When it comes to travel, convenience and efficiency are usual priorities. However, every once in a while, you crave something slow and leisurely, where you can take in the sights and indulge in unique culinary creations. So often, when we travel—even when by plane—we forget to enjoy the scenery and we forget to take intentional, delicate bites of the food presented on our tables. Instead, our minds stay busy, thinking of connecting flights, terminals, and gate numbers. Imagine leaving the stress and worry behind on a travel day and instead making the purpose of the trip nothing more than in-the-moment enjoyment. We found the seven most beautiful train rides on earth, where you can enjoy gentle rides through magnificent views, whether you’re solo or bring your family along.
1. The Bernina Express, Switzerland
If you’re looking for the most beautiful train ride on earth, you know that Switzerland has to be number one on this list. The Bernina Express is a scenic train route unlike no other. It’s a four-hour trip from start to finish and covers a total of 76 miles (or 122 km) of the track. At the highest elevation, you reach 7,382 feet above sea level. You can enjoy 55 tunnels, 196 bridges, and so many sights that fascinate you and imprint long-term memories.
The recommendation for The Bernina Express is that you ride it from start to finish. You don’t want to miss any part of this train ride. It runs in both directions and there are a total of 25 stops along the route. If you’ve always dreamed of crossing the Alps, this train ride will deliver all the splendid scenery you’ve ever dreamed of. At the highest point across the Alps, you can enjoy glistening glaciers and at some of the lower points, you can enjoy the palms of Italy. This train bridges northern and southern Europe, which allows you to explore different languages and cultures along the way.
Since this train connects Switzerland to Italy, it’s a long trek. There are many winding sections and loops to help it gain and lose height with care. This is definitely a tourist attraction and runs several times a day. To ride on this train, a reservation is required. There are panoramic windows and refreshments you can enjoy on board. They have focused on ensuring their passengers have sufficient personal space for their once-in-a-lifetime ride.
You don’t have to plan for a specific time to ride this train because it runs all year round. During the spring you’ll take in the greenest fields and most beautiful farming villages—it is awe-inspiring and at different turns, too gorgeous to handle. During the winter, you can take in the frozen lakes and snow-covered mountains. Since this train is constantly running, you can stop along the route to enjoy those small villages and take in the culture. If you are planning to ride during the winter, it does get dark quickly so it’s best to ride early in the day!
2. Nevada Northern Railway, United States
For a historic ride on century-old steam engines, you have to ride the Nevada Northern Railway. This is a registered national historic landmark located in Ely, Nevada that consists of the original railway locomotives, rollingstock, a passenger station, track, and buildings that all served during the historic copper mining region located in central Nevada for well over 100 years. This is a 90-minute passenger train ride that allows you to explore the original railroad maintenance shops and a train yard.
You can get hands-on with this train ride and become an engineer! They call this the “Be the Engineer” experience and they allow you to operate a locomotive. It’s a must for anyone with a fascination for trains. You’ll be at the throttle as you explore different tunnels, grades, and real mainline mountain railroading. Every year, they have special events like the haunted ghost train and polar express trains.
If you’re curious and not ready to commit yet, you can look at their live webcam and explore their panoramic virtual reality. This gives you a peek inside what goes on in this historic landmark. If you’re interested in one of their annual events, you can pick up tickets that cost only $40 for adults and $20 for children between the ages of four and 12.
The haunted ghost train of old Ely happens every October. Since the days get shorter and the nights get longer, you can take advantage of a spooky train ride while enjoying time with your family. The other option is the Christmas train, where you can enjoy a trip to the north pole and meet a jolly bunch of Santa’s helpers. It’s a great ride where you can take plenty of photos and enjoy a full-on pajama party with your family.
3. Pacific Surfliner, United States
No one can deny the breathtaking beauty of California’s beaches. The Pacific Surfliner covers a total of 350 miles (560 km) all the way across the coast of southern California between San Luis Obispo all the way down to San Diego. Strap yourself in for the most scenic train ride that lasts approximately 8.5 hours. This train averages a speed of about 40 mph with some of the tracks in some areas less than 100 feet from the Pacific Ocean. Whether you’re a California native or just visiting the area, this is a trip you have to take at least once.
