The best long train journeys in Europe and around the world

Whether thundering across Canada or whisking your way to the Highlands, train travel offers some of the most spectacular journeys on earth


(Image credit: Copyright © Richard James Taylor.)

Ireland: The Belmond Grand Hibernian

A recent arrival to the Emerald Isle, this seven day grand tour is a truly opulent way to see the country's cities, beautiful countryside and dramatic lakes. The route goes from Dublin to Cork and on to Killarney, Galway and Westport, returns to Dublin to then head north to Belfast for a night and south again to Waterford before going back to Dublin for the final morning. The train acts as transport and hotel, from which guests enjoy such experiences as kissing the Blarney stone, a pony-and-trap to and boat ride across the lakes of Killarney, a visit to the Cliffs of Moher and in Westport, the stunning Ashford Castle for lunch and a falconry lesson. Back in Dublin for the mid-point stop, there are tours of the city's enchanting Trinity College Library and the 12th century St. Patrick's Cathedral. In Belfast, guests are given an infamous 'black cab tour' of the city to see some of the spots most affected by the Troubles, before a private tour of the Titanic museum. The tour's final full day, before return to Dublin, is in Waterford, with a tour of the Viking city and the famous crystal factory.

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Prices per person sharing a cabin for seven days, from £6,101;

India: The Darjeeling Himalayan Railways Toy Train

This train journey is a Unesco world heritage site, and for good reason. Established in 1881, the admirable feat of engineering crosses the challenging mountainous terrain with ease. Built on a narrow gauge, single track railway, the train travels at the soothing speed of just 12km per hour, allowing travelers to take in the breathtaking scenery of Darjeeling's lush hills and tea plantations. The train weaves through the intensely green forests over two hours on a circuit from Darjeeling to Ghum and back. Along the route, passengers are treated to a clear view of snow-covered Kanchenjunga, the world's third highest mountain, and the Himalayas' second. Another highlight on this journey is the ten-minute stop and train ride around the Batasia Loop, a beautifully manicured garden with a memorial to gurkas killed in action at its centre. Make sure you take the Joy Ride, to ensure you get the steam engine instead of the usual diesel one.

First class tickets £15 round trip; IRCTC Tourism

(Image credit: David Noton Photography)

Istanbul-Venice: The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

This legendary train takes a slightly different route to its famous ancestor of Agatha Christie's murder mystery, which began in Aleppo, Syria. Today, the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express runs just four times a year between Istanbul and Venice or Paris. Each cabin of the infamous train has been carefully restored to the elegance of the golden age of train travel in the 1920s and 1930s. Starting with dinner on board in Istanbul, the train travels through the night to Bucharest where guests are given a tour of the city and stay overnight. On day three, travel continues into the Romanian mountains for a tour of the town of Sinaia, and King Carol's Peles Castle. The train then travels on to Budapest for a tour of the city, a cruise on the Danube and an overnight stay. Continuing through Hungary, guests can alight at Balaton lake to watch the sunset, before the train goes on through the night to Italy.

Price per person sharing a cabin for five days, from 1 September 2017, £6,660;

The Canadian: Toronto to Vancouver

Covering almost 2,800 miles over three and a half days, this cross-country journey is epic in proportion. The Canadian glides through the countryside, taking in stops at Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton and the Rocky Mountain town of Jasper, as well as many smaller communities. The service runs throughout the year, offering the chance to see the deep, snowy winter or the lush greenery of Canada's summer. Make sure to book a seat in the Panorama, Skyline or Prestige cars – carriages with glass roofs and walls, to get the best views along the way. For the most comfortable option, travel prestige class, which gives you a private cabin with shower and includes all food and drink. Prices start at £2,318 per person sharing a prestige cabin, or a more modest £250 for a seat in the economy carriage.

(Image credit:

The TranzAlpine: Christchurch to Greymouth

A shorter, but by no means less spectacular trip is the train from Christchurch to Greymouth, on New Zealand's South Island. The journey of 140 miles goes through some of the country's most beautiful countryside and takes just under five hours. There are seven stops along the way, including New Zealand's highest settlement, the stunning Arthur's Pass, nestled at 740m above sea level in acres of national parklands. The train meanders through the country's Alpine region, clinging to rivers, crossing viaducts and passing through lush sub-tropical forests. The TranzAlpine emerges from its mountainous journey in Greymouth, on New Zealand's rugged western Tasman Sea coast. Stay an hour and catch the train back to Christchurch, or overnight and explore the former mining town. One-way fares from £100.

Russian Railways: Moscow to Nice

Over almost 48 hours, this train passes through seven countries and stops at 26 stations. Leaving Moscow on Thursdays only, stops along the route include Minsk, Warsaw, Bohumin in the Czech Republic, Vienna, Genoa and Nice. This journey offers the perfect fast-track way of seeing a lot of Europe: you spend two full days travelling through the beautiful countryside and cities of eastern and central Europe before journeying through northern Italy and arriving in Nice on Saturday, just in time for breakfast on the French Riviera. Book a full first-class cabin for privacy or bunk with the other travellers in standard class. Prices, one way, from £235 for a standard-class berth in a four-berth couchette and from £736 in a double deluxe compartment.

(Image credit: Iain McLean)

Caledonian Sleeper: London to Scotland

For an equally impressive adventure a little closer to home, the overnight Caledonian Sleeper from London to the Highlands is the perfect option. Leaving London Euston at around 9pm, you can enjoy dinner on board before retiring for the evening of travel through England. The Sleeper has three endpoints – Fort William, Inverness and Aberdeen – so when it reaches Edinburgh in the wee hours of the morning, it quietly splits into separate trains and each continues its journey to the final destination. Whatever route you take, make sure to wake up early to enjoy the views of the spectacular landscape as you tuck into breakfast. Book a first-class cabin to secure a bed for the night and breakfast in the dining car the following morning.

One-way fares for standard class from £115, and first-class from £205

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