Top 5 Epic Luxury Rail Journeys of the World
by Karen Cooke
For travellers looking for the ultimate in epic luxury rail travel on some of the world’s greatest railways, the list below might provide enough inspiration to inflame the imagination.
Lhasa to Hong Kong aboard the Shangri-La Express
Rail tours between Tibet’s capital Lhasa and Hong Kong take in a breathtaking sweep of natural wonders and culture. The Shangri-La Express is a luxury first-class locomotive and well-equipped for such a journey.
The journey is one of contrasts – not only do travellers get the chance to visit the 6,000 Terracotta Warriors of Xian but also to witness Giant Pandas in the wild in Yunnan Stone Forest, the ‘First Wonder of the World’.
The experience begins Lhasa, where travellers are given the chance to explore Jokhang Temple, Tibet’s holiest shrine. On the third day, travellers are given a tour of Norbu Lingka, the Dalai Lama’s Summer Palace.
For four nights, travellers get to stay on a luxury river cruiser as it glides through the world-famous Three Gorges.
The Silk Road aboard the Trans Siberian Express
Retracing one of the most important trading routes of ancient civilisation, this tour follows in the footsteps of such legendary figures as Alexander the Great and Marco Polo.
Crossing Russia and China as well as some of the former Soviet republics, this journey takes in countless sights from the ancient world. The Tran-Siberian Express is the ultimate in luxury transportation.
The trip begins in Moscow, then on to Volgograd for some fabulous sightseeing opportunities.
The Kara Kum desert is followed by the amazing 2,500 year-old cities of Khiva and Bukhara – then onto Samarkand, ‘Rome of the East’. Samarkand is home to Registan Square, a space considered to be one of the most inspirational sights in central Asia.
After crossing the border into China, the tour bypasses the Magao Thousand Buddha cave complex, the Jiayuguan fortress and the Terracotta Warriors, an army of 6,000 statues.
The Arctic Circle by Steam
The Arctic Circle by Steam is an incredible steam-hauled 7,000km, 13 day journey from Moscow to St Petersburg and on to Murmansk, inside the Arctic Circle. Followers of luxury rail travel will delight to the sight and sound of steam engines juxtaposed with all the conveniences of modern travel.
The journey begins in Moscow, where travellers spend a day touring Russia’s vibrant capital, including Red Square and the Kremlin. At Leningradski station guests join a private train.
The train is then hauled from Moscow by Europe’s largest operating steam locomotive, GWT’s P36.0032. The train departs north towards Saint Petersburg and the Arctic Circle.
Then it’s on to Pavlovsk where the itinerary includes a visit Catherine’s Summer Palace in Pushkin. The next day travellers are given a guided tour around the ancient city of Pskov.
A highlight of the journey is in Kem where guests are transferred to a small boat bound for Solovetsky Monastery on beautiful Solovetsky Island in the White Sea.
The Canadian Rockies aboard the Royal Canadian Pacific
Step aboard a Canadian Pacific Railway vintage business car for the ultimate in luxury rail vacations. The spectacular Canadian rocky mountain scenery, five-star hospitality and comfortable accommodations onboard the Royal Canadian Pacific ensures the journey of a lifetime.
The National Geographic Traveller agrees with this sentiment, as in 2008 this tour was recognised by them as the “Tour of a Lifetime”.
The quintessential Canadian Rockies rail tour is unique in that it focuses on the heritage and culture of the Canadian Rockies, while escorting passengers through some of the most spectacular terrain in the world along the historic Canadian Pacific Railway lines. Tour highlights include: Banff and The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Lake Louise, Kicking Horse Pass and Columbia Valley wetlands.
Beijing to Moscow aboard the Trans-Siberian Express
This trip is more adventure-driven and packed with activity than a majority of tours. The tour commences in Beijing where guests board the Ulanbaatar bound train.
Travellers then have a couple of days leisure time before boarding the Trans-Siberian Express Irkutsk-bound train. Upon arriving in Irkutsk, guests transfer to Listvyanka Village on the shore of Lake Baikal for a choice of activities such as: dog sledding, snow shoeing plus many others.
Several days later the train heads for Novosibirsk. Upon arrival in Ekaterinburg guests are given a tour of the city, followed by a thrilling choice of day trip options: from a trip to the Romanov graves to mountain biking in the Ural Mountains, from ice fishing to Siberian husky dog sledding.
Karen Cooke is a professional consultant with Travel Associates, an exclusive Australian travel agency catering to the premium travel market. More helpful travel tips and suggestions are available at http://www.travel-associates.com.au.