While many people forego train travel in favor of faster (and sometimes cheaper) modes of transport, hopping aboard a train is an excellent way to explore the planet. If you love to ride the rails (or if you've never done it before), here are a few of the world's greatest -- and, in some cases, most luxurious -- train travel experiences.
1. The Blue Train, South Africa
The best-known luxury train service in Africa, the Blue Train travels the nearly 1000-mile stretch between Pretoria and Cape Town in around 27 hours, traversing through some of the country’s most incredible wilderness areas along the way. Whether you opt for a Deluxe Cabin or splurge for a Luxury one, you can expect a fully opulent experience, complete with marble bathrooms, heated floors, and your own personal butler. Just make sure to bring your most elegant formalwear -- gourmet fine-dining is a highlight of a ride on the Blue Train, and you'll be expected to dress accordingly.
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2. Royal Scotsman, Scotland
Arguably the most elegant way to explore Scotland, the nine-car Royal Scotsman runs on a variety of itineraries, from the two-night Highland Journey with a focus on scenery to longer, special-focus trips such as the Scottish Golf Tour and the Whisky Journey. For those who want to use the train to get between Edinburgh and London, you can opt for the special "Majestic England" trip with stops in Cambridge and York.
The 14 cabins are elegant and furnished with quintessentially Scottish tartan and striped linens and wood paneling, and each has its own private bathroom. There are also two on-board restaurants and a lovely observation car.
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3. The Ghan, Australia
Australia is huge, and while most people might be a little apprehensive about making the 32-hour, 1,880-mile drive from Darwin to Adelaide, doing the journey by train can be quite rewarding. In just under three days, the transcontinental Ghan takes passengers through some of the best scenery the Outback has to offer, making a four-hour stop in Alice Springs for those who want to hop off and stretch their legs, or leave the train altogether and head to Ayer's Rock (a 45-minute flight or six-hour drive away). Seating options range from simple twin berths with shared bathrooms to deluxe Platinum Cabins, making the train accessible to travelers with a range of budgets.
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4. The Glacier Express, Switzerland
Arguably Europe's most celebrated train line, Switzerland’s Glacier Express makes a seven-hour journey through the Swiss Alps, traveling between Saint Moritz and Zermatt on alternating days. It crosses 291 bridges and passes through 91 tunnels, ascending and descending between peaks and valleys; the highest elevation point at Oberalppass tops in at nearly 7,000 feet. Note that there is only one class of service available and passengers can pre-order a one- or three-course meal for an extra charge.
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5. The Andean Explorer, Peru
Travelers wanting to make the journey between Cuzco (near Machu Picchu) and the town of Puno on the banks of Lake Titicaca should certainly consider a ride on Peru’s Andean Explorer. During the 10-and-a-half-hour journey, guests travel through ancient Incan villages, lively mercantile cities, and towering peaks; the highest point in the trip, at La Raya, clocks in at over 14,000 feet in elevation. Onboard entertainment includes dance performances and cultural activities, and lunch, tea, and snacks are included in ticket prices.
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