We’re not terribly picky about how we travel, but perhaps our favorite way to get anywhere is by train. That’s why we’re so thoroughly enjoying this month’s #WEBookClub selection – The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux.
Train journeys provide a wonderful way to catch a true glimpse into the country you are visiting, especially since they often traverse paths not accessible to bus lines or highways. Trains offer a slower-paced adventure which lends itself well to watching the world go by and striking up conversations with interesting passengers – foreign and local alike.
Want to discover the world by train? Make sure to put these five journeys on your list!
BLUE TRAIN – South Africa
Pretoria to Cape Town – 27 hours – 990 miles – Price range: $$$
Traveling nearly 1,000 miles between two of South Africa’s capitals, this is possibly the most luxurious train trip a passenger can hope to take. Amenities on this journey include butler service, two lounge cars, and an observation car. The compartments are fully carpeted, soundproofed, and include their own en-suite bathroom (some even have a full-sized bathtub!). The Blue Train is often promoted as a “moving, five-star hotel” and has carried passengers including kings, presidents, and other world leaders!
EL CHEPE – Mexico
Chihuahua to Los Mochis – 16 hours – 418 miles – Price range: $$
The Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacifico (also known as El Chepe) is an important rail system for locals and a draw for tourists, linking the Mexican states of Chihauhua and Sinaloa. On the 418-mile journey, El Chepe crosses over 37 bridges and through 86 tunnels. It carries its passengers through the Copper Canyon, a series of canyons in northwestern Mexico which is larger than the Grand Canyon. Sometimes rising as high as 7,900 feet above sea level, El Chepe has been called one of the continent’s most ruggedly, beautifully scenic train journeys.
TOY TRAIN – India
New Jalpaiguri to Darjeeling – 7 hours – 48 miles – Price range: $
Slow and steady – the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (also known as the Toy Train) takes up to seven hours to cross a mere 48 miles! Built between 1879 and 1881, this narrow gauge railway was named a World Heritage Site in 1999. Following along National Highway 55 in West Bengal, the line often resembles an urban tram system rather than a national railway as its tracks are often surrounded by buildings and outdoor market stalls. The 2010 Wes Anderson film Darjeeling Unlimited is about three brothers on a train journey loosely based on the Toy Train.
WEST HIGHLAND LINE – Scotland
Glasgow to Mallaig – 5 hours – miles – Price range: $
Winding through the beautiful Scottish Highlands, this trip has been voted the top train journey in the world by readers of the travel magazine Wanderlust. It is one of only two railway lines that are accessible to the remote, mountainous West Coast of Scotland. Passengers will enjoy lovely views of several lochs, with the tracks running alongside Loch Lomond for some time. Any Harry Potter fans out there? From Fort William to Mallaig, the train passes over the Glennfinnan Viaduct, which was a filming location for the Hogwarts Express.
THE GHAN – Australia
Adelaide to Darwin – 54 hours – 1,850 miles – Price range: $$
The history of this 1,850 mile train journey is a long and arduous tale, but we’ll give you the summarized version. Beginning in 1878, construction began in Port Augusta and did not reach Alice Springs until 1929. Before the line’s completion, the final leg of the journey was made on camelback. The original tracks followed the same line as the overland telegraph, but new tracks were built about 100 miles west of the original tracks in 1980. Although the plan always was to continue the line to Darwin in northern Australia, this did not become a reality until 2004. The Ghan only makes the trip once per week, and provides passengers with a four-hour stop in Alice Springs – enough time for optional tours!
Do you have any fun train travel stories or tips? Share them in the comments! Better yet – participate in #WEBookClub on January 7th. Even if you haven’t read the book, we’d love for you to join the conversation! See you on Twitter at 12 pm (CST).
Posted by World Endeavors on January 6, 2016
World Endeavors believes that international travel has the power to change lives, broaden horizons, and deepen intercultural understanding. The world is undergoing rapid changes, with societies becoming more interconnected and environmentally aware; at the same time a more challenging global economy inspires in many a need to reach out and make a positive difference while seeking personal growth opportunities. There has never been a better time than now to travel abroad.