridge, York and Canterbury. On board, feast on multi-course meals and guest-chef dinners, or even partake in themed rides like a murder mystery lunch.

Venice Simplon Orient Express, A Belmond Train, Destinations across Europe

Keen to see the European countryside without having to move your luggage? All aboard the Venice Simplon Orient Express, a journey that continues to set the standard in luxury train travel. Starting in London, this mystical journey will take you past the Swiss Mountain scenery and iconic French countryside, making stops through France, Italy, Belgium and more.

Regardless of the route you choose, travellers can expect nothing but excellence and impeccable service onboard the Venice Simplon Orient Express. Sink into old-school glamour and Art Deco finery, feasting on local food that is sourced along the route and toasting to an incredible holiday at the iconic onboard champagne bar.

train running through countryside
train running through countryside
train running through countryside

Belmond Royal Scotsman, Scotland

Craving a cosy holiday spent curled up under a tartan blanket, sipping tea (or scotch) as you slide past Scotland's lochs, castles and ethereal landscapes? Oh boy, have we got the train for you.

Be serenaded by bagpipes as you walk the red carpet to board the Royal Scotsman. Once settled, take your time exploring the mahogany dining car, enjoy a snooze, or even get a massage or facial from the onboard spa. The pinnacle of slow-moving splendour, there is no better way to experience the beauty of the Scottish Highlands.

PSA: Don't confuse the Royal Scotsman with the Flying Scotsman, which is an express passenger train servicing routes between Edinburgh and London.

The Presidential Train, Portugal

Take your taste buds for a ride through Portugal's Douro Valley on board the Presidential Train. Travelling from Porto to Quinta do Vesuvio, you're encouraged to feast on 10 hours of fine dining delight. Boasting cuisine and regional wines from some of the world's best chefs, this luxurious train journey through Portugal's Golden Valley is an ideal day trip for hungry travellers.

Other luxury trains in Europe:

  • The Transcantabrico Gran Lujo, Spain. Connecting San Sebastian and Santiago de Compostela.

  • Glacier Express, Switzerland. Connecting Zermatt and Saint Moritz, this is perhaps the most beautiful express train ride in the world, passing glaciers, breathing Swiss landscapes and the Rhine Gorge.

red train travelling through snowy mountains and trees
red train travelling through snowy mountains and trees
red train travelling through snowy mountains and trees

Luxury Trains in South Africa

Rovos Rail, South Africa

Travel between Pretoria and Cape Town aboard one of South Africa's most luxurious trains - Rovos Rail. Be greeted with champagne and canapes before soaking up unmatched views of the Great Karoo Desert and Highveld Grasslands from the train's open-air balconies.

The three-day journey aboard Rovos Rail also stops amongst the Cape Wineries, so you can taste your way through the region before taking a soak in your private bathroom's freestanding clawfoot bathtub. What other mode of transport lets you take a bath while en route to your next destination? Talk about bliss!

Other popular South African train runs:

  • The Blue Train. Also travelling between Pretoria and Cape Town, the Blue Train is considered a window to the soul of Africa.

  • The Shongololo Express. Enjoy 12-15 day itineraries that traverse South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique in elegant cabins that let the grandeur of Mother Nature sit front and centre.

train running on bridge over beach in south africa
train running on bridge over beach in south africa
train running on bridge over beach in south africa

Luxury train vacations in India & Asia

Maharajas Express, India

If you're on the hunt for one of the world's most luxurious trains, word on the street is that the Maharajas Express is up there with the best. No expense is spared, with marigold garlands and rose petals showered at your feet upon embarkation and a private butler assigned to every carriage. While onboard, guests can enjoy a cocktail from one of the two onboard bar carriages, stroll through the richly adorned dining areas or take part in a range of unique, train-exclusive experiences like early morning champagne on a private hillside overlooking the Taj Mahal.

India truly is your oyster aboard the Maharajas Express, with the one train offering a wide range of itineraries throughout the year. In the market to treat yourself? Book the Presidential suite, fit with two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room and 24-hour personal valet. Talk about a palace on wheels.

Eastern & Oriental Express, A Belmond Train, Malaysia and Singapore

Departing Singapore en route to Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi, and Penang, the Eastern & Oriental Express offers three nights of luxury. Inspired by the 1932 film Shanghai Express, guests can expect carriages adorned with high-end details like Malaysian embroidery and Thai Silks.

