Back on Track: Luxury Train Rides Around the World
For me, train travel evokes images of Some Like It Hot, with Marilyn Monroe sashaying down a sleeper car in a feathered nightgown, riding the rails with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon and mixing up cocktails in an empty hot water bottle. On a train you’re free to roam, and I always imagine anything can happen—a handsome stranger could take the seat next to me, an impromptu party might start up in the dining car, or I can get off at the next stop on a whim and have a completely unplanned adventure.
The reality is that most train travel lost its sex appeal long ago. The benefits of skipping a frisking at airport security don’t outweigh the added time it takes to arrive at your destination when you’re locked in an upright position on a crowded Amtrak or showering over a toilet. There are, however, a select few trains out there that let you take in the sea-level sights while still traveling in comfort and class. Let Jetset Extra introduce you to the best luxury train rides on the planet.
The Eastern & Oriental Express, Southeast Asia
Take a ride through rainforests and rice paddies, monuments and mountains, and discover a side of Asia you’ve never seen. The Eastern & Oriental Express recaptures the golden age of rail travel as you roll your way through any combination of Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Laos. The interior of the train is elegantly adorned with Eastern designs showcasing woodwork, Chinese and Thai lacquer, Malaysian motifs and engraved mirrors. Each morning freshly baked croissants, coffee, tea, juice and fruit are delivered to your compartment, and gourmet lunches and dinners are served in two lavishly decorated dining cars. Enjoy the air-conditioned cabins or stand on the open observation deck with a bit of brandy and a fine cigar as you glide through tropical forests close to the equator. Book online at Orient-Express.
The Golden Chariot, Southern India
Named after Southern India’s famous Stone Chariot in Hampi, the state-run Golden Chariot is a one-of-a-kind transportation experience that carries you to rich cultural sites, opulent palaces, amazing wildlife and picturesque beaches. The “Pride of the South” tour leaves each Monday from Bangalore on an 8-day journey that includes The Nagarhole National Park, Mysore (where you’ll visit Mysore Palace), three world heritage sites, including Hampi, and the golden beaches of Goa before returning to Bangalore. Its 44 cabins are equipped with wi-fi, plasma tvs and attached baths. Watch local artisans perform as you sip spirits in the Madira lounge. For fitness buffs there is an on-board gym with equipment, showers and a steam bath. Top that off with two restaurants, a private cabin and planned excursions infused with local culture at stops throughout India, and you’re destined to have an unforgettable experience. Learn more or book your tickets.
The Blue Train, South Africa
Africa’s sweeping vistas and vibrant wildlife look like something ripped straight from the pages of National Geographic. These sights are tailor-made for panoramic viewing aboard a train. To add some comfort to your African exploration private luxury suites aboard The Blue Train in South Africa offer twin or double beds along with unexpectedly posh bathrooms that even have tubs for bathing. Your room functions as a living room by day and brings new meaning to the phrase “turndown service” when the butler pulls out your bed each day in anticipation of your nightly slumber. Take high tea in one of two lounge cars, and, gentlemen, don your jacket and tie for the dinner course— elegant wear is required for the ladies, naturally. The Blue Train runs between Cape Town and Pretoria, and offers special packages to add a stay and play at a luxury game lodge like the Ivory Tree Game Lodge or Zimbali Lodge. Find out more at on their website.
Rovos Rail, South Africa
For an even more epic Africa adventure spend two weeks on one of Rovos Rail’s annual voyages. Their South Africa-based luxury trains take a outstanding journeys like a safari each July from Cape Town to Dar Es Salaam, via Kimberley, Pretoria, the Madikwe National Park, Botswana, Bulawayo, Victoria Falls, Lusaka and through Tanzania. The trip includes off-train excursions that get you up close and personal with the heart of Africa. Or what about their 7-day tour to Namibia in May? This package includes a city tour, 3 game drives, and an overnight stay at a game lodge in Etosha National Park. Between hosting the World Cup, its stellar safaris, and an acclaimed wine country, South Africa is poised to capture the attention of the world. Get a taste now with Rovos Rail.
The Royal Scotsman, Scotland
This train lives up to its name by providing every bit of the “royal” treatment. Wind your way past the crumbling castles, endless moors, and vibrant green meadows of Scotland aboard The Royal Scotsman, an intimate luxury train brought to you once more by Orient-Express. The Royal Scotsman accommodates a modest group of 36 guests in 16 twin and 4 single cabins. Each cabin has private facilities and is furnished in a comfortable country style. The sleeping cars are bookended by two dining cars and an observation carriage—a lovely lounge that’s all the better when you’re sipping a wee bit of whisky or champagne as you take in the Scottish countryside. But you won’t be idly watching Scotland pass you by. Guests disembark the train to mix with the locals and visit Scottish sights of interest including the Highland Games, private residences and whisky distilleries, where you may even get a personal tour by the local laird. Dabble in luxury on a 2-night, 3-day Highland safari and try your hand at clay pigeon shooting on a Scottish estate, or get the full royal treatment with the Grand Tour of Great Britain: new for 2010, it’s a 7-night circuit that brings you through parts of England and Wales as well. Book your highland adventure with the travel experts at Ambercrombie & Kent.
Relive the golden age of train travel and book one of these terrific trains for your next great adventure.