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The Gap Year Blog

Top 5 Greatest Railway Journeys

11 Aug 2017 11:10 AM

Trains are more than cheap and practical vehicles; travel writer Paul Theroux once said, "I have seldom heard a train go by and not wished I was on it" and we agree! Some of the most alluring destinations can be visited by train so read on to discover 5 of the world’s greatest rail journeys!

The California Zephyr

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons | Kabelleger / David Gubler

Journey across the breadth of America and see the sights between Chicago and San Francisco on the California Zephyr! You’ll cross time zones while witnessing everything from the Rocky Mountains to Salt Lake City. Known as one of North America's most beautiful train journeys, the Zephyr is definitely not one to miss! Serving over 30 stations across the heart of America, the desert landscapes, vast plains and scenic mountain ranges are best observed from the comfort of a train carriage. The (approx.) 51 hour ride will take you on a tour of nautral and cultural history from America's 241 year past, transcending time, terrain and territories! 

The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway 

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons | Renzut

The first hill railway of its kind, the Darjeeling Himalyan Railway still remains one of the greatest trains since its construction in India in 1881. Complete with original features, this railway journey is a guaranteed incomparable experience for new visitors to North India as well as those encountering the world's largest mountain range for the first time! In 1999, the 'Toy Train' (as coined by many famous colonial writers) became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and continues to serve 12 stations in West Bengal, covering over 55 miles. You'll find very few opportunities to ride an original steam train on its original route so why not take a chance to witness the beauty of Himalayas! 

The Blue Train 

Photo credit: Flickr | 2010 World Cup - Shine 2010

The concept of the Blue Train was born from a desire to connect north Africa to the south and although Cairo to Cape Town was not achieved, cue the inception of the railway connecting South Africa! The Blue Train can take you on a 1000 mile journey from Pretoria to the capital, Cape Town as well as a choice of tours including: the scenic 'Garden' route to Port Elizabeth, Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls or Kruger Park's game reserves! Witness the stunning natural heritage of South Africa's expanses on one of the best luxury train services in the world that has served everyone from the normal men to the noblemen!  

The Venice-Simplon Orient Express (Paris – Istanbul)

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons | Kabelleger / David Gubler

The Orient Express is the best known railway in the world but the original train no longer exists! Instead the Venice Simplon Orient Express serves passengers travelling between London and Istanbul. This private luxury train service takes travelers on a nostalgic journey through Europe’s cultural, historical and political past and is the epitome of glamorous train travel. Attendants are dressed in their original regal 1930s uniform, waiting on carriages complete with glass carvings, sumptuous seating and sophisticated service meals!

The Ghan (Australia)

Photo credit: Flickr | Roderick Eime

This Australian ‘Adelaide-Darwin’ railway service is a 54 hour journey across the approximate 2000 miles between Adelaide and Darwin! The ‘Ghan’ is an abbreviated version of its previous nickname ‘The Afghan Express’ that recognizes the pioneering Afghan camel drivers of late 19th century Australia. This railway journey will take you across the red Australian plains that were once unexplored territory before the inception of this train service. Don’t forget to take the time to learn more about the indigenous Aboriginals that once inhabited central Australia! Your cross-country tour includes a 4-hour stopover in Alice Springs but adapt your journey further by maximizing your experiences on camels, river cruises and helicopter flights too!

By Anaka Nair - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservation, community, teaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!