Throughout your trip, enjoy daily four-course dinners and three-course lunches, sweeping views of lush rainforests and ancient temples, guided snorkelling in Lagkawi and excursions to Taman Negara National Park. Nothing quite says holiday vibes like sipping a Singapore Sling as you slip along the stunning Malaysian coast.

lady with camera taking picture out of window on train
lady with camera taking picture out of window on train
lady with camera taking picture out of window on train

Cruise Train Seven Stars, Japan

It's hard to go past the Cruise Train Seven Stars when compiling a list of the world's most luxurious trains. If the name doesn't give it away, the Seven Stars (yes, seven) experience effortlessly fuses the glamour of luxe train travel with modern Japanese technology. This exclusive train only has room for 28 passengers at a time, with the lucky travellers enjoying multi-day tours around the island of Kyushu.

While onboard this luxury locomotive, you can enjoy spacious, comfortable carriages kitted out by Japanese artisans. As you can imagine, this experience is in high demand, so apply to ride well in advance and cross your fingers in the hopes of nabbing a spot on board.

Other noteworthy luxury train rides through Asia and India:

  • Golden Chariot, India. Explore some of Southern India's lesser-explored destinations with three and six-night journeys departing from Bengaluru.

  • The Deccan Odyssey, India. Pick one of six different routes through the majestic and lustrous Western Ghats, Deccan Plateau, and Konkan regions.

  • Heritage Palace on Wheels, India. Once called The Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, this iconic train offers luxury cabins and stunning facilities as you travel through Rajasthan.

  • The Orient Silk Road Express, from China to Russia. Journey through UNESCO World Heritage Sites, embarking on the most extensive train journey through Europe and Asia.

  • Train Suite Shiki-Shima, Japan. Marvel at gold-plated carriages and Michelin-star meals as you are whisked past lush rice paddies, mountain villages and ancient temples in Japan.

train travelling over bridge in japan
train travelling over bridge in japan
train travelling over bridge in japan

The most luxurious trains in The Americas and Canada

Rocky Mountaineer, Canada

Effortlessly conversing the picturesque Canadian Rockies between Vancouver, Banff and Jasper, the Rocky Mountaineer is synonymous with luxury train travel. Beyond offering delicious wine and local cuisine, the Rocky Mountaineer champions Mother Nature, placing her front and centre with domed glass ceilings in the GoldLeaf seating section.

A staple to British Columbia and Canadian tourism, this panoramic train journey is a must if you're keen to see the Rockies at their best.

Andean Explorer, A Belmond Train, Peru, South America

Follow in the footsteps of Ancient Incans between Cusco and Arequipa with the Belmond Andean Explorer. The elevation makes this one of the highest trains in the world, with carriages decorated in a distinct style featuring traditional alpaca wool tapestries and other local handicrafts. Sip pisco sours and enjoy panoramic views of the Andean Plains in either of the two dining cars, fueling up for your visits to Lake Titicaca and the Incan ruins along the way.

Worried about the elevation? Rest assured that all 35 sleep cabins on board the Belmond Andean Explorer come equipped with built-in oxygen tanks and masks.

train riding past river by the side of a mountain in peru
train riding past river by the side of a mountain in peru
train riding past river by the side of a mountain in peru

Other iconic rail journeys throughout Canada, Peru and the USA:

  • Napa Valley Wine Train, USA. Spend a few hours sipping in splendour through California's premier wine region.

  • Denali Star Train, Alaska Railroad. See the icy peaks of Alaska between Anchorage and Fairbanks while enjoying GoldStar service during a 12-hour itinerary packed with delicious meals and epic scenery.

  • Inca Rail, Peru. A fantastic way to see Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley without spending days hiking. Better yet, the first-class experience is far more affordable than other providers servicing the same route.

Iconic Railway Journeys in Australia

The Ghan, Australia

Hightail your way through the Aussie Outback with The Ghan on a four-day journey from Darwin to Adelaide. Feast on Australian cuisine while enjoying unmatched views of the Red Centre as you chug past diverse landscapes like the MacDonnell Ranges, Simpsons Gap and the opal town of Coober Pedy.

Other great Aussie train routes:

  • Spirit of the Outback - Brisbane to Longreach.

  • The Great Southern - Adelaide to Brisbane.

  • The Indian Pacific - Between Perth, Adelaide and Sydney.

Ready to Choo Choo Choose your Luxury Rail Holiday?

Flight Centre

© Flight Centre (NZ) Limited.

Lowest Airfare Guarantee is no longer valid at Flight Centre stores in New Zealand as of Thursday 14 July 2022. Click here for more information.

A Travel Expert Service Fee will be applied to bookings made in store, over the phone or via email, and is charged in addition to the advertised price. Click here for more information.

*Travel restrictions & conditions apply. Review any specific conditions stated and our general terms at Terms and Conditions. Prices & taxes are in NZD and are correct as at the date of publication & are subject to availability and change without notice. Prices quoted are on sale until the dates specified unless otherwise stated or sold out prior. Prices are per person.