This passenger train provides you with ultra-comfortable reclining seats and each is equipped with power outlets and free Wi-Fi so you can take your devices and record some of the most memorable moments. If you get hungry, which you will, there is an onboard market-style café where you can pick up snacks, drinks, fresh food, and even cocktails and beer. You can ride it the whole way through or stop at any one of the destinations including Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Santa Ana, San Juan Capistrano, and Solana Beach.
This train ride either starts or ends in San Luis Obispo which is a laid-back town that has tons of award-winning wineries and farm-to-table culinary delights. You can visit the farmers market if you arrive on a Thursday night and enjoy the many downtown blocks where you can find decadent foods and pick up local produce. If you travel south and end up in San Diego, you’ll get to enjoy California’s well-known beach city. You can ride the trolley and check out Little Italy before ending your evening in the Gaslamp Quarter, where you can enjoy some of the best food and drinks money can buy.
If you have a pet, you’ll be happy to know that pets are welcome on the Pacific Surfliner. All you have to do is book ahead with an advanced reservation and pay a $26 fee. You can typically find a promotion or a discounted rate on the Pacific Surfliner website. Book a one-way, round-trip, multi-city, or multi0ride ticket, add your discount code, and get ready to enjoy the most scenic train ride along the coast of California.
4. The Glacier Express, Switzerland
Switzerland is packed with endless, gorgeous sights, so we had to highlight another amazing train ride located in one of the most prestigious and well-known resorts, St. Moritz. The complete route lasts for approximately eight hours, during which you are faced with a variety of different eye candy as you venture through three cantons of Valais, Uri, and Graubünden. This is known as the slowest fast train in the world and offers you panoramic views of the Alps.
Along the route, you’ll encounter Zermatt, an alpine village where you can take in awe-inspiring views of the Matterhorn. You’ll also see the Albula Line with the Solis and Landwasser viaducts and spiral tunnels. Do you think the Grand Canyon can only be found in the U.S.? Think again. On this train ride, you get to enjoy the Grand Canyon of Switzerland, the Rhine Gorge. The total length of this direct train is 181 miles (291 km). Local transit offers different stops but this one offers a fantastic ride over 291 bridges and 91 tunnels and reaches a high altitude, with the highest elevation point at 6,670 feet (2,033 m).
On such a long ride, you need access to fresh meals and culinary specialties. There is classic gastronomy on the Glacier Express so you can enjoy both a view and can tantalize your palate with meal creations prepared on board and served at your seat. You can also pair these unique dishes with a perfect regional wine. Choose between the dish of the day or pick a three-course meal. All of the dishes are prepared fresh every single day from their carefully selected regional produce.
To book, you can select from three options. The first is the Glacier Express Classic but you can always upgrade to the Excellence Class Classic. The top tier offering is the Excellence Class Special, which guarantees you a window seat so you can enjoy the breathtaking panoramic views and culinary treats while you travel between Chur and Brig. The seating is upgraded at this level, and you are granted exclusive access to the Glacier Bar.
5. Jacobite Steam Train, Scotland
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, the Jacobite Steam Train will be of special interest. This is an 84-mile round-trip that transports you across some impressive and beautiful villages. The train ride begins close to Ben Nevis, which is the highest mountain in Britain. It then travels to Arisaig, which is located in the far west mainland railway station. You move through the country’s deepest freshwater loch, Loch Morar, and then pass through Britain’s shortest river, the River Morar. Finally, you reach Loch Nevis, which is the continent’s deepest seawater loch.
The carriages of this famous steam train are used in different scenes throughout the Harry Potter films. Here, you can see the well-known Glenfinnan Viaduct, which has become a landmark for anyone who has enjoyed Harry Potter books and films. The destination on this steam train is Mallaig, which was founded during the 1840s. Today, you can enjoy a busy fishing port and a ferry terminal that offers you services to the Small Isles and to Skye. You can enjoy a full 90 minutes at this stop to take in the scenery, pick up souvenirs, and enjoy some fish and chips.
You can select from three different carriages. The first class open carriage is traditionally furnished and has you riding in the highest-end style the stream train offers. The seats are upholstered, and you can enjoy extra legroom. Along with your ticket, you can enjoy complimentary coffee or tea. The second tier down is the first class compartment carriage, which is only available during the morning trip. This is a vintage carriage that has different compartments, each seating up to six people. When you book this option, you and your group of five other friends or family members can enjoy a private compartment throughout your ride.
The most basic offering is the standard class carriage, which offers the same steam train ride experience but at a fraction of the cost. If you select this option, you will travel in refurbished vintage Mark I or Mark II coaches. Each table seats four people. If you’re interested in adding extras to your trip, you can enjoy champagne, chocolates, and flowers. There’s also a souvenir tour guide that provides you with eight pages filled with information about the route, helping you get better acquainted with the whole experience.
6. Kuranda Scenic Railway, Australia
This renowned railroad travels over winding terrain from Cairns to Kuranda. It takes about two hours to go to Kuranda, including a 10-minute stop at the breathtaking Barron Falls Station to get an aerial view of the falls. It passes across 37 bridges, beautiful waterfalls, 15 hand-carved tunnels, and the breathtaking Barron Gorge. The World Heritage-listed Barron Gorge National Park offers spectacular vistas of the lush rainforest, rocky canyons, and gorgeous waterfalls along the Original Kuranda Scenic Railway.
You’ll be privy to a rainforest that has millions of years in the making. The Wet Tropics house thousands of different species of plants and hundreds of wild animals. When you take this train ride, you’ll start at sea level and rise to enjoy incredible sights and vibrant colors. Luckily, the Karanda Scenic Railway operates every day, twice in each direction. This railway took hundreds of men to build and is still considered an engineering feat of remarkable significance. Once aboard, you’ll see exactly why.
To book, you can select from four classes. The first is the Heritage Class, where you travel in the original timber carriages, each of which is over 100 years old. To upgrade from the Heritage Class, you can check out the Gold Class, which offers comfort in carriages decorated with handcrafted, Victorian-inspired decor. The seating is club lounge style, and you also get personal onboard service. The Locals Fare is designed specifically for local residents of Cairns and surrounding areas. Finally, the Royal Class is a deal for large groups with a mid-range budget. You get to travel in a refurbished heritage carriage that also includes a dedicated hostess and a refreshment service.
7. Napa Valley Wine Train, United States
Explore the Napa Valley Wine trails with a full day of tastings that ends with a gourmet lunch on the wine train. This train ride elevates your tour and transforms it into an unforgettable experience. This train is designed to be ultra-elegant with plush interiors and personalized service. If you’re looking for something sophisticated, this is the train ride for you.
The total time on this trip is three hours, during which you can relax, enjoy the historic town of Napa, and indulge in multiple courses and different wines. The Napa Valley Wine Train offers several different tours, each carefully catered to provide you with a unique experience you won’t soon forget. You can select different experiences like the Murder Mystery ride, during which you enjoy a two-hour journey aboard the vintage train with Murder Mystery dinner theater and a multiple-course gourmet meal.
For a simpler journey, you can select the Afternoon Tea experience, which includes a three-hour journey aboard their vintage train that includes sparkling wine, toast, and cheese. You can enjoy a fine selection of steeped tea, finger sandwiches, scones, and signature mini desserts. If it’s date night, you’ll want to try Romance on the Rails. This is a two-hour train journey that welcomes you with sparkling wine, two glasses of private label wine, and a multiple-course gourmet dinner.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Which country has the most beautiful train?
Switzerland is touted as the country with the most beautiful trains, with unparalleled views at every turn. Their rail networks are not just efficient but also jam-packed with the type of passing views that make your brain question whether you’re looking at a 2-D or 3-D image. This country is known for its snow-dusted mountaintops, luscious greenery, and towns that look like they’re straight out of a painter’s imagination.
What are the most famous scenic trains of all time?
The Bernina Express is a well-known scenic train that travels through Switzerland while the Nevada Northern Railway offers glimpses of the incredible Milky Way, through railroads that pass through the vast desert, where light pollution doesn’t detract from the wonders the open sky holds at night.
What is the most luxurious train ride?
If luxury is what you’re looking for, you can’t go wrong with the Napa Valley Wine Train. This train ride is designed with sophistication in every carriage. They offer different experiences, including Romance on the Rails, which makes for an elegant date night. Dress up with a group of friends and enjoy the Murder Mystery dinner theatre, all the while tasting fabulous wines and multiple-course meals.
What is the most beautiful train ride in the US?
The Pacific Surfliner, which runs on the coast of California between San Luis Obispo and San Diego offers a breathtakingly beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean all the way through, sometimes riding only 100 feet from the water. Stop along the way or ride it all the way through for jaw-dropping views and an overall experience you’ll always remember.
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